The Feelies – Crazy Rhythms

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

The Feelies are low key one of my favorite bands. I wish they were easier to see, but you basically have to live in the New York area nowadays. I was lucky enough to see them in Chicago some years ago. I also saw side project Wake Oolo when I lived in New York (they opened for Luna), but I did not really appreciate the significance at the time. The core of the Feelies – percussionist Dave Weckerman and guitarists Bill Million and Glenn Mercer – began playing together in Haledon, New Jersey in 1976. Lineup changes ensued and by the time of 1980’s Crazy Rhythms, bassist Keith DeNunzio (also known as Keith Clayton) had joined as had Anton Fier on drums (it is not clear what happened to Weckerman during this period, who otherwise has been a long time member).

What I Think of This Album

I don’t really believe in Top Ten Albums but fuck it, this is a Top Ten Album for me. It is odd and unsettling and comforting and comfortable and vibrant and vibratory and playful and inventive and impressive as fuck.

The title telegraphs the most obvious feature of the music, which is the polyrhythms that dominate the sound. Anton Fier is the main percussionist, but his efforts are augmented by the other three band members, who make contributions on exotic instruments like sandpaper, shoes, can, and coat rack (and also timbales, shaker, claves, castanets, maracas, temple blocks, cowbell, and extra snare and tom-toms). Keeping up with these darting and dizzying beats is a rapturous and disorienting experience, which I highly recommend.

The song titles also betray the band’s sensibilities:  “The Boy With Perpetual Nervousness,” Raised Eyebrows,” and “Forces at Work.”  The Feelies share some DNA with Wire, in that both aim to strip things down to their essential parts. But whereas Wire exuded a sense of danger and mischief, the Feelies communicate anxiety and fatalism. And while Wire kept things spare in the most direct way, the Feelies one up them by creating a skeletal sound despite layering multiple guitar parts and percussion. Also, while perhaps less impish than Wire, the Feelies have a sense of humor, because no one is overdubbing sandpaper and coat rack without having some fun. Indeed, it is entirely possible this whole thing is a joke. While later albums built on this sound, the band never again engaged in this kind of perverse and claustrophobic minimalism.

The vocals owe a debt to Lou Reed, and the twin guitars are the offspring that Television and the Velvet Underground left to fend for themselves at the orphanage. Some songs approach pop while others simply find grace in repetitiveness and inflection. 

It’s all too easy – and liberating – to get lost in the beat of “The Boy With the Perpetual Nervousness,” which comes across like Jonathan Richman having sleep terrors. The unexpectedly delightful “Fa Cé-La” is insouciant and playful, with curlique guitar and a descending bass riff. Like “Perpetual Nervousness,” the slow build of “Loveless Love” creates dark tension that Million and Mercer amplify with their wiry guitar work; while Fier pounds away, the two cast spells around each other in a competition to see who will suffer a psychotic break first. 

The seven minute epic “Forces At Work” also starts atmospherically with a tremolo pulse before a motorik-type beat comes in and then a mesh of guitars is thrown in your face. Mercer adds some lead at points thereafter, seemingly without reason. The lyrics consist mostly of overlapping chants and eventually devolve into wordless vocalizations. This is basically “Sister Ray” but less artsy and more nerdy. It is appropriately the centerpiece of the album.

“Original Love” is probably the closest thing to a traditional song, albeit a smokily nihilistic one that would have made Ian Curtis dance dance dance dance dance to the radio. Speaking of icons, the Feelies have no compunction about making the Beatles’ “Everybody’s Got Something to Hide (Except Me and My Monkey)” their own. It’s an exhilarating ride, as if there was an actual capuchin in charge of the tempo. And, the coat rack really does sound great on it. “Moscow Nights” is a convoluted exploration of rhythm with some fantastic lead work courtesy of Mercer.

Jesus fuck, the drum hits on “Raised Eyebrows” stir my soul in the way I imagine love might one day. There is a credit here for “spasmodic drum” (as well as “anchor drum” and “random tom-toms” in addition to plain old “drum kit”). The lead part is fantastic, the staticky rhythm guitar is great, the jangle jangles like no one’s business, and there is even a fun vocal melody. This is one of my favorite Feelies songs ever.

There are actual lyrics to the title track, which really pulls out all the stops and barrels to the end of the album with aplomb. What a way to end an album. What a way to end THIS album. 

