It’s highly likely that this year in music will be remembered for a series of seven-track albums, recorded in Wyoming and released in quick succession over the spring and early summer. The Wyoming series, helmed by Kanye West, sucked up a lot of attention primarily because of who was involved, but likewise because of the bold experiment behind it: a new record a week, nothing longer than a half-hour, and some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B with their names attached, such as Nas, Pusha T and Yeezy himself. Some of it was triumphant, and some of it was lackluster—and the Trump-supporting identity-crisis actor at the center of it proved baffling to say the least—but it was an interesting idea, and none of the releases seemed to wear out their welcome.
This year’s also produced another seven-track album worth seeking out, only it wasn’t recorded in Wyoming, has nothing to do with Kanye, and it’s a rock record. That would be Restorations‘ LP5000. Arriving four years after their underrated and outstanding LP3, LP5000 looks on paper like it might be somewhat abridged (though that album had nine tracks, which isn’t a whopping difference). Yet it feels cohesive and complete, as sleek and streamlined as its cheeky fueled-by-German-engineering title, and containing a concise but strong batch of rock songs that balance the band’s penchant for both gritty heartland rock and more elegant post-rock riffs. It’s only seven tracks, perhaps, but they each carry a significant weight to them, both in sound and in their reflection of a malaise we all know too well.
From the dense array of guitars in opening track “St.”, the Philadelphia indie rock outfit sound re-energized and raucous, comfortably back to making the kind of earnest, intense sounds that they were four years ago. But a lot has changed since then—Restorations’ former label SideOneDummy no longer exists as it once did, and the world may or may not suck a lot more than it did then, which is a reality we can’t escape; “Glance at your phone and you mumble, ‘I hope he dies’/Yeah, I hope he dies, too,’” goes one line in the stellar, cathartic closing track “Eye.” As such, there’s a darkness and a malaise that lingers throughout the album, most palpable in “Nonbeliever.” It’s easily among the best songs on the album, devastating, beautiful and deeply affecting. Yet at the heart of it is a statement about a world that places increasingly less value on creativity, beauty and even people themselves. “And you’re running out of things to give away,” sings vocalist Jon Loudon in the song’s coda, hitting peak sadness only two tracks in.
That doesn’t mean that Restorations still aren’t capable of having some fun, because they clearly are on The Hold Steady-like “Remains,” or in the jittery heartland punk of “The Red Door,” perhaps the album’s most soaring and immediate track. Yet even when the band’s driving hard and offering up a shout-along chorus, there’s a reflection of something deeply troubling; “The Red Door,” for instance, is a none-too-subtle observation of the gentrification problem plaguing many major cities: “What remains?/ Every corner, a new name.” In other words, there’s no track on LP5000 that echoes the heartstring-tugging power of 2014′s remarkable “Separate Songs,” but that being said, there’s something comforting about knowing Loudon and company aren’t retreating into easy comfort food. In many ways this is a heavier and darker record than its predecessor, one that might take a little longer to fully take in. But Restorations also did us the solid of keeping it at a lean seven songs, helping to get us there just a little bit faster.