On The Record: Craig Finn, Imperial Teen, Lana Del Rey, Air
Craig Finn Clear Heart Full Eyes
At a recent in-store at Treehouse Records, Craig Finn noted that folks were worried about his emotional state in the wake of this solo album, as the Lifter Puller/Hold Steady front man’s music took a decidedly darker direction. That came not so much from his own state, but the state where he made the album: Texas and country-western can bring out the maudlin in anyone. Clear Heart Full Eyes drops us into a world of late-night confessions, with a healthy dose of pedal-steel guitar to move it along. Finn doesn’t lose the crisp storytelling that has made the Hold Steady one of the best rock bands of the last decade, and the moments of levity (the bouncy “New Friend Jesus” comes to mind) help to temper the darker lands here.
Imperial Teen Feel the Sound
Though they’ve been around for 16 years, Imperial Teen still provides a fresh sound. They have a back-to-basics pop-rock sound that is hard to resist and hasn’t worn out its welcome. Though there are heavy ties to punk rock, the band’s sound leans as much on classic ‘60s pop and delightful dual male/female vocals. That’s clear on the opening track and single, “Runaway,” which provides a bit of Bee Gees swagger to the proceedings for an absolutely terrific tune. I would have liked a bit more rocking here, but out leader Roddy Bottum (also of Faith No More) and the band craft a fun set of tunes that feel like the product of a bunch of fresh-faced teenagers. Not bad for someone pushing 50.
Lana Del Rey Born to Die
The internet age has given artists their best chance to break themselves into the mainstream. It worked for Justin Bieber, who turned that attention into a heartthrob success. The jury is still out on Lana Del Rey, who has made a splash with her early videos and Born to Die. That internet attention turned sour after a disastrous appearance on SNL. Born to Die doesn’t provide much hope on its own. It doesn’t help that I’ve grown weary of the album’s best track, “Video Games,” via overplay in the last few months. Beyond that, most of this is just a slog as an inexperienced artist tries to find her footing. It’s something that should be done at the demo stage, not on Interscope.
Air Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Somehow, it’s absolutely appropriate that these French art rockers would take Georges Méliès’s silent film classic Le Voyage Dans La Lune as inspiration for an album. The band has always enjoyed exploring the cosmic in their music, like a disco-influenced Pink Floyd. The album, meant as a soundtrack for the innovative, 1902 film, is tantalizingly brief. Still, it manages to create the perfect aural atmosphere for a trip to outer space. Like their Virgin Suicides soundtrack, it’s hard to separate the music here from the film itself, though there are a few standouts that work well as songs, such as “Seven Stars,” which features vocal assistance from Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. In the end, what I want to do most is watch the film. So, mission accomplished.