New Album Review

MJ Lenderman “Boat Songs” Album Review

In my last blog post about local music I would be listening to this summer, I briefly mentioned that I was listening to MJ Lenderman’s new album “Boat Songs.” In the two weeks that have passed, I have been listening to the album more and more. It’s the perfect melancholic summer time album that I desperately needed, and I couldn’t stop myself from constantly listening to it. I am a huge fan of his self-titled album from 2019 and his work in and with Wednesday as their lead guitar player. 

Through Wednesday’s rise in popularity, MJ Lenderman has been able to get recognition for his writing and his solo projects. The album is atmospheric, cathartic and an interesting blend of 90s indie rock, 60s and 70s Americana, and modern shoegaze. Through consistent lyrical themes of loss, anxiety and destruction, Lenderman continues to refine and polish his writing. The album feels like an emotional release for Lenderman as he sings about memories from his childhood and the joy and sadness he feels in his present life. 

Lenderman plays with contrast a lot on the record; it starts off with the punchy tune “Hangover Game” followed by the groovy song “You Have Bought Yourself a Boat.” The next two songs that immediately follow the fun introduction, “TLC Cagematch” and “Toontown,” are the saddest on the record.  

“TLC Cagematch” is a cleaner re-recorded version of the song from his more lo-fi 2021 EP “Knockin’.” Lenderman sings about pro wrestling and his discomfort watching the participants get thrown around over gorgeous steel guitar melodies and sweet back-up vocals from Karly Hartzman, the lead singer of Wednesday. 

The next song, “Toontown,” is a more slowcore-influenced track that allows Lenderman to expand on the album’s theme about trying and failing to achieve happiness, while thrilling bursts of noise in the latter half bring the already intense song to another level. The last verse ends by Lenderman singing, “Just some watered-down romeo clown / With his pants pulled down” followed by an emotional build up of swirling guitars and cymbal crashes. 

What I love about this record—and Lenderman’s writing on it—is its ability to capture the mundanity of life and the emotions that we might consider to be small, but actually end up consuming us. His writing is painfully honest and relatable, and he has a way of making casual events and images feel like devastation. Sounding defeated on “Under Control,” he sings “I had it under control, and then it snow balled, and rolled and rolled and rolled, and I don’t have control anymore.” These are very simple lyrics and something that many of us have felt before, but Lenderman does not hide from the fact that something this small can make you feel like your world is crashing down on you. 

The atmosphere of the record is really interesting, and—at times—it feels comforting, like Lenderman is talking to you like an old friend he’s updating on his life. Other times, the record sounds so lonely and distant. Lenderman celebrates his insecurities throughout the record. On the last song “Six Flags,” he eerily sings, “I’m not counting, no one’s counting, your mistakes” as the album draws to a close.

– Eilee

Local Music

Local Artists for the Summer

When I attended Hopscotch in September of last year, I attended a few day parties to try and learn more about the local music scene since I was a fan of some bigger local artists like Wednesday and Indigo de Souza. I got to hear a lot of great artists, so over the year I’ve made an effort to listen to more North Carolina artists and attend more local shows. Now that it’s the summer I have more time to search for local artists, so here’s what I’m going to be listening to this summer from North Carolina artists. 

First is an artist I’ve been listening to for a while, Melaina Kol, an exciting new independent artist out of Youngsville, North Carolina. The person behind Melaina Kol is Logan Hornyak who first broke onto the indie scene when he released his album Black Bile in 2018. His latest album, “AMOSAT,” was released in November of 2021 and I have not stopped listening since. 

The music is infectious and dives into the genres of indietronica, bedroom pop and indie folk. The album opens with the beautiful track “Mi” which transcends you and immediately hooks you into the album. The opening track is followed by my favorite song on the album, “Little Trees” which reminds me of something off earlier Animal Collective albums like Strawberry Jam. I could imagine listening to this album in a field on a warm sunny day as the songs wash over me. 

The next album I’ve been listening to a lot is MJ Lenderman’s new album “Boat Songs.” The opening track is one of my favorite songs and it’s perfect for a summer drive, as is the rest of the album. “Hangover Game” is a driving tune, and gives listeners a taste for the listening journey they are about to embark on. This fun alt-country, slacker rock and slowcore album will have you laughing at some of the silly lyrics and dissecting the more serious themes on the album like Lenderman’s chase for fulfillment and happiness. The fuzz on the guitars and vocals make the songs feel comforting, like a warm hug. 

Another great band I’ve been listening to is Hiding Places from Asheville, NC. While they only have three songs out right now, the band has amazing potential and I can’t wait to see what they release in the future. Their songs are relatable and have great production which adds an interesting atmosphere to the tracks. My favorite song of theirs is “Heartbreak Skatepark.” The track is a perfect indie rock tune, the end has a great build up that draws you into the story of the lead singer’s heartbreak.
The last artist I’ve been listening to a lot and will be listening to throughout the summer is BEX, also from Asheville, NC. The Asheville-based singer’s new EP, “Move It Or Lose It” is filled with catchy indie rock songs, dreamy guitars and vocals and driving bass lines. If you’re a fan of the indie rock outlet Forth Wanderers, you might like BEX.

– Eilee