Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Briefly Mentioned Albums

Apples In Stereo
New Magnetic Wonder
Rating: 21 interstitial tracks out of 24

I love, love, love this album.  I had never listened to them before, but they had my attention right away.  Instantly catchy, totally classic.  I've had so many different tracks stuck in my head at different times... "Skyway," "Sun Is Out," "Sunndal Song," "Can You Feel It?"... they've all had turns.

Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
Rating: 5 former Smiths guitarists out of 5

It's only been a couple weeks, and I already have no qualms calling it my favorite album of theirs.  Completely and utterly excellent.  Another band that is undeniably working at the height of its powers.  They've shed the meandering, wandering, spacious noodling of The Moon & Antarctica.  They've done away with cutesy experimentation of Good News For People Who Love Bad News.  And they've applied those lessons to a more accessible, focused work on We Were Dead.

Is it less challenging?  Perhaps, but not really.  In their case, it's a sign of maturity and craft more than a pre-meditated cash-grab... a refinement, not a dumbing down.  The result is their most consistent, most accomplished, and most rewarding album to date.

Ted Leo + Pharmacists
Living With The Living
Rating: 3 1/2 sin eaters out of 5

More of the same good stuff from Ted Leo.  Like The Roots, I'm starting to think we'll never hear him make a bad album.  Perhaps that's because he rarely needs to depart from what's done him well in the past... or perhaps it's because he knows those rascally Pharmacists will beat the shit out of him if he does.  (No, not really.)

The thing is, even though the new album is structured like his masterworks (Hearts of Oak, The Tyranny of Distance), its songs lack the urgency of those previous albums.  But on the other hand, where Shake the Sheets is instantly accessible and lovable, Living with the Living also fails the test.  Living is neither a "grower" nor immediate.  What songs really stand out and distinguish it amongst Leo's prior accomplishments?

I don't mean it as a slight against the album itself, because it's still good stuff.    I recognize he's got a tough act to follow.  But it isn't really up to par with the unbelievably good stuff that preceded it.  It boils down to this: if I want to hear Ted Leo, why would I choose to pop in Living with the Living over Hearts of Oak?

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