The new Marnie Stern album is getting more attention than the last one, which is probably for the best: That first record ruled, total audience-builder type stuff. I am getting a vague sense, maybe, from the way people are reacting- dudes with blogs, mostly- of this sort of "Oh, man, I love her" borderline uncritical appraisal. Not in a prurient way, more like the way that Margaret Cho and Ellen Degeneres have really uncritical fanbases at this point. But in Marnie's case, it would be made up of straight dudes. I don't know for sure how accurate these impressions are.
It's pretty awesome at first- the first three songs have this sense of dynamics that I don't think anything on In Advance Of The Broken Arm had. There's this feeling of things being built, structures being erected. Sometimes the dynamics are kind of annoying, or simplistic, but then when that gives way to something else, they're some of the most thrilling moments of recorded music this year. It gets pretty exhilarating.
Later on, things start to feel- I don't know, eighties-ish? The songs sort of lose that initial dynamic quality, even as they're filled with more moving parts than ever. It's still a part of the same unifying impulse. It's sort of like the variations on Steven Millhauser short stories- The first few songs build impossible cities, and then the middle section sculpt incredibly detailed miniatures.
Things start to come together again towards the end. On the whole Zach Hill's drumming is more integrated into the songs this go-round, even as the drum sound in the middle songs starts to boom in a mildly off-putting way.
Oh, and even though it's probably not my favorite song, the lyric "I'm like a raging animation/I wonder what it's like to be one" is pretty awesome, especially for animation nerds. I like how the second line seems to imply "I wonder what it's like to be a raging animation" but the first line states implicitly that she already knows what that's like experientially. Rather, she's wondering what it's like to "be one"- a single thing, rather than a collection of tiny drawings or photographs ordered together. I think it's a pretty great statement, if that's what it's hinting at.