SNAIL MAIL – Lush (2018)
After living all over this album for about a year, I’ve decided that Lindsey Jordan is this generation’s J Mascis. She’s a guitar hero who doesn’t show off, but lets her playing dictate where the songs go. Her songs are full of ennui, romantic indecision and regret, quiet celebrations of eccentric self. Call it indie rock blues. Snail Mail evokes the same air as Dinosaur Jr, but where J’s playing was rooted in classic rock convention, her guitar slinks with post-rock invention. Big hooks are buried here (“Pristine,” “Full Control”) but mostly the tunes just wander, gloriously. Two moody ballads at the end hint at even wider expression: “Deep Sea Dive” plumbs a lost love/diving metaphor while “Anytime” wraps around to the “Intro” at the beginning. And then it all makes sense – Lush rewards relistens, big time.
NEIL YOUNG – Tonight’s The Night (1975)
An elegy for a friend, a drunken drugged out funeral afterparty, the 70s rock equivalent of a military sendoff. The songs barely hang together, first takes and vocal creaks, missed cues and slurred lines. That’s the beauty, these tunes are rope suspension bridges with planks missing and it’s a long way down. “Please take my advice,” Neil sings but you probably shouldn’t – these guys can’t find the ignition but priority one is still rolling another joint for the road. The key line is from “Tired Eyes” – “He tried to do his best but he could not.” That’s a beautiful bit of nihilism, worthy of any tombstone.
TY SEGALL – Freedom’s Goblin (2018)
A double album, as bloated and tuneful as it should be. It feels homespun but fully realized, like Paul McCartney’s Ram. The spirit is rooted in classic 70s rock – he sings Beatle-y tunes like “Cry Cry Cry” in a British accent, the riffy “She” dares comparison to the KISS song, “My Lady’s On Fire” sounds like a lost FM radio gem, the closer “And, Goodnight” evokes an epic Crazy Horse jam. There are a few weak tunes, songs for songs sake that fill some time. Lyrically it’s just serviceable, but that’s okay – the words serve the tunes and they work purely on that level, sort of like Noel Gallagher’s. Quirky but maybe not quirky enough, like how “You Say All The Nice Things” reminds me of Ween’s The Mollusk but I keep waiting for the punchline. Ty Seagall can afford to get even weirder, he’s talented enough to pull it off.
LANA DEL REY – Norman Fucking Rockwell! (2019)
Yes, this album steeped in Southern California 70s singer/songwriter culture, but it’s not a nostalgia show. “Venice Bitch,” “The Greatest,” and “Mariners Apartment Complex” are career high type tunes, siren songs that keep calling you back. She’s always had a formula of breathy emoting over stately progressions but it’s perfected here, a career peak no matter what happens next. “Hope Is A Dangerous Thing For A Woman Like Me To Have – But I Have It” sounds like a Yoko Ono title, and god bless Lana because she has the same tranquil strength that Yoko evinced in her best moments (and Yoko’s “Death Of Samantha” would be an ideal song for her inevitable covers album someday). Absorb NFR! and it becomes part of your life, that’s the sign of a truly great album.
DANIEL SON, VIC GRIMES, PHYBAOPTIKZ – Moonshine Mix (2017)
Boom bap revivalists will always be around – look at the recent success of the Griselda crew, whom I wrote about in 2016. But aside from the top practitioners, the old school rap formula is feeling stale. Like I’m starting to wonder: are these guys Wilco now? Meaning: are they just playing out familiar formulas to tired old ears who recognize echoes of the past? Yes and yes, I’d say. Griselda is an exception and so is Daniel Son, a young Toronto rapper who could have held his own in the 90s peak era. Moonshine Mix would have had a home on a label and a big indie buzz in ’99, which is not to say that it doesn’t sound fresh and vital. It does. That’s the trick he and the producers pull off – the secret is in the ear for distinctive beats, the brevity and energy of the flows, the Sopranos references. It’s sequenced with the crossfaded rhythm of a mixtape but Moonshine Mix would sound amazing blasting on cassette from an old boombox. There are hundreds of albums like this on bandcamp but I could listen to this one a hundred times.
CSNY 1974 (2014)
A generous document of the CSNY Doom Tour – doomed because it epitomized rock excess in the worst ways, generous because it’s three discs of the best takes with most of the flubs edited out. Which is good, because for CSN to work they have to hit the notes. (Y, not so much, but he’s the wild card here.) This set feels like how these concerts were supposed to go, if there’d been just bumps instead of mountains of coke backstage. Oddly the acoustic set is the weakest disc, stalled by too many Graham Nash songs (re: more than one) and some Young throwaways. The David Crosby songs are where this set shines – the weirdest and most experimental on record, but the best vehicles for live jamming. I’ve never liked “Almost Cut My Hair” – did ya? – but the crunchy guitars redeem it here. I feel the same way about CSN – they’re like a hippie version of KISS but this is their Alive!