Wednesday, January 31, 2007

New Albums For January 30th...

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah- Some Loud Thunder (self-released on 1/30/07)

"All this talking, you think I'd have something to say. But I'm just talking- like a siren getting louder and farther away..." Well, I thought you'd have something new to say, and you do, it's just that you say it exactly the same way on the debut album. Just like that siren's wail. But you follow up that opening line with a warning: "From the energetic kids in the park, yes that was me breaking glass and pretending to start something big, some new taste." It's as if somewhere between drives from Philly to Brooklyn, lead singer/songwriter Alec Ounsworth must've had a bout of both extreme self-awareness and self-deprecation.

So it's not what I expected from these self-made darlings of the blogosphere. Actually, it's pretty much exactly what I'd expect from CYHSY, and maybe that's part of my disappointment.

But keep listening to the album for Love Song No. 7, offered from the band's website in December, and it appears that this song may the first to break, if ever so slightly, from CYHSY's tried-and true formula. I never wanted to use the term "blogosphere" ever, but it seems somewhere between Pitchfork and, let's say- all of the indie music world in 2005, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were destined for stardom, and it owes everything to that faux vis-a-vis conduit of internet communication, the blog. So, a dis here, some praise there, it doesn't really matter what they say about you, as long as it's about you! This is how you sell albums, and all the trash-talking (and even the favorable tag-lines) helped this band out by speeding up the birthing process slightly by all the witty-but-none-too-sincere indie rock fans and their incessant blogging. And eventually it will spill itself over into the mainstream.

Getting into the mainstream has allowed Clap Your Hands the chance to play on-stage with the likes of both David Bowie and David Byrne (obvious comparisons aside, I had to mention here that Ounsworth sounds like a pitch-perfect Byrne impersonator, and that should be taken as an absolute compliment...) and even Ringo Starr blogged on his website about this band (does everyone in the world have a blog? They should by now...) So has CYHSY made an apparent statement that they are indeed here to stay? They may have well done that, but they may have also aimed at that elusive target, trying to keep themselves at the level of cult status preferred by their core fans. They kept most of them by not signing to any label at all, deciding to once again go it alone, with some help from

Musically, it's a trip around- vaudeville pianos make an appearance in Love Song No. 7, the obvious choice for a first single as Underwater (You And Me), a one minute harpsicord-laden jaunt, Upon Encountering The Crippled Elephant, channeling the Violent Femmes on Arm & Hammer, and there's even a few left-over songs that could've been on the debut (Emily Jean Stock and Satan Said Dance). That's the biggest knock I have on this album- I expected a big change stylistically and it didn't happen completely, leading me to two conclusions: one- expectations lead directly to disappointment and two- this isn't a great album, it's just a good album.
Overall rating: 83

Next week:


Monday, January 22, 2007

New Albums For January 23rd...


I've got some ground to cover here (as if I haven't covered enough recently? Didn't I totally just drive like 3,000 miles and shit? Dude...) Seems I need to make up for some lost time and such, so here, I, Jimmy Mac, give you two (2) new reviews for early 2007. (That sentence is so overwrought, man. Consider revising? Fine, jerk- leave it. No one is going to read it anyway...) To stay on top of "new release Tuesda
ys" here in America, I actually scour the world of the internet for release dates and whatnot, and I feverishly track all the torrent sites for bits and pieces of my favorite bands' newest products. (You're a geek AND you're bragging about it? Whatever man. You used to be cool...)

Don't worry, if I like the album, I end up buying it. I should probably post my rationale for "stealing" (read: sharing!) music, but alas, I have niether the time nor the gumption to do so right now. (Gumption? Man, you try too hard...) So, without any more B.S., I give you my first of many reviews for albums, concerts, etc. of this new year...

(And what's up with your conscience, deciding to make an appearance all of a sudden? Why does it feel the need to make random comments in this blog? Is this even considered remotely cool? Having a bout with yourself, eh?)

Of Montreal- Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer?
(Polyvinyl, release date 1/23/07)

Dear Athens, Georgia, what the hell is in your water supply? And how much has Of Montreal been drinking? Psychedelia never sounded so good. Think the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds crossed with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Except where BJM's Anton Newcombe fails, Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes succeeds, and succeeds with flair. Thinking backwards and borrowing from the past just as much as it thinks ahead and re-invents itself, Hissing Fauna's lo-fi psych-chamber folk-pop dizzily spins you in place while taking you to the far reaches of the cosmos and back again, all in the span of 51 minutes.

Suffer For Fashion, the first track on the album, starts off with a child's singing and turns itself towards a dancy little number, with a perfect segue into some Beatle-esque la-la-la's to start the next track, S
ink The Seine. A few tracks later, Heimdalsgate Like A Promethean Curse, beckons the chemicals to come on and do their thing. If I can sum the album up in one line borrowed from the record itself, it's "we want our film to be beautiful, not realistic" and Hissing Fauna achieves this maxim. The funk of Faberge Falls For Shuggie hearkens back to some Check Your Head-era Beastie Boys crossed with some smooth Steely Dan-ish elevator soul, making for a weird, if not infinitely interesting listen.

So, it appears that Of Montreal is here to stay, and I thank the music gods in earnest. The effect that 2004's Satanic Panic in the Attic had on me, and what 2005's The Sunlandic Twins helped to further cement in my mind is more than merely replicated on Hissing Fauna, it's like the last in a trilogy that completes the circuit and gives new meaning to their entire body of work. Concept albums are one thing, but conceptual continuity is a whole 'nother thin
g, and Of Montreal is heading down a road that few others have, so mentioning them in the same sentence as Frank Zappa and King Crimson, two other bands that come to mind when thinking about continuing a concept over several years/albums worth of work, may be a heady concession, but I can wait and hope that's where they're going...
Overall rating: 86

The Shins- Wincing The Night Away
(SubPop, release date 1/23/07)

Going in a new direction sometimes will get you lost. The Shins' new album sets out in this "new" direction but manages to still embody all the elements that make The Shins, well, The Shins. Basically, what I mean is this: it's new without being too new. Make sense? I didn't think it would, but here's the gist- while many bands try to eschew their old sound by completely overhauling it, Wincing The Night Away presents a fuller, more self-realized sound without abandoning the New Slang slash Pink Bullets sound we've come to know and love.

