MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs Music Album Reviews

MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs Music Album Reviews
On his breakthrough solo album, the Asheville songwriter and guitarist polishes his alt-country vignettes with disarming insight and an immersive, fuzz-stacked sound.

When MJ Lenderman sings the Smashing Pumpkins’ “Perfect” on Wednesday’s recent cover record Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling 'em Up, he razes and rekindles the song with barely more than a slant in his voice. Billy Corgan tends to sing with electrified gravitas, as though life and death hung on every note. “Perfect” justifies the dramatics. It charts the distance between the glorified image of a relationship and the way two people actually move with each other through time. The grain of living weathers away the gloss. While taking lead on that cover—and in his solo work more broadly—the Asheville guitarist and singer-songwriter zeroes in on the fissures that appear in the weathering. His latest album, Boat Songs, holds up what he finds in the cracks, dusts it off, and lets it sparkle in the dusk light.

Boat Songs marks Lenderman's first solo album recorded in a professional studio after two homespun releases: a 2019 self-titled debut and last year’s Ghost of Your Guitar Solo. The shift to higher fidelity doesn't smooth out what makes his alt-country vignettes click. His loping, lackadaisical melodic phrasing, the way he ropes up guitar lines around tragicomic epigrams, and his repeated turns to bathos are all charged by the new punch of the production. He relays disarming insights into the fray of living with smiling, understated delivery; his songs often feel like a conversation with an old friend that suddenly goes deep, plunging down a level without losing any of its safety or warmth. By cranking up the luster around them, he highlights those minuscule faults where universes take root. Here’s an album where failure fertilizes the starting ground.

Across Boat Songs, Lenderman adopts the Gen X strategy of taking implements of power and exaggerating them to absurdity. His music bears the echoes of those 1990s songwriters who dragged amplification and distortion into the realm of sour comedy, who fuzzed out their guitars to near-static and played them with winking simplicity. In his fuzz-stacked sound, storied indie rock acts like Dinosaur Jr., Built to Spill, and Sparklehorse mingle with alt-country fabulists like Songs: Ohia and Drive-By Truckers. He mixes Mark Linkous’ eye for beautiful minutiae with Jason Molina’s knack for mythological gravitas, and offsets them both with a warm, easy style that takes the bite out of the pain that rivets his songs. If throughout the ’70s and ’80s, the electric guitar served as a show of dominance and virtuosity in mainstream rock, that ’90s crop of indie musicians found a way to wield it with a sardonic edge: letting the riffs sag a little, turning them up until they sounded like shit, and drawling over the top. If your goal isn’t just to be the most impressive thing in the room, there’s more space to dig around for what you’d otherwise be drowning out.

Lenderman uses that pointed deflation to claw up moments of bliss and frailty. His grounded, flexible, and lucid songwriting nails repeated turns from the everyday to the sublime. He especially enjoys peering into the cracks of celebrity, that bizarre phenomenon where a person gets pulled apart from other people: gilded, televised, held aloft. “TLC Cage Match” has him pondering human fragility while watching WWE: “It’s hard to see you fall like that,” he sings to pro wrestlers bruising themselves inside the TV. “Dan Marino” sets its lens on the eponymous Dolphins quarterback as he drifts through the grocery store, glancing over Tom Brady’s picture on the same Wheaties boxes where his own face used to be. On “Hangover Game,” Lenderman smiles past the official excuses for Michael Jordan’s 1997 flu game to sympathize with the star, who was—by some accounts—hungover: “He looked so sick/It was all over the news/But it wasn’t a pizza and it wasn’t the flu/Yeah, I love drinking, too.” Even legends have their foibles.

The thing about loving your own frailties is that it deepens your ability to love the rest of it, too. Lenderman renders suffering and joy in the same gentle, unhurried deadpan, dragging all those heightened feelings back down to the ground where they can sprout. Right after he imagines Marino sighing through the cereal aisle, he sees actual dolphins from the back of a friend’s boat. “Jackass is funny like the earth is round,” he sings on “You Are Every Girl To Me.” What if our pleasures were natural facts? What if our failures were, too? Our feelings wouldn’t be rewards or punishments; there’d be no score to keep. Or, as Lenderman sings in the album’s final moments: “No one's counting your mistakes.” No one triumphs over the world, not even if they’re on TV, and no one fails the world, either. All we do is course through it and savor what we can.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs Music Album Reviews MJ Lenderman - Boat Songs Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on May 14, 2022 Rating: 5


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