THE MAGNETIC FIELDS
“Love at the Bottom of the Sea” (Merge Records)
The Magnetic Fields are still on the quest for romance.
“Love at the Bottom of the Sea” finds the band once again exploring the theme of failed love affairs using biting lyricism, thanks to leader and songwriter Stephin Merritt, but this time with added synth.
Rather than traditional love songs lamenting pain and anguish, the Magnetic Fields mock the heightened emotions of love with sarcastic lyrics.
“Andrew in Drag” is a dreamy ditty in which Merritt sings about being in love with a cross-dresser: The moment seeing Andrew in a dress means that Merritt can’t love anyone else again, and causes him to ponder his “misspent youth.”
“Quick!” is a plea for a lover to shape up or ship out. Its lyrics are again another example of the clever wordplay employed by Merritt, as they take unexpected twists like “what a waste of all those beers,” when you would expect the line to be “what a waste of all those years.”
“My Husband’s Pied-a-Terre,” about an adulterous partner, starts out slow and mournful, but the hilarious rhyming — “pied-à-terre’ coupled with “derriere” for example — illustrates just what a talented songwriter Merritt actually is.
All of the songs on the album are under three minutes, allowing them to be punchy and not overdone.
— Sian Watson, Associated Press
“Untitled” (Odd Future Records)
“I need no I.D. for you to recognize,” brags Odd Future’s second-in-command MC somewhat prematurely. In fact, Hodgy Beats’ broken, raspy flow could easily be mistaken here for Shabazz Palaces’ Ishmael Butler, a 40-year-old paragon of wisdom as far from Odd Future’s take-no-prisoners punk-rap as one can get. The title “Untitled” is a more fitting statement of transition. For nine fragments in 22 minutes, Tyler’s wayward sidekick abandons his Marilyn Manson-inspired horrorcore duo MellowHype for evenhanded soul samples from Alchemist and Three 6 Mafia’s Juicy J, with a pinch of avant weirdness from Flying Lotus on the videogame-y standout “Samurai”? But the best track is Alchemist’s beautifully sampled “In a Dream,” and who would have thought a Hodgy track could be described as “beautiful”?
“Now What!” (Cedar Creek)
On his last album, 2007’s ultimately uplifting “There, I Said It!,” Tommy Womack addressed his nervous breakdown, growing sense of mortality, and faded rock ‘n’ roll dreams with unsparing honesty and plenty of wit. The Nashville-based singer and songwriter, who has since passed 50, brings those same qualities to “Now What!”
“A hundred bucks to play three sets/ This is as good as it’s gonna get,” the former leader of Government Cheese sings cheerfully over the jaunty rock of “Play That Cheap Trick, Cheap Trick Play.” Womack also sings of the “Pothead Blues” (slow and acoustic) and the “Guilty Snake Blues” (fast and jazzy), serves up 100-proof honky-tonk with “On and Off the Wagon,” and dives into slippery swamp-rock with the tongue-in-cheek come-on of “I Love You to Pieces.” The folk-rocker “I’m Too Old to Feel That Way Right Now” and the Dixieland-flavored “Over the Hill” address the aging issue without any mopiness or self-pity.
On the tender ballad “Wishes Do Come True,” Womack acknowledges his good fortune with unabashed directness. In the end, though, with “Let’s Have Another Cigarette,” he returns to the importance of the lifeline offered by music: “I’ve got about a half a tank of gas/ I’m a pimple on Dylan’s ass/ But tonight, I’m gonna play some rock ‘n’ roll.”
— Nick Cristiano, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The Fourth Wall,” (Black Suit Records)
The Vespers isn’t really a bluegrass band. The members describe themselves as “folk pop.” They, after all, use drums, ukulele, violins and cellos on “The Fourth Wall.” But even Doyle Lawson is using drums these days. And The Vespers do feature a banjo prominently.
So, you’ll probably find them at some bluegrass festivals that lean toward the progressive side of the music.
The 2-year-old group features a pair of sisters — Callie and Phoebe Cryar, 21 and 19 — who sing lead and a pair of brothers — Bruno and Taylor Jones, 20 and 22 — who fill out the sound. All four write. In fact, the only song on “The Fourth Wall” that they didn’t write is Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face,” which says that “a true friend is hard to find.”
There’s a lot of gospel influence in the music. “Better Now” is about the blind man that Jesus healed. “Lawdy” has a bluesy mountain gospel sound. “Got No Friends” is about as close to bluegrass as The Vespers get. The song was inspired by the May 2010 flood that devastated parts of Nashville and even hit the Grand Ole Opry House.
It’s a good album with some pretty vocals. You can find it in stores April 3 or you can order it online at TheVespersBand.com.
— Keith Lawrence, Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer