David Peisner



  • The Swell Season, 'Strict Joy' (Anti-)

    If Glen Hansard's and Markéta Irglová's roles in the hit Irish indie film Once unintentionally wove the tale of their real-life falling in love, their second album as the Swell Season weaves the story of their falling out of it. Strict Joy is a glorious bummer. Hansard accomplishes what has seemed like his life's goal for years -- to write a tune that could've fit on Van Morrison's Moondance ("Low Rising"), and it's not even the best song here. Heartache swells from these swooning folk-pop tunes, but the presence of both of the relationship's combatants ensures that they never drown in it. LISTEN: Full album stream of Strict Joy BUY: iTunes Amazon

  • The Twilight Sad, 'Forget the Night Ahead' (FatCat)

    The Twilight Sad's 2007 debut album, Fourteen Autumns & Fifteen Winters, firmly placed them in Scotland's tradition of intensely literate sad bastards (Big Country, Belle & Sebastian, Arab Strap). But the quartet spend most of their follow-up in hiding. Their crashing, shimmering walls of guitar are now simply a persistent, feedback-drenched drone, obscuring any sense of melody or dynamics. The always-twee lyrics (sample line: "You are the bearer of a womb without love") have become stubbornly obtuse. Moments of transcendence occasionally emerge from the murk, but not often enough. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Say Anything, 'Say Anything' (J)

    "I can't define myself through irony and self-deprecation," Max Bemis sings on "Mara and Me," a wonderful spazz-pop waltz from his band's latest album. Oh, sure you can, dude. Say Anything's fourth full-length is an exercise in acute self-awareness: The pop-punk hookfest "Hate Everyone" satirizes misanthropy while bathing in it, and the earnest electro-pop love ballad "Crush'd" cops to dyslexia, "mild manorexia," and "a disturbing Oedipal complex." The music doesn't always keep up with Bemis' self-absorbed lyrical jujitsu, but there's definite charm in the struggle. WATCH: Max Bemis from Say Anything acoustic at SPIN's NYC office BUY: Amazon

  • The Flaming Lips Are in Complete Control

    The Flaming Lips Are in Complete Control

    During the spring of 1994, while the Flaming Lips were barnstorming across America, convincing radio programmers and their own label that a brain-fryingly weird pop tune, "She Don't Use Jelly," from their album Transmissions From the Satellite Heart, could be a hit, I was engaged in a middle-class rite of passage, backpacking across Europe. Drawn by equally healthy doses of American Jewish guilt and morbid curiosity, I spent a chilly afternoon touring Terezín, a former Nazi concentration camp 40 minutes outside Prague where more than 30,000 Jews died. This was all obviously upsetting, but the one detail I recall most clearly is the sign that adorned the entrance: Arbeit macht frei. Translated literally, it means "Work makes free." It was, of course, just insidious propaganda -- hard work wasn't going to save anyone there -- but the phrase, disturbingly, stuck with me.

  • Flight of the Conchords, 'I Told You I Was Freaky' (Sub Pop)

    If you laughed when you heard these musical parodies on the New Zealand duo's HBO show, you'll probably laugh again the first time you hear them here. But like most comedy albums, this one loses its luster upon repeated hearings. Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement are uniquely talented mimics -- the title track's R. Kelly–isms are note-perfect; the faux reggae of "You Don't Have to Be a Prostitute" recasts the Police's "Roxanne" as the tale of a "man-ho" -- but the song selection is questionable and the visuals sorely missed. BUY: iTunesAmazon

  • Exene Cervenka, 'Somewhere Gone' (Bloodshot)

    In the 30-plus years since Exene Cervenka first lent her keen eye and wonderfully off-key warble to X's punky rumble, she has been called many things, but rarely boring. So her first solo album since 1991 comes as a disappointment: The writing still can be vividly evocative ("Exotic free fall into a glass of wine / Precarious pit stop in the land of Nod"), but the uninspired, folky arrangements make her words too easy to ignore. Strings add welcome heft to "Honest Mistake" and the haunting "Pinpoints," but elsewhere the tunes are so minimal they nearly disappear.

  • Lucero, '1372 Overton Park' (Universal Republic)

    Across five albums, Lucero have crammed tales of beautiful losers and dreams unfulfilled into torrid bar-band rock and gruff alt-country ballads. On their sixth, the band's sound finally matches their romantic ambitions. Audacious horn arrangements from Al Green sideman Jim Spake burst out of nearly every song as organs shimmer, pianos flash, and the rhythm section swings with surprising dexterity. Making the most of his sandpaper croak, frontman Ben Nichols infuses these tunes with both the we-gotta-get-outwhile-we're-young energy of a Born to Run–era Bruce and the knowledge that, at 35, he ain't that young anymore. WATCH: Lucero, "Goodbye Again" BUY: Amazon

  • Monsters of Folk, 'Monsters of Folk' (Shangri-La Music)

    Supergroups suck. Even the ones that don't totally disappoint (Blind Faith, CSNY) are always somehow less than the sum of their parts. Into these dicey straits lurch the cheekily named Monsters of Folk, a collaboration among My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, indie-folk strummer M. Ward, and Bright eyes cohorts Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis.

  • A.A. Bondy, 'When the Devil's Loose' (Fat Possum)

    Scott Bondy fronted the briefly buzzed-about Nirvana-ish power trio Verbena (Dave Grohl produced their 1999 major-label debut), but the buzz faded, and in 2007 Bondy reinvented himself as a dour troubadour. His second solo album is a low-key folk gem: Over mostly spare backdrops adorned with acoustic guitar picking and mournful piano plinking, Bondy ruminates on loves lost, stolen, and forgotten. The pace and tenor occasionally resemble the Bataan Death March, but Bondy's gorgeous melodies, vivid imagery, and haunting voice keep you pressing on. BUY:Amazon

  • Jet, 'Shaka Rock' (Real Horrorshow/Five Seven)

    Jet's third album, just like their second, is stuffed with swaggering, anthemic rock that you'll swear someone else already wrote, which rarely compromises its appeal. "She's a Genius" rejiggers the riff from "My Sharona" into a snarling rock blast; "Goodbye Hollywood" is the best cliché-smitten Stones rip-off you'll hear this year; and the stuttering, infectious "Let Me Out" imagines the Replacements with their shit together. There's plenty of groan-inducing lyrical inanity, and one can only assume the reggae-rock abomination "Beat on Repeat" was a misguided effort to branch out. Sometimes the middle of the road is the proper path. BUY:Amazon

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