They Might Be Giants
They Might Be Giants recorded music into an answering machine and called it Dial-A-Song for 23 years until 2008. This service returned in 2015 with listeners being able to dial a specific phone number, visit the Dial-A-Song website or subscribe to the band’s YouTube page to listen to a new track that was posted every Tuesday morning. “Glean,” their latest album, is composed of these same demos, now fully fleshed out. The scattered release schedule of the songs makes each song stand out on its own, rather than form a cohesive album, making “Glean” immensely enjoyable without challenging the listener.
They Might Be Giants have, over their decades together, largely perfected their own sound. The acoustic guitar, horns and accordion mixed with light, and often surreal, lyrics create merry alternative rock, a formula in full force with “Glean.” Nothing diverts from this formula, but it does not need to. The melodies are fun, and the lyrics will stick with the listener for some time.
No two songs, however, sound like they should go together, an unfortunate, direct result of the Dial-A-Song method of recording. “Flood,” They Might Be Giants’ most well-known and successful album, was very consistent, and each song felt like it belonged with the other. On “Glean,” however, it’s more of a hodgepodge of work. The opening song, “Erase,” which boasts catchy lyrics in quick, two-syllable lines, was released Jan. 5. “All the Lazy Boyfriends” was released on the Dial-A-Song service almost five months later. Because of these lengthy time gaps, there are few similarities between them, and both feel like they could be on any other They Might Be Giants record. “Glean,” the title track, is fully instrumental, a far cry from the wordiness of “Hate the Villanelle.” There’s little holding any themes together, and thus “Glean” feels less like an album and more like a collection.
There aren’t many grand political statements or breathtaking metaphors, which is expected from the band. They Might Be Giants have been releasing albums consistently for nearly three decades now, so the fact that “Glean” is consistent with their back catalog is a testament to their songwriting and musical style. “Glean” is ultimately more of the same from the band, a welcome yet unremarkable addition to its collection.