In 2012, I boarded an Aerosvit flight to Tel Aviv with a stopover in Kiev. I had just said goodbye to my girlfriend of two years to go join the Israeli army, and we’d both agreed that last hug in the airport would mark the end of the relationship. I spent the next five hours listening to The Thrills‘ heartbreaking final album Teenager, crying my eyes out in-between two very confused Ukrainians.
The Thrills came out of the garage-rock revival of the early aughts. Of course, they were lumped in with all the other ‘The’ bands, even though they weren’t really much like any of them. But if The Strokes were the new Velvets and The White Stripes were the minimalist punk version of Led Zeppelin, The Thrills were the Irish Beach Boys of the scene. Their first album, 2003’s So Much For The City, was an ode to fun in the sun and the heartbreaking beauty of youth. Critics responded well to it and the album hit #1 in Ireland. Their second album, 2004’s Let’s Bottle Bohemia, received a less enthusiastic critical reception but again made #1 in Ireland and even outdid its predecessor’s performance on the American Heatseakers and Billboard charts.
Then in 2007 the band released Teenager. Critics loved it the most of all three of the band’s albums, but commercially it performed worst by a considerable margin. I’m still not sure why. Teenager wasn’t a ‘difficult’ album. The songwriting, if anything, was stronger, poppier and more consistent than anything in the band’s oeuvre. Was it a marketing thing? Were people just too eager to find the newest, hottest bands to pay attention to a bunch of Irish dudes who released a song or two they liked in 2003? Whatever the case, Teenager‘s under-appreciation is tragic. It’s one of the most beautiful albums of the last decade and hands down the band’s best.
Ironically, considering the title, Teenager is about growing up and settling down. It’s about cherishing the memory of those fun times in the sun as they fade away in life’s rear view mirror. Maybe people just weren’t into that, the album’s of undercurrent of sadness, when they pressed play in 2007, but it was precisely what made Teenager so special, and I recognized it immediately. I guess Pet Sounds had the same problem with listeners in its time. But people appreciate Pet Sounds now; anyone who knows music knows that’s Brian Wilson‘s masterpiece. But nobody talks about Teenager, and that’s shame. “This year could be our year,” sang frontman Conor Deasy on “This Year”, one of the album’s best tracks. Until Teenager gets the respect it deserves, every year could be The Thrills‘ year. And one of these years it will be.
An old friend living in Halifax hit me up with some tracks from a new project he’s in called Dead Last. The guy’s a keyboardist who’s played in a bunch of indie rock bands, even sat in with mine for some shows, so I was surprised to press play and hear chill, homemade hip hop come out of the speakers. I rarely post rap or hip hop, but the songs were legit, so…yeah…here they are.
One of the guys in Real Life Buildings runs a little record company putting out tapes and zines and stuff called Mt. Home Arts. Examining the little table of stuff they had for sale at the show, I was blown away by the love, care and creativity that was put into all their products. The cassettes for example, were packaged in beautiful cardboard designs with elaborate fold outs. I had already spent too much on records that weekend, but otherwise I would’ve easily shelled out a couple bucks for the stuff on the basis of the design alone.
One of the most impressive-looking cassette packages was Sarah Winchester‘s Northeast Kingdom. You can see what I mean here. I was drawn to the design, but I also liked the title since I’ve been thinking about music in very regional terms recently. For instance, now that I’m living in New York, I’m starting to make sense of the various indie rock scenes here, but I’m also getting a sense of some really cool things going around in surroundings states, like New Jersey and Connecticut, since bands there come here all the time. I mean, comon, this is New York, right?
I recently got around to actually checking out the music of Northeast Kingdom and I’m happy to say that in this case I would’ve been right to judge a cassette by its cover. As expected, it’s a beautiful, intimate little collection of folkish, emotional, acoustic songs. Next time I get a chance I’ll definitely grab the tape from those Mt. Home guys.