There's still a huge swatch of folks who think that Slumberland Records is the home only to bands who want to be the next Black Tambourine. And there'd be nothing wrong with that idea if it were true -- the world could use more bands these days like those D.C. area pioneers -- but the truth is that Slumberland Records is putting out fantastic music that doesn't owe a huge debt to MBV and their disciples. The first great Slumberland Records album of 2015 was Ripe 4 Luv by Young Guv, the second was the recent EP from Expert Alterations, and now the third fantastic Slumberland Records release of 2015 arrives next week in the form of Rest and Be Thankful from Linden (sometimes written as "_Linden").
This is sublime and affecting music that effortlessly bridges genres without breaking a sweat. Doubt me? Spin the opening duo of "I See" and "Window Pane" which, respectively, bear worthy comparisons to Nick Drake and The Byrds. The title cut is a catchy epic in the form of late period Pernice Brothers, while "Short Worm" adds some nice backwards guitars to the mix for a vaguely Paisley Underground vibe.
"Pull Me Round Again" offers a nod in the direction of the sort of country music one can reference without feeling ashamed about it. "Dream Dream" is a beautiful melding of the sort of thing Michael Head does so well in his various projects with a hint of Paddy McAloon at his most intimate and under-produced. A highlight of Rest and Be Thankful, this one.
"Lost and Found" adds in a more pronounced hint of Joe Pernice with some excellent guitar playing, while the aching "Take My Hand" recalls that 2nd album from The Lilac Time but with more natural sounding production. Edwyn Collins of Orange Juice was involved with this record and one must tip one's hat to the work he's done here as the presumed producer of Rest and Be Thankful.
"Yesterday Rewind" is a contemplative number that, again, earns favorable comparisons to Michael Head's Shack while album closer "Broken Glass" oddly recalls McLinden's time in Britpop act Superstar. The climbing guitar line, the Bacharach keyboards, and yearning vocals made me think of nothing so much as "Going Nowhere", an Oasis flip-side that showed the real talents of song-writer Noel Gallagher better than most of the band's hits did. McLinden's not aiming for the stadiums here but the song is no less catchy for his modesty. The tune, like many here, is easy to get lodged in your head without a great deal of work.
Rest and Be Thankful is gonna earn a lot of comparisons to the Pernice Brothers' stuff, and rightfully so. However, it's worth noting that Joe McLinden seems to have done a better job of incorporating his influences in a more concise manner. There's no fluff on this record and the tunes unfurl at a perfect pace. I admire songwriters who can craft music like this with such apparent ease. Much like his buddies in Teenage Fanclub, Joe Linden is adept at drawing in some really good bits of Americana in the production of a decidedly non-American sounding record. McLinden's one-time Boy Hairdressers bandmate Norman Blake expertly works these same American influences into his own band's songs but here McLinden has jettisoned the feedback-tinged dross and kept only the shiny center of such music. If the guys in Teenage Fanclub sometimes strayed into the noisier sounds in Neil Young's back catalogue, updating them as they went for audiences in a grunge era, McLinden on Rest and Be Thankful has stuck to the understated, vaguely country-tinged rock of the sort found on Harvest.
But, hey, that's sort of an awkward way to describe in words what this record sounds like. Fans of Neil Young, The Byrds, Chris Bell, Nick Drake, Michael Head, and The Lilac Time are going to love this record as much as I do.
It's also worth noting that Rest and Be Thankful features Stuard Kidd of BMX Bandits, The Wellgreen, and Poundstore Riot (with Ash Cooke from Derrero and Pulco). His drumming here is understated and affecting and I draw attention to it to highlight what connects this beautiful album to other efforts in the genre.
Rest and Be Thankful is out next week via Slumberland Records in these parts.
Follow Linden on his official Facebook page.