Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2016-02-05

2016-02-05

Thomas Anderson: Heaven (Out There, 2016) Thirteen songs about dead people and the strophic muse ("Arguing With the Dead," "Dolceola Glory," "Sheb Wooley Dies in Oklahoma") ***

Eszter Balint: Airless Midnight (Red Herring, 2015) A Hungarian-born Squat Theatre alumna who once upon a time landed a money gig playing Louis C.K.'s love interest emanates the flintiest songs of 2015. A son is killed after his mother curses out his guards. The fun of tonighting it is over by 2 a.m. but tonight isn't. A mother calls her daughter at 3 AM and can't think of anything to say. A mad old geezer finally dies at 63. The plane lifts off and finally our antiheroine feels alive. Marc Ribot, JD Foster, etc. keep it terse. Balint barely emotes at all. A-

Robert Forster: Songs to Play (Tapete, 2015) Subtlety isn't exactly an aesthetic choice for the other Go-Between. It's his destiny, imposed by his limitations as both singer and tunesmith. But in his first album in seven years he's clearly tailoring lyrics to that destiny, and that is an aesthetic choice, apt and sometimes droll but also limiting. It works best on "A Poet Walks," where the artist's ordinary stroll through the city doing ordinary things that make him better than you is accessorized with mariachi el-toro trumpet at the close, and "And I Knew," about the love he was certain destiny would impart if he undertook to travel 10,000 miles and wait till it happened--the last quarter of which repeats the phrase "and I knew" over and over (and over). A part of me wishes that coup was catchier, although I've definitely adjusted. The same part insists that I reveal the title of the catchiest track by far: "I Love Myself (And I Always Have)." A-

Donnie Fritts: Oh My Goodness (Single Lock, 2015) Hither-and-yon Memphian who helped write Dusty's "Breakfast in Bed" sings his seventies in other people's well-chosen words ("Errol Flynn," "Temporarily Forever Mine") *

Stephen Kellogg: Blunderstone Rookery (Fat Sam/Elm City, 2013) Indie-Americana journeyman wonders why bother, keeps on going ("The Brain Is a Beautiful Thing," "I Don't Want to Die on the Road") *

Steve Martin & Edie Brickell: So Familiar (Rounder, 2015) Hobbyists with serious chops, resumes, and things to do put their love and skill sets into the best songs they can come up with ("So Familiar," "Won't Go Back") *

Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear (Sub Pop, 2015) Whether the character of the conflicted lifemate is the "real" Josh Tillman, as we are assured, or a subtle fictionalization, as is my default assumption, quality time is not much in him ("I Love You Honeybear," "Strange Encounters") ***

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