Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2019-06-07
Big Thief: U.F.O.F. (4AD, 2019) The deepest satisfaction of Big Thief is hearing something manifestly fragile hold together. Notions and emotions so fleeting they're gone before you can pin them down embody and then vanquish uncertainty before it can settle into the depression that may well lurk below. Each quiet, tiny-voiced tune emerges like a crocus pushing through the snow, and how much you enjoy as opposed to admire it will depend on how moving you find minor miracles. Not terribly fragile myself, I identify most readily with the subtle blatancies that sometimes surface--the quiet boom of the lead-in to "Jenni," or "Cattails" with its noticeable beat and subtle guitar hook sounding almost martial in this sonic context. But I'm definitely touched by the whole. A-
Martin Frawley: Undone at 31 (Merge, 2019) Like many former twerps, former Twerp Frawley understands love's pains, pleasures, and epiphanies so much better than the horndogs who get laid all the time (they tell us) ("You Want Me?" "Smoke in Your House") ***
Fred Thomas: Aftering (Polyvinyl, 2018) Depressed chronicler of the indie life keeps his spirits up while fretting about the size of his gut ("House Show, Late December," "Altar") **
Vampire Weekend: Father of the Bride (Columbia, 2019) Somehow the raft of confused reviews that greeted VW's half-decade-coming fourth album failed to ditch the old saw that set designer's son turned Columbia scholarship boy Ezra Koenig sings the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Maybe this is because at 35 he actually does, just not the "Ivy League" ones of legend. More likely, however, the problem is sheer befuddlement at how complex this class stuff can be. So recognize that his rich-and-famous has little resemblance to the old-money kind. It's Hollywood rich-and-famous, and far from its upper reaches, although Quincy Jones is eight-month-old Isaiah Jones Koenig's granddad. As I hear this sprightly, allusive, elusive, technically accomplished collection, all but a few of its 18 melodic yet seldom uplifting or effervescent songs bespeak some fraught combination of lost youth, career anxiety, and, way down deep, political dismay. "Why's it felt like Halloween / Since Christmas 2017?" Peruse the lyric booklet and find other such moments among these honeyed puzzlers. B+
The Yawpers: Human Question (Bloodshot, 2019) Ingrained humanism and earned guitar chops only get a song so far without some kind of rousing chorus to take it home ("Can't Wait," "Child of Mercy") *
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