Articles

  • What's in store for 2008

    1 jan. 2008, 1h17m

    While I looked back at 2007 in my last journal entry, it would only be appropriate to also gaze toward the future: music expected to be released in 2008. The following is a list of artists whose albums I plan to listen to that I believe will be releasing new albums in 2008:

    Built to Spill
    Cat Power - Covers II (1/22)
    Coldplay - (5/19)
    Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs (5/13)
    Deerhunter - Microcastle
    Doves
    dredg
    Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid (3/17)
    Franz Ferdinand - (summer)
    The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath (1/29)
    Mercury Rev
    Muse - (2008-09)
    My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges (6/10)
    of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (October)
    Patrick Wolf
    The Raconteurs
    The Reign Of Kindo - late spring
    R.E.M. - Accelerate (4/1)
    The Spinto Band - summer? (nothing official, though)
    Stereolab - (March)
    Super Furry Animals - Hey Venus! (CD Release) (1/22)
    The Trans-Siberian Orchestra
    The Verve - (early 2008)
    Wolf Parade - (March/April)
    Wolfmother

    And, receiving its own special place,

    Guns N' Roses - Chinese Democracy (???)

    source (for many of these releases)

    As one can see, many of the bigger names of the indie/alternative world will likely be releasing new albums in 2008, but living up to 2007 will be a tall order.
  • An account of the music of the year 2007

    26 déc. 2007, 5h23m

    Welcome to yet another account of the music of the year 2007. Undoubtedly, there are many releases which I did not listen to. If you did not find what you were looking for (as far as an album which I did not recapitulate here), give me another year, and maybe I’ll listen to it. If you are upset with a “rating” which I gave an album, you are free to express your opinion as a comment. If you are happy with a “rating” which I gave an album, you are free to express your opinion as a comment. Any general opinions regarding my list are also welcome as comments. I may respond to your comments. You are not obligated to read the whole journal entry, but it would be impressive if you did. Now here goes.





    This is music?

    TurisasThe Varangian Way: Listening to this album was roughly an hour of my life I’ll never have back. In The Court Of Jarislief was the only song I thought memorable.

    Garbage, refuse…the like:

    EditorsThe End Has A Start: I can’t remember anything from this LP. That’s a bad sign.

    EluviumCopia: These piano pieces didn’t move me for the most part. Yawn.

    Buffalo TomThree Easy Pieces: One of the most overrated releases of the year. Going by this record (not their previous work, which I haven’t heard), there are better country rock bands out there.

    Manic Street PreachersSend Away the Tigers: It’s like night and day comparing this to the superb Everything Must Go. Manic Street Preachers still have a pulse, but a really weak one at that.

    Maroon 5It Won’t Be Soon Before Long: Can’t Stop is as catchy as anything else released this year, but little else on this LP is worth hearing.

    120 DaysSedated Times: I recall this sounding like run-of-the-mill something-or-other, but it escapes me now. Refer to one of my older posts for a longer review.

    Clap Your Hands Say YeahSome Loud Thunder: CYHSY’s second output is disappointing compared to the self-titled debut. What was producer Dave Friedmann (Flaming Lips) thinking when he mixed the first two tracks?? It pains me to put Some Loud Thunder in the “refuse” category, but most of the songs here were unexciting or too long.

    Bloc PartyA Weekend In The City: Instead of building on Silent Alarm, these guys went the bland route. If I remember correctly, this LP is totally uninspiring (I deleted it from my computer after listening to it once).

    The Smashing PumpkinsZeitgeist: I love these guys (one of the best bands of the ‘90s, in my opinion), but despite stuff like Doomsday Clock, it can’t get worse for the Pumpkins. The good news is that the next release can only be better.

    PelicanCity of Echoes: They may be quite good in the future, but they need to kick out their drummer, pronto. This album plods along with the percussion’s too-heavy beat.

    Magik MarkersBOSS: Think of Sonic Youth without a sense of melody and with rambling solos. Uh oh.

    Replacement-level:

    WilcoSky Blue Sky: On this album, Wilco chose to imitate The Eagles. Since I consider the Eagles to be one of the most overrated bands of the ‘70s, it follows that this album is overrated. *Yawn…*

    Oh, sorry. I was falling asleep listening to this a second time. Were these guys castrated before they recorded this album? (An exception is the soloing guitarist – he came to play.)

    Queens of the Stone AgeEra Vulgaris: Not bad, but not good enough to lure me in for another listen prior to this writing. I’ll probably listen to these guys more in the future.

    Velvet RevolverLibertad: Even Slash’s riffs couldn’t bridge the gap between mediocrity and greatness during this album. Give us the next Guns n’ Roses album already!

    Minus the BearPlanet of Ice: Minus the Bear definitely tries to be interesting here, but it falls short of They Make Beer Commercials Like This.

    West Indian Girl4th and Wall: Starts great, then rapidly bores the listener. I must have been deluded when I wrote my fuller review a few months back.

    Mediocrity, say hello:

    UMPHREY’S McGEEThe Bottom Half: Oh, how I long for the days of Anchor Drops and Local Band Does O.K.. It’s admirable that Umphrey’s McGee is trying to bring their songwriting to the level of their instrument playing, but more improvement is needed.

    The ShinsWincing the Night Away: Thank goodness the Shins abandoned the tasteless pop of Chutes Too Narrow. They actually tried some cool stuff here.

    The Go! TeamProof of Youth: This is the quintessential pick-me-up album. Every song is happy – and it starts to grate after awhile. Best listened to if morbidly depressed.

    The FramesThe Cost: I feel like I’m underrating this a bit. Falling Slowly and a few other ditties stand out; nonetheless, there were just too many better LPs this year. If it’s any consolation, I think Glen Hansard’s voice is heavenly.

    Nine Inch NailsYear Zero: My introduction to Trent Reznor and his industrial rock wasn’t bad. But it wasn’t good, either (in retrospect).

    MewFrengers: Mew’s LP debut (released several years back in Europe) finally reached the States this summer. It doesn’t compare to And the Glass-Handed Kites but has its moments.

    Richard Branson is listening:

    Bear ColonyWe Came Here To Die: This LP could grow on me with more listens. Essentially, think of an unpretentious, mellower The Smashing Pumpkins album – one that Billy Corgan would gladly trade for this year. I’m amazed they have less than 100,000 listens.

    Apostle of HustleNational Anthem of Nowhere: The hits are awesome (National Anthem of Nowhere); the misses stink (NoNoNo). This indie rock band that plays music with a Hispanic flair should be on your radar.

    They Might Be GiantsThe Else: Hilarious lyrics and some good songs toward the end leave this album as a deep sleeper.

    InterpolOur Love to Admire: This LP doesn’t match the heights of Antics or Turn on the Bright Lights, but at least they sound a little happy here. I don’t wish any of the band members to go the way of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, the band to which they have frequently been compared.

    InterpolLive: The band’s first live record (an EP) recently hit stores. I wish their live act was a little different from their studio efforts; if they’re excited to be playing in front of thousands of people, it barely shows.

    Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha: Bird’s deeply intellectual lyrics lost me. I’ll try this album a second time (eventually) and see what happens since it’s definitely not bad, just hard to figure out. I did hear Scythian Empire recently and loved it.

    Sea WolfLeaves In The River: This is a singer-songwriter LP debut; the singer-songwriter is surrounded by a collective. The music shows a lot of potential (which is fully realized on the track You’re a Wolf). A second listen didn’t impress as much as the first, however.

    The PonysTurn the Lights Out: The anti-Turn on the Bright Lights record? Perhaps – The Ponys are far more excited than Interpol, that’s for sure. Beyond some great riffage (and a few good melodies), there’s not too much to hold on to here.

    PJ HarveyWhite Chalk: When she shows passion, Harvey blows the world away (The Mountain, anyone?). When she’s in a more meditative mood (Grow Grow Grom), the world snoozes.

    Band of HorsesCease to Begin: Band of Horses sound suspiciously like The Shins on this album. What happened to the sweet guitars? If this is the rule, not the exception, the band will disappear fast.

    Okkervil RiverThe Stage Names: Okkervil River’s 2007 album is another widely-overrated record. This is not “great”; it’s “ok.” The lyrics may be slightly above average, but the compositions themselves don’t lend themselves to your attention.

    The New PornographersChallengers: I just listened to this on Christmas Day 2007 for the first time. Sounded pretty good to me, but who knows what opinions further listens will bring.

    Major Record Label will sign you as long as it gets 80% of the pot per CD:

    As Tall As LionsInto The Flood: ATAL released this EP the year after their successful self-titled album of ambient rock, and the band has taken another step forward with more complex arrangements (especially on the track Into the Flood).

    The Reign Of KindoThe Reign Of Kindo: This band formed from the ashes of This Day & Age after their lead singer departed. Instead of ambience rock like TDAA, TROK focuses on jazz-inspired indie rock. Three great compositions in Needle & Thread, hard to believe, and Just Wait instill promise for their first full-length.

    Bat for LashesFur and Gold: There’s much intrigue here in this medieval-inspired LP (with harp in places). Ultimately, I couldn’t really connect with it in my two listens, but more tries could lead to a greater appreciation for this interesting record.

    Peter Bjorn and JohnWriter’s Block: PB&J (sandwich) did not suffer from the affliction that is the name of their album. Young Folks is tremendously catchy, and the rest of the album is solid pop. Nonetheless, I didn’t enjoy Writer’s Block as much as some of the other more heralded releases of 2007.

    The Besnard LakesThe Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse: Disaster is the greatest track Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys never wrote. The album is front-loaded with good pop-rock songs; it feels too long by the end.

    Kings of LeonBecause of the Times: Kings of Leon are one of the better American rock bands today, judging by this record. It needs more than two listens before I can pin down a rating for certain.

    The Twilight SadFourteen Autumns, Fifteen Winters: Like the Besnard Lakes album, Fourteen Autumns is front-loaded with great tracks (such as Cold Days from the Birdhouse and That Summer, at Home I Became the Invisible Boy) and then fizzles some. You have to dig the lead singer’s heavy Scottish accent.

    Dr. DogWe All Belong: You’d think that these guys are The Band redux when listening to them. We All Belong is a good “chill” album, unlike most of the other stuff on this list.