My copy is the 1990 A&M release, which tacks on a cover of “Paint It Black,” with the stable post-Crazy Rhythms lineup, and it really does sound like a completely different band. It’s cool to have but it feels very out of place on the disc, especially when “Crazy Rhythms” is the perfect closer.

By the way, I love credits like “left guitar” (Million) and “right guitar” (Mercer).

Fier later played with Bob Mould and Matthew Sweet, and was a member of the Golden Palominos. He died in 2022 via assisted suicide in Switzerland.

The Best Thing About This Album

Everything. It’s a classic and unimprovable in every way.

Release Date

February, 1980

The Cover Art

Like the album itself, there is something a little bit off about this art. Which is what draws you in. I do like the text at the top. I would accuse Weezer of having ripped this off for their debut, but I don’t think Weezer is cool enough to listen to the Feelies (well, probably Matt Sharp is). I can’t say for sure who is who, but I am relatively confident that Bill Million and Glenn Mercer are the center figures (Mercer the one with the curly hair). Anton Fier is for certain the guy on the left.

Tullycraft – Old Traditions, New Standards

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I had read about Tullycraft many times before I got around to purchasing some of their eight (!) albums; I will probably end up getting them all. This is a band that seems designed specifically for me to fall in love with. Tullycraft is from Seattle, and they formed in 1995, with Sean Tollefson (bass/vocals), Gary Miklusek (guitar/vocals), and Jeff Fell (drums), and by the end of the next year, they’d released a number of singles and a full-length album. Indie-pop fame followed, and the rest is history largely unknown to the public. Miklusek left the band and Chris Munford joined, and a number of other co-vocalists and guitarists have come in and out, but Tollefson appears to be the heart and soul of the band, and Fell has been around for all but the most recent album (in 2017).

What I Think of This Album

The first thing to know about Tullycraft is . . . well, no, the first thing to know is that they are a fantastic band. The second thing to know is that Sean Tollefson’s boyish, almost nasal, definitely amateurish vocals are not for everyone, and if you can’t get past that, you’re probably not going to be able to focus on the high quality of songwriting (and to a degree, the skilled musicianship). Once you accept that Tollefson’s vocals are actually a plus, you can revel in the clever lyrics, tuneful melodicism, playful energy, boundless sweetness, and intense dedication to indie pop and, fundamentally, self-acceptance.

Instant indie-pop classic “Pop Songs Your New Boyfriend’s Too Stupid To Know About” is as good a summation of the band’s aesthetic and raison d’etre as any words I could write. The tune is a misguided but sincere attempt to woo the object of the narrator’s affection away from her boyfriend with a mix of references to obscure indie-pop artists and the repetition of the withering put down of the title. In this song, there are mentions of Neutral Milk Hotel, the Halo Benders, Nothing Painted Blue, Cub, and Heavenly. And those are just the ones whose albums I own. I left out the Orange Peels, Lois, the Pastels, the Crabs, and the Bartlebees (the last two being bands I’ve never even heard of). We are not done yet. The song also names more mainstream bands like the Breeders, Green Day, U2, Weezer, the Lemonheads, and even Sting. To the extent this sounds incredibly annoying, it is actually catchy as all get out and ridiculously charming. If it sounds like something you would enjoy, then you need to buy the entire Tullycraft discography (and keep an ear out for celebratory song “Twee,” which contains even more opaque indie references).

The subtext of “Pop Songs,” and as communicated by the band’s other work, is the confidence to love what you love unabashedly. Thus, “Josie” is about the leader of Josie and the Pussycats deciding that she “wants to be in a punk rock band” and that she will let her bandmates “know when it’s punk enough.” Robynn Iwata of Cub sings on “Josie,” and producer Pat Maley adds some keyboards.

There are also more or less straightforward and utterly guileless love songs, like “Willie Goes to the Seashore,” “Sweet” (which will melt your heart), and “Meet Me In Las Vegas.” And Tollefson broadens his horizons with ditties like the unexpected “Superboy & Supergirl,” which offers empathy to the beleaguered heroes, and more lyrically abstract songs like “Wish I’d Kept a Scrapbook” and “Dollywood,” the latter featuring some impressive guitar work from Mikulsek.

