1. Dinosaur Jr – Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not
Thirty years on, Dinosaur Jr. is making some beautiful music. Melody to spare played loud. A blue expanse with clouds around the edges, not sure if they’re coming or going. Probably both. When I hear “I Told Everyone” or “Good To Know,” I feel a satisfying mix of optimism and melancholy. That’s what attracted me to the band in the first place years ago. “Goin’ Down” kicks off with an irresistibly energetic riff, and J Mascis asks, “Are you with me?/Are you with me when I’m gone?/Are you with me?/Are you with me, come along.” Gladly. Give A Glimpse of What Yer Not once again features the original line-up – Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph. Mascis is front and center, penning nine of the album’s eleven tracks and providing lusciously thick guitar fuzz and dazzling leads. But Barlow’s two songs, “Love Is…” and “Left/Right,” add a deeper dimension to the album, rounding out its sound. “Love Is…” has a fuzzy exterior and a classic guitar pop soul. Heartbreak is where passion and indecision meet on “Left/Right.” “And if you want it, I need it/If you could need what I want,” sings Barlow, flowing into a gorgeous, pulsing synth motif. There is no doubting the band’s chemistry – it’s worth noting they’ve been back together as the original lineup for over a decade now, roughly twice as long as they were together when they released their first three albums. Removed from the pressures of making it as a young band, they sound more together now than ever.
2. Jon Reynolds – Generation, Love (EP)
If you need a some songs to slow dance to at your next sock hop, Jon Reynolds gives you a few options on this new EP. He’s got the oohs and aahs, the bubbling organ sound, guitars chiming and arpeggiating, and even the sax. The title track hints at that, but “Find Someone” and “Situational Demise” drive it home. Which is what makes the other track, “’63,” such an odd duck in this bunch. Musically, it has a similar vibe. But then Reynolds sings, “All that I see is ‘63/That kind of nostalgia’s not for me/Not all our past is history/I believe that we’re living, still living ’63.” His point here is political. The first verse is about a smart, stylish woman, and ends with the lines “The boys couldn’t handle it/So so long girl.” The second is about a man who worked hard to make something out of nothing, and ends with, “He was strong but his skin was black/His boss couldn’t handle that/So so long boy.” It’s a careful positioning, down to the year 1963, which is the year before the Civil Rights Act and before the Beatles hit America. Reynolds may love the music of the early rock and roll crooners, but he won’t embrace the era without an asterisk.
3. Tony Lucca – Sessions Vol 2: Muscle Shoals (EP)
This is the second EP Lucca has released this year, following Sessions Vol 1: Sun Studios, which was culled from his appearance on the PBS show Sun Studio Sessions. He’s apparently been looking through his archives for unreleased tracks and found these three songs, recorded a decade ago somewhere in Muscle Shoals. What he came up with is a spare solo acoustic take on “Longing” from his 2006 album Canyon Songs, a version of “It’s You” from 2011’s Solo album that trades the guitar for piano, and a cover of Paul Simon’s “Still Crazy After All These Years.” His reading of the Simon song is the standout, spare and appropriately lonely-sounding with just voice and piano. Give it a spin.
1. Jen Kirkman – I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine)
If you’re a fan of Jen Kirkman, you’ve like seen the special of the same name, released audio-only here for the first time. And if you don’t know her, this is a good place to jump onboard. Kirkman has spoken and written extensively about her divorce and the fact that she never wants children, and how people would push the idea on her all the time. Those ideas are well-represented here. Kirkman talks about the common refrain she hears, “you’ll change your mind,” from people whom she has told she doesn’t want kids. “I don’t go up to pregnant women six months along, ‘You’ll change your mind,’” she says. “They probably want to.” She doesn’t have the necessary urge to parent, and believes she’d be bad at it. If her kid yelled to her that there were monsters under the bed, she’d yell back, “Yeah, of course there is, that’s where they live,” and then scramble out of there with her boyfriend before the monster could get her. Of course, with a world that’s getting progressively dumber, in her view, it might not be smart for anyone to have kids. She once saw a guy at a bar who didn’t know what a lemon or a lime was, and wanted to call some sort of security department to remove him from the gene pool. People like to blame the two cutest groups, babies and old people, but they’re wrong. “It’s us,” she says, “white people, 20 to 60 doing nothing. I’m yelling, you paid to watch it. This is stupid. I have a dumb job I have a dumb life and so do you. Taking up space.” The best we can do is not “cause chaos with our stupidity.”