Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-01-04

2019-01-04

Adrianne Lenker: Abysskiss (Saddle Creek, 2018) Replete with quietude and beatitude, audacity and fragility, clarity and opacity, this remarkable yet dispensable album by Big Thief's reason for being has a firmer grip on her place in the cosmos than on which way to turn at the next intersection ("Terminal Paradise," "Womb") *

Mitski: Be the Cowboy (Dead Oceans, 2018) Fourteen structurally cunning, melodically engaging, verbally coherent songs that for a compact 33 minutes address romantic angst from a disquieting angle. When women dig into their love lives men usually come out the bad guys, as they should, because men mistreat and undervalue the women they're with much more than vice versa. But the few times the singer tries to reconnect with an unattainable ex she blames the disconnect on herself because she made the approach, and more often she's the unattainable one and wishes she wasn't. The lead "Geyser" hints that the culprit is the music she's hung up on instead, and in "Remember My Name" that becomes explicit: "I gave too much of my heart tonight/Can you come to where I'm staying and make some extra love/That I can save till tomorrow's show?" But her loneliness is so ingrained that it's just as likely she got stuck on music because human love felt beyond her to begin with. That's why she's so disquieting, and so original. But by definition it doesn't make her more lovable. A-

Nice as Fuck: Nice as Fuck (Loves Way, 2016) Rilo Kiley great Jenny Lewis and two lesser grrrl-groupers try playfully to croon-chant their way into the alt-rock heart ("Guns," "Runaway") *

Soccer Mommy: Clean (Fat Possum, 2018) Sophie Allison's melancholy drags less and charms more than teen-alt's indie-strummed norm, and not only that--it's fortified by tastier guitar parts. So if they hit the palate at a strange angle, figure that's as it should be--love can feel pretty bittersweet when your boyfriend's ex is prettier than you. Or is she, actually? It's so hard to figure out that a few times Allison aspires to a detachment and even cruelty she seems too good a person to be stuck with, much less stuck with faking--a life skill she feels compelled to master because she hasn't learned that the cool kids are as insecure as she is only better at hiding it, from themselves as well as everybody else. So be very glad the finale reports: "I found God on Sunday/Morning, layin' next to you/My arms stretched out like Jesus/White sheets nail me down to the bed." Good sex won't solve everything. But it's a terrific way to top off your debut album. A-

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