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Though not as prolific as, say, Robert Pollard or the late, great Paul K, Thomas Anderson writes more songs than most of us have had hot dinners. So it’s only natural that many of them never make onto his albums, thus necessitating The Debris Field, appropriately subtitled (lo-fi flotsam and ragged recriminations, 2000-2021). Some tracks on this two-disk set were intended for previous albums, but just didn’t make the cut, while others were recorded for unrealized projects. Regardless of origin, though, the songs all share the same thing that makes every Anderson album worth hearing: consistency. While Anderson isn’t the most expansive melodist, with his plainspoken singing and ability to make give his four-track recordings some (but not too much) polish, he knows how to get the most out of three or four chords, and his lyrics continue to be some of the most literate, intelligent, and intriguing in rock & roll. (Not for nothing is his publishing company called Angry Young Grad Student Music.) Whether it’s a fierce rocker (“Metal in the Kitchen”), a chunky blues (“Son House’s House”), a plaintive ballad (“You Don’t Know Me Anymore”), a folky narrative (“A Tramp in God’s Vineyard”), or an atmospheric instrumental (“Cobalt Rain”), each song has character, catchiness, and intelligence to burn. Debris? More like gold nuggets.
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