Monday, July 28, 2008

Looong Album Review: Pretty. Odd. (Panic At The Disco)

I'm embarrassed. Really seriously embarrassed. To review this album I had to listen to it, which would normally be embarrassing enough. But it gets worse: I like it.

But the thing I'm embarrassed about the most is that I'm embarrassed about liking/listening to it. Because it's good. Damn good. But there's this idea that Panic can never be good, and even listening to this as I type and loving every second of it I get a bit confused.

I mean, let's face it. A Fever You Can't Sweat Out was a joke of an album. I'm sure you could listen to the same album by buying Fallout Boy and playing it at 2x speed. And there's no reason to expect Panic's sophomore release to be this good. The lyrics on A Fever... were trite and contrived, the music was, well, basic and written by 12 year olds. They wore top hats, makeup, and were generally mocked by the music world.

So here comes Pretty. Odd and it gets, weirdly enough, good reviews. Like, really good reviews. I hear about it everywhere.

I ignore all of this. I mean, Fallout Boy's second album got good reviews, yeah? And that was more of the first album. Then one night, I'm watching SNL and Panic comes on. I reach to mute it, but my remote dies and so I'm stuck in bed ready to be terrorized. And I'm mesmerized.

I don't know what happened, maybe the band heard a real album that wasn't written by Pete Wentz. I don't care. THIS IS GOOD.

So it's not the best thing since Pet Sounds. It's still really really good. There are a couple of weak spots, like the album opener We're So Starving, which is rather arrogant in that they apologize for being gone to write songs for "you". When they sing that, a crowd cheers. It's not a bad song, but annoying. Since I never missed them.

But most of it is, well, fantastic. Even if the lyrics are possibly pure nonsense (Do You Know What I'm Seeing is a great example of this).
One of the best songs is Folkin' Around, a Byrdsish (I hate comparing band sounds, but it's unavoidable here) track.

Another great song is Northern Downpour. It's quiet, soft, and sweet. Everything this band seemed to avoid on the first album.

My personal favorite though, for no particular reason other than it has a great chorus, is She's A Handsome Woman.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

My Irrational Dislike for Radiohead

I don't like Radiohead. To say the least. In fact, I actively dislike them. They are one of the few bands to truly earn that dubious honor. I mean, I might say that about other bands or artists, but I won't mean it. Only for Radiohead. And Nirvana.

My dislike for Radiohead stems largely from the fact that I was not a "music listener" during the Kid A and OK Computer hype. I think if any albums by them were any good at all, it would've been those two. However I missed the time when they were culturally relevant and new and so never got into that whole "Melodies can kiss my fatty McFatfat butt" style of music. And let's face it, they're pretentious piles of poo now.

Amnesiac was my first real exposure to them. And wow did that suck. I'd heard so much about this fabulous Radiohead and I spent $10 on this album, and I threw it away. I really tried to like it. I listened four or five times. Never found a song I liked. So I hoped it was just the album. Went out and got OK Computer. Eh. I mean, it wasn't great, but it didn't sound like Gary Coleman decided to get drunk and wash my car with a live cat like Amnesiac did.

So I though Radiohead was either just a terrible band or I just didn't get them for a long time. Then Thom Yorke's solo album came out. Everything clicked into place.

Thom Yorke is an evil villain who has found the proper frequencies to manipulate people's musical tastes.
Because really, that album is so much crap. It throws away any idea of structure, melody, hell, music in general. And not in a cool Beck way. In a pretentious John Cage way. He's the Jackson Pollock of music, except Pollock at least had the good sense to hate himself (abstract expressionist fans- go elsewhere, I don't want to hear it).
The closing cinch on the fact that Thom Yorke is the root of all Radiohead's evil instead of the whole of Radiohead, or the butts of bread, or talking sandwiches, or even Luficer himself, is that one Radiohead song that wasn't written by Yorke is really really good. No matter who sings it.

