If you prefer the solo work of Albert Hammond, Jr., to his career with The Strokes, then former Death From Above singer and drummer Sebastien Grainger’s new record might be just what you need. Both artists eschew the noisier, punkier aspects of their band work to emphasize song over sound, and both show tremendous skill. Grainger’s solo album has a few screaming dancepunk songs, like “Niagra,” but most of the album is, thankfully, far more musical. I was a big fan of DFA 1979, but their dancepunk anthems could get a little redundant. It’s great to see that there’s more to this artist than what we’ve already heard. On this studio album, titled “Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains,” it appears that Grainger is the mountains. At least mostly. He plays every instrument except for the bass, and has become a fascinating low-fi power-pop one-man-band, making angsty relationship songs like “Love Can Be So Mean” and the terrific single, “I Hate My Friends.” A real oddity is “(I Am Like A) River;” the creeping synth in the background is clearly lifted from “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night.” Strange. But it works.
Will DFA 1979 fans dig this? I’d hope so. There’s enough of Grainger’s aggressive, heavy thumping and his strained shout vocals to satisfy, but the record shows a depth not present on his earlier work. It’s hooks, lyrics, and the occasional pretty-damn-decent drum solo (on “By Cover of Night (Fire Fight)”). Of course, musically the best part of the record is the drumming: Every song is led by the quick fills and steady beat of the percussion. Drummer-led bands always have a certain rhythmic aggression not present in the standard power trio, and since there aren’t many of them, it’s always interesting to hear.
This is my pick for the 11th best album of the year; it’s tight, fun, well-done, and surprising. I can’t wait to hear what he’ll be up to next time!
When you purchase “Sebastien Grainger & the Mountains” from Saddle Creek, you also get an instantaneous download the entire album in high quality 320 Kbps.