    Explosions in the SkyAll of a Sudden, I Miss Everyone: At first listen, this sounds like any old Explosions in the Sky album. A closer inspection reveals that the long, powerful buildup numbers are just not as good as on previous efforts, although the quieter interludes are improved.

    ClinicVisitations: While I couldn’t recommend Visitations over Internal Wrangler, this is a solid effort by a band flying under the radar these days – a real sleeper.

    LCD SoundsystemSound Of Silver: One of the stronger electronica releases this year, Sound of Silver lands here by simply being good for its genre. However, there were better electronica albums released in 2007.

    “Hey, this is pretty good – why don’t you burn a copy for me?”:

    BurialUntrue: Burial is the recording name of an anonymous British trip-hop artist, and boy, did mystery man pull off an awesome album here. Untrue actually has worth beyond that of dance floor fare! While the whole thing is one cohesive unit, Archangel works pretty well as a standalone track. Good night-walk-alone music here.

    LiarsLiars: The third release in the band’s canon is probably the weirdest of all the albums in this recap, but if you let your inner nerd out (if you haven’t done so already, that is), Liars can be appreciated over and over. Methinks the band was listening to Frank Zappa before writing Freak Out. Sailing to Byzantium doesn’t outcool They Might Be GiantsIstanbul, but the ending Middle-Eastern riff is sweet.

    Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam: There are a few classics here in For Reverend Green and Fireworks; many others also like Derek. None of them approaches 2005’s Grass, however.

    Bruce SpringsteenMagic: So what if the Boss returned to his roots for Magic? You’ll enjoy Radio Nowhere and Gypsy Biker immensely, and the self-titled is a work of art. BRRRUUUUUCCCEEE!!!

    Ted Leo and the PharmacistsLiving With The Living: Some of the most precisely crafted music released this year is found on this album – every note is just right; Ted Leo’s falsetto hits the mark. A Bottle of Buckie, Bomb. Repeat. Bomb., and The Sons Of Cain all rank among my favorite songs released this year. They even dabble in reggae on The Unwanted Things. It’s a tad too long, though.

    The NationalBoxer: The National sure have come a long way from their Bruce Springsteen aping days. The contemplative mood on numbers such as Fake Empire befits a night alone.

    Patrick WolfThe Magic Position: The former child prodigy has certainly made a career for himself. Is there a happier song in existence besides The Magic Position? He also makes use of a wide palette of instruments to create just the right tone in each track.

    The Trio of DoomThe Trio of Doom: One of the greatest gatherings of musical talents in history occurred when Jaco Pastorius, John McLaughlin, and Tony Williams recorded together a few times in the early ‘70s. The resulting jazz fusion blows the mind.

    Arctic MonkeysFavourite Worst Nightmare: It’s quite clear that these guys can’t spell. First they scribed “favorite” with a “u,” then they recorded a number called Brianstorm. Whatever you do, don’t get near Brian – he’s dangerous! Regional variations in the English language and clever transforms aside, Favourite Worst Nightmare is a vast improvement over the band’s debut, Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I Am Not. This is probably due to maturity (they weren’t even out of their teens when the first was recorded), but welcome regardless.

    The White StripesIcky Thump: Jack and Meg White are clearly diversifying the band’s sound here; there’s an Irish- or English-sounding hymn-like song in Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn, for crying out loud. A song that is titled the blues, 300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues, actually has few blues stanzas. Yes, it looks like a brave new world.

    Dinosaur Jr.Beyond: Turn back the clock – it’s 1989 all over again! At least, listening to Beyond, one would think so: Dinosaur Jr. is in fine punk form here, just as good as they were during their first inception in the late ‘80s. One of the best rock songs of the year is Almost Ready; there’s no filler on this LP.

    The AliensAstronomy For Dogs: Looking for ‘60s pop and rock of all forms? This is precisely the album you want – unabashedly desperate lyrics, 10+ minute-long jams (Caravan), novelty numbers (Robot Man), etc. Formed from the ashes of the critically-acclaimed The Beta Band, The Aliens have delivered a record that classic rock junkies will love.

    Do Make Say ThinkYou, You’re A History In Rust: No other album released this year by a widely acclaimed band has flown so far under the radar. I haven’t heard a peep about it since its May release in the US! Well, don’t make the mistake of overlooking it. Bound To Be That Way is absolutely gorgeous. This is the quintessential soundtrack to a quiet fall morning: the air brisk, the crunching of crisp leaves audible under your feet…you get the idea.

    DeerhoofFriend Opportunity: These guys got a little less experimental after one of their guitarists departed, but the music made in his absence is much improved in terms of melodic quality (whatever that means). There’s no filler; I’d say this is the album you want to listen to first if you’re going to get into Deerhoof for the first time.

    The Good, the Bad & the QueenThe Good, the Bad & the Queen: This supergroup actually works pretty well, including members from past bands like The Clash, Blur, and Gorillaz. The Clash influences can be felt throughout, since even though the album is thoroughly British in flavor, reggae touches color songs like History Song and Herculean. The record was supposed to be a one-time deal, but the results have pleased the band’s members, and so a 2008 album is in the works.

    “I’m gonna start ranking these now…” league:

    14: CaribouAndorra: Here, Daniel Snaith recreates some of the better pop of the ‘60s in Melody Day. Gee, Sandy isn’t so bad either…and Sundialing has one of the coolest samples around. The ballad She’s the One is magical as well. Don’t let the intimidating recording name of Snaith (who would win a battle between a caribou and a human, after all?) scare you away from one of the best electronica albums of the year.

    13: Panda BearPerson Pitch: Animal Collective’s drummer outdid his band’s record on his solo effort this year. Ditto what was said about Caribou’s “Melody Day” with Panda Bear’s Comfy In Nautica. The juggernauts, Bros and Good Girl/Carrots, not only contain interesting samples but also entrance the listener with series of high-quality sections that seamlessly flow into one another. The idyllic I’m Not is my favorite.

    12: Porcupine TreeFear of a Blank Planet: The progressive metal band led by Steven Wilson has turned in another fine effort with Fear of a Blank Planet. This still-mostly-unknown British group has recorded one of the year’s masterpieces in Anesthetize, an over-17-minute track recalling Pink Floyd’s Echoes. The album works as a unit, although the lyrics are somewhat sophomoric (as always). The whole group composed Way Out of Here, my second favorite here.

    11: DungenTio Bitar: Here is probably the most unknown group out of all those that have a ranked album. This Swedish band plays a tantalizing blend of classic rock, jazz, Swedish folk music, and pop. Their sophomore effort is much shorter than the critically acclaimed Ta det lugnt, and perhaps it’s for the better. The album bursts out of the gates with the blistering Intro, and a decent Jimi Hendrix impression results. Familj, the beautiful C Visar Vägen, and Mon Amour are other highlights.

    10: Iron & WineThe Shepherd’s Dog: It’s about time: Sam Beam, the man behind Iron & Wine, finally upgraded to hi-fi recordings for this album, and the results are impressive. Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car has the sort of sunny-summer-day feeling conducive to listening this album in a convertible with the top down. White Tooth Man just wouldn’t have been possible without the use of electric guitar and the multiple layers used in the recording of this LP. The haunting Carousel is near the top of my favorite songs of the year.

    9: SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga: The songwriting on this album is excellent, even if it is somewhat held back by the musicians’ playing abilities. You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb is one of the most recognizable songs of the year, and Don’t Make Me a Target and Don’t You Evah are two terrific tracks as well. The band has put forth another concise effort without abandoning its identity. Good job, Britt Daniel.

    8: The Arcade FireNeon Bible: While it seemed a little low to me at first, this is not a slight against the band at all in this year of strong releases. The band wisely eschewed its tendency toward anthemic charts for its sophomore release, favoring more contemplative numbers such as Black Mirror and The Well and the Lighthouse. However, the reinvention of No Cars Go is the best track, IMO, despite being the only anthem here.

    7: St. VincentMarry Me: The witty lyrical content of The Polyphonic Spree’s Annie Clark, along with her use of a wide variety of musical genres, catapults this record near the top. The former point is no more evident than in Jesus Saves, I Spend – har har. Rock, pop, jazz – it’s all game for Clark, and her debut solo album is nothing short of terrific as a result.

    6: BattlesMirrored: Truly for the mathematically inclined, this post-rock album combines a dance flair with time signatures I can’t decipher. Tonto and Atlas exemplify the best of the genre, and the LP bookends, Race: In and Race: Out, are juicy bits of post-rock bliss.

    There aren’t enough stars (or thumbs up) to give these releases:

    5: of MontrealHissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?: Feel the rrraaaagggeee. If you can’t tell, Kevin Barnes is really angry (The Past Is A Grotesque Animal and She’s A Rejecter). He’s depressed, too – evident in compositions like Gronlandic Edit and A Sentence Of Sorts In Kongsvinger. He chose the electronica album to overflow with his personal feelings, and the passion, combined with the great beats, make this one of the top albums of the year.

    4: Les Savy FavLet’s Stay Friends: An offbeat record, the height of the band’s sonic powers is witnessed as The Equestrian, a whirlwind account of sex in the Middle Ages. The Middle Ages theme continues off-and-on throughout the record, but the hits are found everywhere: Pots & Pans, Brace Yourself, Patty Lee, The Year Before The Year 2000, Slugs In The Shrubs, What Would Wolves Do?, and The Lowest Bitter. Clearly, the band has a talent for writing great melodies. The record ends before the listener has had enough, and thus, he comes back to it over and over.

    3: Gogol BordelloSuper Taranta!: Gypsy punk sounds like a contradiction, but it’s not: an accordion and a violin nailing riffs at blazing speed sounds like bliss when it comes from Gogol Bordello. The band’s talent was evident in the past, but the songwriting has finally caught up. Reggae ideas are explored in Dub the Frequencies of Love; Tribal Connection also extends the range of genres the band plays. More great songs are Forces of Victory, Alcohol, and American Wedding. The number of members in the band provides the recordings with a lot of depth. All those seeking a dance party need to look no further than Super Taranta!

