As exemplified on the landmark 2002 single, “Losing My Edge,” no one plays the aging hipster better than James Murphy. On that single, Murphy complains for seven-plus minutes about how he’s “losing his edge” to younger, better-looking kids. It’s a grim treatise, and for the past five years, it has been the manifesto of his releases. LCD’s 2005 debut was a fine balance of new material and previous singles, but “Sound of Silver” is concise and near perfect, an album that continues Murphy’s musical progression while exploring new thematic elements.
The reason Murphy is such a successful “aging hipster” is because he is a hipster. At the ripe old age of 37, Murphy actually lived through the rise of dance and post-punk music, music that is now being revived ad nauseam by his younger, less-talented counterparts. But with age comes wisdom, and nobody is wiser than Murphy when it comes to making good records.
Every song on “Sound of Silver” is filled with the perfect blend of crisp hi-hat, piercing cowbell and thick synth that can only be found when a true master is behind the mixing board. The result is an underlying sound that is sparse while being full of instruments, dense with noise yet expertly layered, and masterfully restrained.
But where LCD’s debut may have been lacking in quality songs, “Sound of Silver” never falters. With nearly an hour’s worth of music, nothing is wasted, yielding something rare: a truly cohesive album. Most songs build from a steady drumbeat to a climax of throbbing keys and jangling guitars. This is no great departure from previous LCD releases; if anything, Murphy has concentrated his sound into a precise science. It’s Murphy himself who grows on “Sound of Silver.” His lyrics have never been more thoughtful or subtle.
As you’ve probably guessed, the topic of Murphy’s lyrical pondering is “getting old.” Instead of sardonically commenting on his waning indie cred, Murphy goes deeper. He has found himself at a middle-aged turning point, an existential crisis that can only be summed up as, “How did I get here?” Murphy wrestles with his age on several songs, most successfully on the album’s centerpiece “All My Friends.”
It’s easy to forget, among the ambitious and intelligent lyrical themes that Murphy employs, that LCD makes dance music, and “Sound of Silver” is a dance record. It just happens also to contain some of the best music, dance or otherwise, recorded this year.