Short Spins

Album Reviews

Short Spins

Posted by on Feb 25, 2020

Caribou – Suddenly (Merge)

By Jeff McCord

Now seven albums in (if you count the time before lawyers stopped him using the moniker Mantoba), Canadian Dan Snaith is a veteran on the electronic music front. And an outlier. Given the genre’s commercial limitations, there’s often a lot of experimentation going on. Snaith eschews the dentist drills and blunt glitches a lot of his contemporaries substitute for edge. And there are few long repetitive beats that come off feeling empty.  Instead, he takes his time  (Suddenly is his first Caribou album in five years, since the acclaimed Our Love) distilling his ideas into a wide range of moods, and more importantly, actual songs. Suddenly’s highlight is “Home”, with a sampled hook that won’t turn you loose (and some arranging help from Four Tet’s Kieran Hebden), but it’s hardly alone. Brimming with ideas and flavors, Suddenly, like all Caribou albums, is focused and absorbing.

4.25

Listen to Suddenly here.


Daniel Johnston – Chicago 2017 (dBpm)

By Jeff  McCord

Your first thought is “he sounds bad”. Johnston is hoarse, the high notes on “Hey Joe” elude him. Billed as his ‘final tour’, this was a truncated 2017 itinerary with bands/fans like Fugazi and Built to Spill backing him up. There were plenty who thought the endeavor should have never been undertaken. But midway through this live set with Jeff Tweedy and friends as backup, it becomes obvious that Johnston is having a good time. He’s croaking his way through his classic songs with real zeal, happy to have the able backup. The album includes five rehearsal selections recorded the day before the show, including a stab at his idol John Lennon’s “I’m So Tired”. I’m sure he was. But instead of a sad postscript, the best moments here feel like more of a rally.

3

Buy Chicago 2017 here.


Shopping – All Or Nothing (Fat-Cat)

By Jeff McCord

Fans of this angular London post-punk trio might be surprised by Shopping’s fourth album.  Rachel Agg’s barbed guitar playing, which has earned them Gang Of Four comparisons, morphs into more of an Afro-Beat squiggle. In truth, the GO4 comparison was never that accurate. Their lyrics are more about the politic of the personal, their 80’s skeletal beats more akin to the Au Pairs or ESG. Wiry and propulsive, All or Nothing is the sound of a band up against their limitations. They’re few commercial concessions other than Andrew Milk’s furious disco beats rising in the mix, which locks the trio in tight as ever. And there’s a surfeit of dance angst – “Follow Me”, “Expert Advice” Milk and Agg’s duet on “No Apologies (sort of a punk take on “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”), the furious “Initiative”. But the 30 minutes of songs here are almost interchangeable. You can’t help wondering where they go from here.

3.75

Listen to All Or Nothing here.