Even a deep track like “Then Again, Maybe I Don’t” is bursting with surprises, including an infectious chorus, a punk intro/refrain that won’t quit, and a creepy whistling interlude. This track contains guest vocals from Susan Robb (Incredible Force of Junior). Tullycraft puts their money where their indie cred is by covering the Bartlebees (“Miracles Are Hard to Find”) and the Judy’s (“Mental Obsession”). The Judy’s were an early ‘80s trio from Texas who played with the B-52s, the Talking Heads, and the Go-Go’s, and whom I will probably have to check out. The Bartlebees are a German band formed in 1990. An interesting note is that Chris Munford guested on the Bartlebees cover, and by the time of the next Tullycraft album, he was a full time member.

My version is the reissue on Darla (which does not appear to add any extras). My ONLY complaint with this album is that I wish there had been a lyric sheet supplied.

The Best Thing About This Album

The fresh and fearless approach.

Release Date

1996 (original); 1999 (reissue)

The Cover Art

Meh. I don’t hate it, but I don’t like it.

Dion – Greatest Hits

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I’ve been going through the D section and the T section at the same time, and wow, do I have a lot of compilations. They really slow me down in doing this work. Work which no one asked me to do, I realize. Still, every now and then I need to complain a little. Dion’s music was something I first encountered probably in middle school, but maybe elementary school, very likely on oldies radio that a bus driver played. At some point, I started listening to oldies radio on my own, and at one point, even immersed myself in the American Graffiti soundtrack. By the time I got this disc, I really only knew “Runaround Sue,” “A Teenager In Love,” and “The Wanderer,” but it seemed enough to justify the purchase. Dion DiMucci was born in New York in 1939 and as a teen, sang on street corners and in social clubs with friends. He found some early professional success on his own and then recruited three neighborhood friends to join him and they became Dion and the Belmonts. The group was part of the Winter Dance Party tour in 1959 with Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens; Dion turned down an opportunity to fly with those two on the plane that ended up crashing. He embarked on a solo career in 1960, though by 1964, that was on the slide. There were a couple of reunions with the Belmonts, and he cut an album with Phil Spector in 1975, and then he turned to recording Christian music in the late ‘70s. By the 1980s, other artists began to acknowledge him as an influence – Springsteen, Lou Reed, and Paul Simon, for example – and he recorded a comeback album in 1989 produced by Dave Edmunds (Rockpile). He has since worked with various artists, including Richard Barone (the Bongos).

What I Think of This Album

Obviously, this is way too much Dion. Less obviously, there is more here than “Runaround Sue” and “The Wanderer” to enjoy. It should be noted that this is a poor career overview:  it focuses on his ‘60s work and has a couple of songs (one a cover) post-1988, but all his ‘70s material is missing. Whatever – sometimes you just have to accept what life gives you.

If you listen to “The Wanderer” and “Runaround Sue” together, the songs’ regressive gender politics (or the era’s regressive gender politics or, you know, the country’s regressive gender politics) become very clear. Dion the peripatetic lover boasts of carrying on with multiple women about whom he cares nothing (“I kiss ‘em and I love ‘em / ‘Cause to me they’re all the same / I hug ‘em and I squeeze ‘em / They don’t even know my name”); Dion the cuckolded suitor, on the other hand, bitterly drags his ex’s name through the mud because “Sue goes out with other guys.” If you can get past that, the songs themselves are marvelous.

Dion’s gritty lead on “The Wanderer” is cushioned by the smooth backing harmonies of the Del-Satins, and the sax solo is appropriately raunchy. Springsteen and Dave Edmunds have covered this song. There is some suggestion that the “I’m going nowhere” line is supposed to convey the narrator’s self-awareness of his empty existence – and the fact that the backing vocals and the instruments drop out at that moment, leaving Dion exposed, lends some credence to that interpretation – but if that’s the case, then Dion blows it with his delivery, which doesn’t communicate any change in attitude as compared to the rest of the song. “Runaround Sue” was the earlier hit, from 1961. The handclaps, the backing vocals, and Dion’s scatting place this firmly in the doo wop tradition. Dion’s rapid-fire delivery against a backdrop of the Del-Satin’s vocals and a much more subtle sax part help make this a monster song. “Sue” was co-written by Dion and Ernie Maresco, while Maresco is solely responsible for “The Wanderer.”

