Album Picks: Ryan Adams, Car Seat Headrest, Martin Courtney, Cheatahs, Wolf Eyes, Boogarins, GEMS

Posted by Billy Gil, October 30, 2015 12:34pm | Post a Comment

Ryan Adams1989

Ryan Adams’ full-album cover of Taylor Swift’s blockbuster album 1989 is easily derided in concept. What benefit would Adams fans get from the cultish, prolific artist seeking inspiration from a pop singer as young and ubiquitous as Swift? Plenty, it turns out. Adams hasn’t sounded this directed in ages. “Welcome to New York” is perfectly suited to Adams’ Springsteen-ish heartland rock tendencies (think of it as a cousin to his own “New York, New York”). Musically, 1989 is gorgeous; the reverb-rock take on “Style,” mandolins as strings in “Out of the Woods,” chiming Smiths guitars in “Wildest Dreams” and ’80s rock pulse of “All You Had to Do Was Stay” give 1989 an immaculate sheen worthy of its pop predecessor. Some of Swift’s lines and singsongy melodies sound a little silly coming through Adams’ world-weary lips (“Shake It Off’s” “Haters gonna hate”), but he also has a way of revealing not only the darkness underneath most pop lyrics (“you look like my next mistake” sound sad rather than impulsive in “Blank Space”), but the universality of the emotion behind them. Part of the record’s success can be attributed to Adams’ chutzpah; the rest comes from the fact that these were solid hooks and entertaining lyrics to begin with. It’s clear from listening that 1989 is no cash-in; Adams may have been 15 in 1989, when Swift was born, but he uses that to his advantage. The youthful emotion present in these songs still courses through him, and the tinges of regret and nostalgia he adds makes the material all the stronger.


Car Seat HeadrestTeens Of Style

Will Toledo is the wunderkind behind Car Seat Headrest. At 22 he’s already self-released 11 albums, and Teens of Style picks some of his best work and refashions it for a compilation of sorts. Thankfully, in doing so, Toledo doesn’t completely scrub the lo-fi aesthetic that helped win him a legion of fans on the Internet. Instead, Teens of Style plays like a rock debut that’s wiser than its years, calling to mind Guided By Voices’ immediacy, The Strokes’ interlocking propulsion and Bright Eyes’ brain-spilling lyricism. There’s some reliance on scrappy production techniques, like the ghostly noise that opens the album on “Sunburned Shirts,” but mostly Toledo builds his songs on only crucial elements—direct melodies, simple post-punk guitars, bare-bones beats and a strong point of view. Toledo’s lyrics can skew emo, but lines like “I want to close my head in the car door/I want to sing this song like I’m dying” sound terrific in practice, mostly because Toledo fully commits and sounds more like a shitkicker than a whiner (those sunny, Beach Boys-y melodies don’t hurt, either). Like Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino, another young singer with a dynamite voice who similarly wears her heart on her sleeve, Toledo benefits by having his first major release in a cool, lo-fi style, but with pipes and hooks like this, it’s only a matter of time before he graduates to bigger leagues. Check out Car Seat Headrest now you can say you were into it before it was a trend.


Martin CourtneyMany Moons

As the lead singer/guitarist of Real Estate, Martin Courtney’s velvety voice carries lyrics of nostalgic longing over he and Matthew Mondanile’s reverby interlocking guitars. Mondanile keeps plenty busy in Real Estate and fronting Ducktails, so Courtney’s first solo outing comes with considerable expectation. Luckily, he doesn’t disappoint, dispensing with string-laden acoustic odes that should delight anyone who’s already a fan. The same introspective seventh chords you might find on a Real Estate song appear in tunes like the “Foto,” its shuffling beat making way for banjo and strings evocative of Love’s classic psych release Forever Changes. However, Courtney avoids making Many Moons sound like Real Estate Lite while still appealing to his base. Whereas his band has a clean aesthetic influenced by ’80s college rock bands like Felt and R.E.M., here he mines other decades and genres for influence—there’s a lush, ’70s soul quality to “Vestiges,” alongside with warm psychedelic harmonies that give it a kaleidoscopic feel, like laying in the grass and staring up into the sky. But it’s more than just production or sound that makes Many Moons worthwhile—as much as the Byrdsy guitars of “Northern Highway” are gorgeous to listen to, it’s the song’s circular arrangement, sweet melody and Courtney’s spirited performance that make it stick. Many Moons is modern A.M. gold that’s rich both in substance and warmth.



London’s Cheatahs augment their guitar-based shoegaze sound with more electronics and experimentation on Mythologies. Their evolution recalls that of one of their heroes, Slowdive, as they ventured from riding My Bloody Valentine’s coattails into their own fertile creative territory on their later releases. “Red Lakes’” soft vocals cycle gently forward and backwards through waves of organ and low guitar swells. Those booming guitars return for “Channel View’s” crescendos, only they’re more heavily treated this time around, serrated and torn apart by effects with plenty of room for Swervedriver-esque power-chord propulsion. Though they still struggle a bit for individual character—“Signs to Lorelei” seems to call out the Cocteau Twins—there’s so much dreamy goodness here that fans of the genre likely won’t care. Songs like “Freak Waves” turn in unexpected directions, as punky eruptions and interesting chord changes keep things interesting. With hooks and energy to spare and a willingness to go beyond their comfort zone, Mythologies continues Cheatahs’ development into the next great shoegazers.


Wolf Eyes I Am a Problem: Mind in Pieces

Detroit noise masters Wolf Eyes only slightly tweak their sound on their latest, sweeping together their abstract noise collages into something approaching accessibility. While still plenty volatile and likely fear-inducing to the uninitiated, it’s music that could feasibly appeal to indie rock fans with artsier leanings, as the band now appears on Jack White's Third Man label. Climb up “Enemy Ladder” and get lost in their glorious chaos.


Boogarins Manual

Portuguese-sung reverby rock that could be described as Tropicaliagaze, with lush bossa nova chords, fluttering guitar noise and singer Benke Ferraz’s Marc Bolan coo casting a lovely spell.


GEMSKill the One You Love

Can’t get enough of the new Beach House albums? Love The xx? Check out GEMS, whose breathtaking, spacious electro-pop sets the stage for Lindsay Pitts’ lovely lilt and Clifford John’s Nick Cave-ish croon to coil around each other like a toxic romance amid 

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Relevant Tags

Album Picks (146), Ryan Adams (15), Car Seat Headrest (8), Martin Courtney (1), Cheatahs (3), Wolf Eyes (1), Boogarins (1), Gems (1)