John Mayer and Superchunk Lead This Week's New Album Releases
Album Of The Week Superchunk I Hate Music (Merge): "Another solid, consistent Superchunk record!" the reviews will crow. Maybe even "one of their best! " Because it's hard for old fans of a long-running rock band to accept that their tenth album is their best ever. But Superchunk's breakup-or-not second wave has proven so much better than their first, with 2010's Majesty Shredding introducing a distinct shift from the pop-punk that inspired The Get Up Kids into the power-pop redolent of early New Pornographers.
Three years later, I Hate Music's title is irony to the supreme, as the record itself is the most musical, melodically rich, harmonically generous thing these agreeable punks have ever made. There's the theatrical power-pop of "Me and You and Jackie Mittoo". Then there's the unexpected backing vocals in "Breaking Down" that run perfectly in the opposite direction. And then there's the blissfully drawn out opener "Overflows" and the even-better closer "What Can We Do" stretch out comfortably like legs on a futon, while the shockingly intense "Void" is the best thing this quartet's done in a minor key since the oft-covered "Precision Auto" 20 years ago.
McCaughn's surprising pessimism in the album title and a hook like "All I see is a void" are completely quashed by the sheer beauty of the songs they adorn. Best of all, the anthemic "FOH" comes on like a divorcee's sardonic plaint"how's everything at the front of the house?" but ultimately turns into a tribute to making the show go smooth ("Matthew's got a wire and we're coming around") that the nicest record label owners in America could have the wisdom to pull off. So don't be fooled, I Hate Music has more love in it than nearly any rock album you're likely to hear in 2013.
John Mayer Paradise Valley (Columbia): "You're like 22 girls in one/ And none of them know what they're running from," sings the guy with the "racist" penis to the woman who claimed he changed the rules every day. John Mayer's one to talk as far as serial-dating the pop competition goes, and considering his earliest famous fantasy was running through the halls of high school, there's no reason to believe his "paradise" is inhabited by anyone more mature than Lana Del Rey's is. Luckily his new lady of "Roar" fame is content to whisper in the background, lest she sass him into changing the rules every day. Right, the guitar is competent as you always hear it is, the tunes just devious enough to stay on Jann Wenner's radar. Neither its smarmy reverb nor Mayer's condescending lyrics present a single component to garner the interest of anyone who's not already transfixed by his patriarchal ennui. And if you can't live without hearing the 90-second Frank Ocean cameo, take to YouTube and have your day unmoved. See the other standout releases this week.
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