High and Dry. Yes, it's technically credited to the whole band, but I know the truth.
Thank you Greenwood, Greenwood, O'brien and Selway. I don't know how you forced Mr. Yorke to let you put something of yours that has a melody and actual lyrics onto an album. Maybe you him with a pipe until he said yes. Maybe you chloroformed him and put it on while he was napping. Maybe you paid a taxi driver to take him across the country by accident while you wrote that song.
But thank you.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mr. Airplane Man

A band I'm really digging right now. It's like the White Stripes but with 2 girls, both of which are more useful than Meg.
Here's their cover of the traditional country song Jesus On the Mainline.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I have a secret love for country music

It's true.

I mean, not even the hip alt-country stuff like Wilco (overrated, by the way). I mean, I like some alt-country, Ryan Adams would be the prime example, along with the Jayhawks, Son Volt, and Uncle Tupelo. But I mean real country. Buck Owens. Hank Williams Jr. and Sr. Gary Stewart. Gram Parsons. Loretta Lynn. Dolly Parton.

That's music with a soul. I mean so much of what's popular and critically well received is this trashy flavor of the month indie/electro/pop sound. Like the Ting Tings. It has no soul, no passion, no heartache. I mean, I love a catchy song as much as the next person, but it gets old quickly. But songs like I've posted below- they are eternal.

Buck Owens- Excuse Me, I Think I Have A Heartache

Loretta Lynn- Portland, Oregon

Hank Williams Sr.- Lovesick Blues

Love Hurts- Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Sugars

My lady who's visiting England at the moment sent me a copy of NME for fun, and I loved going through the pages, though there was still a disturbing amount of Winehouse fanboyism.
Anyways, one of the surprises the magazine held was a review of a band called the Sugars. I can't say enough good things about this band. They take a lot of cues from garage rock, 50's doo wop, and who knows what the hell else. There's an definite catchy sound to them, but it's filled with jangly crashy guitars and lots of cymbals.

Also, any band with 2 lead singers of opposite genders makes me happy.

It's perfect.
Anyways, here're two songs by them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Album Review: Modern Guilt (Beck)

Oh Modern Guilt. I have no idea how to describe you. You have this 60's psychedelia thing going on, you have this funky thing going on, but most of you have this Beck thing going on. And at your heart, that is what you truly are: a Beck album at its finest.
You are beautiful through and through, whether you're being a serious song or a fun song, it manages to be atmospheric and danceable.

Your opening track, Orphans starts simple and builds so well and flows so nicely into everything else.

Everything that follows is beautiful. No one song stands out, they all have the same feel but manage to be different.

Honestly, this is the best Beck album since Odelay. It's lyrically sharp, fun, dark, well produced, and always interesting. I don't really know what else to say about it.

Here's my favorite track, Profanity Prayers.

Tomorrow I'll post about my newest love: Charlotte Sometimes.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Album Review: The Information (Beck)

The Information was the first (and until Tuesday) only Beck album which I was aware of at the release date, which makes my thoughts on it a little different than most Beck albums. Basically, it feels tired. At no point did I sit and think "Wow- this rocks", just occasionally "Hey, that's not too bad."

I suppose I should clarify: it's not a bad album by any means. If it were any other artist, it'd be the album of their life. But it never really lives up to Beck's discography. It has a lot of the Odelay feel, but none of the energy or momentum. And it's not a quiet Sea Change album either.

However, there are a few bright spots. The first is the atypically sweet song called I Think I'm In Love. It's not so much the music that's strong here, but rather the lyrics and subject. He's singing about being nervous about his own feelings. Honestly, who besides Beck would think to sing about something that true?

The other high spot is the slower Movie Theme. This is probably the strongest song on the album. I almost feel like this was the sort of album he wanted to make but didn't for whatever reason. It feels like it's the song he cared about most, it has the most real emotion and feeling.

I dunno, The Information isn't awful. But in comparison to, well, everything else, it's just not worth more than a few listens.

Tomorrow: Sea Change.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Album Review: Odelay (Beck)

If I fell in with Beck through Guero, then it was Odelay (buy on Amazon here)that made me want to get on one knee and propose to him and his beautiful music. Odelay is the seminal Beck album. It's upbeat, danceable, ridiculous, quirky, but not without social satire. It has a party feel. It's fun.

Released in 1996, it's his fourth album, and first major one, earning him a Grammy (and rightfully so).

