13 for ’13: The Men – Half Angel Half Light

Part 1 of a 13 song recap of my 2013 in no particular order

The Men seem dead set on having a willfully chequered career. They’re hyper prolific, releasing at least a record a year come what may whilst picking up genre tics like a musical Katamari ball. Starting out as a vaguely AmRep hardcore band with some indie rock sensibilities the past couple of years have seen them careen headlong through garage rock and into a faintly rustic Americana, culminating in this years second release, a mini-album of acoustic renditions their other 2013 album New Moon in Campfire Songs. Personally I’m hoping they’re either quick learners or they plug back in before their next record Tomorrow’s Hits (already pencilled in for the spring) as that did very little for me. New Moon, however, I liked a great deal. Though it isn’t without it’s frustrations; it was a bit more care and diligence away from being the bands clear standout record and the year’s best. But that’s just the kind of thing you have to get used to with The Men. New Moon is a bizarrely sequenced hodgepodge of ideas from a band who obviously have no intention of slowing down. But then perhaps if they did they’d lose part of their appeal – the best moments on New Moon sound a little ramshackle, like they’re been recorded minutes after being written in a hurry in case the moment is lost. Half Angel, Half Light shows just how good they can be at these throwaway moments – sounding like a highlight from 90s college rock radio, all laid back mumbled swagger and heroically overdriven guitars.  I love the acoustic guitar hook in there – the juxtaposition between that and the surging guitar fuzz is one several brilliant touches that breeze by in it’s a few uplifting minutes. It’s one of several harmony laden earworms that peppered new Moon that suggested if they took a bit more care over it they’d have had a genuine classic on their hands. But then the way they go about things suggests that their speed and relentless productivity is all that holds it all together. What comes from the next album remains to be seen, but Half Angel Half Light is the highlight of a year of ups and downs in which their high water mark moved ever higher.

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