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Teens Of Denial
“You have no right to be depressed/you haven’t tried hard enough to like it,” comes a couple of lines into the opening track, “Fill in the Blank” and serves as a canvas on which Will Toledo, 24, paints his 12th album. Teens of Denial is a quantum leap from an already solid foundation of songwriting Toledo has built and improved upon over a preternaturally prolific six years.
The album takes influences from early Replacements and Guided by Voices with guitar-dominated rock and teen-angst lyrics which include lots of drinking, drugs, hangovers and half-hearted attempts at growing up. Even if you are not listening to the lyrics closely, letting the music and melodies wash over you like a firehose, Toledo forces you to listen by subtracting both instrumentation and volume and telling you, “I’ve been waiting for some real good porn/Something with meaning, something fulfilling, and “Just What I Needed / Not What I Needed” originally cribbed lyrics and tunes from The Cars. At the 11th hour, after vinyl was pressed, Ocasek denied rights to the song, forcing Matador to destroy their pre-pressed vinyl and Toledo to rerecord the track. While it still works, the original was a thing of beauty. Teens of Denial is an album I will return to for weeks, months and years to come.
Emotions and Math
Two singles that dropped in January would signal an album to watch for in 2016. Unfortunately, we were kept waiting until June. Margaret Glaspy writes indie rock/power pop gems that combine the minimalism of Spoon with abnormally fluid guitar licks and a voice that sits somewhere among Liz Phair (Emotions and Math), Joanna Newsome (Anthony) and Beth Orton (Somebody to Anybody).
The rhythm guitars are typically fat and fuzzy in tone and sharp in their starts and stops. Lead licks take a page from country/blues arpeggios without summoning those genres outright. Glaspy’s voice mostly floats above the music with an accent that is hard to place (she’s from California, but spent a semester at Berklee College of Music before dropping out and sneaking into classes). Occasionally though, Glaspy growls her lyrics, evoking a rawer sound that matches the power of her characters’ inner strength despite, and sometimes because of, love or longing for love.
Standout tracks include “Emotions and Math” and ”You and I,” a breakup song where she dumps someone. Opening lyrics hold several clever twists, “Tonight I’m a little too turned on to talk about us/ and tomorrow I’ll be too turned off/ and won’t give a fuck/ about you and I/ I don’t wanna see you cry/ But it feels like a matter of time.” When she sings that last line, the pace of the words quickens to give the feeling that the inevitable is going to happen sooner rather than later. Watch Glaspy over time. If her songs keep evolving and become a bit more consistent, she will be a force to be reckoned with in the same vein as Courtney Barnett and Lucy Dacus. Catch her live now, because she will be in much bigger venues by 2017.