The early tracks on this compilation are very much doo wop, the best of which is the classic  “A Teenager In Love,” though bass workout “I Wonder Why” certainly has its charms. “Teenager” was written by the Brill Building team of Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (who also wrote “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment,” and “(Marie’s the Name of) His Latest Flame”). This song has been covered by Lou Christie and Bob Marley. “Lonely Teenager” is thoroughly enjoyable, with uncredited female backing vocals.

Dion also had hits with “Lovers Who Wander” (with more doo wop scatting, and not all that different from “Runaround Sue”); toxic “Little Diane” (“I wanna pack and leave and slap your face / Bad girls like you are a disgrace”)  – is that a fucking kazoo in there? – and “Love Came to Me.” As an aside, am I surprised that Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo covered “Little Diane?” No, because Pinkerton is one of the most misogynistic albums I have ever heard.

Dion likewise had success with Leiber and Stoller’s “Ruby Baby” (on which he does a sort of Elvis impersonation) and with the awkwardly titled “Donna the Prima Donna” (which itself is a reworking, at least thematically, of “Runaround Sue”).

The orchestral pop of “Abraham, Martin, and John” is a surprise in the context of all this doo wop. This was a hit for Dion in 1968 (also covered by Smokey Robinson and Marvin Gaye). The hokey and misguided lyrical conceit – a tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy – could only have come out of 1960’s America. That song was written by Dick Holler, who as a member of Dick Holler and the Holidays, released the first recording of the excellent “Double Shot (of My Baby’s Love),” which was a 1966 hit for the Swingin’ Medallions.

Dion does a very credible cover of Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” (which reminds me a little of “Stand By Me”). Dion raided the Brill Building in 1963 for Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s “This Little Girl.”

Dion worked with studio musicians for his songs. Among them were drummer Panama Francis (who played on hits by the Platters, the Four Seasons, Jackie Wilson, and, uh, Bobby Darin); MacHouston Baker, who was part of Mickey & Sylvia; and jazz bassist (and photographer) Milt Hinton (who worked with Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and Paul McCartney).

The Best Thing About This Album

Dion’s voice.

Release Date

October, 2003

The Cover Art

Weird color choices, but the font is good and the pic is sort of standard for a record company collection like this.

Tegan and Sara – So Jealous

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

At some point, Tegan and Sara were reduced to the simplistic tag of “Canadian lesbian twins,” which only goes to show how the truth sometimes does not tell the whole story. It also speaks to the dehumanizing impact of the media, but that’s another story. Among other things, the pair are activists, firmly entrenched in the fight for LGBTQ equalty, and despite their growing success and fame, seem grounded and genuine, having recently released an album of songs they wrote as teenagers. They also collaborated on a memoir about their teenage years. Tegan and Sara seem like good people.

What I Think of This Album

Without knowing more, you might have thought this was Tegan and Sara’s bid for stardom. In fact, that happened several years later, when they successfully embraced a more mainstream pop sound (via 2013’s Heartthrob). Which isn’t to say that So Jealous wasn’t the initial attempt. It is significantly glossier than If It Was You, with many more keyboards and a decidedly ‘80s/new wave feel. At the same time, the twins’ (separate) songwriting has matured, so what you get is a more consistent batch of songs buffed to a high sheen. That’s nothing to turn your nose up at, and I for one have no real problems with artists’ efforts to achieve greater success.

Tegan is slightly overrepresented, with eight songs to sister Sara’s six. Tegan’s work strikes me as more immediate, going straight for the limbic system with traditional pop elements. Take the stacked harmonies on “You Wouldn’t Like Me” or that song’s build from acoustic guitar to fully arranged juggernaut. “Take Me Anywhere” is as pure a song of teenage love as any, with more hooks than there is acne in the average high school classroom. Her streak continues on wordy  “I Know I Know I Know,” with a propulsive bass line and gurgling synth part, and “Where Does the Good Go,” a song of stark lyrical demands and unvarnished emotion.

Her best song may be “I Won’t Be Left,” with powerful vocals (including a great call-and-response/countermelody vocal) and a choppy rhythm. Her most fun song, on the other hand, is the pop-punk “Speak Slow,” the song on which guest Matt Sharp’s (Weezer, the Rentals) keyboard contributions are most obviously “Matt Sharp keyboard contributions.” If “Speak Slow” is candy for kids with a predilection for Manic Panic, “Wake Up Exhausted” is a slower, more sophisticated piece, and “Fix You Up” is a fine and pretty ballad.

