Stars of Track and Field Centuries Before Love and War (Wind-Up Records)
This has been one of my favorite albums over the past few months. It’s food for my ears. Every time I listen to it, it’s like I’m hearing the songs for the first time. This band is noted for its use of digital bleeps and chirps, but their real strength is a generous use of lush choruses and rich guitar work. Maybe more important is how they use the juxtaposition of the sparse electronic landscape with soaring arena rock. It’s Kid A as we all wanted that to sound—full of passion, modern angst, timeless longing, guitar hooks, and damn good music. And might I be as bold as to say that they do what the Wrens do so well—make a song organic and flexible: something you can’t live without, something that seems like it existed in nature already. Centuries is a fully realized world, full of texture, shadowy corners, and sun-drenched joy. This is a headphone record that begs you to turn it up—which you will. —GM
I’m From Barcelona Let Me Introduce My Friends (Mute Records)
The story goes like this: This kid in Sweden (Emanuel Lundgren) writes a couple of explosive happy pop songs and gets his friends (all twenty-nine of them) to help record them. This homemade EP strikes a chord and twenty thousand people download the songs from the band’s website. So here’s their follow-up: Let Me Introduce My Friends. Think: the Partridge Family meets the Violent Femmes—happy, bouncy, and utterly infectious. The songs range from daily observations on oversleeping (“Damn, I can’t believe I did it again / I can make it in time if I jump out of bed”) to stamp collecting (“I can’t believe I’m telling everyone I know / That every stamp in my collection is a place we can go”) to having the chicken pox (“You can’t have it once you had it”)—and every single song has a soaring, sing-along chorus that you can’t resist. It sounds corny, but it’s so not; you’ll be singing along on the first listen. The songs feel like they’re being sung just to you, and you’re happy to be included. “Please press my rec and play / ’Cause I want to save this moment /_ This will be my favorite song / This will be my favorite album.” Happy happy, joy joy. _—GM
Secretary Bird Secretary Bird (In De Goot Recordings)
The secretary bird is (according to Wikipedia) the only bird that walks more than it flies, and it is the only one to hunt its prey on foot. Which might explain why Mike Semple chose the name—because this album is anything but high-flying. Secretary Bird is a singer-songwriter’s intimate, plaintive, indie introspection. Described in the release as sounding like Paul Westerberg and ’70s British rock, I think the band is best imagined as Pete Yorn channeling Joy Division. Semple’s voice is wonderfully resonant and monotonous at the same time; it lulls you along to a resting place that is desolate, bare, and still somehow tragically beautiful. Upon first listen, it seemed that none of the songs had a pulse. It was only at the third listen that I began to realize there were beats in there, and that every song didn’t drone. This is due partly to the darker tone of the songs, partly to Semple’s calm voice, and partly to the fact that he seems to be in no rush. This is an album you listen to at your own risk, because you might find yourself sliding down the rabbit hole with him. Which isn’t necessarily as depressing as it might sound. —GM
Locksley Don’t Make Me Wait (Feature Records)
(Rotary phone rings.) Hello, this is Locksley.
Hi, Locksley? This is Guy Patterson, the drummer from the Oneders—you know, the band in “That Thing You Do?” I’d like my drumbeat back. Thanks.
Upon clicking PLAY on Locksley’s Don’t Make Me Wait, my laptop blew a world-record-sized bubble from its CD drive. I had no idea I had inserted a pack of Hubba Bubba instead of their album.
(Cell phone vibrates.) Hello, this is Locksley.
Hi, Locksley? Yeah, this is Julian Casablancas, lead singer of the Strokes. I’m pretty sure we wrote “Why Not Me.” We’d like that and a couple other songs back as soon as possible. Cool, thanks.
Don’t Make Me Wait lacks anything resembling originality. But what it lacks in identity, the album more than makes up for in egregious amounts of pigtails and puppy dogs.
(Door buzzer goes off.) Hi, this is Locksley, who is it?
I have a telegram for Locksley from the Ocean Blue. It reads: “We would like our banal happiness back. Stop. Please return immediately. Stop. Get your own sound. Stop.”
Yes. Please, Locksley, stop. Just stop it.—SD.