In our last newsletter, we reviewed an album from one of our DJs (Spaceman Jones). We like to keep it local, so we’re going to run the risk of favoritism by doing it again—this time with the new record by M.J. Lenderman, the Asheville FM DJ of Sonic Action. If you like Jason Molina, Car Seat Headrest, and My Morning Jacket, read on, as the reviewer, Sarah B, says it’s an impressive debut.
Format: Indie folk-rock
The full-length debut from M.J. Lenderman, the drummer in the Oh Sees-inspired band Slugly and an Asheville native, is an impressive debut for the college freshman. The album’s humble title encapsulates its thematic focus, with every song but one (an instrumental) exploring aspects of some male figure, be he man or boy.
The first track, “Boys,” is an early Songs: Ohia (Jason Molina) cover that I’d never heard before. But you can bet I looked it up after hearing Lenderman’s interpretation, which is arguably better and definitely more dynamic than the live version of Molina doing it on the posthumous collection of singles, “Journey On.” It’s an interesting choice for a cover, let alone a lead-off track (although it’s also the first song on “Journey On”), but it makes perfect sense as a theme-setter.
“Bobby,” the next track, changes gears dramatically with a very catchy tune reminiscent of Car Seat Headrest, replete with handclaps and whistling. Continuing on, “Ghost” begins with eerily discordant acoustic guitar strums that sound like they’re searching for the right key, which is soon found and joined by a piano and Lenderman’s soft hums. A simple drumbeat heralds the lyrical beginning of this song, which is probably my favorite on the album. The chorus is fabulous with its beachy, electric guitar “wamps” marking a stark shift in tempo and tone.
The sparse, slow and stunning closer, “Gatlinburg,” is about two boys who set fire to a forest in Tennessee “just to show that they’re bigger than all the forces of nature — they are man.” Lenderman shows as much with these songs of his. Boys destroy; men create.