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[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]


 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Russian Futurists
Our Thickness
Upper Class Recordings

Rating: 9/10 ?

May 9, 2005
Whenever I listen to Our Thickness, the specter of Neil Michael Hagerty hovers over my headphones. Perhaps it reveals more about my personal listening habits than it does about The Russian Futurists' aesthetic, but either way, Neil's Royal Trux and solo catalogues just won't leave my mind, whether I'm humming along to "Paul Simon"'s never-say-die horn hook or tapping my foot in unison with "Why You Gotta Do That Thang?"'s spare drum machine stomp.

Sure, Hagerty and RF singer/songwriter/producer (and practically-everything-doer) Matthew Adam Hart stand about as far apart as two pop-rock musicians can in pure stylistic terms, but they assemble the pieces in a very similar fashion. Both men start with a simple, repetitive bargain basement drum machine track; a sledgehammer of a hook soon follows - both men have a knack for writing riffs so memorable and instant-classic that they absolutely must have belonged to number one pop radio hits from years gone by in an alternate universe, hammered to death shamelessly.

Combined with a sturdy but unspectacular vocal melody, each of these elements explodes within triumphant four minute romps that pay equal homage to rhythm and melody, art and craft, trashiness and transcendence. Of course, Hagerty pens smegma-drenched Motel 6 anthems with zillions of psychedelic guitar overdubs, and Hart dishes out introverted alone-in-your-bedroom jams for future high school English teachers, but hey, when you remember that people (or at least critics) buy into that bullshit about Sage Francis being Neil Young's spiritual kin, this comparison doesn't seem so far-fetched.

More important than any similarities that Hart may bear to other artists, though, is the fact that Our Thickness holds its own against all of its influences and kindred spirits. With both Hart's lyrics and music consistently proving to be as challenging as they are amusing and immediate, this is an album capable of dominating mix tapes, serving as a bridge between the lives of its listeners, and significantly contributing to our shared musical experience a la Oh, Inverted World - only this one shouldn't need Natalie Portman's endorsement. Anyone who took note of 2003's Let's Get Ready to Crumble knows that Hart's been crafting tunes this great for a few years now, and could make the case that this album is no bigger, better or more inventive than its predecessor, but Our Thickness will still most likely become Hart's Album (out of his discography so far, at least) simply because more people will have the chance to hear and fall in love with it.

Those who are already fans of the Futurists know the drill, and can rest assured that Our Thickness is just as worthy of attention and thoughtful listening as any of the band's prior work. Hart still sounds like Stephen Merritt with intense Missy Elliott and Supertramp fixations, lacing his literate lo-fi pop with intricacies that run the gamut from billowing cotton candy synths to wailing oddball theremin to click-clacking, bass-heavy homemade beats. Hart's multiple layers of sound keep his unadventurous song structures from becoming trite; though Our Thickness is pure verse-chorus-verse-chorus fare with no flashy bridges or codas, it will still take months to dive into every piece of instrumentation.

If the promise of a nuanced, expansive sonic experience doesn't sound like enough to anchor a pop album, then Hart's clever lyrics certainly provide enough extra heft to make this a substantial disc. Puns, plays on words and outlandish metaphors abound, and never once do they feel shoehorned in as Hart crafts ridiculous lyrical persona after ridiculous lyrical persona; he can pull off such over-the-top language because he never once deviates in tone. He maintains enough distance from his subjects (impressive, considering his constant use of first person) to avoid mawkishness, but vibrant emotion still resonates from every corner. This stuff is deft enough to pass for poetry, but silly enough to remind us that it is, after all, just pop music. If you ask me, that's about as perfect of a balance as one could ever hope to strike.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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