March 6, 2020

Caroline Rose – Superstar (New West)

This is an interesting album for me to review. Writing this feels like an obligation, like I’m being coaxed into liking Superstar.

That doesn’t mean that I DON’T enjoy it. Actually, while it’s on, I like it quite a bit. The issue I have has something to do with a trick that the record is playing on my brain. I have listened to it 3 times, front to back, and I cannot seem to pick a favorite song…

…or a favorite hook…

…or really even remember it at all.

I know it’s groovy and sarcastic, light-hearted and biting, with vague similarities to Kate Nash, Kimbra, and Lana Del Rey. I get the sense that pop radio might clamor for this style of disengaged, uneventful, non-genre-specific artistry. But they would have to remember that they heard it.

I am actually curious to know if any of you have this same experience with the record. Am I losing it? Getting old? Or is Superstar an enigma?

Disq – Collector (Saddle Creek)

Wisconsin has a gem with this outfit. The newest effort from Disq is a collection of material that each of the 5 members has brought with them from previous things that they had written. Which makes them coming together a thing that was fated to happen. The songs work seamlessly as a unit, noisy and melodic in equal measure, with an early ’90s sense of how songs should be structured.

The somewhat lo-fi production simulates a live-in-a-small-barroom feel. The songs have a storyteller quality to them, regaling us with love songs to microphones (D19) and the misfortunes of drudgery (Daily Routine).

The album is indie-rock in all the glorious uselessness of that genre heading. It is flowing and ever-changing, but familiar, drawing on pop, folk, punk, and psychedelia to create something simultaneously anxious and comfortable. I added it to my favorites on Spotify immediately.

For Fans Of: Spoon, Braid

Stephen Malkmus – Traditional Techniques (Matador)

Calling this the third solo record for this indie-underground legend is a bit of a misleading use of technicality. Back in 2001, the first record he released with The Jicks simply didn’t have their name on it, and that travesty of an electronic record in 2018 shouldn’t even be mentioned, lest we tarnish an otherwise laudable history.

So…

In this first true solo attempt from Malkmus, we hear him whole-heartedly adopt folk-rock and americana as his focal point. Un-ironic, un-patronizing, and thoroughly endearing. His 12-string guitar provides the basis for weeping lap steel, hand drums, and the jangling of various string instruments. His voice is more convincing than we have heard from him in a long time, painting pictures of modernity using far more Traditional Techniques.

Honestly, if you are completely unfamiliar with Stephen Malkmus, most of what I just wrote won’t make a lot of sense. His musical journey over the last 30 years has been filled with the fervor of die-hard fandom for Pavement and The Silver Jews, while those same fans were a bit complacent about his work with The Jicks. Throughout all of it, detractors make snide comments about nonsense lyrics, dry music-craft, and the unappealing image of skinny white dudes playing “boring” songs. I remember a Beavis & Butthead video claiming that “these dudes are so lazy they probably poop in the bathtub”. I’ve never been in any of those camps. I LIKE Pavement, The Silver Jews, and The Jicks, and while I was way more of a metalhead in the ’90s, I fully recognize the importance of those groups on the landscape of pop music.

Traditional Techniques isn’t going to change the dynamic of the music industry, but it is a damned good listen.

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