Tuesday, September 30, 2008
A Bevy Of Music Reviews - by Christopher
Sarah and I are on holiday from work all this week!
Which is awesome, because I’m finally getting a chance to catch up on the new records I’ve been ignoring for the last six months. Now I will listen to selections of each record and write reviews at the same time. Drop it!
1. Kings of Leon “Only By The Night”– Last year, Spoon produced a really interesting album with a somewhat fresh take on production aesthetic. This year, several artists and producers have decided to more or less follow suit. Kings of Leon definitely got the Spoon treatment. All sparse tremolo guitars echoing away in the background. And the same problem persists as on the last album; they seem to have nothing much to say. Almost every drumbeat is the same on each song, and it’s not that great of a drumbeat. Probably still a good band to see live, but this album misses the mark for me. Vocals are still impressive in the southern-rock genre, but nothing too fresh here. Any My Morning Jacket have left these guys in the dust. C
2. Beck “Modern Guilt”– Whole album got the Spoon treatment. You can still hear Beck in there behind the sparse tremolo guitars and room blips, and when you can, the record works. This is the first record I’ve listened to from Beck that sounds over-produced, and by that I mean that it sounds like Beck had a body of material written and then a producer took the tracks and made a totally different record out of it. I think one of the most consistent complaints that I have read in reviews of Beck albums in the past have had to do with his material sounding too over produced, but this is the first time I agree. At the end of the day, Beck still makes highly listenable candy with melodies that catch in my ear. B-
3. The Walkmen “You & Me” – I think it’s entirely feasible and good to capture a somber mood in music without careening into depression. Who cares, retort The Walkmen, let’s make an indulgently wallowing yawn fest. There are two songs that attempt to breathe some life into the affair, and they succeed. The rest is forgettable warbling set to a slow tempo. D
4. Cold War Kids “Loyalty to Loyalty” – I think if I was a senior in high school, this would by my idealistic rock band to get behind. They have a message, and they stick to it on almost every song: ‘Hey, there’s a lot of problems with American culture, you know?’ They even go so far as to name a track ‘Welcome To The Occupation.’ As with the favorite idealistic rock band of my time (Rage Against the Machine), lots of questions are posed and very few answers are attempted. But that’s okay, these guys actually do get an efficient groove going at times. C
5. Blitzen Trapper “Furr” – I guess this album is okay, but I can’t help comparing it to any number of 70’s AM radio dreck bands. ‘Saturday Nite’ is a great marriage of bliptronica and soul shuffle. Nothing much else pops out at me here. Except the name of their band, which provokes me to imagine someone whose job it is to kidnap reindeer. C-
6. Calexico “Carried To Dust” – Here is an example of a band I never would have given chance one before age 25. What was it about turning 25 that mellowed my tastes so much? I don’t know. Either way, this band is still the only band that I know of that makes music that their band name perfectly describes. Their sound is half California and half Mexico, and all sweltering afternoon heat cooking on the hood of a slowly cruising Cadillac. Coming soon to the muzak in your local Mexican restaurant near you! A-
7. Health “Disco” – Allow me to be exactly like I am for a second here. Uh, I like music which many people refer to as ‘euro trash music.’ I can’t help it. Something about the flashy lights and gleaming surfaces just finds a home in my head right next to my love of video games, sci-fi and anime. I didn’t try to like this stuff, but it’s the kind of stuff that I really like to listen to while driving or doing laundry. I have no excuse for liking it besides that I just like it and I’m sorry. I really want to give this album an A, but I’m too embarrassed so I’m going to give it a B+. But don’t listen to it, you’ll just feel embarrassed for me.
8. Cut Copy “In Ghost Colors” – So then why don’t I like Cut Copy if I’ve got such a soft spot for blippy euro trash? Because I lived through the eighties once already. There was some good stuff, there was some bad stuff, and there was a lot of mediocre stuff. Cut Copy are doing nothing new, and they’re doing it with an impenetrable, annoying wall of tremolo. Each song is a Joy Division track (but more so) or a repeating arpeggio. I can’t in good conscience give them a D, even though I want to, because there’s a new generation of pre-teens out there right now who don’t know anything about Duran Duran, Erasure, or Robert Smith. For them, this album will be a revelation. Especially for the ones who aren’t too sure about their sexuality just yet. Not to stereotype. C-
9. Ben Folds “Way to Normal” – Please allow me to bestow my first unhesitant, unquestionable A. He’s still witty as hell, he’s still rocking the butts, he’s still doing it all from behind a piano. I think he could snap his fingers at a microphone for 45 minutes and I would be like, why didn’t I think of that? I just trust this guy with my ears because he never lets me down. This album is great, good and fresh. Not many records work for all three of those adjectives. This one does. A
10. Fleet Foxes “Fleet Foxes” – This album is the very definition of the word ‘pastoral.’ But it
never loses my interest. I think because it manages to walk that line between pastoral and psychedelic without jumping over to either side too far. It’s a folk record all the way through, but the rhythm section keeps bringing the tracks back to a pop sensibility. Unquestionably the happiest sounding record I have heard this year. Somehow never seems sappy, though. Bottom line, I think this album succeeds because it successfully walks a very fine line. Every track delivers something special, whether in the soaring vocal harmonies, in the hooky cadences, or in the deceptively simple rhythm section. A
Please comment with your take on these records and I will be happy to skewer you with my mad skillz. Or politely acknowledge you, depending on where I'm at with things.