Now Hear This! Music Reviews
The Magnetic Fields
Distortion – Nonesuch Records
The latest brainchild of postmodern tunesmith Stephen Merritt appropriately dubbed Distortion is a pure gem of raucous rock rhythms and discordant white noise mixed together with Merritt’s subversively signature synth pop sensibilities that is just under 40 minutes of pure pleasure. Merritt’s droll, dry sense of irony is resplendent throughout the album sublimely lilting above the tinkering swell of pianos, guitars and the random spare cello or accordion. Distortion is Merritt at his best plumbing the depths of sardonic sadness and turning it on its ear with the turn of a phrase. Stephen Merritt has taken noise-pop to the next level and the world may never be the same again! Besides, how can you not like an album whose opening track is entitled “Three Way”?
Put Your Ghost to Rest – Capitol Records
I blame it all on Chris Carrabba. If it weren’t for Dashboard Confessional there wouldn’t be all of these bright eyed oh-so-gay-but-not-really tattooed pretty boys with guitars screaming infidelities while they strum out their feelings in three chords or less. It would be enough to nauseate me if it weren’t for diamonds in the rough like Kevin Devine.
On his major label debut and fourth solo effort former Miracle of ’86 front man seems to have finally grown into his own. Before this offering much of his work, while lyrically stimulating, seemed strained musically often straying into that gray area where all Emo tainted folk rock starts to sound the same (think 1990s era girl with a guitar music and you’ll get the drift).
This time out Devine’s musical palette seems to have expanded significantly to include a wider range of melodic formulas that are both engaging and catchy without being redundant and annoying like many of his whiny contemporaries (Conor Oberst comes immediately to mind!). His lyrical content—the red-headed 26 year-old’s strongest asset—is as strong as it ever was, rife with playful yet powerful turns of phrase and narrative invocations that echo in your head long after the song ends.
Listening to Devine’s lyrics is like suddenly hearing someone say something that you had always thought but never quite found a way to express into words. With Put Your Ghost to Rest, Devine finally seems to be successfully outgrowing the demons of his younger years and moving forward on a path that may well place him ahead of the game in the long run when the Emo and Straight Edge scenes finally play themselves out like Goth did in the 80s followed by Alternative in the 90s.
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