Sara’s songs are more challenging, and arguably more intricate. “I Bet It Stung” oozes drama and expertly employs dynamic shifts and pounding drums. The gentle pull of “Downtown” is no less powerful for being subtle (though the loud drums contradict the mood and arrangement of the song). Sara gets the title track, which boasts a number of tempo, arrangement, and feel shifts.

“We Didn’t Do It” is spindly and jagged, again with a very new wave sound – like the Cars trying to cover Gang of Four (minus the politics and the intellectual theory). I have to say I don’t like Sara’s “Walking With a Ghost,” which I guess puts me at odds with the White Stripes, who covered it. This is the track that most nakedly apes the ‘80s (I half-expect Ray Parker, Jr. to make a cameo appearance partway through), and is probably the least melodic. “I Can’t Take It” is an appropriately moody piece, all shadows and mist.

Once again, John Collins of the New Pornographers co-produced.

The Best Thing About This Album

Sorry, Sara, but I lean towards Tegan’s poppiness:  “I Won’t Be Left.”

Release Date

September, 2004

The Cover Art

The cover was designed by Canadian artist EE Storey, who has done work for Death Cab for Cutie and the Rentals. I like it a lot, and I think the pile of small, red felt hearts on the black background is a perfect companion image for the songs on the album.

Weezer – Weezer [Green]

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

If Weezer had simply kept making this album over and over again for the rest of their career, I would have been satisfied. I’m not investing the time to figure out what happened, because I really don’t care, but apart from the odd song here and there – I will admit that I really enjoy “Beverly Hills” – post-Green album Weezer is a waste of space and time.

What I Think of This Album

Song for song, better than the Blue album and therefore Weezer’s best, the Green album is not anything complicated. These are very straightforward, incredibly simple pop songs – they are sugary, fast, and with just enough bite. While Weezer is capable of better, they have proven that they are much more apt to do worse, so this is really the most you can expect from this band.

This time around, producer Ric Ocasek (Cars) earns his keep, changing the sound around and adding keyboards and synths here and there. “Don’t Let Go” is all hooks and guitars. The harmonies are the key to “Photograph,” with a nice overdriven tone to the solo. “Hash Pipe” adds some rhythmic muscle (and the opening line is from the Beatles’ “You Can’t Do That,” one of their most misogynistic songs). The band offers up its most romantic song in the form of the sweet “Island In the Sun.” The lyrics of “Crab” are really stupid – not that “Hash Pipe” was poetry – but the guitar riff is cool and the harmonies carry the day. In comparison, “Knock-down Drag-out” hints at allegory, but it is content to repeat a couple of phrases – again, the music more than compensates. The ballad strikes again on “Smile.” Arguably the best song here, the vocal rhythm of “Simple Pages” combined with a winning melody add up to more than the sum of the parts. Weezer must have sensed they were on to something, as “Glorious Day” is almost a rewrite of “Simple Pages.” “O Girlfriend” is sort of a throwaway.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Simple Pages” is the winner.

Release Date

May, 2001

The Cover Art

The difference between the dorky stupid charm of the Blue album cover and this, its arrogant cousin, is stark. Rivers is clearly the focal point, out in front of the others with his guitar and absurd lightning bolt strap, and the angle is more dynamic and flattering. These are no longer nerds proud to be nerds; these are successful nerds who think they’re no longer nerds.

Weezer – Weezer [Blue]

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

Few artists have disappointed me as much as Weezer. Which is a patently ridiculous thing to say. What kind of life are you leading that Weezer disappoints you? Well, so be it. I just can’t accept that Rivers Cuomo – who graduated from Harvard – writes such poor lyrics. Harvard. He has a BA in English. And he was in Phi Betta Kappa. It likewise confuses me why a band capable of writing quality pop hooks consistently refuses to do so. Bassist Matt Sharp eventually left to form the infinitely superior Rentals, which tells you everything about who the real talent in Weezer was all along.

