The final Wanton Playlistery of 2016 (and indeed ever under that name) rolls in fittingly late and tired. Featuring a fine selection of songs from the last few months of that god forsaken year, along with a few slow burners from earlier on, it just about wraps up 2016 – and with it the Wanton Dilettantery era. All that’s left to do is post the annual 20 tracks of the year playlist tomorrow. Over the next few weeks I’ll be starting a weekly playlist series with some wrap ups of various genres and sounds that were perhaps neglected by this blog. Which is to say: anything but doom and psych, really. I had a doom and psych heavy year.
I regret nothing.
Part 5 of a 20 part rundown of my favourite tracks of last year
Tomorrow’s Hits may have been The Men’s most disappointing album so far but it was not without it’s highlights. They’re a little too inebriated with Americana and US heritage rock to be spreading their wings but they’re too damn good not to cough up a few gems whatever they’re doing. Pearly Gates is them going a little The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan on us, albeit Dylan by the way of The Replacements at their most reckless. The Freewheelin’ Men, as it were, sound like a band with one wheel missing, careening sideways through a mess of horns and piano jamming over a one chord stomp. They sound like the bar band in that perfect American dive bar out on some dusty highway that only exists in their minds. It’s a logical continuation of what they were doing on New Moon, but even at that record’s most ramshackle and loose they never sounded like they were having as much damn fun as this. It’s strangely situated on Tomorrow’s Hits – it sounds like a natural album closer, a lap of honour, a let-your-hair-down, jam-your-foot-on-the-gas, nothin’-to-lose let’s-just-fuckin’-go-for it curtain closer. But there’s two more tracks after it, neither of which come close to capturing the energy of Pearly Gates. It’s that kind of perverse decision that makes listening to The Men such a frustrating experience. But when they pull tracks like this out of the bag there’s really no option but to keep listening.
The Men continue to baffle and surprise – this time by not surprising at all
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.