Posts Tagged ‘Merge Records’

RSTB Best of 2018

So, it seems that 2018 is finally coming to an end. It’s been a hell of a year by most standards, but musically its been damn entertaining. Perhaps its fair that there’s some bright spot in all the chaos. Not to diminish the chaos, but when the negativity is at an all-pervasive fever pitch, its feels good to have something to hold onto. I’ll choose to remember 2018 as a banner year for music and for the birth of my second daughter rather than the year that page refresh politics threatened to give me an ulcer any day. Below are my favorite albums of the year, taking care to highlight some that might otherwise get forgotten. They’re in (quasi) alphabetical order with no other particular weight on the list. Keep your eyes out for a few more year-end features this week before I reset for the new year. As always, thanks for sticking with RSTB for these 12-odd years or so.

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Martin Frawley – “End of the Bar”

This Martin Frawley album is shaping up to be the “sorting your shit out” record that we all need this year. Recorded in the wake of a break-up and band dissolution, the record was admittedly written while Frawley took some stock and reassessed his life. More often than not, Frawley admitted, it seemed those moments wound up in a bar or two. I understand the impulse, numbness kills the ache and even if you’re surrounded by strangers, its better than sticking it out alone. Few of the songs encapsulate the self-destructive, self-loathing quality that often creeps up during the times that it seems all the load-bearing emotional wall come crumbling down than “End of the Bar.” He sums up the feeling of trading friends for regulars and unloading your problems on fellow drunks nicely when he sings, “You look familiar, you look tired, you look like you’ve dealt with me.”

The song realizes the kind of asshole we let ourselves become when we think its all come undone. As someone who’s spent time on both sides of the bar wood, the drunk that unloads all their issues is a familiar face. Frawley coming to terms with himself and his own insufferable self is as numerous as it is satisfying. Here’s hoping there’s more hubris and hope on the upcoming Undone at 31.

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Martin Frawley – “You Want Me?”

I was out on vacation last week so the site was runnin’ pretty bare bones. Sadly, that means a few good things got lost in the cracks, but there’s always time to go back for the ones that got away. Case in point, this first single from Twerps’ Martin Frawley. Unfortunately, the advent of Martin’s solo career comes with the news that The Twerps have disbanded as the relationship split between Frawley and the band’s Julia MacFarlane’s marked the dissolving point for the Aussie janglers. Frawley’s first taste of an upcoming album shows a marked shift from the band’s humble pop sound and its not quite what I’d have expected as an offshoot of the band.

Frawley adopts a walking country cadence but stitches it to a wide-open vista of clean piano, loping strums and burbling synths. The song has the feeling of a late night session with no ticking clock, chasing bliss, loss and the bittersweet betweens while channeling Dylan devising a “Pancho and Lefty” for 30 year-olds hitting the reset button.

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The Essex Green

It’s hard not to get nostalgic for music that formed key moments in one’s life. To that respect a resurgence of late period E6’ers The Essex Green is both an amazing experience and slightly bittersweet. The music is as vital and as draped in gooey pop as ever. The band’s first record since their 2006 Merge LP The Cannibal Sea more than lives up to the wanting expectations left in the vacancy of that album’s uncertain finality. More than 10 years on they’re still capturing the wistfulness, ache, and slightly psychedelic bump into paisley pop that made them heirs apparent to the Elephant kingdom and perfect contenders for Merge’s burgeoning stable of indie pop purveyors.

While enough time has passed that the band’s brand of earnest pop might not be the most “in fashion” sound, they make a strong play for the enduring quality of clean cuts and open hearts. The record doesn’t sound so much like a throwback as it does a classic example of how indie pop can capture the moment with a song that’s bursting with catchy qualities, yet rocking back and forth on classic hooks. The band has always strayed straight, never lacing their pop with snark or scoff and with their latest they’re still as earnest as ever. The record is a loping, gorgeous example of how to stay true to a sound without worrying about the whims of the listening pool. The record can, at times, feels a bit buttoned down, especially when their early records on Kindercore are taken into account, but all in all this is a full stop return for The Essex Green. Hardly Electric is larger than the margins and coloring with every crayon in the box.

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