That Dog: Old LP (2019)

As the Thanksgiving meal recedes and we head into the 2019 home stretch, the obligatory year-end best-of lists are starting to roll in, so I figure I'll throw in a few plugs for my favorite albums of the past year, even if I've previously written about the artists.  And let me be the first to say -- if some publication's list does not include That Dog's reunion album Old LP, it immediately loses all credibility with me.

More than 20 years after fantastic indie-noise-pop classic Retreat From The Sun, singer/guitarist Anna Waronker, singer/bassist Rachel Haden, and drummer Tony Maxwell have regrouped (less Haden's sister Petra), and the album is a stunner.  The noisier elements of the band's post-punk roots are largely scrapped in favor of mellower, more orchestral pop, giving the album a grown-up feel while retaining their unique edge and wit.

The highlight is the title track, which closes out the record and is pretty much the most moving thing I've heard all year (decade?).  A guitar-free song wielding a full orchestra, the song commemorates the recent passing of Haden's father, jazz bassist Charlie Haden, and shit if I'm not in tears every time I play it.  And I've played it a lot.  Beyond the stunning lyrics ("I guess I hate the fact/That you're not coming back/I never wanted you to leave. I hate that there's no choice/I can't hear your voice/Unless it's on an old LP"), there are some breathtaking harmonies from Waronker and Haden, joined by frighteningly talented comedian/actress (and one time band member) Maya Rudolph.

Here's a video for "Old LP," which starts with interviews (worth watching), with the song itself starting at the 6:10 marker:
Speaking of videos -- in an age long past the death of MTV, the band has come up with the best video of the year in support of "Just The Way," a fantastic, rollicking ditty and the track that most harkens back to the harder-edged alt.rock/pop of their 90s days; given their show-biz connections and family ties, they're able to recruit Jack Black and Rudolph to join them for a deliriously nuts clip based on the Three's Company credits (not to mention the disturbing Too Many Cooks sit-com theme homage):
Other highlights include the lovely mid-tempo rocker "Bird On A Wire," the orchestral, melodic "Drip Drops," the harder rocking and punchy "If You Just Didn't Do It," and "Least I Could Do," another one that magically melds their earlier noise pop sound with the sophisticated baroque polish found throughout the album.  But it's pretty amazing start to finish (ok, I'm less won over by "Down Without A Fight," a throwback to their more askew noisy early work which kinda sticks out here).