Fall comes with its own special brand of feelings; it’s like the cooler air rustles up waves of nostalgia along with its tri-color, still-crunchy leaves. Luckily, half of the best albums we reviewed in October are of the emo variety, so the memories at least have a killer soundtrack. Read on for the best four albums Paste wrote about last month and be sure to tell us your favorites in the comments below.
4. Communist Daughter, The Cracks That Built the Wall
If Johnny Solomon wrote Communist Daughter’s first album as a farewell before what he thought would be a final disappearance into the haze of drugs and alcohol that had enveloped him, he’s warily reengaging with the world on the band’s second full-length, The Cracks That Built the Wall . Although there’s a wide melancholy streak running through these 11 new songs, there’s an air of redemption, too, mixed with the quiet resolve of someone determined not to lose himself again. Solomon has said the title of the album refers to strengthening a structure by repairing its flaws. With songs so well-constructed and thoughtful, it’s clear that patching the fissures in his own psyche has made Solomon stronger, and it shows on The Cracks That Built the Wall. —Eric R. Danton
Read his full review here.
3. American Football, American Football
Sometimes it can feel like cult bands reunite due to the power of fan-born hope. That could easily be the case for Illinois one-album-wonder American Football, who put out one self-titled EP and follow-up LP in 1999 and then went their separate ways. Now, 17 years later, we have a follow-up to the band’s debut, American Football, which is also called… American Football (although we’ll call it LP2 for ease). LP2 fades in with twinkling guitar as though American Football are just picking up where they left off, with Kinsella pondering the effect of passing time: “Where are we now? / We’re both home alone in the same house / Would you even know me if I wasn’t old me? / If I wasn’t afraid to say what I mean?” Conversely, Kinsella looks back again on the aching, unevenly arranged “I’ve Been Lost for So Long,” where he points out how “every street’s a dead end” and expresses disbelief that “life is happening to me.” When enough time has gone by, meaning that you’re now staring down middle age, there’s a great deal more on which to reflect. —Rachel Brodsky
Read her full review here.
2. Conor Oberst, Ruminations
Startlingly sparse in contrast to the Bright Eyes singer’s last solo album, 2014’s Upside Down Mountain, Ruminations sounds like what you might expect from an artist finding his way out of a trying time. Oberst pounds the piano at the start of opener “Tachycardia” and brings the themes of the record right to the forefront. He’s back in his hometown (“I’m a stone’s throw from everyone I love and know”). He’s still haunted by the Faircloth accusation (“In a courtroom, sweat rolling down my back; it’s a bad dream, I have it seven nights a week”). He has health issues on the mind (the song’s title refers to the medical condition of an abnormally accelerated heart rate). His temporary escape from it all often involves alcohol (“In a dark bar, the world just melts away”). Although Oberst’s popularity was founded on the acoustic gut-punches Bright Eyes would so devastatingly deliver years ago, at 36, he’s far from the 22-year-old feeling dizzy from the world’s spin. Yet, his signature weariness is more justified than ever. And though these songs were recorded hastily by some standards, their welding of forlorn lyricism and comforting listenability makes the songwriter admirable not just for his craftsmanship, but for his ability to pull through an arduous time with what could be a benchmark album in his already prolific career. —Trevor Courneen
Read his full review here.
1. Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker
The nine new songs that make up You Want It Darker explore very similar territory as 1992’s The Future, but Leonard Cohen’s perspective appears to have shifted slightly since then. On that album, he predicted a future far worse than anything we could imagine, and sadly, events of the past two decades have shown him to be very prescient.
The suggestion running through all of the songs on the album is that everybody should be getting ready for whatever fate is waiting for them. In that respect, You Want It Darker could be viewed as a summing up or an accounting of how an individual has lived his life. However, another theme involves making peace with the world and oneself, as expressed in tracks like “Treaty,” “Leaving The Table,” “On The Level” and “Traveling Light” that each examine the duties and pitfalls of mortal life.
Leonard Cohen’s fans have been spoiled with a wealth of very good new material in the last decade, so it’s become easy to take his continued ability to produce a seemingly endless stream of songs for granted. For, as understated as they were, his last two albums, Old Ideas and Popular Problems, were very solid additions to his discography. Whatever they lacked in the way of musical innovation, they were still as good as many of Cohen’s recordings from the past. You Want It Darker is better than either of those records, and may contain the best music he has created since Various Positions came out in 1984. —Douglas Heselgrave
Read his full review here.