    2: RadioheadIn Rainbows: Much has been written about how Radiohead released In Rainbows. Since you probably know the story by now, I’ll just skip to the music. I was initially a little disappointed upon hearing 15 Step, not because it was bad (it’s quite good, in fact), but because it sounded like Kid A all over again (save the cheering children’s chorus). However, Bodysnatchers relieved me since it’s not really reminiscent of any of the band’s previous work. The haunting O.K. Computer-era Nude is tremendous with just the snare and bass for long stretches. Possibly my favorite track on Disc 1 is the longing Weird Fishes/Arpeggi. Faust Arp is the uncommon poignant, acoustic ballad from the group, while Reckoner fills the role of danceable-yet-sorrowful midtempo number. Nonetheless, the real surprise of the album comes in the form of the reggae love song House of Cards because its message is not hidden in mysterious metaphors. A close second to Weird Fishes/Arpeggi is Jigsaw Falling into Place, inheriting the mantle of latest angry rock tune from There There. Just in case you were getting too optimistic, though, Videotape brings you down in the manner of Motion Picture Soundtrack.

    Disc 2 (yes, I am reviewing it here as well) begins with a reprisal of Videotape, followed by the well-known track from concerts, Down Is the New Up. The lyrical content of Down Is the New Up doesn’t compare to much of Disc 1, but I’d be kidding you if I said you wouldn’t like it. The jewel of Disc 2 takes the form of Go Slowly; it could have been written by Pink Floyd with its acoustic melancholy. Last Flowers is an ok piano track, while Up on the Ladder gives the discos another good number for the dance floor with its loud bass and extremely rhythmic guitar line. The cruncher of Disc 2 is Bangers & Mash – it tops Jigsaw Falling Into Place with regard to brute force. To end Disc 2, Radiohead curiously chose the peaceful 4 Minute Warning. This conclusion seems all too appropriate for the eclectic In Rainbows.

    Disc 2 sounds like a collection of b-sides compared to Disc 1; the band did the right thing by excluding the Disc 2 tracks from the lead disc. Still, the 18 tracks, as a group, top almost everything else released in 2007.



    Now, you’ve made it to the top CD of 2007 (in all likelihood, by skipping most of this list).













    Think about it…











    You’re almost…











    There…









    The best of 2007:







    1: Modest MouseWe Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank: Not a surprising choice by any means, and one that won’t please the “Modest Mouse sold out!” groupies, Isaac Brock’s songwriting is stronger than ever. Every track here is a masterpiece. All the hits from this album (well, hits in the indie rock sense) could be contenders for song of the year: March Into the Sea, Dashboard, Florida, We’ve Got Everything, Fly Trapped in a Jar, and Education. The slower tracks impress as well: Parting of the Sensory, Missed the Boat, and Little Motel. The leftovers are better than just appetizers: Fire It Up is the feel-good song from this album like Float On was for Good News For People Who Love Bad News, Steam Engenius is Brock’s reality check with weirdness, and Spitting Venom continues Brock’s tradition of writing long, disgruntled compositions. Ah, yes – Johnny Marr’s (formerly of The Smiths) inclusion in the band only strengthens the songs, especially on Fly Trapped in a Jar. Yikes, I’ve said too much already – go listen to this album! Pronto!


    That concludes my long-winded, yet whirlwind, account of the year 2007 in music. I hope this journal entry was informative both in guiding your next music purchase and in disseminating my music opinions. Have a good day (or holiday, if you celebrate one).
  • It's coming...

    14 déc. 2007, 5h18m

    The ultimate journal post (or maybe several) summarizing 2007 in music (that I've listened to) will be arriving in the next several weeks. There are still a few loose ends to tie up as far as albums to which I still need to listen, but otherwise, I just need to write something down.

    Ah, yes - if you are wondering about how many LPs & EPs I've listened to released in 2007 (in America), the number is comparable to the number of baseball players listed in the Mitchell report.
  • Random Album Reviews 6

    18 nov. 2007, 18h03m

    This is the sixth chapter of my musical discovery as catalogued on last.fm. I listen to tons of albums that I've never heard before, but I only review the ones that are new in 2007 because of time considerations. Also, my writing style isn't the most descriptive because of the aforementioned time considerations, but oh well. Maybe I'll make the year in review journal entry more interesting.

    West Indian Girl4th and Wall: Gushing with optimism, “To Die in LA” starts off the album with dreamy pop-rock drenched in synthesizers. “And you don’t know how you got there,” the band sings; the spontaneous feel of the number supports the lyrics. More of the same is found in “Blue Wave,” although with a little more spaced-out guitar. Current Mercury Rev influences tinge “Sofia,” which features strings and high-pitched singing by a male vocalist – while more of a pop song than the first two tracks, it breaks into an emotional (slide) guitar solo that rocks a little harder.

    “All My Friends” has a little Indian influence in there; while it’s not ambitious lyrically, the melody is good enough to shine through. Steel drums lend a calypso feel to “Up the Coast.” Acoustic guitar plays on “Back to You.”

    This is one of the better pop records of the year. 4/5.

    Les Savy FavLet’s Stay Friends: “Pots & Pans” opens with a triumphant feeling created by open cymbal hits and guitars playing alternating pairs of notes. “The Equestrian” is a song about sex, simply put – just look at the lyrics. Its hardcore nature is only appropriate. The whole album, as one could guess by the album cover, is about medieval life. The singing in “Patty Lee” is an album highlight, while “What Would Wolves Do?” could be an indie dance tune that will be remembered for a while.

    An excess of attitude comes across in “Brace Yourself,” supported by the simple lyrics of “Before I was a…, I was a….” Prostitution appears to be at least some of the subject matter of “Raging in the Plague Age.” “Slugs in the Shrubs” appears to make social commentary on violence, especially considering that it’s a punk song.

    The album only had traces of a medieval plot, as I discovered toward the end, but here is definitely a highlight of 2007. 5/5.

    Gogol BordelloSuper Taranta!: Lightning violins and accordion spur “Ultimate,” the opener, along. “Zina-Marina” is the band’s best impression of Led Zeppelin, the guitar and bass leading the way in heavy metal fashion. Unlike a good gypsy, the protagonist admits, “I don’t read the Bible, I don’t trust disciples” in “Supertheory of Supereverything.” Not only does “Harem in Tuscany (Taranta)” accelerate to light speed in the middle, but you can hear the coos of pleasure from gypsy prostitutes as well.

    The most original song so far (compared to previous albums) is “Dub the Frequencies of Love,” combining Caribbean elements with the Gogol Bordello sound into a product that could easily work in a North African setting. “Tribal Connection” offers another glimpse of a different culture; the bass plays a really cool line, and the guitar and violin offer wailing brushstrokes over the top. Another terrific song is “Forces of Victory,” with rather spirited playing, including great solo trading between the violin and accordion; the end sounds a lot like the break during Yes’s “The Gates of Delirium.”

    An ostinato toward the end of “Your Country” sets up the next-to-last track, “American Wedding,” perfectly. “So be you Donald Trump / Or be an anarchist / Make sure that your wedding / Doesn't end up like this,” leader Eugene Hütz pleads; his concern for one of America’s most despised figures is ironic considering Hütz is complaining about an American wedding! The title track, an instrumental, ends the album with gusto.

    Super Taranta! is an improvement over the band’s last effort, Gypsy Punks: Underdog World Strike and deserves widespread play. Its length (65 minutes) is the only real downside. 4.5/5.

    Sea WolfLeaves In The River: The title track, while it relates the story of a drunk teenager meeting a girl in the rain on Halloween, comes off as a light elementary school story with delicate singing over a piano. “Winter Windows” utilizes a synthesizer and strings to great effect, but it’s the lyrics that entrance the listener: “ ‘I thought I’d love you / and our love would be forever / How could I hit you / the only one who ever loved me?’ ” The acoustic guitar strumming of “The Rose Captain” distinctly emulates the ambience of autumn whilst accompanied by strings.

    Captivating is “You’re a Wolf,” one of the most captivating tracks of the year, in fact. The beat is an easy four; the protagonist, continuing the theme of the previous song, “Middle Distance Runner,” notes that “I’m running, I’m a northeast stream / get to the ocean before I run too low.” Imagery of Nature is common throughout the album, and “The Cold, The Dark & The Silence” is no different: “If you were to roll to roll down your window / you’d find the wind, the ice, the trees / that sway like skeletons outside.” “Neutral Ground” begins with ambient distorted guitars, an unexpected touch on this LP.

    This album is recommended. 4.5/5.

    PJ HarveyWhite Chalk: Opening the album is “The Devil,” pounding its way into the listener’s ears with a 1-2 punch of piano/bass and pretty soprano vocals. An echo effect in the second half of the song adds to the haunting feel of the track, one of the better ones heard this year. On the other hand, “Dear Darkness” feels hopeless. “Grow Grow Grom” derives some of its sonic characteristics from medieval chord changes and instrument choices. The second assertive track from Harvey is the title track, obtaining a country flavor from harmonica and sparse drums.

    Harmonies in “Silence” make the track worth it; the brushes with which the drums play 16th notes lend the listener the feeling that he’s on a train. “Before Departure” ends with a nice piano/harmonic duet. Harvey goes crazy at the end of “The Mountain,” really singing her heart out like she’s passionate.

    Harvey is too passive at times for this album to be strongly recommended. 3.5/5.
  • Random Album Reviews 5

    26 oct. 2007, 3h46m

    LiarsLiars: This New York group is currently one of two bands opening for Interpol on the latter’s “Our Love to Admire” tour. At first, I thought opener “Plaster Casts of Everything” would be boring since the same guitar riff persisted, but by the end of the song, it’s apparent this group might offer something more. “Houseclouds” is quite different, sampling the same synth pattern over and over. Electronica also pervades “Leather Prowler,” as the drum beats are highly processed. I really dig “Sailing to Byzantium” – who thought traveling to the Middle East could be so enjoyable? The second truly rock track on the LP comes in the form of “What Would They Know.”

    “Freak Out” is pure Frank Zappa, whether the band intended it to be or not. The processing of the singer’s voice is the same (the scratchy ‘60s-pop-style feel), as well as the song’s name – shared with the debut album of Zappa himself. Clinic must have influenced these guys as well – I can hear it in “Pure Unevil.” Dissonance marks “The Dumb in the Rain,” another Clinic-esque tune. A haunting organ closes “Protection.”

    The self-titled release from Liars got much stronger as it went on, and it outperforms the new album of the headlining act with which Liars is touring. 4.5/5.

