The Favoured Hundred of 2018: #80-#61

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#80: Tracyanne & Danny – Tracyanne & Danny

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Tracyanne & Danny (Merge Records)

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Wavves & Cloud Nothings – No Life For Me

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Wavves & Cloud Nothings – No Life For Me

Wavves’ Nathan Willaims used to make the oddest sort of punk rock back in the weird old days of 2008.  It was briefly fashionable at the time to write poppy punk songs but to record them so loudly that they clipped, producing a heavy distortion over every sound in the recording.  Songs like “Teenage Super Party” and “Beach Goth” and “California Goth” were strangely catchy; underneath the thick, nearly unlistenable layer of distortion were genuine Weezer-indebted songs of being young and lusty and enamoured with the beach.  Later, he would record these kinds of songs without the clipping, and would garner a significant indie rock following.

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings first put his name to digital wax producing bored jaded suburbanite songs that were recorded in an almost ambient fashion, garnished with tape hiss and tailored distinctly lo-fi.  Since then he’s struck out in his own direction, writing some of the most bleak and emotionally powerful punk rock of the 2010s.  Given Williams’ regrettable tendencies towards Weezer-esque crunch pomp (most notably on 2013’s Afraid Of Heights), Baldi seems like the perfect foil for his songwriting.  No Life For Me bears this out to a remarkable extent.  The best moments, as on “How’s It Gonna Go” and the chorus of “Hard To Find”, involve both Baldi’s tactic of launching out into full head-on abandon and Williams’ easy-going but somewhat eerie ear for melody.  There are no real mediocre moments on No Life For Me, but there isn’t much room for them, either; the album gets in and out in 21 minutes, feeling like a split EP more than anything else.

Nathan Williams has spent his career post-2008 slowly working up to writing schlock like “Beverley Hills”, but on No Life For Me Dylan Baldi steps in and brings him back to his hissy, jaded roots, and both of them sound better for it.

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Consumer Guide: Cloud Nothings et al.

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Playing catch-up with the reviews, Consumer Guide style.  Here’s everything I’ve listened to in 2014 thus far.  As is my usual style, this list will likely expand quite a bit by the time mid-November rolls around.  A couple of them (Here And Nowhere Else and St. Vincent) probably deserve the usual individual reviews but such is life.

Cloud Nothings – Here And Nowhere Else   

The Cleveland band’s fourth album finds them scrubbing away a lot of the pop elements that Steve Albini had left on them during the process of their 2012 breakthrough Attack On Memory.  It’s a triumph of 21st Century punk rock, eschewing the sunny California-inspired pop stuff that has mired the form for most of the last decade in favour of a hard-scoured feel-bad attack.  The album also has the cojones to use the lead single/best song the band has recorded as the final track.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zA-Fz7Zd39k]

 

Wild Beasts – Present Tense  

I still don’t get what people find so amazing about this album.  I’ve enjoyed the Eighties retread/re-exploration we’ve been on since 2008/2009 as much as the next person but this isn’t doing anything radically different than the next band.  I’ve heard better synth drones, I’ve heard craftier melodies, and the vocals remind me in a vague way of Xiu Xiu, and not in a good way.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IIbbFIQTKI]

 

Tacocat – NVM   

Candy-coated riot grrl punk, like Sleater-Kinney-Lite, or maybe an alternate-history Josie and the Pussycats that has a bit of actual substance.  Musically inoffensive and lyrically righteous, not a great album but certainly a good one.  Nothing original but you can sing along.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lXt5n9Ni5p0]

 

The Notwist – Close To The Glass   

The German band had a breakthrough back in the long-gone year of 2002 with Neon Golden and have consistently flown just under the radar with every subsequent release.  Close To The Glass is not likely to change this particular fate but it, like the other albums, is a solid record of warm experimental pop music that balances melody with a mix of textures that change from song to song.  Deserves more than it will end up getting.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUpktwg7O4M]

 

Julie Byrne – Rooms With Walls And Windows   

Glacial, whispered art-folk, highly recommended to anyone who enjoyed Grouper’s Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill.  Beautiful like a foggy frosty morning sigh.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M3DjMKLiFDE]