Nation of Heat was outstanding, front to back; 2010's Messenger is anything but. I should have been concerned when, last year, Mr. Pug gave away his In the Meantime EP for free. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't the "free" part that concerned me -- it was the fact that there were no really good songs on it. In fact, I didn't care much for that EP at all, but I brushed it off, thinking that maybe those were all the songs not good enough to make Nation of Heat. Untrue.
The biggest difference between Heat and Messenger is that almost every song on Heat has a set of lyrical spiral steps, winding in various directions. The music is great, but it's just a dude strumming a guitar, so it's the lyrics that shine. Each song had its own story, its own bit of mystery. Messenger lacks mystery. Messenger also feels "bigger" -- which is not, as they say, always better. His backing band shines on the redux of "Speak Plainly Diana" (I was at that show btw), but for the most part, I miss the sonic simplicity of Heat.
As was the case with Vampire Weekend's Contra, my favorite song from Messenger most resembles the sound and story of the songs on Heat. "How Good You Are" is not only the best song on this album, it's one of my favorite songs from the year. Absolutely fantastic; full of mystery and simplicity. Take a listen:
Blurb: It's not a terrible album, but it seems (to me) to be a step backward from the amazing tone set by Nation of Heat.