Brian Fallon Painkillers (Virgin/Island EMI)One of my favorite bands of the last 20 years is the Gaslight Anthem. Born out of a love for the Clash, Live at Folsolm Prison, and the Boss, they came on the scene as an heir to Social Distortion, however after five albums, they have evolved closer to Bon Jovi style stadium rock. I wondered aloud what the fix would be, and here it is. Fallon has released a solo album, that is intimate and unplugged in a metaphorical sense if not an actual one. It his strongest and most consistent work in awhile. If you weren’t a fan before, the lyrical references to Steve McQueen, Marianne Faithful and Leonard Cohen may still annoy you. However, I still think it’s worth checking out. For me, he cements his spot as a vital singer-songwriter here, and maybe nudges a bit closer to his heroes.
Glint Inverter (Votiv) Glint is mainly the brainchild of New York artist Jase Blankfort. This is a genre- electronic-based altrock (I’ve heard it called indietronica) that Big Indie avoids, but generally does well with large audiences (Muse, Killers, MGMT , Hot Chip, etc). Big anthemic songs with synth and big guitars- for me, Muse is the obvious touchpoint. Glint nails that sound perfectly on “Guided”, which as with other tracks here would be perfect on altrock radio. Still, anyone can put together one great single, and the rest of the album is satisfyingly consistent. I don’t know that this album has garnered enough listens to make the big break, but hopefully success is right around the corner.
PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project (Vagrant)- A challenging record that got mixed reviews. Personally, it blows my mind away. Many in Big Indie had a problem that it was not a traditional record like Stories from the Sea… or even Uh Huh Her or the equally rousing Let England Shake. They criticized her journal entries set to music as not being artistic enough. They were wrong. This album of course is justified as an heir to Patti Smith, but equally, it’s a great noisy shambolic masterpiece that is heir to the greatest of all raw rock bands- The Stooges, the Birthday Party, and an early 90s three piece named PJ Harvey. I think this is an amazing end to end listen, and based on that, easily makes the short list for my favorite album of the year.
Mitski Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)- This Brooklyn based singer songwriter was one of my biggest finds this year. Fortunately, I found her on my own, and not due to the influence of Big Indie. (Big Indie loves her, which I don’t have a problem with. The probem I have with Big Indie is that as much music as comes through them, they should be pushing Mitski and a dozen artists like her, not just her). It’s interesting to see Big Indie try to classify her- is she anti-folk, the new PJ Harvey or Pixies-influenced noise. Well, she’s all of that. If anything, the short songs and blasts of styles reminds me of mid90s indie heroes Erics Trip. Looking forward to what her future holds.
Moby and the Void Pacific Choir- These Systems are Failing(Little Idiot/Mute) Twenty years ago, Moby made a “hard rock” album that despite some big fans (Axl Rose and Bono, to name two) became a punchline. That album Animal Rights was considered a career destroyer. It didn’t of course. Moby not only was critically acclaimed, he finally reached Top 40 success. The lackluster Hotel ended the ride, though age and trends eventually get us all. No longer the darling of Big Indie (indeed virtually ignored by them), Moby is free to do what he wants. This freedom has been beneficial insomuch as I think he has made some of the most interesting music in the last decade of anyone. This is a return to a harder sound, but Moby hedges his bets by crediting it to the fictional Choir. Allmusic compares it to the 90s industrial scene (FLA, MLwtTKK, Consolidated), though I think it looks back further (Joy Division, New Order, even OMD) and nearer (the electroclash bands of Y2K3-6), with a certain bit of early-techno Moby for good measure.
Mudcrutch 2 (Reprise) I have always been a Tom Petty fan, and there’s no denying his run of singles, but his 2008 album by his pre-Heartbreakers band was a revelation. Perhaps, its that there Is no expectation commercial and otherwise and Petty and co. get to once again indulge in bar rock drawing heavily from the Byrds (and Buffalo Springfield, The Band, NRBQ, etc). In any case, the first Mudcrutch album was a great start-to-finish listen. What seemed improbable but what happened is the second album is just as good, if not better. It boosts a bonafide FM single “Trailer” (though adult alternative stations capitalized on it, its success was relative). But the album is just as good in its quieter moments as the Tom Leadon-led “Queen of the Go Go Girls”. Hard to explain why (it’s almost the Heartbreakers) but well worth it.