September 13, 2012

Today's Hotness: Dinosaur Jr., The Album Leaf

Dinosaur Jr. -- I Bet On Sky (detail)

>> The inside baseball on our review of the new and 10th Dinosaur Jr. record that was published by The Boston Phoenix today is that it had a completely different lede for weeks, one that was ultimately too complicated and too long. We had to bin it because it gobbled too much real estate in a 200-word assignment. The lede was something to the effect that "this is not your father's Dinosaur Jr., and isn't it crazy that the band has been around long enough so that the assessment 'this is not your father's Dinosaur Jr.' can literally be true?" I Bet On Sky is an excellent record, and a very good Dinosaur Jr. record, but sonically it is markedly more subdued than the music of the original lineup's first heyday in the mid- and late-'80s. There's great songs and lots of crunching bass here, but no discordant noise, little desperate abandon, fewer of the face-melting guitar solos that fronter J Mascis built his reputation upon. That said, the strength of the record is something that has been there all the time: innately brilliant songwriting and a surprisingly satisfying conventional tunefulness. As we said in the final newsprint edition of The Phoenix that thunked into plastic streetboxes today, "the punk scramble and six-string shred that fans crave is bottled into the uptempo scorcher 'Pierce The Morning Rain.' The set also contains pleasant elements of déjà vu: the piano embedded in brilliant opener 'Don't Pretend You Didn't Know' recalls spectacular moments from the acclaimed 1993 set Where You Been. And, hewing to a tradition that harks all the way back to 1988's Bug, Sky closes with 'See It on Your Side,' a long brooder supporting formidable cascades of blaring lead guitar." That's a lot to like. I Bet On Sky is available now from Jagjaguwar Records here, and you can stream the entire record via NPR right here, or just the first single from the set, "Watch The Corners," via the embed below.

>> Forward/Return, the title of the new, self-released EP from veteran poptronica act The Album Leaf, communicates an influence of travel on the music of longtime band architect Jimmy LaValle. There is more than a little truth to that, as he has gone from being a drummer in the acclaimed post-punk outfit GoGoGo Airheart in the late '90s, to post-rock instrumentalist in Tristeza, to a deal with Sub Pop, to working and touring with Sigur Ros, to having his music featured in shows like "The O.C." and in film soundtracks. That range of experience and relative measure of success make it all the more interesting that LaValle is now self-releasing his music. Perhaps it's further evidence of larger-name musicians embracing the possibilities of the digital age. And perhaps that will increasingly become the (non-?)destination of the journeys undertaken by today's moden working musician. Unlike the big, tense, and melodramatically ambient work of the band's well-known Sub Pop triptych of albums In A Safe Place, Into The Blue Again, and A Chorus Of Storytellers, the lead single from the new collection, "Descent," sounds care-free, even jazzy. It's a windows-down, autumnal car ride kind of electronica. The instrumental song sets up a simple drum pattern the support post-rock-inflected guitar passages and a nice repetition to establish an easy groove. Perhaps a nod to the past and the ground LaValle's covered? It recalls the mighty Hood's 2005 album Outside Closer, and that record's ability to achieve such cinematic and pretty sadness. Buy Forward/Return exclusively from Insound here, and stream the track "Descent" from the forthcoming set below. Our executive editor previously reviewed The Album Leaf's Seal Beach EP for Junkmedia here in 2005. -- Edward Charlton

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