The brilliant and talented Scott Bishop helped me identify this trend, for which I have to thank him. Well, the talented Scott Bishop. Okay, the competent musician Scott Bishop. In any case, the issue with these albums is that they follow what I would consider a great previous album... and this one doesn't measure up. The Cult's latest album falls into this category as well, but I've already reviewed it. In alphabetical order:
- Drive-by Truckers - Brighter Than Creation's Dark (2008). I love most of their music, but they lost me here. I'll take "The Righteous Path" with me as I walk out the door -- I really loved 2004's A Blessing and a Curse, so hopefully this is a blip on the radar of an otherwise stalwart body of work.
Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.
- Jeremy Enigk – The Missing Link (2007). The former lead singer of Sunny Day Real Estate and The Fire Theft released the brilliant World Waits after a 3-year hiatus. 12 months later, he released this. You do the math. Not recommended, and in time it may be his only album (I own 5 SDRE, 1 Fire Theft, and 2 other solo albums of his) that I sell back. I feel the tug to give him more of a chance, but I really can’t get into this; for the time being his history buys admission to my CD rack. It’s not bad… just not good.
Verdict: CD Rack.
– Hideout (2007). Just simply not as good as the last one, but very listenable. Film School
Verdict: CD Rack.
- José González - In Our Nature (2007). If you don't know who José González is, you are missing a brilliant folk talent. Voice, lyrics, guitar playing -- he has it all. Both his albums are absolutely MUST HAVE'S for your CD collection. Forced to choose between the two, I have to say that this album is very good, while his first album (Veneer) is unbeliveable. But it's splitting hairs. The guy is brilliant.
Verdict: You haven't left the house yet? Go get this and/or Veneer. Portable CD Case.
- The Go! Team - Proof of Youth (2007). Thunder Lightning Strike is a must-have for every CD collection -- fun, funky tunes from top to bottom. This one still has that energy, but is just simply not wall-to-wall great songs. "Grip Like a Vice," "Doing It Right," and "Flashlight Fight" (with Chuck D of Public Enemy) are as good as anything on the first album, but otherwise the tricks and licks are much the same. Still a great album to have, just not as good as the first album.
Verdict: Pick up a Go! Team album to balance that José González pickup. Portable CD Case.
- Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog (2007). This is more of a career indictment than a single album fall-off. Denis wisely jumped off this ship years ago, but I held fast. I wrote off In the Reins as a bad experiment with Calexico, but I can't ignore this one -- we're going in circles here. It's the same damn album again... again. Note to Sam Beam: move forward, please. At least we'll always have The Creek That Drank the Cradle.
Verdict: Pile of death. Getting off the merry-go-round.
- Jens Lekman - Night Falls Over Kortedala (2007). Oh You're So Silent Jens, his previous album is an odd, quirky collection of well-written songs. There are similar moments here, but overall it seems like someone told the man to drop the quirkiness and smooth everything. Bad move -- sounds pretty sanitized to me.
Verdict: Go buy his previous album. Avoid this one.
- Les Savy Fav- Let's Stay Friends (2007). Following up on their most remarkable effort yet, the 2004 compilation Inches (eigtheen tracks from nine 7" singles, released on 7 different labels), this is their best non-compilation album to date (the last was in 2001). I'd start with Inches first, but long-time fans will be happy with this one... very nice stuff. In fact, I had put this album down for quite a while and am realizing only now what a mistake that was.
Verdict: Recommended. Good enough to make it into the CD Changer... still not as good as Inches. Go see their live show, they are ferocious!
- Low - Drums and Guns (2007). Low is generally a bit... well, low-key for me, but on The Great Destroyer Alan Sparhawk & Co. met me halfway for a really enjoyable album. When I heard this was more of the same, I picked it up. I was lied to. I'll take "Sandanista" and "Bury the Hatchet" and call it a loss otherwise.
Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.
- M83 - Digital Shades, Volume 1 (2007). With the first strains of keyboards on this one, I keep waiting for Steve Winwood to start singing. I can't believe I am going to say this, but that would be preferable to what transpires here. It's ambient, it's electronic, it goes nowhere: it's pretty but soulless (much like Paris Hilton). It's a movie soundtrack without the movie... and it really needs the movie. Their previous effort, Before the Dawn Heals Us, is a "I will buy the next album, go to the show, and buy everything they've ever done"; this one is "do I really want to waste $7 AND a whole evening to see them at the Middle East?" They've devolved into a less poppy Vangelis, if that is possible. You see where this is headed.
Verdict: Pile of death.
- Nada Surf - Lucky (2008). This is somewhat unfair. Most known for that irrepressibly catchy song of high school alienation, "Popular," Nada Surf's body of work has gone unnoticed but is just fantastic. This album (which is quite good), just doesn't measure up to their last effort, The Weight Is a Gift, which has stayed in my car since it came out. This album is a bit softer, which is fine, but they've done better than this in the past. If this is your "re-" introduction to the group, you won't be disappointed -- and you'll have the promise of other great albums to follow if you further pursue their back catalog. Make sure you get the bonus disc for my favorite track ("Everyone's On Tour").
Verdict: Recommended if you don't know Nada Surf, or even if you do. Portable CD case.
- Ullrich Schnauss - Goodbye (2007). His first album, A Strangely Isolated Place, is quirky, offbeat, and great. This one is a little less adventurous, and suffers for it. Still some very nice stuff here and there, but I don't need to keep it.
Verdict: Buy A Strangely Isolated Place. Avoid this one. Sell-back pile 1.