Good Thing the First: The new album by They Might Be Giants, Nanobots, is a good album. It might require that you be in a certain mood for a listen, but there’s no harm in that; it merely reinforces the unique artistic position of TMBG over the years. My personal favorite is “You’re On Fire,” which is very good, and has a bit of an edge to temper the (always) clever songwriting of John Flansburgh and John Linnell. I’d describe it as 100% , with rockier power-pop guitars, The B52s flourishes, and a proper undercurrent of Frank Zappa. Not surprising influences, but a refreshing and delightful track nevertheless. When I was explaining to my kid how the literal lyrics subvert a tradition of pop anthems about being “on fire,” my kid immediately made the connection to Alicia Keys’s hit, “Girl On Fire.” I love that kid. And I love this track. Other good work this on this album, but this song is head and shoulders above. You can listen to and download “You’re On Fire” courtesy of Stereogum.
Nanobots has more to offer, including “Tesla,” which is nearly a hymn honoring the scientist who many (including me) believe truly ushered in the modern technical era. “Lost My Mind” feels like an old friend from the TMBG workshop, but one with whom you’re glad to reunite. “Sometimes a Lonely Way” is particularly grownup track, in which they punctuate the more-expected melancholy lyrics with trademark skill. Many of the tracks comprise a swath of “mini-songs,” of a type that TMBG already tackled once as a combined single track, “Fingertips,” on Apollo 18, but here each well-produced snippet lives as its own track. I approve of this new tactic; it makes the tracks into tasty lagniappes, instead of throwing all the flavors into the Vitamix. I still prefer the fully-crafted songs to the mini-songs, but if you like this kind of thing, you’ll like what you hear (circularity intended, and I’ll leave it alone now).
In addition, TMBG let us know via Twitter: “Mark the date! April 16 7pm TMBG play a FREE SHOW and sign scraps of paper at Academy Annex in Williamsburgh Brooklyn.” So there’s that, if you are in the area (as I am). If you’re not, their tour dates are posted on their site. I think that counts as another good thing. But it’s not part of my two-thing minimum! Which is…
Good Thing the Second: The TMBG app gives all the joy that their Dial-A-Song service used to do. A different song is added every day to a rotation of five songs. However, since this is the new tech era, one can also access their podcast, blog, and social media from the app, as well as buy the tunes. The app is available for free from iTunes http://bit.ly/Wl9fGw. It’s designed for iPhone, but it scales up nicely on my iPad Mini. According to their web site, the app also works on the full-sized iPad, and an Android app is being developed.
In short, it’s all good!