Recommended New Releases – Decemberists, Viet Cong, Belle & Sebastian, Sleater-Kinney

BelleandSebastianGirlsinPeacetimeWanttoDance
Belle & Sebastian – Girls in Peacetime want to Dance
Now after almost twenty years of recording, Belle & Sebastian have made the biggest stylistic leap of their career. Forget all the descriptors you previously associated with the Glaswegian six-piece. Their ninth album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, doesn’t so much re-invent them, it practically serves as a reboot.

Opening with ‘Nobody’s Empire’, easily the most personal song bandleader Stuart Murdoch has ever written, it brings the Belle & Sebastian story to its origin, detailing Murdoch’s struggle with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (chronic fatigue syndrome). For almost seven years he was unable to work and has stated that this isolating experience was the key factor in encouraging him to pursue a career as a songwriter. Melodies came to Murdoch, characterised here as “a girl who sang like the chime of a bell / she touched me when I was in hell.” Music became his focus and ultimately, along with faith, saved him from a fate that – lyrically at least – he compares to death. Read the full review on the 405

the-decemberists-what-a-terrible-world
Dememberists – What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World
Things begin with “The Singer Addresses His Audience”, an acoustic ballad/metacommentary on the expectations and experiences of the Decemberists. Similar to how Panic! at the Disco begins Pretty. Odd. with “We’re So Sorry”, this piece finds Meloy literally speaking of the changes the band has gone through over the years. With his typical tinge of melancholy, he reflects, “We know, we know, we belong to ya / We know you grew your arms around us / In the hopes we wouldn’t change / But we had to change some / You know, to belong to you.” Strings and vocal accompaniment soon complement his self-aware lament, and by the end percussion and various dissonant sounds combine with a luscious chant, creating an anthemic encasing as only the Decemberists can provide. In short, it’s a phenomenal way to begin. Read the full review on Pop Matters

Viet-Cong-Viet-Cong
Viet Cong – Viet Cong
Viet Cong count two members of Calgary-based ex-band Women among their number. Band in “emerging from other band’s ashes” shocker, etc. Of course, this is not a piece of information that should direct any anticipation towards receipt of Viet Cong’s debut album, and nor would they likely appreciate a fairly detailed examination of why it’s a Very Exciting Thing that this album exists, but here we are. Women were a very fine band that didn’t work for two main reasons: one was a notorious, slappy mid-show bust-up between brothers Matt and Pat Flegel which signaled the personal demise of the band; the other was the death of guitarist Christopher Reimer in 2012, which signaled the ultimate demise. Both of the albums that Women succeeded in making before those circumstances overtook them, especially 2010’s Public Strain, were perfectly diseased gems of invention, works of surf-pop breeze tuned down and flawlessly emaciated, leaving only the barest shards of loveable pop for a listener to dangle from. Read the full review on the Quietus

fa887a94
Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
No Cities to Love represents a union of Sleater-Kinney’s past, a fiery rebirth from riot grrrl ashes. Every S-K album is represented here — the early roar, the eventual popcraft, and ultimately, the technical virtuosity. Tucker and Brownstein’s lyrics make this connection explicit, with No Cities being, foremost, a reflexive celebration of their return to music making (see, for example, the one-two punch of “A New Wave” and “No Anthems”). The personal (“Hey Darling”) and the political (“Price Tag”) find their way in, but No Cities is more interested in the professional (which, in this hall of mirrors, also consists of the personal and political). Winking references come in rapid-fire succession, keeping the album’s thematic scope from being much more than a self-conscious comeback. Still, what a breathless — and breathtaking — comeback it is. Read the full review on Pretty Much Amazing