    PelicanCity of Echoes: Think of a heavy metal Tool – that’s what I hear in opener “Bliss in Concrete,” which has no lyrics and ok riffs. “City of Labels” is fairly exciting; the two guitarists have different tones (a light tone and a rather distorted tone). The band strays closer to the post-rock genre in “Spaceship Broken Parts Needed.” I have to say that I was surprised to hear an acoustic track from these guys (“Winds with Hands”), but even more surprising was the fact that I really liked it.

    The album fizzled out toward the end. This band could really use a more imaginative drummer; the others guys are really talented, but the monotony of the songs becomes apparent with a lack of switching up the beat. 3/5.

    St. VincentMarry Me: This is the solo debut album for Polyphonic Spree member Annie Clark. For a change, I will be critiquing the album, but not individual songs. As I listen, I notice that the production layering changes frequently, sometimes even within songs (“Your Lips Are Red”). Clark’s voice relies more on vocal stylings and emotion to carry the songs than tremendous range or a beautiful tone. The songs themselves mix both pop and rock, never relying on one instrument to carry the day. The occasional psychedelic diversion (“Apocalypse Song”) appears, while jazz rears its head in spots (“Landmines,” “What Me Worry?”).

    Annie Clark cannot be pigeonholed, as this album demonstrates all too well. Consequently, you’ll never get bored listening to it multiple times. 4.5/5.

    The PonysTurn the Lights Out: The first track, “Double Vision,” is not a cover of Foreigner but a dirty guitar rocker. “Everyday Weapon” features different guitar textures at the same time, helping the track get along. The lyrics appear to take a backseat with this group. The melody and light guitar tone of “Small Talk” is superb. The title track features an organ playing over a blues pattern. The driving “1209 Seminary” witnesses the singer doing his best singer-from-Built to Spill impression while the instruments chug along like a Swervedriver shoegaze number.

    Guitars mean everything in this album, and “Shine” is yet another great guitar number. The textures and melody/countermelody are both divine here. I hear some Sonic Youth in “Poser Psychotic.” “Pickpocket Song” degenerates into a freak-out jam.

    The ideas ran out toward the end, but all in all, Turn the Lights Out is a good source of guitar rock. 3.5/5.

    WilcoSky Blue Sky: On the opener, “Either Way,” the band doesn’t sound much like the country indie rock juggernaut they’re made out to be. The guitar textures are rather pleasant, and the strings backing are an interesting touch. On the other hand, “You Are My Face” is unmistakably country. The tense guitar solo suddenly breaks into a harder rocking affair with organ – I didn’t see this coming at all. The tune wraps up as it began – understated. There are some Allman Brothers Band moments during the guitar solo in “Impossible Germany.”

    The title track, even with its slide guitar, is somewhat forgettable. The brushes the drummer uses are a good choice. Again, the guitar solo steals the show in “Side with the Seeds.” “Shake It Off” resembles “You Are My Face” in structure. The Eagles sound like they have been an influence on this band. Real attitude appears in “Walken,” at times a blues, and at times, a ditty with descending chords. It might be the best song here, although it’s disputable.

    “On and On and On” is a sad number to finish the affairs. Sky Blue Sky isn’t bad, but it doesn’t compare to the best material released this year. 3/5.

    Animal CollectiveStrawberry Jam: “Peacebone” takes a minute or so to settle in after an electronica haze, but its rolling three and highly distorted bass disappear seamlessly into the keyboards. The vocals are pretty crazy, and who knows whether the lyrics mean anything. “Unsolved Mysteries” inspiration appears to be the carnival; the vocals steal the show with high-pitched warbling amidst processed fury. The end of “Chores” has a drum-beat/synth sample, something the group does not partake in much.

    The sample in “For Reverend Green” literally makes me want to dance – it’s the best moment of the song so far, and guitars that sound somewhat normal join the proceedings later on. If it’s possible, “Fireworks” could top its predecessor in the style of a bittersweet march about somebody’s unrequited love. One sample is played in different ears at slightly different tempos in “#1,” quite an original idea. Panda Bear closes the album in grand style with “Derek,” shuffling along into an island beat.

    4.5/5.

    Queens of the Stone AgeEra Vulgaris: “Turnin on the Screw” has almost an industrial feel since a lot of synths accompany the heavy riffs and drums. The ending dwells on the same riff beneath drums and “do do do dos”; couldn’t the band think of something better? The singer sounds like the vocalist from Built to Spill. After the clunker “Sick Sick Sick,” “I’m Designer” gives the listener ample opportunity to get down, cascading a rain of syncopated guitar notes. The lonesome “Into the Hollow” uses some of the better guitar sounds of the ‘70s, and the riff is one of the better ones on the album. “Suture Up Your Future” contains organ as a counter to the guitars.

    The creativity of Era Vulgaris surprised me when considering the heavy riffs the band plays. 3.5/5.

    Iron And WineThe Shepherd’s Dog: “Pagan Angel and a Borrowed Car” shows how far Sam Beam has really come – no longer is one listening to a low-fi home studio recording – these thoughts are now fully fleshed out (including strings) on this rollicking track, perfectly suitable for a car trip far away from home. Something like a diminished feeling comes across “White Tooth Man,” replete with bongos and an Indian feeling toward the end. Organ leads the way, along with what sounds like slide guitar, in “Lovesong of the Buzzards.” The most magical song of the set thus far is “Carousel,” utilizing reverb-drenched vocals and acoustic guitar along with cascading harmonies toward the end.

    One legitimately feels bad for the shepherd’s dog in “Wolves (Song of the Shepherd’s Dog).” The bass dominates this reggae-ish effort, and the electric guitars lend a nice touch with minimal riffing. “Boy with a Coin” breaks out the slide guitar, most notably at the distorted ending into “The Devil Never Sleeps.”

    This is one of the year’s great LPs. 4.5/5.

    Bruce SpringsteenMagic: The E-Street Band is back: “Radio Nowhere” rocks out in its forlorn way (“This is radio nowhere / Is there anybody to love out there?”), even with a saxophone. “Livin’ in the Future” sounds just like “The Promised Land” (not sure whether this was intentional – it’s still a great tune). Bruce broke out the strings to color “Your Own Worst Enemy” – one of the man’s more heartfelt tunes from any era. “I’ll Work for Your Love” clearly displays the influences on bands such as The National. The beautiful folk heard in the title track is a recent wrinkle that the Boss, in his glory days, wasn’t weary enough to conceive.

    The Boss has rolled out a terrific album 25 years past his “prime.” Who would’ve guessed? 4.5/5.

    The Go! TeamProof of Youth: It’s quite clear what this band has in mind for all interested listeners: providing the impetus for a dance party. “Grip Like a Vice” will attract both those interested in said dance party as well as guitar music. Without too much trouble, one recognizes the Motown sound of “Doing It Right.” All of a sudden, keyboards and acoustic guitar lead the way in “My World.” “Titanic Vandalism” resembles the first two tracks. For those into rap, “Keys to the City” comes rather close – albeit with lots of horns, guitars, and drumming.

    “I Never Needed It Now So Much” is the closest to a sad song on this album – but it’s really just full of desperation; its sound is easily forgotten after listening to “Flashlight Fight,” which is truly rap. The last track, “Patricia’s Moving Picture,” might be the most joyous, an instrumental without precedent to my ears.

    This album falls short of essential, but none will give you a better pick-me-up. 4/5.

    Magik MarkersBOSS: “Axis Mundi” begins with a jolt of noise emanating from an electric guitar, and then the song proper starts after about 30 seconds; the rest of the song is nothing special – it really drones on, although the focus seems to be on the lyrics. More guitars create noise at 4:30 in a collective soloing effort; the band is brought back nicely by one of the guitars.

    “Body Rot” recalls some of Sonic Youth’s late-‘80s efforts. The endless rhyming on “Last of the Lemach Line” is really too much to handle. For a sad, piano-laden track, consider “Empty Bottles”; its deviation from the norm of experimentalism is quite refreshing. A second awesome track in a row, “Taste,” motors along due to a bluesy synthesizer.

    Magik Markers have created an album that captivates at times, but also loses its way and bores the listener in spots. 2.5/5.
  • Random Album Reviews 4

    29 sept. 2007, 4h51m

    PrimusMiscellaneous Debris: This collection of B-sides kicks off with a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “Intruder.” What made me buy the album, though, was track #2, a cover of XTC’s “Making Plans for Nigel.” Obviously, the bass is way louder, and the pace is quicker, but the real treat is a short but sweet bass solo by Les Claypool towards the end. “Sinister Exaggerator” is a cover of The Residents, of whom I have never heard. A great groove is laid down in “Tippi Toes.” Too bad it’s only 1:26 long. Ending this eclectic menagerie is Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” including an interesting guitar solo.

    This set gets 3.5/5 for some interesting choices of covers.

    PrimusFrizzle Fry: “To Defy the Laws of Tradition” includes guitar melodies not typical of later Primus, as the guitar line hovers around the same three or four notes. The melody of “Groundhog’s Day” has a lot left to be desired; same with “Too Many Puppies,” which plods along. “Frizzle Fry” is the first truly good song on the album, which is not a good thing, but at the very least it includes some amazing bass work by Les Claypool starting with about a minute and a half left under Larry LaLonde’s guitar solo.

    It isn’t until “Harold of the Rocks” that another solid track comes along. The bridge includes a “Dazed and Confused”-like (Led Zeppelin) bass line with some Jimmy Page-worthy guitar riffing.

    This was not an auspicious beginning for Primus. 2.5/5.

    DungenTa det lugnt: This album, Dungen’s first full-length effort from 2005, begins with some jazz-rock while “Gjort Bort Sig” is psychedelic rock along the lines of early Pink Floyd. A great piece of pop is “Festival.” The string quartet at the beginning of “Du Ar For Fin For Mig” is EXTREMELY sad, but toward the end, it transitions into quite the Jimi Hendrix-esque jam. Toward the end of the title track, a sax noodles over a bass, drums, and piano rhythm section. “Det Du Tanker Idag Ar Du I Morgon” has an absolutely gorgeous piano line as well as some flute thrown in there in three.

    The second disc has five bonus tracks that are much shorter than many on the first disc, but they are for the most part solid as well.

    This could be one of the top 100 albums I’ve ever heard. 5/5.

