Release Date: Mar 6, 2012
Record label: Aimless Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Singer/Songwriter
Alternative title: Occupy Nashville. Todd Snider's latest is the sharpest musical response yet to the excesses of the one percent: hilarious, infuriated broadsides about economic injustice delivered in Snider's stoner drawl over twangy roots rock. "In the Beginning" is a retelling of the Genesis story as a parable of the economic downturn; "New York Banker" laments that "good things happen to bad people"; "Precious Little Miracles" is jazzy lullaby crooned to the young people: "Your school is a joke and you'll always be poor....
From the title, you’d have no idea that Todd Snider’s 12th album was any different from his others, which contain plenty of agnostic hymns and bounties of stoner fables. But it’s keyed lyrically around the economy and musically around Amanda Shires, a helpful vocalist and a relevatory violinist, which in no way means it’s sappy—this is his darkest album ever. Snider’s always been too acerbic, too interested in unconventional angles and unheard jokes, to settle for the country corn he loves sincerely anyway.
Chock full of songs about crooked bankers, the pleasures of recreational drugs and the evils of organized religion, Todd Snider’s reputation as America’s favorite alt-folk shit disturber remains firmly intact with the release of his newest album Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables. Over the past decade or so, Snider’s musical direction has evolved considerably from the early John Prine-influenced acoustic story songs that he performed on his first few records. Since the release of The Devil You Know in 2006, he has leaned towards a fiercer, looser Vic Chestnutt “we’re all going to hell in a hand basket” style of grunge that perfectly suits the lyrics and desperate (or desperately funny) situations Snider describes.
Todd Snider is usually described as a singer/songwriter, but that description seems a little too tidy for what he does. Snider is more of a guy who can sort of carry a tune with his craggy, weather-beaten voice while he spins tall tales of the many things he's seen while out on the road. Snider called one of his live albums The Storyteller for a good reason, and he's back to sharing his stories in the way that suits him best on 2012's Agnostic Hymns and Stoner Fables.
Todd Snider’s Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables extends the East Nashville provocateur’s run of politically relevant albums that trade equally in liberal outrage and gallows humor, taking the piss out of the tired Americana scene. It’s always been to Snider’s credit that he doesn’t use humor as a crutch, and Agnostic Hymns impresses just as much for its tunefulness and Snider and producer Eric McConnell’s unconventional choices as for its arch point of view. That said, the album reaffirms that Snider’s is a unique, vital voice that champions the occasional moment of levity and escapism even in the face of certain doom.
“It ain’t the despair that gets you—it’s the hope.” On Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, Nashville singer-songwriter Todd Snider has opened up a can of bitter. This isn’t to say that his satiric side or self-deprecating tendencies have faded—there just seems to be more for Snider to be jaded about, specifically with unemployment, corporate greed, human exploitation, and the crime these things can bring about. The shadow being cast over Snider’s songwriting conveniently dovetails into the Occupy movements of America, securing the album’s future reputation as likely being more of its time than timeless.
TODD SNIDER “Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables” (Aimless) The murder ballad has been around for centuries, but Todd Snider offers an of-the-moment spin on his latest album, “Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables.” Fearful 1-percenters who agonize about how they’re perceived by everyone else may want to take a pass. “In Between Jobs,” which is directed at a have from a have-not, ends with a brutal calculation about wealth redistribution. And on “In the Beginning” a dirty capitalist talks his way out of murder at the hands of the less fortunate.
Good news: Todd Snider's released two albums in the span of two months. One collects songs associated with his hero Jerry Jeff Walker. It's lovingly curated, shambolic in all the right places, and celebrates the Texas troubadour's 70th birthday in high style, with an emphasis on the high. The other is Snider's most pointedly political work.