BUY IT, BURN IT, SKIP IT: The Virgins, Spiritualized, Fleet Foxes

J. SPACEMAN of SPIRITUALIZED: As comfortably numb as always

By Aaron Richter

As we all know by now, new releases hit record-store shelves and digital-download services each Tuesday. So every week self-titled presents a new release you’d be stupid not to own (Buy It), one worth checking out if you’re the curious type (Burn It) and something you might have heard about but probably should avoid (Skip It). Simple, ain’t it?

Buy It

The Virgins, The Virgins (Atlantic)

There isn’t a dull moment on this record, but here are 10 easy reasons to love the Virgins:

1. “She’s Expensive”
Vocalist/songwriter Donald Cumming sings like a soul-smacked Elvis Costello, bending once or twice into tasty Ted Leo territory–an impressive improvement from the early demos Cumming circulated of several songs.

2. “One Week of Danger”
A stupidly simple, exhilarating cock-rock riff. Get your vicarious NYC living on–like Sex in the City, only sexier.

3. “Rich Girls”
The hilariously nonchalant sing-spoken section where Cumming points out a broken mirror on his bed and tells his friend to stop being such an asshole all the time.

4. “Teen Lovers”
The lyrics contain the term “DTF.” If you don’t know what that means, you should re-watch Superbad.

5. “Fernando Pando”
Rock appropriations of reggae are usually horrific (see: the Police). But Cumming’s vocal dips and bends are too charming for this to be anything less than fantastic.

6. “Private Affair”
The album’s 43 billionth coke mention. Saucy.

7. “Hey Hey Girl”
The group’s most “mature”-sounding joint. If Tom Petty didn’t lick donkey ass, he’d probably write choruses like this. Pure power-pop sing-along juiciness.

8. “Radio Christiane”
The Strokesiest of this batch that will inevitably be tagged as thus. All the elements are there. If this had been on First Impressions of Earth, haters wouldn’t have said that album sucked so hard.

9. “Fast Times”
Again, something about vicarious living…

10. “Love Is Colder Than Death”
A tender step-back, breather moment. Are those toy saxophones? Sexy!

Burn It

Spiritualized, Songs in A&E (Spaceman/Fontana International)

Talk about bleak. Listening to Spiritualized‘s Songs in A&E is like Fox Mulder falling through space on the opening credits to The X-Files after that damn awful John Doggett took over for the rogue agent in the series’ later seasons. Sample lyric from song three, “Death Take Your Fiddle”:
“I think I’ll drink myself into a coma / And I’ll take every way out I can find / But morphine, codeine, whisky they won’t alter / The way I feel now death is not around / So death, take your fiddle / And play a song for me / Play a song, you used to sing / The one that brought you close to me / Play your song and I will sing along.”

We feel like we’re hosting The Chris Farley Show: That’s awesome, man. This sixth full-length–and first since 2003’s Amazing Grace–rolls through songs of despair and helplessness, tinged with a wink of defiance, as Spiritualized bandleader Jason Pierce, aka J. Spaceman, survived a deadly illness that halted his work on this album. His struggles ring nakedly throughout the tracks, punctuated by short “Harmony” interludes. The specter of death hasn’t loomed this largely over an album since Warren Zevon’s The Wind–released just two weeks before the singer’s death–or Johnny Cash’s sessions with Rick Rubin.

Bonus reading: A.D. Amorosi’s fantastic Q&A with J. Spaceman in the debut of our digital magazine, where he confronts and contemplates his drug legacy, the devil’s handiwork and the illness that nearly killed him

Skip It

Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes (Sub Pop)

Doesn’t Sup Pop already have a My Morning Jacket (or two)? Fleet Foxes, the Pacific Northwest’s third Jim James “cover” band, is the most aimlessly wandering of the gaggle, blending in budget, blah Forever Changes jaunts through poppy fields and tracks for your grandfather to fall asleep on the front porch to. Please, let’s officially retire “grain-silo” reverb.