Four mini reviews! I've never really done this before, but I'm going to try to review these four records in about 100 words or less. That seems challenging! There are two reasons for this. The first is that I've been meaning to review these records for a while now and have yet to do it. The second is that I'm honestly not too familiar with most of these artists, or at least somewhat out of touch with their recent output (in the case of Conor Oberst). So, I'll give you my initial thoughts, without really being able to compare in the grand scheme of their catalog.
Have Heart - Songs to Scream at the Sun (Bridge 9)
I’ve never really paid attention to Have Heart, so I wasn’t expecting this record to grab me, but from the outset, I was pretty impressed. This dude is pisssed and it shows. The music seems a bit slower and more layered than what I’ve heard of old Have Heart (which is minimal). This almost reminds me of Modern Life is War, but less accessible, if that makes sense. In short: dense guitars, scathing vocals, more mid-tempo parts. Oh, and straight edge, which is usually a negative for me (how ironic!), but I like this. Weird.
Conor Oberst - s/t (Merge Records)
From the very beginning of this record, it’s obvious that Conor Oberst is in a very different place than he was the last time I listened to any of his work. This record has a folksy element to it, with lots of nice storytelling and a comfortable feel. It almost seems like he’s having fun! This was a pleasant surprise, as the last few Bright Eyes records never got much play from me. I wish I’d found this record at the beginning of the summer, as it seems like nice summertime relaxing music.
The Hold Steady - Stay Positive (Vagrant Records)
The first two songs on this record are a whole new level of catchy. The opening windows-down, summertime anthem “Constructive Summer” backed with “Sequestered in Memphis” really set the bar high, and unfortunately the rest of the album just can’t keep up. I like some songs, particularly “Stay Positive” and “Joke About Jamaica,” but other songs, like “Navy Sheets” kill me. It’s solid rock and roll, with Springsteen comparisons abound, but I’d like more guitars and less keys/synths. Bonus points for D4, Youth of Today, and 7Seconds lyrical references.
The Tim Version - Decline of the Southern Gentleman (No Idea Records)
There was a brief moment that I thought the Tim Version record was one of the best records of the year. I was blasted with gruff vocals, high energy, and the No Idea sound. A few songs in, though, that excitement started to fade. Don’t get me wrong; it’s good but nothing mindblowing. If you’re into No Idea records, with the fast energy of Radon, the gruffness of HWM, and the folksiness of early Against Me!, this is sure to appeal to you. I bet they like whiskey and porches. Don’t sell your HWM records for this, but check it out.