Over the last week, I’ve been listening to three new albums that have really captured my ear. What I love about them is the distinct styles of each, and the strong voices of the performers. There is also a thematic quality that oddly enough connects the three: a sense of confusion.
We live in confusing times right now, don’t we? All we have left to hold on to, it seems, is love, but even that appears to be fleeting at times. These records question the idea of fleeting love, and make for some powerful music here at the beginning of this new decade.
Check ‘em out.
Transference by Spoon
Britt Daniel is an amazing songwriter. Spoon never fails to satisfy, and Transference is no exception. It is an eclectic record, with each song holding its own without adhering to a consistent style. The opening track begins the record with the thudding, raspy “Before Destruction” before the album kicks it up with the funky “Mystery Zone,” electronic “Who Makes Your Money,” and the garage rock romp of “Trouble Comes Running.”
What stands out to me the most though, is the lyrical transference the title of the album evokes. At times it feels like Daniel is trying to convince himself of the power of love. In “Nobody Gets Me But You,” he clearly states: “I thought they get me like you/Oh no!/Nobody/Nobody/Nobody.” Either he’s making a definitive statement, or he’s really forcing himself to believe it. A similar idea appears on the driving “Got Nuffin.” “The flowers blooming/The trains collide/Ahhh/I don’t got a thing to lose.” He’s trying to transfer these feelings from his mind into his soul. Pretty heady stuff.
Here’s a video with the song, “Got Nuffin.” It’s just the song, but worth the listen.
End Times by the Eels
Enigmatic songwriter E was divorced last year, and in the midst of his depression he creates one of the Eels most remarkable records, End Times. It’s very reminiscent in tone to Beck’s classic Sea Change. There is a despair on every song here, even uptempo numbers like “Gone Man,” when he sings, “I talk to my dog/just to prove I’m alive.”
Having been recently divorced myself, I can completely relate to his pain. Especially when he says on the last track, “On My Feet:” “When I look back on my life/Most of it won’t seem so important/The shit that matters/And what I’ll really miss/Is falling asleep with your arms around me.” Those were tough mornings after I moved out and tried to start a new life on my own. E’s plaintive lyrics cut to the core of the pain divorcees everywhere must feel, and give this album a dark beauty.
The Sea by Corinne Bailey Rae
Confusion, doubt, fear, despair. Corinne Bailey Rae’s depression after the death of her husband to an accidental drug overdose in 2007 provides the material for her sophomore album, The Sea. These songs are jazzy, meandering, and lacking the pop vibe of her self-titled debut. At times, though, there’s a rocking edge that plays in stark contrast to her light-as-a-feather voice. All of this works together to create my favorite album so far this year. It’s a better record than her first record, although not by much. I can’t get enough of songs like “Are You Here?” “The Blackest Lily,” and “Paris Nights/New York Mornings.”
In the movie High Fidelity, Rob Gordon (John Cusack) opens the movie with the line, “Which came first, the music or the misery?” Here the case is simply made for misery, but from within the misery comes hope and new horizons. “So weary/Someone to love is bigger than your pride’s worth” she cries on the track, “I’d Do It All Again.” There’s someone out there for her; there’s a chance at a new beginning.