Soundcheck: Is It Fall Yet?

I tend to think that Fall is the best season for music. Maybe it’s just that I love the Fall and music sounds better to me when everything is dying, and I can finally wear my favorite jackets and cardigans. In any case, a lengthy perusal of my giant pile of advance CDs reveals a bunch of stellar records that will be heading your way this autumn. Get your ears ready.

Yo La Tengo, Popular Songs (Matador, September)
I love Yo La Tengo so much. They have been such a consistently awesome band for so many years now that I feel like people kind of sleep on them at this point. Because they aren’t a bunch of skinny 20-year-olds releasing a debut album, magazines don’t really write about them much anymore, and since they aren’t making ironic party music or borderline unlistenable lo-fi noise rock, bloggers could care less. It’s too bad, since Popular Songs might be the best record that Yo La Tengo has ever made. The only predictable thing here is that the band always manages to do a little bit of everything-scrappy garage pop, krauty grooves, country-ish heartbreakers, twee love songs that you wish would go on forever (but don’t). These songs should be popular, dammit.

Dead Man’s Bones, Dead Man’s Bones (Anti, October)
Whenever I hear about actors who decide to become rock stars, my eyes generally start to involuntarily roll into the back of my head. Still, when I heard that Dead Man’s Bones involved my imaginary boyfriend Ryan Gosling, I figured it couldn’t be all bad. Luckily, I was right. Supposedly this project started when Gosling and pal Zach Shields decided to play about ghosts and monsters, which then morphed into a elaborate music, which then morphed into a band, which then decided to incorporate a children’s choir. The resulting album is a beautiful, messy, weird and wonderful mishmash of songs and graveyard stompalongs that is by turns sweet and spooky. You can get a sneak peek here:





Headlights, Wildlife (October /  Polyvinyl)
Years ago I was asked to write a story for a now-defunct online magazine about a band from Champaign, Illinois called Headlights. I interviewed the vocalist and keyboard player Erin Fein, who turned out to be very sweet and funny. Our conversation had less to do with her band’s music than it did with discussing the difficulties of being an artist and the hardships involved with maintaining a working band—i.e. how do you juggle two bartending jobs with band practice? How do you manage to pay rent and buy a new amp when your old one blows up on tour? Ever since our interview, I’ve followed Headlights and continued to root for them whenever they released a new record. Their forthcoming album, Wildlife, is just as good (if not better) than anything they’ve ever released. Smart, catchy indie-pop that veers from shoegazery guitar romps to simple and profoundly melancholic songs about growing older (a beautiful song called “Slow Down Town”). Listening to this record, I couldn’t help but think about all the super hardworking bands I love who make great records but never quite become the blog-hyped media darlings that they actually deserve to be. Hopefully with the release of this record, Headlights will finally get their due.