One of my favourite things about any new Vampire Weekend release, is the savage critique that Jim DeRogatis from Sound Opinions levels at it. While I generally don’t agree with much he says about the band, it is an amusing counterpoint to the near ecstatic reviews the band is used to. On Father of the Bride, this is no different. With producer and multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij no longer in the band but appearing here, it’s virtually an Ezra Koenig solo effort. And what an effort.
Once again, the band chose to work with Modern Vampires of the City in demand producer, Ariel Rechtshaid. Danielle Haim appears throughout the album
most notably on the country sounding first track, “Hold You Now” and on what
could be a lost Fleetwood Mac number from the 70s, “We Belong Together”. First
single, “Harmony Hall” is the standout track from the first half of the
album. Alluding to hate speech appearing
in universities, the mostly acoustic verses give way to nice piano bits in the
chorus where Koenig makes the, “I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t
want to die” lyric sound like an anthem.
Sharing the same name as a Charlie Puth track, “How Long”, has
a slinky bassline that powers the music with a killer chorus that could easily
be mistaken for the latest slick pop singer on hit radio. One of the hardest songs here, “Sympathy”,
with a vocal that sounds similar to Paul Simon, starts a run of music that is
one of the best of the year. “Stranger”
also shares certain Paul Simon vocal influences but this time in a more upbeat,
cheerful track. Coming in at just over
two minutes, “Sunflower” and its longer cousin “Flower Moon” both feature Steve
Lacy from the band The Internet. “Sunflower” is the strongest of several
shorter tracks that appear while the latter has a spoken vocal possibly
influenced by Lou Reed.
Coming at eighteen tracks, there are a few slower moments like “Big Blue” that doesn’t leave much of a mark over it’s two minutes and “My Mistake” suffers the same fate. This is minor quibbles on an album that has several runs of great songs. Coming into summer, this is definitely one to have on for long road trips and days at the beach. Regardless of what either Sound Opinion guy says, this is one of the best releases thus far of 2019.
Originating in Boston in the mid-70s, The Cars released
their self-titled debut in the early summer of 1978. Forever featured on compilations like Time Life
Collections, the band was at the foreground of the new wave scene. Adding synthesizers to classic, but
minimalist songwriting proved to be a winner. Though none of the three official
singles cracked the top 25, the album stayed on the charts for a mind boggling
139 weeks with most of the tracks being played endlessly on AOR radio stations.
In 2002, Elektra Records released The Cars compilation Complete Greatest Hits that pulled 6 of
the 9 songs from the debut. The three
aforementioned singles; “Good Times Roll”, “My Best Friend’s Girl”, and “Just
What I Needed”, are all classic American rock songs. 80s teenage movie goers will always remember “Moving
In Stereo” being used to great effect in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Of the tracks not appearing on the greatest
hits collection, only “I’m In Touch with your World” suffers from a bit too
much artiness. “Don’t Cha Stop” is a fun
upbeat romp and “All Mixed Up” pushes the synthesizers to the foreground, adds
some atmosphere with Queen like group singing and a fine sax solo at the end.
The Cars debut features the songwriting of bandleader Ric
Ocasek who wrote all the tracks with help from keyboardist Greg Hawkes on “Moving
In Stereo”. Bassist Benjamin Orr takes
over lead vocals on several tracks including “Just What I Needed” and sounds
very similar to Ocasek’s so blends in seamlessly. Along with guitarist Elliot Easton and drummer
David Robinson, The Cars was one of
the best debut albums of the 1970s.
On Jenny Lewis’ Wikipedia page, the reader is struck by how
much she has accomplished in both TV/film and music. Starting in acting at a young age, Lewis
switched over to music with her old band, Rilo Kiley, formed with her then
boyfriend Blake Sennett. On The Line is her fourth solo album,
including 2006’s release as the Watson Twins, and second since the break-up of
Rilo Kiley in 2014.
On The Line features an impressive list of collaborators including Beck and Ryan Adams (both producing), Ringo Starr, Don Was, Benmont Tench, etc. Common themes of drugs, drinking and broken relationships emerge throughout the eleven songs. “Wasted Youth” is a peppy track that features the line, “I wasted my youth on a poppy, just for fun”. First single “Red Bull & Hennessy” is a standout that is certainly more polished and somehow seems brighter than the other tracks here. “Taffy” is slower and more dramatic as Lewis taps into her inner Lana Del Rey before the album ends on a sparkling, upbeat 60s influenced “Rabbit Hole” that namechecks both The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
The supporting cast never outshines the star, and it is clear that Jenny Lewis is the star here. While failing relationships make up the bulk of the album, it rarely comes across as a downer. On The Line tells a lot of tales and is more than happy to bring the listener along for the ride.