Something to keep me occupied.
Anyway, I was looking through my files earlier, and poked pretty extensively around the folder where all the new downloads get dumped. Once I play an album through one time and ascertain that it doesn't have any bad files, it gets moved out of that folder, but I download so much more than I can listen to that that folder is always the one that's most full. Anyway, nothing seemed to strike the note I was looking for, so eventually I got all the way to the end of the alphabet and decided to put on "Meadowlands" by The Wrens. I didn't really know what to expect, but a lot of people had been raving about it lately, and I figured it couldn't be bad or I wouldn't have gotten so many recommendations. So I put it on, but didn't really pay attention; I'm trying to catch up on the "Gotham Central" comic book series (for those who are unfamiliar, imagine if the TV show "Homicide" took place in the city where Batman, Catwoman, The Huntress, and all of their villains lived... and then imagine a police department that can't stand it when Batman always solves the town's major crimes before they ever get a chance. It's a fucking incredible series), and am in the middle of reading all the back issues that I've downloaded, so I went back to that and let the music fade into the background.
Then after four or five songs, it suddenly hit me that I was really enjoying the music I was listening to. In fact, I dug it so much I quit reading scans of comic books, opened a web browser, and started typing this. I'll read the last 8 issues I need to get to in a little while, but right now let me tell you about this Wrens record. It's catchy power-pop that isn't too far from what guys like John Vanderslice do, but I certainly like it a lot better than I liked that guy's music. In fact, this is one of the better pop records I've heard this year. At times the rocked-out qualities of the songs remind me of artists like Matthew Sweet or Teenage Fanclub, but they never crank the distortion the way those groups do, instead mixing in a more garage-pop sound that is more reminiscent of the more rock-oriented Elephant 6 bands (think later-period Apples In Stereo). Remember a few days ago when I was talking about Babyshambles, and I mentioned the way that both they and their predecessors The Libertines were able to generate rockin' intensity without using distortion on their guitars? I may have phrased it slightly differently, but that's close to what I meant, and The Wrens do it too. They use more a sunshine pop-based instrumental pallette on a regular basis, though, which might also help contribute to the Elephant 6 feel of the album. I can't imagine Brian Wilson would have a problem with a lot of the songs on this record, though I don't want to make it sound like The Wrens are too wimpy to rock--far from it. They actually straddle the line between rock and pop quite effectively.
And there seems to be real emotion in their songs. I've only listened to the album once, and I haven't picked up on much of anything from the words; what I've heard seems to be standard indie-boy love song fare, but that's not really the point, as far as I'm concerned. It's more about what a band makes the listener feel, and I'm definitely getting a sincere feeling from this album. I can understand why so many people keep coming back to it, and telling everyone they know about it. It's that kind of album; the kind that grabs you on the first listen and refuses to let go, the kind of album that you know is going to be a big hit for the next couple of months by the time you've heard the first four songs. All of you should obtain a copy somehow or other--you won't be disappointed.
I wouldn't be surprised if the next thing I get really excited about is very different, though. Right now I'm downloading the new Look What I Did album. I really liked the one song that was available on their label's website before the album came out, and I'm looking forward to hearing the rest. It's a lot heavier than The Wrens, but I think they will probably be sharing time on my playlist in the near future.
OK, I'm gonna go read more "Gotham Central" back issues now. Take care, everyone.