Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Music Update

Here's what I've been listening to lately, broken into the old-and-busted and the new-hotness.

Late Adopter

Spoon - Gimme Fiction
Incredible album. It just feels like rock and roll... the whole record has a vibe of coolness. It's clean, never out of control, never explosive, always composed... but all in a good way, which is surprising for a rock record. The greatness doesn't come across until you've listened to it a bunch of times (and it did take me a great many listens to come all the way around) but it's worth the effort. It's great driving music, and songs like "I Turn My Camera On" and "Was It You?" take on lives of their own in the dark. It doesn't hurt that Britt Daniel has a really excellent rock voice, in each of its affectations.

Modest Mouse - Good News For People Who Love Bad News
Now I see what the big deal was about. I have little else to say here, other than my 180 (well, 160) on this album says loads about how my musical tastes have changed in two years.

Art Brut - Bang Bang Rock and Roll
I'm including this here because it has taken me almost 18 months to come to terms with whether I like them (that's one month per 1,000 lira!) despite having had a good read on their musical intentions from the get-go. It's easy to dismiss them for being more cheeky than talented, but the reality is that they sound pretty damn good while doing it. And there's room for growth, provided they don't get addicted to keg stands. I am now fully on board.

Blue Scholars - Self-titled and The Long March EP
Excellent stuff. My only qualm with Blue Scholars is that Geologic's speaking voice has no roughness or rawness, nor does he do much in terms of flow, or mixing up his rhythms. It's not like he can't rap... he's not Kanye, he's not that bad. But his style is pretty vanilla when you get past his poetic, insightful turns of phrase. It leaves something to be desired. Sabzi's beats are so good that Geologic could read banana bread recipes out of The Joy of Cooking and I'd still want to listen, but still. (Mmmmm, banana bread.) Anyway, that's probably a bigger beef than is justified. This is great, great hip hop. "Southside Revival" is the perfect kind of song for this time of year... time to sit outside, enjoy the warm weather, and sip on a venti chai have a beer and a burger. MEAT!!!

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets
Another album, like Gimme Fiction, that took me some time to get into. But this time it was more to clear out my misconception that this would be punk rock. They're not punk... elements of punk and ska-punk are borrowed, but they don't follow the rules of the genre. Neither are they "indie" rock, not in any of the term's potential misuses. They're just straightforward, though not simple, up-tempo rock. They don't rely on power or noise or screeching to get their hooks across. The hooks are complicated, but not so much that the songs are inaccessible. I bet they'd be an amazing live act.

Early Adopter

Gnarls Barkley
- St. Elsewhere
As great as expected. Danger Mouse's work is solid, but Cee-Lo is the revelation here. The self-proclaimed Soul Machine croons his ass off, making himself accessible to any and all listeners, but not without preserving his eclectic side in his lyrics, covering such diverse topics as schizophrenia, necrophilia, and the Boogeyman. His work on St. Elsewhere should vault him to fame and fortune. If it doesn't, then the terrorists have already won.

Elbow -
Leaders Of The Free World
Another entry in the New Coldplay sweepstakes, but an excellent one. Tons of hooks to get caught on, and momentum that builds as the each song moves along... not quite Sigur Rós-sian momentum building, but not too shabby either. They actually do explode, instead of buliding towards a "good part" that never comes, as Coldplay and Snow Patrol are prone to doing. Elbow gets props for remembering that their atmospheric sound is supposed to go somewhere eventually.

Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
I love this album. It completes the band's transition from floaty, cloudy pop into full-fledged radio pop... and well-conceived pop at that. Stuart Murdoch's iconic voice, and the sad-bastard history he brings to his new sunny-day songs, does wonders. There are any number of great, great songs on this album.

Arctic Monkeys - Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Oh, clever title, sir. You show disdain for fans and critics alike! Congratulations! You don't care about celebrity and stardom! I bet you don't! How did you ever come up with that idea? Riddle me this, gentlemen... what if I said you guys are NOT a bunch of hypocritical posers with more misplaced anger and charmless juvenile sarcasm than musical talent? Haha! You're caught! P.S., your band is NOT awful.

It's disappointing to think that not only could a band be more overrated than Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, but that it only took like eight months for it to happen. This planet's going straight to fuckin hell.

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
She's not my cup of tea, but Neko has the most captivating voice in music right now... capitvating enough that I'd enjoy this album despite not particularly caring for any of the genres she belongs in (alt-country, singer/songwriter, etc). I'm not putting this in my car anytime soon, but it's definitely good stuff.

Ben Harper - Both Sides of the Gun
As is this, Ben's usual solid effort. I think he's got a better album in him, though... something that can stand up to Fight For Your Mind and The Will to Live. The increased production quality takes a lot of the edge off of his sound. Even the closing number on the "hard" disc ("Serve Your Soul"), which ought to be a classic Harper rock-out song, feels sterile. More fuel for the "when's he gonna make an album as good as his live shows?" argument.

Destroyer - Destroyer's Rubies
Not bad. Of all the New Pornographers, Dan Bejar is the hardest to appreciate. His fitasmanywordsintoameasureasyoucan lyrics and affectations are difficult to get into, and his songs rarely make much sense as a whole. Then again, the individual lines are awfully brilliant. I still haven't got a great read on Rubies, but I can at least appreciate Bejar's borderline genius as a lyricist and arranger. And you have to respect that he put a 10-minute epic at the front of his album and made it work. That move was ballsier than a Spalding warehouse. Anyway, worth checking out.


  1. You remind me how much more effort I need to put in to keeping up with music. For the record, though, Elbow's been around just as long as Coldplay. They were pretty huge in Seattle when I was living there.

  2. Yeah no kidding... and I wrote this over two months ago. See what happens when you go up to the surface to catch your breath? Have fun at the Hoobastank concert, while I listen to my Neutral Milk Hotel rarities box set. Loser.