MJ Lenderman
Boat Songs


4.5
superb

Review

by theBonerKing USER (13 Reviews)
May 7th, 2022 | 84 replies


Release Date: 04/29/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not your daddy’s yacht rock.

Many of my favorite albums are the type that may not show all their tricks at first but rather settle their hooks in gradually, revealing layer upon layer over the course of repeated listens. Then there are albums like Boat Songs, which grab me immediately and never let go. My first listen to this thing, it brightened my mood right away and left a stupid grin on my face for the entirety of its 34-minute duration, and that reaction has changed little since.

Boat Songs, the third widely-available and first proper studio album from MJ Lenderman, perhaps better known as a guitarist in shoegaze band Wednesday, takes bits from the songwriter’s many great influences (Sparklehorse, Jason Molina, David Berman, etc.) and distills them into something all his own. Working mostly in the realm of alt-country, Lenderman fuses in aspects of ‘90s slacker rock and slowcore with the ethos of garage rock and hints of shoegaze/noise pop to create a set of 10 gripping and fun tunes. Where many of his stylistic influences (and indeed much of Lenderman’s prior work too) aren’t exactly known for being upbeat, the album’s press release describes it as Lenderman’s attempt to “chase fulfillment and happiness,” which can be seen clearly from the goofy cover art and the chunky power pop riffs that drive opener “Hangover Game.” While there are choice moments of melancholy in classic alt-country fashion, they are well balanced by these more positive moments, resulting in an album that one could easily imagine playing from a tinny radio on a boat, which may only amplify the album’s slacker charm. All but the last song come and go quickly in under 4 minutes and are stacked with hooks and details that will keep you coming back for more.

What shines most here is Lenderman’s keen songwriting and delicious guitar work, which shine through most on the album’s highlights. “TLC Cagematch” has got to be the best and most emotionally gripping song about pro-wrestling since The Mountain Goats’ Beat the Champ, gorgeous steel guitar and acoustics grounding Lenderman’s observations about his discomfort watching the participants get thrown around, culminating in his conclusion: “I know why we get so fucked up.” The following “Toontown” is similarly gripping, a more slowcore-influenced track serving as the backdrop to Lenderman’s extended metaphor about trying (and failing) to achieve happiness, thrilling bursts of noise in the latter half bringing the already intense song to another level. Later on in the album, after a set of shorter tracks that keep the energy going, come the album’s closing one-two punch, the intense “Tastes Just Like It Costs” reveling in its glorious Crazy Horse style riffs and the downbeat “Six Flags” acting as a comedown for the whole experience with its bruised, dissonant chords. While these four tracks shine the brightest, other gems are scattered throughout the brief runtime, the uber-lo-fi “Dan Marino” being the only thing resembling filler, and even that serves to add to the album’s ramshackle charm.

Ultimately, Boat Songs is a more than worthwhile listen for anybody remotely interested in alt-country and 90s indie singer/songwriters and confirms Lenderman as a beast of an artist in his own right. I could say more, but sometimes it’s better to let the music speak for itself. So I’ll leave it with this, an exhortation saved only for some of the best stuff: Play it loud, folks.



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user ratings (31)
3.8
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not my best work here, but I wanted to get something out for this wonderful album which has been rocking my world for the last week, especially since it just got a P4K BNM review which I imagine will bring some more attention to it.

Slex
May 7th 2022


14042 Comments


Wednesday is one of the best new bands of the last few years, very keen to listen to this

Always cool to see you writing bud

Digging: Conjurer (UK) - Pathos

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks man. I haven’t properly checked out Wednesday myself yet but they’re definitely a high priority for me. On the strength of this album Lenderman is well on his way to becoming a new favorite for me. Didn’t really get this across in the review because I wanted to keep it relatively brief but there is some really strong storytelling/lyrics here.

Slex
May 7th 2022


14042 Comments


I dunno if Wednesday proper would be yr cuppa or not but definitely give their Covers album from this year a listen at least, a phenomenal Driveby Truckers cover and a beautiful Smashing Pumpkins cover with MJ on vox

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah I have heard the covers album from them a couple times but need to dig more into it still as well as Lenderman’s own self-titled album. I was originally turned onto him by his 2021 album which was great but perhaps a bit too ramshackle lo-fi at times. This one is just straight fire though.

Slex
May 7th 2022


14042 Comments


Dang i thought this was his first solo album lol, excited to dive into all of it

Pheromone
Contributing Reviewer
May 7th 2022


17606 Comments


great read boney, i have this on now

who left the grill out in the rainnnn

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Slex, I just filled out his page a bit more with other releases. There’s also a 2021 ep that has dry runs of a couple of the songs here.

Idk Phero but someone better get it out! ;-P That tune is still one of my favorites of his but I dare say a few here top it.

DoofDoof
May 7th 2022


11783 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Sensational review and album right here :D

Sunnyvale
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2022


3921 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Oh dang, will have to check this! Nice review as well!

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thanks Doof, glad you came around to this even more. I’ve now fully accepted “Tastes Just Like It Costs” as first or second best here, what an absolute monster of a tune that one is. ”MMMMMMMMMMMM, HONEY!” is probably my favorite moment here, that or those noisy squalls in “Toontown.”

Thanks as well Sunny, I think you’d love this, def give it a go.

DoofDoof
May 7th 2022


11783 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

That ‘mmmm, honaaaaaay!’ does remind me of Molina in the best way possible, maybe song of the year so far

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I get more Young out of that moment (that whole song really), I don’t know of any Molina song that hits quite that level of sneering intensity.

Dylan620
May 7th 2022


5788 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pos'd this when it dropped but forgot to actually comment b/c I got caught up in something - class review Boney m/



I gotta listen more, only 2-3 spins so far but greatly enjoyed each time. The Molina/Sparklehorse comparisons are apt, especially the penultimate track which reminds me much of "John Henry Split My Heart"

Digging: Rovo, System 7, and Steve Hillage - Phoenix Rising

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 7th 2022


27410 Comments

Album Rating: 4.2

ooh, I'll have to check this out pronto



good stuff Boney

theBoneyKing
May 7th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Dyl, this is the kind of thing where it’s easy to play “spot the influence” but fortunately the tunecraft is high-quality and Lenderman certainly has his own spin lyrically (soon enough this’ll turn into an echo chamber lyric posting thread for me).

Cheers Atari, look forward to hearing your thoughts. Maybe I am getting back into this whole reviewing thing… Likely gonna try and writeup the Ethel Cain album dropping next week if nobody else does.

Lucman
May 8th 2022


5456 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This sounds beautiful, Boney. Lovely review. Will listen today.

Digging: Regina Spektor - Home, Before and After

dmathias52
Staff Reviewer
May 8th 2022


1743 Comments


Wonderful review - You had me at Molina. Always know something is worth checking when you decide to cover it! Will spin this shortly

Slex
May 8th 2022


14042 Comments


So so excited for that Ethel album, would be great to see a writeup from u Boney

theBoneyKing
May 8th 2022


22470 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Cheers Luc and Mathias, hope I haven’t come on too strong with this and perhaps should’ve let this gain traction on its own but I’ve been barely holding in my excitement for this the past week as I waited until I had a chance to pull something together.



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