Saturday, 26 October 2013

reviews: They Might Be Giants, Moonface, Maria Taylor

                                            They Might Be Giants – Nanobots

They Might Be Giants - Nanobots (***)

For They Might Be Giants, conciseness has always been an asset, allowing them to play freely with oddball concepts and simple melodies without allowing their irreverent earworms to outstay their welcome. But Nanobots’ nano-pop arguably takes the trait a little too far, squeezing 25 songs into 48 minutes – including a second-half run of four tracks lasting 48 seconds total, each little more than a witty one-liner and an orphaned melody fragment.

Again, this isn’t new territory for the band, with Apollo 18’s Fingerprints suite the most obvious precursor. But where previously the effect charmed, here it’s a little like channel hopping – distracting and eventually annoying. Luckily, several of the fully-formed offerings – including infectious opener You’re On Fire, affectionate ode-to-science Tesla and the peppy title track – rank among their best work, making this a treat for fans, albeit one that dilutes their comedic and musical genius with a few too many cul-de-sacs.

Out 4th November

                                               Moonface – Julia With Blue Jeans On

Moonface - Julia with Blue Jeans On (****)

On Julia…, Spencer Krug confirms Moonface the most diverse of his storied musical projects. After solo synth-prog debut Organ Music… and 2012’s full-band, rock-slanted Siinai collaboration Heartbreaking Bravery, he could arguably have taken his sound absolutely anywhere, so the decision to contrarily turn inwards and produce a stripped-back piano and voice collection feels instinctively like a stroke of genius – a purified reminder of his core compositional abilities, and a more complete exploration of a side to his writing previously only glimpsed.

With so little adornment, the poetry of Krug’s words (delivered in that inimitably baleful croon) is inescapable. Opening lines are invariably arresting (for example: “And if I am an animal I am one of the few that is self-destructive/ I have chewed through my beautiful muscle/ I have chewed through my beautiful narrative”), and throughout, the originality of his themes and metaphors places him in the upper echelons of lyricists. 

Out 4th November

                                              Maria Taylor – Something About Knowing

Maria Taylor - Something About Knowing (***)

Maria Taylor’s fifth album Something About Knowing is quintessential Saddle Creek: production from label founder Mike Mogis; a musical style that gently browses country-soul and dream-pop; and that warm, familiar voice, recalling past Creek peaks as half of Azure Ray and as backing vocalist on I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (amongst other things). 

As well as echoes of Bright Eyes’ full-on alt-country period, the work of erstwhile Creeker Jenny Lewis is evoked on a number of occasions, with songs like Folk Song Melody eerily close to her post-Rilo Kiley solo work. Unfortunately Taylor has a more pronounced saccharine streak than either of the aforementioned, and with her young son an expressed influence (“I heard the sweetest voice call me mommy”), you may be inclined to agree with Cyril Connolly’s warning about the pram in the hall as the enemy of good art. Those with a sweet tooth, however, will find much to savour.

Out 4th November

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