The album starts up with Devil's Haircut, which helped solidify Beck's, well, strangeness. Even he makes fun of the bizarre song lyrics/name in an episode of Futurama.
Here's the quote:
Beck: You know, when I'm upset, I write a song about it. Like when I wrote Devil's Haircut, I was feeling really... what's that song about?
Bender: Hey, yeah! I could write a song! With real words, not phony ones like 'odelay.'
Beck: 'Odelay' is a word! Just look it up in the Becktionary!

Anyways, after that song comes what is the most overlooked song on the album, Lord Only Knows. Honestly, it starts off weird. With a scream. But then it hits this jam. And it's smooth. And catchy. And fun. And the lyrics are near perfect. And you can listen to it right below.

The other two highlights (though the whole album is exceptionally strong) are Sissyneck and Where It's At. The latter is especially fun. To say the least. It's
got a fuzzy sound, some organ/synth going on, and that delicious Beck rap dealio that I don't know he pulls off.

Basically what I'm saying is Beck needs to get back with the Dust Brothers, who produced this album.

Album Review: Guero (Beck)

Guero (available on Amazon here) was my first introduction to Beck. Now, a lot of people would consider this a tragedy, nay, sacrilege. Or would that be Beckrilege? The point is, I was a kid when everything previous by him was released, so this was the first thing I had exposure to. A friend gave me a mix CD with Que Onda Quero, E-PRO, and Girl. These songs blew me away. They changed how I saw music, heard music, and thought about music.

Anyways, the album is great. Well, not great in a Pet Sounds great way, but pretty good. It definitely starts strong too with E-PRO, Que Onda Guero, and Girl kicking off the album and being the catchiest, most fun, upbeat songs. The album gets a little less fun after that, but no less enjoyable.

Que Onda Guero is probably my favorite track, aside from maybe Girl.

What I love most about the album is the Spanish influence. It really feels like it was written in and for some barrios in LA, Vallejo, or, hell, just about any California city that's not Oakland. It's got that tejano feel, while still being Beck.
The last half of the album is infinitely less catchy, but no less good as I said before. There's just nothing worth pointing out on it really.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Beck! Beck! And more Beck!

In honor of Beck's new album, Modern Guilt, being released on this Tuesday, the 8th, I'm going to be reviewing my favorite Beck albums. Tonight I'll cover Guero, my first introduction to Beck, then I'll hit up Odelay, Seachange, and The Information. Basically my favorites. I'm also going to start setting up this blog for submission to The Hype Machine eventually, so that means with each album review I'll have mp3 download links, and links to buy the albums on Amazon.

In the mean time, enjoy the first single from Modern Guilt.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Album Review: From Every Sphere (Ed Harcourt)

I don't know where I picked Mr. Ed Harcourt up, but I'm glad I did. Anyways, From Every Sphere was his second album, released in 2003 on Astralwerks Records (Heavenly Records in the UK). It's a melancholy album, to say the least, but fantastic in so many ways. I guess it's nothing original, but the songwriting is incredibly strong, and Ed has this way of making every song memorable.

Anyways, to start, the album is immediately, well, melancholy. I can't think of another way to say it really. From track one, Bittersweetheart (how is that not a melancholy name even?) it's sad. But not in that incredibly frustrating poor-me-my-life-sucks way. It's sweet-sad. And with some exceptions the music swells with orchestral instruments behind it.

Again, it kicks off with Bittersweetheart (I like plays on words) which sets the tone for most of the album. It's chamber-popish, which strings, pop melodies, and just a good feel. And the album keeps that feel pretty consistently, until about 3/4 of the way through. In those first 3/4 even the supposedly upbeat songs have a sadness about them, something truly haunting. But track number 8, Watching The Sun Come Up changes that. It's uplifting, expanding, and absolutely gorgeous. It's one of those songs that just builds and builds until the symphony just explodes behind him (like a dawn, I assume was the intention).

The only misstep on the album I think is track number 3, Ghost Writer. It's a prog track, and really just not very listenable. He abandons all pop feeling, all melody, and leaves the listener with a dark gross dull track. However, deleting it from iTunes immediately fixed the problem for me. The album (and by extension, my ears) doesn't miss it at all.

This is All Of Your Days Will Be Blessed, another great song from From Every Sphere.