    Death Cab for CutieThe Photo Album: “Steadier Footing” begins the album on, for lack of a better term, a shaky foot. The singing doesn’t get much worse than you’ll hear on that track, and the acoustics are fragile as well. Song three, “We Laugh Indoors,” is the first solid track; the band decides to get serious and play a rocking track. The drums drive the track along with sonically-revved guitars and distorted vocals. The light “Why You’d Want to Live Here” is positively an album highlight, as it still manages to rock in three alternating with four in spots; there’s even a hint of a guitar solo in the bridge of the song! “Coney Island” and “Debate Exposes Doubt” are good songs to end the album, but it was very so-so, overall. 2.5/5.

    The FramesThe Cost: The violins in “Song for Someone” coincide with a powerful section of music to entrance the listener. “People Get Ready” steadily crescendos yet lacks a certain attitude that would make it really great. The singer comes alive in “Rise” – finally, some passion is displayed in his soaring tenor. The same holds true in “Minds Made Up,” and the violin has another timely part as the song goes through some really cool chord changes. In addition, the title track really crunches.

    While this review has been brief, The Cost didn’t grip me, even upon multiple listens. There are some good tunes here, but I detect untapped potential. 3/5.

    CaribouAndorra: It’s hard not to be mesmerized by “Melody Day.” An array of synthesizers, drums, and guitars attack the listener with a melody that boggles the mind in its infectiousness. “Sandy” is psychedelic pop, making use of bass, guitars, drums, and a wide variety of synthesizer sounds to create something falling between The Beatles and The Moody Blues stylistically. As I continue to listen to the album, I find its greatest strength to be the use of light drums. These lock “After Hours” into a groove in spots while the vocalist glides over the instruments.

    You’ll find more ‘60s pop channeled into “Desiree,” which starts off as a melancholy number but reveals itself to be hopeful while abounding with harps and flutes not unlike recent Mercury Rev material. “Eli” will truly remind one of a Beatles tune. The drums are much heavier in “Sundialing” beneath many flutes. It is the most unique song on the album as its sunny disposition is communicated through the drums as much as the other instruments. The lean on synthesizers in “Irene” casts a mysterious spell over the proceedings.

    4.5/5.

    Minus the BearPlanet of Ice: This is only the second Minus the Bear record I’ve heard, and it’s the first LP for me. “Burying Luck” isn’t nearly as impressive as something from They Make Beer Commercials Like This. The soundscape of “Ice Monster” isn’t all-encompassing, but the wavy synths and guitars do a pretty good job – and this is before the end, which is rather innovative with hand-clapping interspersed with wailing guitars. I thought my CD player had hiccupped, but the transition from “Ice Monster” to “Knights” was deliberately stuttering. The latter has an awesome guitar solo, something I haven’t heard from the band, and is definitely single-worthy.

    The bass goes large in “White Mystery.” “Part 2” screams Pink Floyd with its lonely guitars, and the edgy distortion in “When We Escape” sounds rather tasteful. The epic “Lotus” closes the set with more Floydian ideas (“Echoes” especially comes to mind).

    3.5/5.

    Ted Leo and the PharmacistsLiving With The Living: The first proper song, “The Sons of Cain” makes use of rapid-fire guitar lines with active bass lines. Both electric and acoustic guitars are represented here, and hand-clapping makes an appearance as well. The line between punk and rock is blurred for sure. “Who Do You Love?” reminds me of The Clash circa London Calling (although the lyrics do not). “A Bottle of Buckie” succeeds purely because of the memorable guitar melody. Something like a recorder plays part of the bridge briefly (rather unexpected).

    The political message of “Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.” Is punctuated by drum rolls and guitars that sound just like guns toward the end. A song that out-reggaes many you’ll come across is “The Unwanted Things.” The triumphant sound of “Some Beginner’s Mind” is simply awesome – more memories of The Clash.

    This LP was really long, but for the most part, it’s worth it. Not a bad introduction to this band. 4/5.

    PrimusRhinoplasty: This is a second EP of covers that were never released as b-sides because Primus did not consider themselves to be a singles band. However, unlike the first cover album, these were never intended to be b-sides. Another XTC cover comes in the form of “Scissor Man.” The first, “Making Plans for Nigel,” can be found on the Miscellaneous Debris cover EP. “Scissor Man” is terrific, unlike “Making Plans for Nigel.” So is a Peter Gabriel number, “The Family and the Fishing Net”; the bass is huge, and guitarist Larry Lalonde knows just how to complement Les Claypool.

    A really cool cover is that of “Behind My Camel” by The Police. Metallica’s “The Thing That Should Not Be is the end of the original EP. The listener receives a taste of what Claypool would have sounded like on a Metallica song – the band rejected him as their bassist after deciding he was “too good.” Two live tracks, “Tommy the Cat” and “Bob’s Party Time Lounge,” end the set. The latter is more impressive – the band sounds tighter, and the solos are more focused.

    This is a much better EP than Miscellaneous Debris. 4.5/5.

    PrimusAntipop: This, so far, has proven to be Primus’s final album. “Electric Uncle Sam” is a worthy opener; “The Antipop” has a tradeoff between the bass and drums that allows the guitar to riff mercilessly, and the lyrics even fit in rhythmically. “Eclectic Electric” is a cross between reggae, Pink Floyd space rock, and punk. Unfortunately, “Mama Didn’t Raise No Fool” isn’t very creative lyrically.

    There are a few more highlights in the album, but all in all, it sounds like a tired effort. Most of the songs follow the same pattern of ideas (even if the ideas themselves are different). Did Les Claypool get bored? 2.5/5.

    A Silver Mt. ZionHorses in the Sky: Album opener “God Bless Our Dead Marines” is rather desolate; the singer makes mention of the fact that few really cared about their death when it happened (World War II?). Besides strings, the band makes use of various instruments (perhaps household items?) for percussion in addition to the piano and electric guitar as the song picks up. The singer (Efrim is his name) does a much better job here, to my recollection, than on “This Is Our Punk-Rock," Thee Rusted Satellites Gather + Sing. The last three minutes or so is spent singing a capella at first (well, with only piano) – Efrim, a boy’s choir, and perhaps other band members all join in for an EXTREMELY emotional ending. How sad and pretty.

    “Mountains Made of Steam” reverses the introduction of the instruments by starting with guitar and bass and adding low strings later. Efrim and his female companion ominously sing “The angels in your palm / Sing gentle worried songs.” Violins are added during this time, enveloping a wide range of frequencies with the cello and bass already present. The singalong acoustic title track thrusts across the political message of the LP, focusing on domestic issues (poor education, posh prisons). The organ toward the end while Efrim and company sing “Please be well” is mindblowing. After critiquing Canada in “Teddy Roosevelt’s Guns,” the band takes a psychedelic departure with guitar and strings. Drums kick the band into another gear to finish it off.

    My eyes tear a little listening to “Hang on to Each Other.” Not only is the organ forlorn, but the lyrics are tinged with loss: “So this one’s for the lost ones / And the dead ones and the ones who fell away / All our busted brothers / Tumbled lovers spitting at the rain.” The final number, “Ring Them Bells (Freedom Has Come and Gone),” makes use of bongos after the initial beginning with the usual instrumentation; the song goes in three. A little after the 3:00 mark, the violins jump to the front of the mix playing eighth note runs. Following this, the band opts for just bass plodding along in 6/8 with the guitar playing triplet runs (the other strings join a little later). The transition back to three is quite smooth, and the ensemble quiets to a pianissimo. Electric guitar and string bass bring the band back, eventually joined by piano and distorted guitars underneath. Efrim notes during this final section that while it’s difficult for soldiers to kill in battle, it’s just as hard for citizens at home to watch the all the tragedies of war on TV. The distorted ending leaves the listener tense, to say the least.

    This unequivocally ASMZ’s best record (of the three I’ve heard). 4.5/5.
  • Random Album Reviews 3

    11 sept. 2007, 6h09m

    Bat for LashesFur and Gold: “Horse and I” begins the album with a solemn harpsichord and medieval-sounding drums; the woman singer could very well have a husband going off to war from the sound of it. The bass is loud in “Trophy,” playing minor thirds under a male-female duet and dissonant guitars – a sweet track. Something that sounds like a mandolin opens “Tahiti,” with piano joining shortly thereafter – the track won’t remind one of Tahiti at all, though. I don’t care for the depressing ballad “Sad Eyes.” “The Wizard” is a cool bass- and guitar-backed piece that comes off as a hip-hop song, but with much more interesting vocals.

    “Priscilla” is a nice piece of pop that makes use of hand-clapping along with piano to form a strong beat over which the singer’s voice soars along with backup harmonies – and the harpsichord makes its return right at the end. The haunting “Seal Jubilee” starts off as nearly an a cappella duet and then builds, adding guitar, piano, and other instruments at various times. Pretty cool track. The bass has a real attitude on “Sarah.” “I Saw a Light” is a bit too drawn-out and quiet; I didn’t really get it.

    This album reminded me a lot of Bring Me the Workhorse by My Brightest Diamond. 3.5/5.

    Buffalo TomThree Easy Pieces: The solid country rock of “Bad Phone Call” kicks off the album. The title track has solid instrumentals, but the vocals sound annoying. It isn’t until “Renovating” that another decent track comes along, and it’s not all that great, having so-so lyrics.

    I wasn’t really impressed by this album: country rock with a little The Hold Steady flavor in there, but there was nothing special about the lyrics or the instrumentation. 2.5/5.

    The EditorsAn End Has A Start: The singer sounds a bit like Interpol’s vocalist. The opening track has guitars like those of The Twilight Sad. The title track is very exciting, featuring wailing guitars over a rhythm guitar and bass. “The Weight of the World” has just ok lyrics, largely negating a nice instrumental break. An Interpol-like track is “Bones,” not only with the singer, but also with the instrumentation. “When Anger Shows” suffers from a lot of singing on the beat, four times per measure – not an interesting choice of lyrics; this is too bad, because the drums kick in from a nice instrumental beat.

    Juiced guitars drive “The Racing Rats,” but here is another track that just does not sweep me away. The best song I’ve heard thus far is “Escape the Nest,” with exciting guitars and a not-too-predictable singing pattern.

    The frequent boring, first-person lyrics made this album dull. 2.5/5.

