New Tunes Reviews, Dec 5: Glen Hansard, Throwing Muses, & Walkmen’s 2004 album

Lately there have not been many notable releases. I blame it on the push to release vinyl reissues right before the holiday season.

Oh well.. I digress.

Glen Hansard did release an 4-song EP this week called Drive All Night. The lead song, “Drive All Night,” is a Bruce Springsteen cover featuring Jake Clemons and Eddie Vedder. This cover showed up on quite a few blogs in the past weeks so I was looking forward to hearing it and new material from Hansard. Like with his recent full-length solo album and previous releases as part of The Frames and The Swell Season, Hansard is a standby, talented songwriter with strong but raw voice. His geographic and musical roots are obvious. If this EP is just a small preview of things to come, I am on board with giving another one of his releases a place in my queue.

Throwing Muses released Purgatory/ Paradise. Because of my limited background in late 1980s and 1990s girl groups, I do not feel I can appropriately analyze this album in comparison to others by the Throwing Muses. It is generally well-reviewed (Read a brief review from NYTimes, Pitchfork gave it an 8.0).  The album did, however,  spark my interest in other TM albums, as well was Belly (a band original member Tanya Donelly created after departing from TM). So maybe it did its job. This is the first TM album in 10 years after all.

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Walkmen announced they will be going on an “extreme hiatus.” For this week’s Retro Release, I am going to spotlight their 2004 album Bones + Arrows, which featured the wildly popular song “The Rat.”

This album is a classic post-punk release. With an appearance on The OC (at the Bait Shop), the band was brought out of the underground and into the cd players of Seth Cohen obsessives.

As the second song of the album, “The Rat” is an engaging track. It brings the listener straight into the world of Walkmen where the bar scene is active and interactions are perplexing bouts of confusion.

Many tracks, like “No Christmas While I’m Talking” and “What’s In It For Me,” are quiet and moody but lack the mainstream appeal of “The Rat” and “Little House of Savages” (the two main singles). “My Old Man” clocks in at 4:42 and rarely bores but confidently yells “You’re a sure thing but I know/ You can count me out.”

The themes seem to focus on the struggle for authenticity, especially in “138th Street” and “The North Pole.” “Hang on Siobhan” is a solid attempt at a piano ballad and feeds right into “New Year’s Day” which conveys feelings of pure confusion: “The more we talk/ the less we understand.” The two closing tracks, “Thinking of a Dream I Had” and “Bones + Arrows,” lead the listener wanting more.

Bows + Arrows is a first look at the talent of the band. Often touted as “a musican’s band,” their follow-up albums were just as good. They showed development while staying authentic with dark tones and strong musicianship. I’d mention it in the same breath as those brilliant first two albums by Interpol.

It is a shame that they won’t record a follow up to last year’s Heaven, an album that continues to be one of my favorites. But at least fans have their well-rounded discography as a lasting memory.

And “The Rat” will always get bar kids dancing and howling along to the signature verse: “You’ve got a nerve to be asking a favor/ You’ve got a nerve to be calling my number…Can’t you hear me, I’m beating on your wall?/ Can’t you see me, I’m pounding on your door?”

Best Songs of 2012: Part 2

Here is Part 2 of the best songs of 2012:

“Continuous Thunder” – Japanadriods (from Celebration Rock)
Without a doubt, this album should be on just about everyone’s list for the best of the year.  This song is one of the best.  It is strong like the single (“The House that Heaven Built”), but a bit quieter.  The fuzzy guitars are subdued and wonderful.  Even though Japandriods are just two people, they create a exuberant sound. As this song progresses, its hard not to imagine driving down a road with windows open during the summer.   Its just a great track.

“Heartbreaker” – Walkmen (from Heaven)
The Walkmen are often described as a “Musician’s band” because of their tight melodies and generally strong musicanship.  This album is a great display of all of these characteristics. I was able to see the band perform at Bowery Ballroom on June 6, 2012 and they really dazzled the audience during this intimate record release show. This song is one of the best of the album (although just about every other song is great as well).

“I Never Knew You” – The Avett Brothers (from The Carpenter)
These brothers construct a lush sound in every one of their songs.  This song starts off with piano and draws the listener in.  The harmonies are at the forefront and created a sing-along atmosphere.  This is another strong song from a strong album.

“The Descent” – Bob Mould (from Silver Age)
As mentioned in a previous post, Bob Mould is back.  This opening track to Silver Age sets the stage for a bunch of charming loud songs about growing old.  This one specifically is the most upfront.  The lyrics weigh success over artistic individuality. To answer Mould’s question towards the end of the song, he does make it up to us.

“National Anthem” – Gaslight Anthem (from Handwritten)
I was not thrilled by this album’s single (“45”).  It seemed too overproduced and too obvious.  Instead, I was charmed by “National Anthem.” This song is much simplier and quieter.  It showcases Brian Fallon’s voice and lyrical prowess. He is quiet but strong.  It is similar to other Gaslight gems like “Here’s Looking at You, Kid” (from The 59 Sound) and “The Navasink Banks” (from Sink or Swim).

Honorable Mentions:
“1957” – Milo Green (from 1957)
“Harder Before It Gets Easier” – David Wax Museum (from Knock Knock Get Up)
“This Summer” – Superchunk
“Hey Ho” – Lumineers (from self titled)
“Love Don’t Leave Me Waiting” – Glen Hansard (from Rhythm and Repose)
“Love Love Love” – Of Monsters and Men (from My Head is an Animal)
“In a Big City” – Titus Andronicus (from Local Business)
“Maria” – Justin Townes Earle (from Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now)