There's a little bit more distortion and feedback on here, used wisely, but still using that tambourine-snare combo that gives it a sixties-cum-modern folk feel, emblematic of their sound. Every song is rather good, which probably made it extremely hard for the band and the label to pick Phantom Limb as the single. My pick would've been Sea Legs, starting with a hip-hop beat and finishing with an amazing "jam" that lasts a few minutes, fading out beautifully. Split Needles is also an amazing track, with its soaring vocals and melodies, fuzz toned guitars, stop/start drum beat, and sampled synth lines.

Written over the last year and partially recorded in his basement studio, lead singer/songwriter/guitarist James Mercer got married, battled insomnia and struggled with some personal issues. So lyrically, it's introspective, nostalgic and sentimental, but at the same time very forward-thinking. This will undoubtedly be on many critics year-end lists.

Look for it near the top of mine...
Overall rating: 95

(note on the rating system: Yes, it's like your high school grading system- it's out of 100. I only failed gym once, but only because I never got changed. If you're wearing sneakers, you should get credit...)

Next week: CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH Some Loud Thunder

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Albums That I Didn't Like (But Really Wanted To!)...

I know- it's been forever since I posted on here. I kind of moved. Across the country. Yeah. I'm short on intros and long on reviews. Here, just read:

Red Hot Chili Peppers- Stadium Arcadium (Warner)
Too much music sprawled over two CDs. Everyone and their grandma was like "Ooh, the Peppers are BACK!", but the only thing they brought back was their old sound. They should've called this "Blood Sugar Sex Magik part 2". Good thing I didn't buy this, I would've gotten overcharged for two buckets of crap when clearly they could've just sold me one.

Ali Farka Toure- Savane (World Circuit/Nonesuch)
The album AFT did with Ry Cooder is seriously one of my favorites. But this, I don't know- I like the blues, I like African music. I don't know why it missed with me. Everyone else on the planet seemed to love it, however. This shows that I am not an expert, not even a little...

Brand New- The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me (Interscope/Tiny Evil)
It was just too different. I don't consider these guys emo, or even a pop-punk band, hell, they don't really have a genre. They just rock. But this album, doomed from the start with my Worst Album Title Award, 2006, just was too muchof a departure from the Brand New I know and love. Here's where maturity is a bad thing.

Clipse- Hell Hath No Fury (Re-Up/Stay Trak/Jive)
Again, another album beloved by critics everywhere. I think two things killed this for me: 1) hip-hop is in fact, just about dead (I do agree with Nas here) and 2) Pharrell is so 2003. Timbaland is the shit, son, it's time for The Neptunes to say bye-bye and concentrate on running a sneaker company from now on.

Damien Rice- 9 (Heffa)
Just not very good after the title track (9 Crimes). Not much more to say, only could get through it twice. No more.

Gwen Stefani- The Sweet Escape (Interscope)
Again, here's an artist that is so capable of being the biggest star in the English-speaking world but settles for crap-tacular mediocrity. If you're looking for boring party songs, look no further. I'm going to keep listening to Love.Angel.Music.Baby. until I die, but this, this is pure shite...

Jay-Z- Kingdom Come (Roc-A-Fella/DefJam)
One listen after downloading it and I deleted it off of my computer. Worst album of his career. Possibly the worst album of all of '06. H to the izzo, V to the izzay, you shoulda stayed retired and kept yo'self bizzay.

Joanna Newsom- Ys (Drag City)
Another critics' fave, it was just too obtuse. 5 songs totalling almost an hour? One 17 minute epic, another 12 minute jaunt, and two 9 minuters and a seven-plus. Holy shit, this isn't pop music, it's a fucking opera. An Indie Rock Opera. But it doesn't suck.

Junior Boys- So This Is Goodbye (Domino)
After hearing Thom Yorke and Hot Chip this year, I didn't want to hear another electro-pop album. This also doesn't suck, but I was tired of this stuff. No offense. I am a bad reviewer when I'm lazy.

Paris Hilton- Paris (Heiress/Warner)
Seriously, I was so excited to get this and tear it apart. I listened to it four or five times right away, and after the laughter subsided, there actually was a stand-out track. Stars Are Blind- but I liked it for the music. Miss Hilton's voice was run through a processor so many times to get it to sound normal (in tune is more like it!) it literally sounded so fake by the time it was laid to the backing tracks, I couldn't help but think of poor Milli. But not Vanilli.

Taking Back Sunday- Louder Now (Warner)
I think emo is pretty much done. I had such high hopes for this band, they put on such a great live show. But these new songs are not "where you want to be", so don't "tell all your friends"...

AFI- Decemberunderground (Interscope)
See above. Pretty much one-dimensional music. I think my tastes have changed away from this screamy shite.

The Rapture- Pieces Of The People We Love (Universal/Motown)
I'll take !!! over any of the Indie-Dance bands any day of the week. I get this feeling from The Rapture's music (and their image) that they are way too self-serious. And dance music is all about fun, right? Not unless it's one of those dance-off type things that went down at the prom in that movie She's All That. Man, that Rachel Leigh Cook is bangin', yo! What's she been up to lately?

Next up: NEW ALBUM REVIEWS! Let's start off '07 with: