Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-04-05

2019-04-05

Stella Donnelly: Beware of the Dogs (Secretly Canadian, 2019) In plain English and unassuming soprano, a musical encyclopedia of assholes, all male not just because she's female but because assholes generally are. Yes there are full-on predators--the rich prick with his dick out and the boy-will-be-boy who knows why she wears her shirt so low oh yes he does. But most are more ordinary--the intimidator, the reckless driver, the coke-snorter, the one-percenter, the big shot wishing she'd drop the attitude, the lunch date gabbing about himself, the feckless no-show, the guy who was never home enough, the guy she did her best to love, the guy whose baby she doesn't want, the guy she misses even now. Some ladies do actually love outlaws, and too often they get what they put in for. But most women are just looking for aninteresting man who'll respect her and stick around. These do exist in some quantity, I believe. But as it is written, they can be hard to find. A-

Girls on Grass: Dirty Power (self-released, 2019) "Left my man for a woman who looks like Aimee Mann/We made out in the can" plus "Because Capitalism" plus Del-Lords connection minus sings flat minus sings flat some more. ("Down at the Bottom," "John Doe") *

Jenny Lewis: On the Line (Warner Bros., 2019) The rare 21st-century singer-songwriter whose level of craft renders her good enough for 76-year-old master drummer Jim Keltner loses the spring inher step that made her so 21st-century by proving it. ("On the Line," "Rabbit Hole," "Dogwood") ***

Sir Babygirl: Crush on You (Father/Daughter, 2019) Lesbian hardcore-punk grad's synthed-up teenpop lovesongs--so fake they're funny and so shiny they squeak. ("Cheerleader," "Flirting With Her") **

Sharon Van Etten: Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar, 2019) Van Etten's big voice, controlled tempos, and dramatic aura have never tempted me to enter her world. But from the attention-getting opener--delivered with a modicum of emotion and forethought, "Sitting at the bar, I told you everything/You said, 'Holy shit, you almost died'" should get any listener with a heart to the end of the quatrain--I found myself hooked on her first album since 2014, which fans agree is her best without coming together on why. I chalk up my own interest to its diminished drama. If the tales here still tend toward screwed-up relationships and past misadventures rather than expanding on the cover photo of her two-year-old perched on a hilariously messy living room rug, so be it. She'll get there eventually. A-

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