Tiny Engines (2015)
There are a couple of things working against this Sweet John Bloom record. First off is the band name. It's not really my favorite though I'll admit to having something of an aversion to band names that are also people names (I'm looking at you Bob Tilton). The second issue is the album leads off with arguably the weakest song on the album, "Shapeshifter." Musically it's fine, but the singer is making some kind of weird vocal stylings. Not a deal breaker, but not my favorite either. That being said, if you can get past those two things this is really a hell of an album and one that I have been playing virtually non-stop since I got it.
Sweet John Bloom have done an incredible job of pulling in some 1990's indie rock influences from bands like Guided By Voices, Pavement, Archers Of Loaf and Superchunk, mashing them together and somehow coming out with a sound that's familiar, but all their own. You're not going to listen to any songs on this album and think "Oh, that sounds like Superchunk." But you will hear how those types of bands helped shape the songs on this album.
Weird Prayer is just chock full of chunky lead guitar riffs, punchy choruses and some really wonderful harmonies. The songs are layered and complex, but they never feel overwritten or that any part was thrown on top for no reason. Everything is expertly crafted and it all makes sense. I enjoy the band most when they kick up the tempo. I dare you to throw on "Solicitor" and not want to jump around the room like an idiot. Though for that song in particular, I think it should be significantly longer than it is. It's way too much goodness to cram into a minute and twenty three seconds. It could be 3 times as long and I'd only love it more.
There's so many other great moments on this record. "Night Thing" will just blow your speakers off the wall with it's guitar gymnastics and laid back vocals. The ever so slight country twang on "New Identity Crisis" is a nice mid album change of pace and the twitchy guitar work in "Born Witch" elevates that song to something really special.
Weird Prayer is one of the best surprises I've come across in a while and is sitting awfully high on my tentative best albums of the year list. Absolutely worth checking out.
Sweet John Bloom - Weird Prayer LP: