Over the past few years, I can think of a handful of really, really impressive debuts. Mika is the first to come to mind… I bought the Life in Cartoon Motion album and it didn’t leave my car stereo for a month. Maribou and I sung along to the whole dang thing start to finish and found excuses to take long ways when certain songs came on. Now? I can’t find the album (I’m sure it’s somewhere) but I don’t mind so much.
But, hell, let’s sing “Grace Kelly” together again. For old times’ sake.
Ah, big sigh.
The next one, Gotye, needs no introduction. I didn’t buy Making Mirrors but I didn’t have to. The radio played “Somebody that I used to know” over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and I’m sure you remember that year where you loved that song then you liked that song then you hated that song. Maybe we remember it fondly, kinda, the way we remember “Mmmmbop” but… I can’t handle listening to the original anymore. I tried to embed one of the surprisingly good covers of the song but, even then, I couldn’t make it through the whole thing. If you think you can, here are a couple of good covers but I made it a minute in and shuddered and then said “Ugh. That’s enough of that.” His song “Eyes Wide Open”, by contrast, is one that I can listen to without starting to yell:
Who’s the next one? Wanna guess? Here’s a hint: Last year, when I went out to Annapolis for the first time, I was all nervous and scared and in a place where everything was strange… and I tuned in the radio and that particular song came on and I snarled and changed the channel and thought “okay, maybe it’s not *THAT* different.”
That’s right! Lorde! Much like Gotye, I can’t listen to the original anymore… but, you know what? There are covers out there that help you listen to the song again as if it were new and fresh. (You know about Puddles, right? If you don’t, you’re in for a treat. Listen to all of the stuff he does. You’ll be fascinated and then fall in love. Dude, he covers Hallelujah and, seriously, it’s so good you won’t even be irritated.) Anyway, here’s the song we fell in love with and then hated and now might start to have forgiven a little bit.
Well, Alt-J was the fourth artist on my list and I’m sure that you remember hearing Breezeblocks the same number of times as the other songs on this list but… well, Breezeblocks has the lyric “She’s morphine, queen of my vaccine” and, well, I’m willing to forgive a lot for that one. So I got the album An Awesome Wave and… holy cow, it was *GOOD*. It felt weirdly out of time… like you could have found the album in the dusty corner of the LP shop with a date of 1971 on it. Or 1983. Or 1996. Sure, a handful of songs got radio airplay (and some far too much for the song) but the album itself, as a whole, was so much better than any one song on it. And even saying that, I find myself wanting to share one of the gems that didn’t make it to the radio:
The best part of the song is between around 2:25 and when the instrumental kicks in at 3:08. A moaning, longing prayer (almost).
And the whole album was good! Like, still able to listen to it good. Like… almost Quadrophenia good. Almost. Well, that made me say “you know what, I’m going to keep my eyes open for their next one.”
And I got it. This Is All Yours. It dropped today (but Amazon delivered it to me yesterday). I’ve devoured it.
And it’s pretty good. I don’t know how to compare to the original but… they’ve managed to recapture some of the strange, alien sound that made the first album awesome.
The perfect moments from around 2:00 until 2:55 just have me captivated.
Now, this album feels different than the first insofar as it feels like a religious album. (No Religion.) It’s like they’re trying to wrestle with the Argument From Desire. (Which is, of course, no proof at all… and yet…) Many of the songs feel like meditations, psalms, and prayers. Now, there are fun and goofy songs on the album (the first one, Left Hand Free (currently getting a lot of airplay) feels more fun than anything else), but those songs aren’t representative.
The album feels like they’ve stopped listening to advice… which is, I suppose, the hallmark of sophomore efforts that follow massive success. Some of the advice they got was very good advice indeed and you can tell that they probably should have listened to it… but you can also tell that some of the advice was to hold back and tone it down a little bit. For my part, I’m very glad that they stopped listening to that advice.
I’m looking forward to the next album already… when they go back and filter the advice they should have followed with the advice they’re glad they didn’t and put all of those pieces together for what should be one heck of an album.
But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. I should get back to enjoying this one… because it’s very, very good. Here’s “The Gospel Of John Hurt”.
So… what are you listening to?