May has been a good month for notable rock releases, including albums by Arctic Monkeys, Courtney Barnett, and Beach House. For this episode, I contacted friend of the podcast Ian Cohen, whose writing has appeared at Pitchfork and Stereogum, to go over our thoughts on these records and more.
On Arctic Monkeys’ Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, I recently wrote the following:
Whereas its predecessor teems with snarling guitars and stomping drums, Tranquility Base is centered on Turner’s Steinway piano, a gift for his 30th birthday that provided the album’s unlikely catalyst. While guitars haven’t been completely banished, Turner’s clanging keys create the album’s most dominant sounds. The result is a record that still resides solidly in the rock column, but the reference points have shifted from rap and ’70s glam to arch, crooner-y torch songs, the sort that David Bowie mastered on Hunky Dory and Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds have reiterated time and again since The Good Son. It’s a left turn that feels like a positive shift away from the “youth” part of the band’s career, and towards something a little more grown-up and a lot stranger.
I also like the new Courtney Barnett album, Tell Me How You Really Feel:
The album is darker and angrier than her knockout 2015 full-length debut Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, which garnered her a Best New Artist Grammy nomination. (She lost to Meghan Trainor — how’s that for being underappreciated?) A few songs, like the Margaret Atwood-quoting “Nameless, Faceless,” have been framed as reactions to the #MeToo movement. But, honestly, there is no real narrative to this record. It’s “just” another collection of very good Courtney Barnett songs, knocked out with a graceful proficiency that belies how difficult it must be to write with this much clarity, delicacy, and sensitivity to the low-key rhythms of everyday life.
Does Ian agree with either take? Yes … and also no. Listen to us banter about these records to find out more!