    Favourite SonsDown Beside Your Beauty: Whoa, album opener “When You’re Away from Me” uses “favorite son” in its lyrics at one point. Its guitar line is pretty nice; a good start to the LP. The title track has a different beat with hand-clapping than the first two songs, and “The Tall Grass” has a great beat with some nice bass work underneath. A punk song is “Rise Up,” having drums play every beat four a couple measures followed by the bass for a couple of measures.

    “ ‘Round Here” drives with a bass-lead attack supplemented by a solid drum beat and grungy guitars, sounding like the theme to a Western. Another decent ditty is “Hang on, Girl,” made distinctive with humming in unison with the guitars (making it sound like The Spinto Band a little). For an anthemic number, “The Things That We Do to Each Other” fits the bill.

    Nice moments can be found here. 3.5/5.

    Gogol BordelloMulti Kontra Culti: The first song is truly great, “When the Trickster Starts a-Pokin’ (Bordello Kind of Guy)”; it starts with an accordion and then adds saxes before the vocals come in with guitars – gypsy punk rock at its finest (think of a Ukranian Franz Ferdinand). Some Latin flavor is thrown into the mix for “Occurrence on the Border.” A sax brings in “Haltura” along with guitar and bass. “Future Kings” is rather distinctive with an unusual guitar line backed by accordion and sax. Accordion and bari sax trade off for eight measures.

    A slower number accentuating beats two and four is “Through the Roof ‘n’ Underground.” A really cool acoustic track is “Hats Off to Kolpakoff,” with some really nice guitar work and a pace that accelerates into the end.

    This is a pretty cool LP from one of the most distinctive bands out there. 4.5/5.

    Okkervil RiverThe Stage Names: The piano- and guitar-led attack of “Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe” starts off the album on the right note. The riff in “Unless It’s Kicks” is really crisp, and synths come in for the bridge along with a different drum beat. “A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene” makes use of tambourines and horns at various points, along with handclapping, to create a sunny aura. Slide guitar in “A Girl in Port” lends a country flavor to the ballad. “You Can’t Hold the Hand of a Rock and Roll Man” witnesses the use of a cello along with handclapping and horns to accentuate a country rock flavor.

    “Title Track” is interesting, as it lapses between a cappella singing and a cool guitar/drums/strings suite. The final number, “John Allyn Smith Sails,” ends with a partial cover of The Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B,” a humorous conclusion to an introspective album.

    I felt like the band could have put a little more into it, but overall, the quality was very good. 4/5.
  • My Morning Jacket and The National Album Reviews

    14 août 2007, 22h52m

    My Morning JacketThe Tennessee Fire: My Morning Jacket’s 1999 debut, The Tennessee Fire has been lost to the sands of time. In just eight short years, the band’s recent material has netted the group much acclaim amongst music critics and fans alike – rendering this LP moot (practically). However, some of the most emotional, forlorn songs I’ve ever heard appear on this very disc. Take the opener, “Heartbreakin Man”: it’s hard not to do both the head bob and cry at the same time as Jim James sings, “Twenty times I wish you’d understand / That you’re breakin’ the heart of this heartbreakin’ man.” The reverb drenched “They Ran” has wonderful harmonies and a prominent bass line. One of the songs that has persisted longer than most others on the album, “The Bear” combines a strong drum pattern with a lonely guitar line.

    “Nashville to Kentucky” is an incredibly beautiful and sad acoustic number. You can tell fall’s coming for “Old September Blues,” as James sings, “All alone at the end of the day / Really tired it’s time to hit the hay.” A nice little acoustic love song is “If All Else Fails” – the lyrics, “And if all else fails, I’ll come runnin’ back, wonderin’ where you went with my heart,” are sincere. Hints of the band’s southern-rock tendencies more obvious later in their career is evident in “It’s About Twilight Now.” For a “hit,” “Evelyn Is Not Real” comes close as any on this record. “War Begun” is a desperate-sounding acoustic track. The acoustic strumming is passionate in “I Will Be There When You Die,” a truly moving number. “The Dark” starts as a psychedelic mood piece and then transforms into a riff-based rock song.

    The rest of the album falls off a little bit, but ¾ of it comprises some of my favorite music of all time. 4.5/5.

    My Morning JacketAt Dawn: The title track opens the album with some Eastern-sounding music. “Lowdown” is a nice rock track with acoustic guitar playing some triplets to wrap up the song. The Neil Young-esque harmonica is brought out for “Death Is My Sleazy Pay,” which slithers along with a Southern rock attitude. The acoustic picking toward the end of “Hopefully” makes the song worth it. “Don’t let your silly dreams fall in between the crack of the bed and the wall,” James sings in “Bermuda Highway.”

    “Honest Man” is some truly nice Southern rock featuring great guitar solos, but it doesn’t remind one of either Lynyrd Skynyrd or The Allman Brothers Band; My Morning Jacket has a sound all their own. The song almost brings to mind some of the blues artists from the ‘20s and ‘30s such as Willie Dixon or later guys like B.B. King. The band breaks out steel drums for “Xmas Curtain,” also featuring piano; the guitars at the end are reminiscent of Derek and the Dominos. “If It Smashes Down” is a bit more like The Tennessee Fire material, as is “I Needed It Most”; the latter is rather emotional, and the instrumental break is nice, as is the organ, acoustic rhythm guitar, and electric guitar strumming triplets. “Strangulation” jams out in the last two minutes or so, and then the wonderful “Untitled Instrumental,” the instrumental break from “I Needed It Most” remixed, closes the album on a bleak, extremely emotional note.

    An effort that rocks out more than the debut. 4.5/5.

    My Morning JacketIt Still Moves: Neil Young might as well have joined the band for “Mahgeeta,” which combines Young’s Southern rock style with calypso music. “Dancefloors” could be Lynyrd Skynyrd and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band redux. The best song from this album is “One Big Holiday,” a real rocker that features an ascending 16th note pattern and some great guitar soloing. Several movements are found in “I Will Sing You Songs, including a quiet ballad, a brash shout section, and a calypso island section to finish.

    “Run Thru” upholds the mantle of The Allman Brothers Band, and it’s one of the best songs here; it transitions in the middle to an exciting double-time jam. Another lengthy jam is “Steam Engine,” offering more emotive singing by Jim James than most of the other songs on this album.

    Yeah, the album’s too long at 71 minutes, but it offers a ton of great Southern rock. 4/5.

    My Morning JacketZ: “Wordless Chorus” begins the album with reggae beats – interesting. MIDI horns provide another layer above, well, interesting beats by the drums as well as interesting guitars. It Still Moves lingers on in the solid rock numbers “Gideon” and “What a Wonderful Man.” Reggae is especially evident in “Off the Record,” which has a wonderful guitar line; this is probably my favorite on the album so far – and then a transition into The Mars Volta-esque mellotron! Nice!

    “Lay Low” reminds me of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road material by Elton John. The slide guitar makes an appearance in “Knot Comes Loose.”

    A diverse album, one that makes the anticipation for the fifth album even greater. 4.5/5.

    My Morning JacketChapter 1: The Sandworm Cometh: This is a collection of recordings from early in MMJ’s career. “Weeks Go by Like Days” is a great track that could have been a better choice on The Tennessee Fire than a few tracks that made it on there; it reminds me a bit of Elton John. The band covers Jefferson Airplane with “White Rabbit” in a Middle Eastern-ized version of the song. The hazy “Downtown” sounds a bit like Bright Eyes, with whom Jim James has collaborated. The upbeat, straightforward “I Just Wanted to Be Your Friend” features a really loud bass in one of James’ most mainstream compositions.

    The acoustic version of “They Ran” is better than The Tennessee Fire version and probably would have fit better on the album. However, the “Evelyn Is Not Real” version heard here doesn’t do much for me. “Isobella with the White Umbrella” is a pretty song, as is “Josta Dreams and Bitter Hands.” An interesting take is “Olde September Blues (Ga-ed Out),” featuring a ‘50s doo-wop style beginning in three before the proper song begins; this could be the best cut here (I love this song, anyway, so I’m probably biased). “Somebody Cares About the Maestro” is hauntingly depressing with odd synth sounds and highly reverbed voices. The set ends with a cover of “Rocket Man” by Elton John, one of my favorites by him. Another pretty song.

    A great collection of unreleased tracks from my favorite My Morning Jacket era (thus far). 4/5.

    The NationalBoxer: This is the indie rock band’s 2007 release. “Fake Empire” begins the proceedings with a lonesome three that doesn’t add snare drums and high hat until the last minute and a half or so. The guitar solo along with the horn section playing intervals sounds GREAT. The beginning of “Mistaken for Strangers” comes straight out of the Sonic Youth catalog. The drumming at the beginning of “Brainy” keeps a tasty beat at a fast pace. It is the drumming again that captures the spotlight in “Squalor Victoria,” ramming away 16th notes as a horn quartet plays a forlorn suite followed by a piano; this could be one of my favorites on the album.

    “Slow Show” is a pretty acoustic number with accordions toward the end. “Racing Like a Pro” is an emotional, piano-laden song that tugs at the emotions with the strings and horns at the end. The LP ends with “Gospel,” another acoustic track that may reference the war in Iraq.

    The subdued style of the band along with nice instrumentation and good songwriting makes The Boxer a winner. 4.5/5.

    The NationalAlligator: The guitars chime like starved children in the song “Secret Meeting”; the singer notes, “I had a secret meeting in the basement of my brain.” “Lit Up” crunches along as electric guitars provide rhythm along with the drums. Some violin can be heard in “Looking for Astronauts,” a seemingly nonsensical song. The Hispanic rhythms of “Friend of Mine” are assisted by electric guitars. “All the Wine” has solid drumming along with both electric and acoustic guitar. The Arcade Fire can be heard in the uptempo rocker “Abel.”

    Woodwinds as well as strings can be heard in “Geese of Beverly Road,” perhaps my favorite song on the album. Album closer “Mr. November” finds the singer opining, “I wish that I believe in faith.” Alligator is more electrified than The Boxer, but is of just as high quality. 4.5/5.

    The NationalThe National: This is the band’s 2001 debut effort. “Beautiful Head” is a laid-back acoustic number with organ. The singer sounds some like Johnny Cash, especially on “The Perfect Song.” Another straightforward rock song is “American Mary,” containing both acoustic and electric guitars. For a different flavor, “Son” combines a quite different drum beat (maybe some tom-toms in there?) with lilting guitars. Slide guitar (as well as a cheesy chorus) makes an appearance in the country rock of “Pay for Me.”