What I Think of This Album

Honestly, there is a fair amount of this album that I don’t care for. But the parts I like, I like a whole lot. For starters, “Undone (The Sweater Song)” is fucking brilliant. The subtle spoken word parts are slacker genius and the contrast between the creeping verses and the rush of the chorus is irresistable. And I know it shouldn’t matter, but the music video is excellent, with the dogs running across the sound stage and drummer Patrick Wilson’s lewd wiggle. Even more enjoyable is “My Name Is Jonas,” with its delicate acoustic part, crunchy downstroke chording, pummeling outro, and a great melody; also, the title is maybe possibly borrowed from a beloved Choose Your Own Adventure book (“Your Code Name is Jonah”. A stretch? Maybe, but let me have my humble dreams, which hurt no one) and if so, that is a nice, dorky touch. And I like “Surf Wax America,” with its little guitar figure and the sheer sense of freedom that comes through the playing – though, forgive me, I don’t see any of these guys as surfers – plus the relentless rhythm sort of kicks ass.

The band displays a knack for simple mid-tempo balladry with “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here,” with a sort of metal-light solo, and another cool outro. Things sort of fall off after this. “No One Else” has a fun melody, but those lyrics are very toxically male; this could’ve been a great song if someone – anyone- had bothered to eliminate all the misogyny from it. “In the Garage” is ok but seems inauthentic, too purposefully flaunting nerd credentials right off the bat. “Holiday” is both sing-songy and cartoon metal, and all filler. “Only In Dreams” also doesn’t really seem to know what it wants to be or where it wants to go, and the melody is awful; the last couple minutes (all instrumental) are okay. I find “Buddy Holly” annoying as shit – the references to “homies,” “dissin’” and “why do they gotta front?” in the very first seconds turn me off immediately, and the attempted rhyming of “front” with “violent” should be illegal. The rest of the lyrics are even less sensical and the melody bothers me (other than in the second half of the chorus). Much worse is “Say It Ain’t So,” which is whiny and self-indulgent – it generates not an ounce of sympathy from me – and I hate the faux-soul sound the band cooks up; the vocal is also terrible. Ric Ocasek of the Cars produced this and I really wish he had changed up the guitar sound – every song has the same tone and style. It’s fun in any one tune, but tiresome over the course of the album.

The Best Thing About This Album

The shouted “YEAH” after the “workers are going home” part of  “My Name is Jonas” is just like the shouted “LET’S GO” at the end of “Surf Wax America” – the right mix of nerdy and rawk.

Release Date

May, 1994

The Cover Art

The nerd energy is strong on this album, and that is amply communicated by this stark, absurd cover. This perfectly captures the ironic zeitgeist of the time, with a “so bad, it’s good” approach that, somehow, works. Also, this is probably a rip-off of/homage to the Feelies’ debut album artwork?

Best Coast – California Nights

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

I’ve seen Best Coast live three times. While the sound on the albums has evolved, one of the nice things about the live shows is that the band basically plows through the old and new stuff in the same fashion. I think Bethany Cosentino and Bobb Bruno should stick to small and medium clubs and avoid the arena shows that they are apparently shooting for, but that’s just me. As long as the basic sound doesn’t change – and I don’t see that happening without Cosentino being led astray – I am okay with the more professional presentation on the albums. I think she will always be that kid in her bedroom, sadly ripping bong hits because she is too depressed to go walk on the beach right outside her door.

What I Think of This Album

Bigger, bolder, louder, slicker. A perfectly understandable move for Best Coast. And while this is a great album, I do miss the more amateurish feel of the debut. The core duo of Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno is rounded out by two multi-instrumentalists (one of whom is apparently a real drummer), and the fact that all four are credited with guitar, and three of them with keyboards tells you a lot about how shiny this album is. The vocals are multi-tracked and pushed out front, the booming drums sound like the soundtrack to the War of 1812, and the guitars and keyboards are sometimes indistinguishable. Cosentino sounds great – her voice is well-suited for this bid for stardom.

The larger canvas sometimes exposes her lyrics, which are more in line with bedroom confessionals than arena rockers, but first, Cosentino sells the shit out of her angst and depression, so the lyrics still come off as genuine expressions and not the product of laziness; and second, there are and have been plenty of male-fronted acts with equally or more unsophisticated lyrics (fucking Weezer, for Christ’s sake) but no one ever gave them grief for it (there will never be an annotated booklet of Def Leppard’s Hysteria). And moreover, the melodies here are fantastic; almost every song is overflowing with tunefulness.

