I’m an old man, grumbly and set in my ways. I don’t really think new music sucks, but it’s true I’ve reached the age where it’s impossible for me to keep up.
I have younger people in my life who inform me of new bands, and I do like a lot of it, but I have not the patience to invest time in becoming a fan. My life is too full.
There are a tiny handful of artists still making music I follow, and will buy whatever new album they put out. John Fullbright, Manchester Orchestra, The Dear Hunter, Iron & Wine, Mike Doughty, Radiohead, and a few others. Many of them don’t even qualify as “new” artists.
But this post isn’t to shake my cane and tell those kids to get off my lawn. I’m here to actually review two new albums by two of my favorite artists:
A Black Mile to the Surface by Manchester Orchestra
Manchester Orchestra has long been one of my favorite bands. Top five, for sure, as well as lead singer Andy Hull’s side project, Right Away Great Captain. If you ever get a chance to see them live, absolutely do it.
Their last two albums, COPE and HOPE, left me with mixed feelings. I adored HOPE. It was a re-imagining of the album COPE, taking all of those songs and re-recording them as slower, more thoughtful tunes.
The new album, A Black Mile to the Surface, is okay. It seems to settle somewhere between the slow groove of HOPE and the angry churn of COPE. But there’s nothing on the album that stands out as a killer track for me. Too much of it sounds like easy-listening. Safe tracks.
As a Manchester Orchestra album, I gave it a fair shake. I listened to it enough times to find three or four songs I liked, but if I had never heard MO, I probably wouldn’t have bothered with a second listen-through.
Beast Epic by Iron & Wine
And then, there’s the new Iron & Wine. It hits on all levels. While it’s impossible for a long-running band to make new music that sounds like their “old” stuff, Iron & Wine comes pretty close on this record. There’s an echo of the old stuff in every song. And while I didn’t like the last album, almost every track on this record hits me right in the feels.
Listening to Iron & Wine gives you a blip of every bit of joy and pain you’ve ever had in your life. Makes you nostalgic for experiences you’ve never had. Sticky lines of lyrics like, “there’s no safe place to bury all the time I’ve killed.”
It works. If you like Iron & Wine, get this one.