So here’s the thing. I’m very, very behind.
Not just on this column, though I am behind on this too. I’m behind on every single aspect of my art-loving life. I have thousands – and I’m not exaggerating there – of comics and books to read, some of which I’ve borrowed from friends. I am so far behind on my television watching that I am just now getting to Fringe. (Which I am enjoying!) And as for music, well, I have probably two dozen records just from this year that are languishing unheard. Life is busy, and it leaves little time for my second career as a semi-pro appreciator.
Here’s how this manifested itself this week. I’m behind on the column, late as usual. I intended to write about both the swell new Gorillaz album and Jonathan Coulton’s delightful Solid State this week, wrapping them up in a theme about comic books. But I wanted to wait until my copy of the Solid State CD and graphic novel arrived, so I could explore the full experience and then write about that. Of course, it hasn’t arrived, and while I have the album practically memorized at this point, I still don’t feel comfortable writing about it until I’ve taken in everything Coulton wants me to.
Normally, that would be no problem. I’d just shift to reviewing something else. But because I’m so far behind on my listening, I don’t really have anything to say about anything else right now either. I’ve been enjoying several new records, including the wonderful new Slowdive (their first in 22 years) and the terrific collaboration between Isildur’s Bane and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth.
I plan to write about both of those. But if I were to do that this week, you’d get something rushed and disorganized. (You might get that anyway. But I don’t want it to be from lack of preparation.) I’ve heard each of those records twice, which is one more time than I’ve heard any of the other candidates for this week’s column, including Juliana Hatfield’s vicious Pussycat and Feist’s Pleasure. I haven’t even heard the new At the Drive-In yet, and I’ve been anticipating that one for months.
So I could just lag behind again, but I decided I would at least try to give you something this week. And as I often do when I’m in this jam, I decided to look forward at what’s coming up. This year is shaping up to be pretty good, so here’s a brief look at a few records I’m looking forward to. (Of course, I’ll buy them and then not listen to them for weeks, trying to find the time, but I remain excited!)
Probably highest on my list right now is Husky, whose tremendous sophomore album Ruckers Hill made my top 10 list a couple years ago. Husky, led by a guy actually named Husky, might not seem that innovative – they’re an acoustic folk-pop band, like half a million others. But they write outstanding songs, songs that stay with you for weeks. The two songs I’ve heard from the upcoming Punchbuzz (“Ghost” and “Late Night Store”) don’t make me think that this will be the one to break the streak. I adore this band, and I’m jazzed to see where they go next.
I waxed eloquent about Sufjan Stevens last week. I think he’s one of the most important and compelling artists of this generation, and I’m interested in any project he’s part of. That includes the new Planetarium, a cosmic-themed project with string arranger Nico Mulhy, longtime Sufjan collaborator James McAllister and the National’s Bryce Dessner. (Yes, Sufjan’s involvement has me excited in spite of someone from the National muddying things up.) As with most things Sufjan, it’s difficult to describe or summarize. You just have to hear it.
I grew up on the work of Roger Waters, both with Pink Floyd and on his own. I can vividly remember hearing The Wall for the first time – that’s a revelatory record when you’re 14. Radio K.A.O.S. provided an embarrassing percentage of the soundtrack to my first years of high school, while Amused to Death scored my early college years with piss and venom. I never thought I’d live to hear another Waters album, but lo and behold, one is coming. It’s called Is This the Life We Really Want, and the two songs released so far (“Smell the Roses” and “Déjà Vu”) somehow sound exactly as you’d expect them to, and at the same time very good. I don’t think it’s just nostalgia – I’m very much looking forward to this record.
I mentioned Slowdive above – they’re just the latest old-school shoegaze band to reunite and return after a long absence. Later in the year, English band Ride will return after 21 years with Weather Diaries. Single “Charm Assault” feels like they’ve never been away. Another surprise, announced this week, is supergroup Lo Tom, made up of Jason Martin from shoegazers Starflyer 59, David Bazan, Trey Many of His Name is Alive and Velour 100, and TW Walsh of the Soft Drugs. My bet is that most of you are befuddled right now, but some of you are nodding vigorously, salivating to hear this. Wait no more.
The great Steven Wilson has just announced a new record called To the Bone. I know virtually nothing about it, but Wilson’s track record is enough for me. Same with Fleet Foxes, whose third album Crack-Up is high on my most wanted list. (It’s only so far down in this column because I’ve mentioned it several times before.) The Choir plans to release Bloodshot later this year, and frontman Derri Daughterty will have a solo record before long. You all know how I feel about the Choir, so you can imagine how much I’m looking forward to these.
And finally, a band you may not know, but should. Marah in the Mainsail was a highlight of the second AudioFeed Festival for me, and their first full-length, Thaumatrope, didn’t disappoint. They’ve just completed a successful Kickstarter campaign for their second, the darker-sounding fairy tale Bone Crown. It’s a concept piece about animals fighting for dominance (I think), and it sounds like it’s going to be great. You can hear Marah here.
There’s more, of course, and I’m sure the release schedule for the second half of the year will fill out nicely. (Right now it’s a wasteland, save for that new Tori Amos.) But these are the records I’m most excited about. Anything you think I should be paying more attention to?
Next week, honest, I’ll get to Gorillaz and Jonathan Coulton, and then Slowdive and others. And hopefully I’ll stay on track. Follow Tuesday Morning 3 A.M. on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tm3am.
See you in line Tuesday morning.