    “Watching You Well” is another ditty with slide guitar (and acoustic picking) to go with brushes on the snare drums on 2 and 4. The slow, loud three of “Theory of the Crows” contrasts nicely with the introverted nature of the rest of the album. “You know I dreamed about you for 29 years before I saw you” – these are the simple, heartfelt words in the organ-led dirge of “29 Years.”

    This is a nice start to the band’s career, but it doesn’t hint at the diversity evident in their music several years later. 4/5.

    The NationalSad Songs for Dirty Lovers: “Cardinal Song” kicks off the album with a cathartic organ- and slide guitar-led dirge. It is a departure for the band, which rarely strays from the 3 to 4 minute range for its song lengths. The song transitions into an instrumental, which halfway through changes pace to include strings and acoustic guitar with piano before the singer jumps back in. The intensity of “Slipping Husband” simmers until the singer screams like I haven’t heard from him in the other three albums I heard before. “It Never Happened” breaks down into a jam that adds organ right before the end. The singer sounds legitimately bummed-out singing “Thirsty,” which is only reinforced by the instrumentation. The climax is a definite highlight, featuring strings.

    Some truly awesome rock is heard in “Available,” featuring great guitar lines and the singer imploring, “Why did you dress me down?” Crap, he’s really into it. “Everywhere I am is just another thing without you in it,” “Fashion Coat” states. A danceable track is “Patterns of Fairytales.”

    This is The National’s most immediately satisfying album. 4.5/5.
  • Random Album Reviews 2

    11 août 2007, 22h02m

    Andrew BirdArmchair Apocrypha: “Fiery Crash” is a “chill” rock song with laid-back drums, synths that mimic strings, as well as an actual cello. The bridge in “Imitosis” also makes heavy use of strings, including mandolin; the staccato pickings of the electric guitar make for an exotic feel to the proceedings. A “hit” is “Heretics,” rocking out louder than the previous numbers and having a tastier beat provided by the drums. A string quartet commences “Armchairs,” and then a piano takes over before Bird starts singing. “Darkmatter,” intensely rhythmic, reminds one of a U2 or Doves tune with the edgy guitars and the strong drums on one and three.

    Hip-hop influences can be heard in “Simple X,” which contains complex rhythms that lay down a danceable groove. I’m not sure what “Scythian Empires” are, but I wouldn’t mind visiting them given the light, xylophone-studded track. The LP closes with a depressing string piece, “Yawny at the Apocalypse,” which does not serve as a decent album closer, IMO.

    The intensive use of strings in Armchair Apocrypha grounds the album in a earthy sort of way, and it seems that Bird writes intensely intellectual lyrics, but I could have used just a bit more excitement from the album. 3.5/5.

    Patrick WolfThe Magic Position: The numerous layers of “Overture” led by strings do not overshadow Wolf, whose distinctive manner of singing sets him apart from other indie singer-songwriters. He leaves his mark by really digging into the lyrics.
    A bassoon and Motown-like string line lend “The Magic Position” with a joyous tone. “Accident & Emergency” is a quite danceable number with plenty of glockenspiel. The interplay between two imaginary characters with different voices in “Magpie” demonstrates Wolf’s storytelling gift.

    “Augustine” witnesses Wolf playing an ominous acoustic guitar while asking, “Is this what it should be? Well, is it?” Video gamers will love the end of “Get Lost,” which sound suspiciously like music from the Mario series. A jazz ballad, complete with string bass, is “Enchanted.” For a pretty cool crossover track (hip-hop/electronica), “The Stars” is worth a try. “Finale” makes for a suitable ending, essentially an extended fermata with strings before a little glockenspiel at the end.

    Wolf has crafted an eclectic mix of music that isn’t a completely cohesive album but yet manages to individually wow at certain points. 4/5.

    TurisasThe Varangian Way: This is a progressive metal band. The opener, “To Holmgard and Beyond,” is really cheesy, with MIDI horn arrangements that I could have made on Finale NotePad; the singer doesn’t have a good voice, either. The Viking backup chorus made me laugh out loud.

    One of the few songs to stick out is the Middle Age-marketplace-reminding “In the Court of Jarisleif.”

    This album was terrible because of the vocalist, save one song. I couldn’t stop laughing out loud. 1.5/5.

    InterpolOur Love to Admire: “Pioneer to the Falls” has a huge bass and authoritative drums that, coupled with a depressing guitar line, give the song an ominous feel; the guitar solo in the second half of the bridge reinforces these notions. There is something of a pop feel to “No I in Threesome” that is cleverly disguised in minor chords but exposed with piano. Hit single “The Heinrich Maneuver” is solidly crafted pop, but not a complete standout tune like “Pioneer to the Falls.” The climax of “Mammoth” is assisted with fake strings, contrasted by the low-key beginning of “Pace Is the Trick” (haven’t I heard something like this intro before by the band?).

    The band sounds genuinely excited in “All Fired Up,” a song that breaks from hard rocking for a cool hand-clapping bridge. Complex arrangements are few and far in between on Our Love to Admire, and “Rest My Chemistry” is no exception – but this newest trend isn’t a bad thing for Interpol by any means; they’ve already put out two depressingly enigmatic albums – why not take a break from it? The Arcade Fire could have written “Wrecking Ball” (not that I’m complaining, though). Exiting the album, “The Lighthouse” sounds like a funeral dirge.

    This is a different sound for Interpol, yet a welcome departure. 4/5.

    LCD SoundsystemSound Of Silver: The sunny melody of “Someone Great” is augmented with glockenspiel despite the death of the subject’s wife in childbirth. “All My Friends” has a bass line more typically heard in a punk song, but the piano and drums driving the song make for a unique sound. The catchiest song thus far, by far, is “North American Scum,” which is a mix of pop, rock, and dance at its finest: “New York’s the greatest / If you get someone to play the rent.” The message of “Time to Get Away” is simple, and even the mundane observations say something: “Our eyes never lie.” The title track harkens back to all our pasts with the oh-so-true words, “Sound of silver talk to me, makes you want to feel like a teenager / Until you remember the feelings of a real live emotional teenager, then you think again.” Arrays of keyboard instruments, and later, a loud bass, carry the instrumentation. The rest of the album is similarly excellent, and “New York I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down” is a pop tune in three that morphs into a rock tune to close out the album with a bang.

    4.5/5.

    Manic Street PreachersSend Away the Tigers: The bombast of the opening title track recalls some of the band’s best moments from Everything Must Go. The band plays punk now, as is evidenced by “Underdogs,” but the passionate playing doesn’t render the song as derivative. “Your Love Is Not Enough” includes guest vocalist Nina Persson, and the guitars are as strong as ever. Apparently, the band rewrote Everything Must Go’s “A Design for Life,” creating “Indian Summer.” I haven’t listened to the former much, so I can’t comment on that, but the latter has a great melody. Check out the guitar solo in “The Second Great Depression”; it’s not the best out there, but is certainly adds to the track.

    Disguised pop is “Autumnsong,” one of the weaker ones on the LP. ‘80s rock is channeled into “I’m Just a Patsy,” which sounds a bit like Def Leppard. “Winterlovers,” the closer, is a nice piece of pop, but the hilarious “nah-nah-nah” backup vocals don’t do it justice. The hidden track, “Working Class Hero,” doesn’t put John Lennon’s version to shame but fits well on this album.

    A solid effort by the band. 3.5/5.

    Panda BearPerson Pitch: “Comfy in Nautica” features hand clapping along with a repeated note by a chorus, leading to a sunny disposition. Tambourines and bass creates a Motown-like feeling in “Take Pills” before the bass and more hand clapping sort of spiral the song into psychedelia. Lots of reverb color “Bros,” demonstrating that Panda Bear wants to create that ‘60s Beach Boys sound. Around 3:23, shakers add another layer to the over 12-minute-long track. By 6:45, the guitars start to take over miscellaneous sounds and people’s voices with a The Who-worthy riff. Religious music ideas surround “I’m Not,” and the feeling imparted on the listener is quite heavenly.

    African music is the source of inspiration for “Good Girl/Carrots,” for the bongo drums make the track rather danceable. Towards the end of the number, carousel music effectively provides the backdrop for some nice harmonies.

    This was a nice change from most of the rock I’ve been listening to lately. 4.5/5.

    They Might Be GiantsThe Else: With “I’m Impressed,” a serious track that emphasizes beats two and four with drum hits, I wonder if “Istanbul” is the norm or the departure for this band. The pop/rock of “Take Out the Trash” has a real attitude, although “Upside Down Frown” could use a little more investment from the band. A baritone saxophone makes its appearance in “Climbing the Walls” to accentuate the sunny, teenage personality of the song. “The Cap’m” stands as one of the great songs released this year – infectious, great guitar line, sweet melody – what’s not to like? The horn line jumping into “With the Dark” from the cowboy western-styled beginning was quite a surprise, and then some harmonica and odd synth sounds enter, making me laugh. This band can have fun without being too weird. Overall, the song is a 3:17-long medley, which hardly seems possible.

    Behind the pop-punk of “The Shadow Government” lays a political statement: “Where’s the shadow government when you need it?” Hardly could a more ironic statement be crafted. The singer sounds a bit like the frontman of Dada on “Withered Hope” as the song transforms into a jazzy hip-hop song by the end. Predictably, “Feign Amnesia” is a laugh riot, but the band made the harmonies work. The final track, “The Mesopotamians,” upholds the rich tradition that the band has creating hilarious historically-drenched lyrics.

    The Else got much stronger as it went on. 4.5/5.

    DadaA Friend of Pat Robertson: dada is best known for their 1994 album, Puzzle, but they have fallen into obscurity since then. They haven’t been known for great acoustic numbers, but “A Friend of Pat Robertson” sounds good to me. The guitar solos in “7 dot 1” sound as good as ever. A real rocker is “Emily Sang to Me.” “If Tears Were Balloons” has the band shooting for the country-rock sound with success.

    Not a bad effort for a band that has been all but left for dead. 3.5/5.

