Woolen Men are a trio from Portlandia, a city with the same ad agency as Austin, with their slogan “Keep Portland Weird” but with famous residence like Kyle Macglaughlin, Fred Armisen, and Carrie Brownstein. So, like Austin, gentrification is spreading like a rash, and Temporary Monument is an album set against the changes, but will probably just make it worse. This album is that good, this band is that good; they are a reason to move to Portland. I fell in love with woolen men in 2013 when they released their self-title album. I reviewed it with lots of names like “velvet underground” and “jonathan richman” named in bold, and all that still holds. The songs are about feeling out of place (“Life in Hell” or “Alien City”) and semi-diatribes against clean-cut lives (Clean Dreams) or the most popular way to waste your youth (“University”) and regret (“After the Flood”) .
Craig Finn, The Hold Steady's front man, is known for his joyous stage presence and romantic depictions of tragic, seedy characters in search of redemption. On his second solo album, Faith in the Future, he trades in such grandiose notions for something quieter and more introspective. This shift in most evident in the album's stripeed down instrumentation, wihch, aside from a few jarringly fuzzed out guitar-solos, is so sparse and unobtrusive that it borders on being bland. In addition, Finn's lyrical delivery comes off as tired and tepid - a striking contrast to the wholehearted enthusiasm that makes The Hold Steady's work so appealing. The best songs on this record derive strength from their thematic content. On 'Maggie I've Been Searching for Our Son' and 'Roman Guitars', the lyrics are tender and optimistic as Finn looks for salvation after a series of rough life experiences. On 'Newmyer's Roof', he recounts the disorienting horror of watching the Twin Towers fall from a friend's roof in Brooklyn, and the search for meaning that ensues. While there are frequent instances of skillfully crafted lyrics found throughout the album, the lackluster music they're packaged in prevents them from shining through.