Double album review: Lambchop — Mr. M & Shearwater — Animal Joy

52 Albums: Weeks 5 and 6

That’s right, it’s a double album review with a theme.

Lambchop -- Mr M

First up is Lambchop’s latest album, Mr M, which is possibly brilliant, possibly crap or, possibly a bit of both.

Lambchop has always moved to the beat of its own drummer and their latest album finds them laying lush string arrangements on top of their alt-country/chamber pop aesthetic to create a curious, neo-lounge sound.  It’s fascinating and, when it works, it’s fantastic.  Check out one of the album’s highlights, ‘Gone Tomorrow.’

On the basis on this song I was prepared to love the album but, alas, the trouble with releasing a high concept album like this is that, when it doesn’t work, as on the instrumental track “Gar,” the result sounds like bad easy listening.

Shearwater’s latest album, Animal Joy, has similar issues.

Shearwater -- Animal Joy

This is Shearwater’s first album without Will Sheff and it’s at its best when it is breaking new ground for Shearwater. The opening track, “Animal Life,” for example, is fantastic:

The first four tracks are similarly bold and represent a new direction for Shearwater whose previous albums were sometimes restrained to the point of tedium.  Unfortunately, the second half of the album is more hit or miss and when it falls back into Shearwater auto-pilot it becomes a bit of a slog.

Where it reminds me of the Lampchop album, however, is on the last track, “Star Of The Age,” a track that is so bad that all of a sudden you become embarrassingly self-aware of what you are listening to. “Star of The Age” is so bad, it makes you call the whole album into question.

Ultimately, there is a fine line between brilliant and crap and both of these albums seem to spend time on both sides of that line.  Of the two, I prefer the Shearwater album and, were it not for that last song, my review would have been far more favorable.  Both albums have their moments and are well worth checking out but neither quite survives flirting with disaster.  I give Mr M three stars and Animal Joy three and a half stars.

Listen to Mr. M on Spotify.

Animal Joy is not yet on Spotify.

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