Neither war nor pestilence can keep Guided by Voices from releasing three or four albums of new music a year, a remarkable percentage being top-notch power pop. The new Styles We Paid For (GBV/Rockathon) opens with the unforgettable minor-key riff of “Megaphone Riley” and never lets up. The band occasionally shows it can handle a long-form song with aplomb, like the nearly five-minute “Slaughterhouse,” but it’s the upbeat direct hits like “Mr. Child” and “Never Abandon Ship” where GbV shines.
The problem is that each new release can make you forget the best moments of the last, in this case the early fall album Mirrored Aztec, a more psychedelic work with keepers like “Thank You Jane” and “I Think I Had It, I Think I Have It Again.” Following GbV is an exercise in exhaustion, particularly if you include solo efforts by current and former members. Original guitarist Tobin Sprout, now a visual artist, just released Empty Horses (Fire Records), a worthy guitar-centric album with a distinct country bent. If we add GbV’s satirical country releases as Cash Rivers, it’s evident the band has scarcely taken a breath since its first 1986 release.
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Taylor Swift, evermore (Republic) – Speaking of overly prolific, it’s astonishing that Swift could release two albums of new folk/indie-influenced tunes during a single pandemic. The new album is from the same sessions as folklore, but isn’t just outtakes — it’s arguably better than its predecessor. Songs with Haim and The National will garner the most attention, but it’s the simplest unadorned tunes like “Champagne Problems” and “Tolerate it” that are among Swift’s very best.
Paul McCartney, McCartney III (Capitol) – The last two home-recorded albums bearing this title, from 1970 and 1980, were dismissed at the time and later revered as McCartney classics. In a way, this third fully solo album is the polar opposite of 2018’s lushly produced Egypt Station, but hopefully, we’re better prepared for hearing McCartney’s loose and improvisational side. There are well-produced numbers with a distinct Beatles feel, like “Deep Deep Feeling” and “Pretty Boys,” though it’s the amateur-sounding riffing that makes McCartney’s 18th studio album an exceptional work.