In another universe, there would be several radio hits pulled from this album:  the insistent “Fine Without You” (great “ooh-oooh”s in the background) and misery-tinged “Run Through My Head” are outstanding. Similarly, “In My Eyes” seeps regret through its otherwise impenetrable wall of guitars, keyboards, and drums, while Cosentino belts it out for those of us in the cheap seats. “So Unaware” benefits from a great melody in the verses and a repeated descending riff. The rest of the tracks are almost as strong. “Heaven Sent” has a Replacements-esque “Answering Machine” intro before the drums shove you into the pit and the limbs start flailing. A more subtle strain of Replacements worship arrives on the jumpy “Fading Fast,” which rides a riff that sounds very much like the one Tommy Stinson employed on “Tickled to Tears” off of Bash & Pop’s debut album. The Pretenders are a jumping off point for the chiming “When Will I Change,” which surges into modern rock territory at the end. Girl-group backing vocals add the right touch to the mournful “Jealousy.” The title track adopts a slow and glistening atmospheric approach (though retains the lyrics about weed) – it doesn’t quite work but points for trying something different. On the other hand, dramatic closer “Wasted Time” is an excellent ballad, with Spector-ish sonics.

I’ve been resisting saying this, because I guess it feels critical, though it is not: this album reminds me a lot of the sound of Hole’s Celebrity Skin (an album I like), though the transition for Best Coast feels much more organic and the songs are stronger.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Confused and alone.” “Why don’t you like me?” “Sleep won’t ever come to me.” Cosentino knows the story of my life.

Release Date

May, 2015

The Cover Art

Excellent. A classic California image, and perfectly moody. I wish the band wasn’t in the shot, but I’ll allow it.

Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

This is charming as fuck. Now, I love twee pop, and a lot of it can be described as charming. Often, that is because the twee-poppers are not technically very good, but are so obviously committed to making music and enjoying themselves despite their limitations that the lack of polish ends up becoming integral to the appeal. That is not what’s going on here. Allo Darlin’ know what they are doing and do it extremely well. They have not stumbled their way into a great record (or, as it turns out, three great records). Elizabeth Morris, late of Tender Trap, provides gorgeous vocals that leverage her Australian accent into convincing you that she is your best friend while she gives you candid glimpses into her life, and manages to convey all the nuance of the story behind the lyrics with a knowing pause or playful lilt. The musicianship behind her is flawless but not soulless; it is lively and lovely. Allo Darlin’ does what you expect them to:  there is a ukelele, there is a song about Polaroid pictures, there is a reference to a sad boy in a sweater (except it’s not sweater, it’s a “jumper”). They just do it much better than you might think they would. They remind me a lot of Camera Obscura, but with slightly more human touches and real-world details.

What I Think of This Album

What a phenomenal debut this is! This is an album of songs about love, amusement parks, nights out, movies, picnics, and sun-dappled leaves on trees. It is hopelessly romantic in ways you refuse to believe in but can’t help believing anyway.

Morris’s voice is heaven-sent and the crisp, clean production perfectly accentuates every single-note guitar lead, bouncy bass, and well-placed lap steel, violin, flute and, yes, ukelele part. The songs here are buoyed by plenty of “oohs” and “aahs” and “sha-la-la-la-las” and all the other things that mean I love you. Morris’s lyrics tell wonderfully evocative tales that make you nod in recognition and hope it all works out for her. “Silver Dollars” is about keeping sadness and reality at bay with alcohol and music and the hope that the person you want will want you (maybe if you spend just a few more minutes together they will realize it?) and then getting up the next day and doing it all over again.

“Kiss Your Lips” is a life-affirming bonbon that manages to quote Weezer (“El Scorcho,” which is objectively a terrible song) without sounding stupid and features an oddly downcast bridge that crescendoes back into the grinning chorus with aplomb. “If Loneliness Was Art” highlights Morris’s ability to bring a universality to the very specific details that color her songs. “Let’s Go Swimming” celebrates the insularity of a young couple, in naked defiance of punks and bankers alike, with a violin part that travels from Sweden to Australia. “What Will Be Will Be” is the woozy closer that of course quotes Doris Day.

The Best Thing About This Album

“And when you call me on the telephone / my fingers will twist through the cord / and I’ll slide my feet up and down the wall / but I know that I’m stronger than you are”

Release Date

June 2010

The Cover Art

A weird misstep. An underwater photograph of someone holding their hands around their eyes in the manner of binoculars, though maybe their thumbs are in their nostrils and their hands are actually at cheek level, below the eye? I don’t fucking know, and I don’t care. This is an ugly, pointless photo that has nothing to do with either the music or the album title or anything, apparently.

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