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Posted on Sep 22nd 2020 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under music, album reviews

Marnie Stern

Lately I've been going back to a lot of albums that were important to me in the 2000-2010 decade. It all started when we were doing our 2007 alums of the year list for the podcast. Though the Justice self-titled album made my list, I mentioned that I didn't think it quite had the lustre it used to, but that another album I listened to a lot around the same time, Crystal Castles self-titled debut, absolutely did. Since we recorded that episode, the Crystal Castles album has remained in heavy rotation. It is still every bit as fresh and exciting as it was when it came out. I would end up going on a bit of a rabbit hole looking for albums I used to love but had kind of forgotten about. Here are a few that deserve a look.

Pretty Girls Make Graves - Good Health (2002) - I remember my obsession with this band quite clearly. In my twenties I was at the height of my music snobbishness. My ultra sophisticated tastes dictated that I only listened to the most pure post-hardcore bands. Man, what a loser I was! My attitude notwithstanding, I was indeed listening to some killer music. Olympia Washington's Pretty Girls Make Graves recorded only three full-length albums, and their debut Good Health is a masterpiece that I have been spinning a lot lately. There is not a single dull moment on this record. Andrea Zollo's vocals are the warm body laying on the bed of nails that is the music. The snaking, angular guitars run in parallel to the impeccably bombastic rhythm section. The engineering on this album is worth noting as well. The great Phil Ek balanced the sounds and tones of the band so well that with everything going on you can still clearly hear everything that is going on, and want to listen again and again to pick out the different parts. I really love the band's second album, The New Romance as well, though I do believe they peaked with this nearly flawless debut.

Marnie Stern - S/T (2010) - I used to debate with my friend Tyler which of Marnie Stern's albums was the best. I almost always fell on the side of her 2010 self-titled project. It seems that Marnie has stepped away from the recording industry since starting a family after her 2013 album The Chronicles of Marnia, but she left the world with an incredibly potent body of work. I remember watching a lot of interviews with Marnie back in the day and I was enamored with her approach to work ethic. Her stated goal was to be a guitar virtuoso, and she was willing to put in the thousands of hours of work required to get there. As if that was not enough, she worked with Zach Hill, one of the best drummers on the planet, on a few of her albums including this one. Whereas Pretty Girls Make Graves' music may leave you going back to focus on different parts and trying to catch the little things that are going on, listening to a Marnie Stern album with Zach Hill on drums will leave you asking "how did these human beings do this with a guitar and drum set?" This album is a regrettable omission from my contribution to our albums of the decade 2010-2019 Sidecast episode. 

Yacht - See Mystery Lights (2009) - Yacht was brought into my life via one of the radio stations in Grand Theft Auto V. In the past I would have dismissed a band like this as hipster nonsense but I really latched on to the version of their track Psychic City present in the game. Yacht's groovy rhythms and minimalist instrumentation will be welcomed by the ears of Talking Heads fans. The laid back vocal deliveries will help you to relax on your yacht. I've enjoyed a few of their albums but this one has Psychic City which is not only their biggest track but over the years it has become one my favorite songs ever. 

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I hadn't heard of any of these before. Marnie Stern took me very much by surprise. Based on the picture of her at the top of the article, I was expecting some Cowboy Junkies style, low-key stuff, but wow, that song came blazing out of the gate. Very challenging listen.

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