    Velvet RevolverLibertad: The hard rock band starts this album with “Let It Roll,” which is an exciting piece of rock. Heavy guitars mesh with solid vocals in “She Mine,” the latter reminding me of Dada’s singer. The sexual metaphors in “She Builds Quick Machines” are amusing, but the smooth bridge with sparse drumming contrasts nicely with the bombastic chorus. The best song thus far is “The Last Fight,” featuring a cool intro and some acoustic guitar with a tasty electric guitar (and even piano!). “American Man” is more of the same – decent guitar solos, a loud chorus and quiet bridge, and not much else.

    “Mary Mary” has a guitar solo that isn’t all that great – I doubt the guitar player’s ability; at least the songwriting isn’t terrible. The targeted age bracket that Velvet Revolver hopes to attract is quite clear with the title of “Just Sixteen.” Also, a correction – the guitar player (Slash from Guns ‘N’ Roses, I believe) can definitely play – he probably took “Mary Mary” off. A most unexpected track followed – a cover of The Electric Light Orchestra’s “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” sped up and having a VERY nice guitar solo. The final track, “Spay,” is a faster track than most of the others and is marginally more interesting and exciting.

    This wasn’t too bad, but the band’s name recognition with Slash carries it farther than the band itself could. 3.5/5.

    Arctic MonkeysFavourite Worst Nightmare: The variety shown in “Brainstorm” shows that the band has made an effort to spice up their instrumentation; many different sections are included, and the main guitar riff is catchy. “Teddy Picker” has a similar guitar riff as “Brainstorm” in that they both rely on chromatics, but the bridge has different sounds, and the A section returns with a tastily dissonant guitar solo. What’s nice is the middle section of “D Is for Dangerous,” breaking down and slowly climaxing into the end. Something truly different shows up in “Balaclava,” beginning with vocals and bass, then adding guitar and drums, and later bass and vocals again. Guitars and drums take over for a bit, then the bass jumps in with a tricky line in unison with the guitar. This sounds like the stand-out of the album, as bass and woodblock carry a really cool line into the end.

    Whoa, an organ in “Fluorescent Adolescent”! It adds to a song that actually has a melody to speak of. “Only Ones Who Knows” comes off like a country tune a bit with what sounds like a slide guitar – it stays slow and never brings in drums, which is a nice change of pace for the band. The drum-led “Do Me a Favour” changes with about 45 seconds to go into an emotional climax with active basswork. The first track I don’t like too much is “This House Is a Circus” since it has more chromatic lines that I’m sick of. The 3:14 mark of “If You Were There, Beware” has an organ line that sounds oddly familiar (Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun,” perhaps?), but I can’t place it. Either way, it’s quite startling next to the A section, which is unbridled punk. “505” ends the album with a measure of uncertainty (and an Interpol-worthy guitar riff).

    Better than their debut. 4/5.

    The White StripesIcky Thump: The White Stripes’ latest release, Icky Thump begins with the title track. Jack White sounds just like Robert Plant here, while the music itself is grungy blues through and through (with Les Claypool-strong bass to boot). “You Don’t Know What Love Is (You Just Do As You’re Told)” breaks into a guitar solo really high in the register. Despite the title, “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues” isn’t really a blues at all but a well-crafted pop song – that is, except for the four-measure-or-so bridge.

    It’s great to hear something other than a blues from the duo – witness “Conquest,” a song full of chromatics and minor chords dressed by horns for a jaunt through Spain. One of my favorites is the acoustic jingle “Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn.” Jack White is down in the dumps singing “Little Cream Soda.”

    The diversity of Icky Thump waned a little toward the end, but it still sounded pretty good to me. 4/5.
  • CDs Bought in June and July 2007 and Reviewed

    28 jui. 2007, 3h07m

    6/2:

    The Mars VoltaDe-Loused in the Comatorium: The full-length debut of The Mars Volta in 2003 was not just a success – it forced its way onto the music scene like a Level 5 hurricane. Songwriting of the highest quality and obscenely talented musicianship blend together in this record, progressive rock for the 21st century. This band is not quite King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra, or some post-hardcore group – they quite clearly have their own style, and it leaves quite a mark.

    The first full-length song, “Inertiatic ESP,” is probably the group’s biggest hit thus far, a fast-paced tune in four. Much of the music is in three, included “Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of),” in which the bass and guitar are playing in unison throughout the first section. The middle section really goes wild with a guitar solo and drum rolls. “Drunkship of Lanterns” incorporates a section in four that sounds like it’s in three sandwiched around a couple of passages that could be in three but may have no meaningful time signature at all. For a more standard feel, “Eriatarka” waltzes in three and then romps in four. The beast of the album, “Cicatriz ESP,” includes tasty jazz drumming in spots; the weakness of the song (if you could call it that) lies in the seemingly pointless echoey middle section. It’s not bad, but couldn’t something more interesting have been put there? The penultimate track, “Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt,” leaves nothing to the imagination, including a King Crimson-like guitar solo in the middle.

    Easy grade as one of the foremost prog albums ever. 5/5.

    Modest MouseBuilding Nothing Out of Something: This is a collection of tracks that were released before the band’s debut LP, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About. “Never Ending Math Equation” could have been a hit if it were released today, and more than anything, it displays how little the band’s sound has really changed. Sure, there are more danceable tunes on We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank, and perhaps a few more electrified guitars, but my listening has made me conclude that Isaac Brock hasn’t changed or sold out, despite what the denizens say.

    The guitars are especially loopy on “Interstate 8,” and the dissonance at the end is fitting for a tune that sounds unsettled. “Medication” is strikingly sad, sung in practically monotone with the same guitar line for over 90 seconds before the middle part (probably the subject, at this point, has taken his medication; the song returns to the theme of the beginning, after the medication has faded away). I hear something like a Gregorian chant in “Workin’ on Leavin’ the Livin’,” which loops the same part over and over out of synch with the drums in four (“In heaven, everything is fine”…gee, I wonder what Brock was thinking about when he wrote this song?).

    To be fair, “All Nite Diner” sounds like a bad b-side with cheesy singing by Brock and a plodding bass. The drum hit on the first beat of every measure goes well with the intent strumming of the acoustic guitar in “Baby Blue Sedan,” a heartfelt track. More driving themes center “A Life of Arctic Sounds.”

    All in all, Building Nothing Out of Something is not a bad collection of music, but it ends weak. 3.5/5.

    Modest MouseThe Lonesome Crowded West: The sophomore effort from Modest Mouse, the album begins with the uneasy sounding “Teeth Like God’s Shoeshine.” Two of the following sections are vastly different, lighter feels, including the memorable lyric “Let’s all have another Orange Julius” (somebody else used to drink those, too?). The song ends by returning to the first theme and really belting it out – tons of energy. “Heart Cooks Brain” is more like Modest Mouse’s recent stuff, meaning that it is groovy with a prominent bass. An edgy track is “Lounge (Closing Time),” with an ‘80s post-punk guitar style in the beginning.

    “Jesus Christ Was an Only Child” is structured a little like some hymns I’ve heard, also having fiddle. Neil Young with Crazy Horse can be heard in “Doin’ the Cockroach,” which then picks up to sound like We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank’s “Fly Trapped in a Jar.” The guitar line of “Trailer Trash” is very emotional, and the instrumental jam at the end punctuates same. Tom-toms in “Long Distance Drunk” accentuate the beat along with well-placed cymbals, creating the feel of a minimalist tune. The band cranks out a punk tune in “Shit Luck.” “Bankrupt on Selling” is a wonderful, heartfelt acoustic track, and “Styrofoam Boots/It’s All Nice on Ice, Alright” is a closer that truly accelerates until the end.

    The Lonesome Crowded West is more diverse than Modest Mouse’s debut, This Is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About, and is one of the top indie rock albums of all time. 5/5.

    7/16:

    BattlesMirrored: “Race: In” switches somewhere from three to four, but it’s really hard due to the intricate layers of sound built into the song. The rolling three of “Atlas” suddenly gains another layer that is in four; the drums have to do a lot to maintain the groove; a bass (I think) breakdown in the middle lends the song a feel as if one is on the high seas. The voices are odd, but I don’t really care about that as the focus is clearly on the instrumentation. The singer of “Ddiamondd” reminds me of Daniel Smith of Danielson. The song itself has a lot of whistling-like effects. “Tonto” has King Crimson influences, especially in the guitar sound.

    Hip-hop is fused into “Leyendecker.” “Rainbow” has quite the drunken ending, all slowed down and distorted. An upbeat, almost giddy track, “Snare Hanger,” is formed from a cacophony of sounds. Something like a harpsichord plays staccato in “Tij,” and the last minute or so witnesses a switch in beat with DJ-tastic snare drumming and choking gasps.

    This math rock album had me tapping my foot. 4/5.

    SpoonGa Ga Ga Ga Ga: The raw muscularity of “Don’t Make Me a Target” is further accentuated by the off-time guitar lines right before the bridge of the song, the latter which reminds me of The Beatles in style (one of their songs…can’t place it). Another band with a new release this year, The Good, the Bad & the Queen can be heard in “The Ghost of You Lingers,” not only in the piano line, but also in the vocal style. “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb” is an awesome Motown throwback, complete with a horn section, rolling bass line, and xylophones. This is one of my favorite songs of the year. One’s spirit is uplifted by the groove of “Don’t You Evah,” including shakers in the background and an electric guitar solo.

    This brings to mind another observation about Spoon – there’s always a nontraditional rock instrument in the background to spice up the mood. Dancers should be pleased with “Rhythm & Soul,” held down by an acoustic rhythm guitar. “Eddie’s Ragga” is similar in style (with a different beat, of course), but the peripherals are different, especially since the bass holds down the groove more noticeably. The horns return, along with tambourines, for “The Underdog,” and the flamenco trumpet is a nice touch at the end. The chromatic eighth note transitions in “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case” sound ominous, and the acoustic guitar providing the Spanish flair with a solo is an interesting layer to add. The only song to best the four minute mark is “Finer Feelings,” and it manages to also stick out with space-out synths somewhat like Doves in the vocal break, contrasting the straight-ahead nature of the A section. The only mildly interesting song (if it could be termed that) is final number “Black Like Me,” and that still includes a Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”-ish ending.

    Spoon is the band that Apostle of Hustle wishes it were. Oh dear, another great album – I’ll have to listen to more of them. 5/5.