Colin Wessman

Walking The Line

Jenny Lewis – On The Line

It’s a bit of a coincidence that both Jenny Lewis’s On The Line and Solange’s When I Get Home came out around the same time, since they both have the same approach to their album covers. In that they’re quite similar to the artist’s previous album, but dressed in different garb, while the album is a bit of a companion piece to the artist’s previous album. Fittingly, On The Line has a similarly breezy and beleaguered vibe to 2014’s The Voyagerand with Lewis having a few more years on her since then, she sounds a bit wiser, but also just as confounded by the impending doom of middle age. Continue reading

Deuce Ex

Ex Hex – It’s Real

After seeing Ex Hex live this week, it has become quite apparent that it was misguided of me to frame Ex Hex as exclusively a Mary Timony project in my recent Retrospecticus. After all, bassist Betsy Wright sang lead and wrote two of the songs on the band’s debut, and does the same on several songs on the band’s latest album It’s Real, including headbangers like “Rainbow Shiner”. And live, she doesn’t even play bass anymore – she instead plays just about as much lead guitar as Timony, and thus gives the appearance that the band has not one, but two really awesome frontwomen. (Note: some generic dude played bass slightly off stage in Wright’s place. I cannot confirm whether it was Jonah Takagi, who produced It’s Real and played some bass on it.) Continue reading

Retrospecticus: Mary Timony

Huh. Guess we’re in full Retrospecticus mode here. Here’s one that probably features way less things you’ve heard of…

There was something very satisfying about seeing the modest success of Ex Hex at the halfway point of this decade, seeing as it was a long time coming for the band’s frontwoman Mary Timony. Sure, she had some indie level success in the ‘90s with Helium, perhaps on about the same level as Ex Hex. But something about Rips just meant a little more, since in the wake of the ‘90s, she just kept toughing it out, making music in relative obscurity before finding a more simplified, anthemic formula to transmit her immense talent through.

As I said, it was a long time coming, and it’s pretty interesting to traverse the road that Timony took to finally get there. It’s not often you find an artist who first finds success sounding fairly unconventional, then becomes even more unconventional, and then eventually morphs into something resembling mainstream rock. Yet, that’s the path that Mary Timony forged, and without ever compromising her prowess as a guitarist and songwriter.

For this Retrospecticus, I’ll be looking at basically every album she was heavily involved with. Many of her bands released EPs, which I’m choosing to skip even if some of Timony’s projects only released EPs (like her first side project with Carrie Brownstein, The Spells), and therefore will not be featured. Also, that would’ve required more work, and I had enough on my hands, considering I’d only extensively listened to Timony’s 2010s albums prior to my research for this post. Oh, and if you hadn’t assumed already, Ex Hex has a new album coming out in a few hours… Let’s get started. Continue reading

A Home At The Table

Solange – When I Get Home

Solange probably knew that whatever her latest release was would have to stand in the shadow of 2016’s masterful A Seat At The Table, so you have to respect the fact that she leans into it. From the similar album artwork to the meandering tracklist to the spoken word interludes, it all bears a striking resemblance to her last album. So much so that it feels a bit like a companion to it. And yet, it once again finds an artist so comfortable in her own skin and so willing to abide by her own musical whims, that it’s easy to get lost in the subtle soundscapes she paints without it ever feeling too familiar. Continue reading

The People’s Albums: #16 Journey’s Greatest Hits

Well… it’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Back in 2013, I started counting down and reviewing the top 50 best-selling albums in the U.S., in the hopes of getting to the bottom of what exactly makes an album that America loves. Though, as you may have noticed, I haven’t done one of these since March of 2016. Which makes it all a bit fortuitous that my last entry in The People’s Albums referred to then-candidate Trump in its opening paragraph.

Obviously, a lot has changed since the Spring of 2016, and our perception of what exactly America is has also changed. This probably shouldn’t have impacted me talking about mega-selling albums from the past, but for some reason, it did. In each People’s Albums piece, I would declare (in plain terms) why America would go for a certain album. But in the wake of the 2016 election, I wasn’t in the mood at all to write about what America did or didn’t like and why. All I knew was that America sucked, and I didn’t want to think about that fact.

But now, two years later, I’m starting to feel like I have a bit more perspective on why America is the way it is. And why the tectonic shift in our perception of it happened when it did. I also still believe that there are transcendent pieces of pop culture that can unite the two warring Americas, if just for the duration of a pop song or two. Yes, even if you’re a small town girl living in a lonely world, or a city boy born and raised in South Detroit.

(Yes, I realize that was cheesy, but what do you expect? We’re about to talk about Journey for god’s sakes!)

Album: Greatest Hits
Artist: Journey
Release Date: November 15, 1988
Copies Sold In The U.S.: 15 million

Continue reading

thank u (faletinme be mice elf again)

Ariana Grande – thank u, next

Perhaps it’d make sense that the warm reception of this album was what finally compelled me to break down and listening to Ariana Grande, after mostly feeling indifferent about her. But, that’s not quite the case. I listened to Grande’s 2018 album Sweetener, and liked it just fine, but it didn’t really stand out that much from your typical Top 40 stuff. Not that there’s much that stands out from most Top 40-oriented music enough for me to want to listen to 40 minutes worth of it from one artist. Continue reading

See A Little Light

Bob Mould – Sunshine Rock

“What do you want me to do?” asks Bob Mould on his latest album Sunshine Rock. My answer: “whatever the hell you want”. Bob Mould owes rock fans absolutely nothing at this point. He helped give the world the blueprint for alternative rock with his first band Hüsker Dü, perfected straight-up alternative rock with his band Sugar’s Copper Blue album, and then has gone through a bit of a resurgence with some of the best, most pure music of his career in the 2010’s. And yet, the man still delivers. Continue reading