Earlier this year Joel Tannenbaum (Plow United, ex-Ex Friends) started a new project called The Rentiers as a way to “play whatever kind of music [he] feels like playing at any given moment and whoever he feels like playing it with.” The project’s first release, an EP titled Here Is a List of Things That Exist features Tannenbaum being backed by Chumped’s Anika Pyle, Gym Class Heroes’ Tyler Pursel, and the one-and-only Mikey Erg.
“Stories of Adam” sets us up for the theme of the album: reluctant wisdom. The Rentiers aren’t telling us how to live, rather that they have lived, they’re still living, and it’s getting weird. Further, what do we do now? “What are we gonna do with these stories of failure?” The song adds layers of piano and organ to acoustic guitar before it all kicks in full band, and throughout, Anika Pyle’s “ooo” game is on point.
A driving beat invites us into The Rentiers’ garage for “The Legend of Molly Pitcher,” complete with Nicki Minaj fan fiction (don’t Google that), dated political references (Thatcher and Reagan were bros), and a sudden guitar solo that guides us through a party rock jam before bringing us back to the chorus of “I can’t concentrate,” which comes off as more of a request than a complaint. Joel Tannenbaum’s vocals strike me as a little Dylan and a little Social D, boasting a folky quality unafraid to get rough around the edges.
The second half of this release is what sells it. If I had to use a long, run on sentence to describe “I Can Picture Margaret Stackhouse,” I’d go with: A neat narrative about a cool thing you haven’t heard about or haven’t thought about in a while or ever. One minute in we’re hit with synth heavy nostalgia for Weezer circa 1995 (or The Rentals), and even though I’m pretty sure I’m unfamiliar with the story of 15 year old Margaret Stackhouse writing a letter to prominent film director Stanley Kubrick, which he hailed as “the most intelligent” reflection of his 1968 film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’m wide eyed, attentive, and singing along to Mikey Erg’s reassuring outro of “in the morning / in the evening / I can picture Margaret Stackhouse.”
Here Is a List of Things That Exist closes with its most urgent track, “Votive Candles.” It’s an oddly optimistic number that carries a foreboding tone. It takes you through a run down, small town street into the shitty house you lived in during your early twenties, reminding you “life never gives you more than you can handle / look at all the votive candles.”
It’s all a departure for Joel Tannenbaum. It’s not a fast punk record, and it’s not even really a punk record. It’s a collection of songs he wrote for himself, built up with his friends, and chose to share with us, the way you share a mix tape, or a family recipe.
4 / 5 Stars – Stream it below!
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