Okay, I guess I'm back from a self-imposed hiatus. I've been pretty unmotivated as far as writing's been concerned, no "real" posts for quite some time. Let's just say I've been battling with this thing called creative doubt and as such it puts up huge obstacles in the way of dreaded writer's block. So now that I'm coming up and out of all that, I'm getting back to writing.
First, may I present you with this essay?
Writer's Attempt At Self-Criticism*:
Every now and again I get all geeked on a record and feel that it's worthy to be written about, however; some of these bands take a very temporary shelf life with me. I'll be really into it for a few weeks and suddenly it just falls out of favor with me. I'm not going to name any names, there are several bands I've mentioned and don't necessarily like them all that much anymore. So my self-criticism is aimed at one central point: if I can jump the shark and go ahead and dig on a band and then within a few weeks have almost forgotten about them, are my actual in-depth album reviews really any good?
Yes and No.
Yes: because I live with these albums for a good 3-4 days before I review them, listening to every album at least 6 times. I feel 5 good listens and then another listen while you write about it. It gets in my head, and the residual effect is that I end up liking something that initially, I'm like, "yeah, this is good, maybe even great..." and sometime I can over- (or even under) evaluate a record.
Now, the No response: bands that I like are going to get a better score simply for the fact that I always expect them to do something that resembles their previous body of work, which is the whole reason you become a fan of a band; you just like their music.
Not always true right away in my case, because I also consider myself a Bloc Party fan even though I kind of trashed their new album a few months back. Upon further review, it's a pretty decent album and I'm a jack-ass because after a week with that record I found it near-unlistenable. Maybe 18 times in 7days. Math: I was the new Bloc party album for 925 out of a possible 10,080 minutes, taking up about 9.2 per cent of my week. Factor in "awake" time, 6,720 mins; it's actually almost 14%.
Formal Apology to Bloc Party: I initially gave you a rating of 66, but I'd like to amend that to a 76. I feel my judgment was clouded. Silent Alarm fucking rules. But you guys want to do something different and that's cool, too. There are some stellar songs on this album, and I'm going to go ahead and give a nomination for Song Of The Year to The Prayer. So, in summation: Dear Bloc Party, sorry.
* - turns out this has become more of a defense than a criticism. These answers are short and somewhat glib, maybe even a little pretentious. I like what I like so I write about it. That's pretty much it...
Er, uh... I'm sorry for putting you through that. Now, the music section.
So, what you been listening to? Here's my list-slash-capsulized reviews:
When I graduated from high school, one of my favorite bands (which are all still my favorite bands) was Pavement. And recently I've jumped back into them full steam. Not that I ever forgot them, but recently I've been playing their entire discography and just sitting and listening for hours. For real. Maybe because I rented the DVD Slow Century a little while ago and my interest was piqued yet again. I had another big shot of Pavement about a year and a half ago, after the first time I saw the DVD. So there you go. Pavement's kind of a big deal, and I'll tell you why: there's a whole bunch of bands right now that are spawns of the Pave. Whenever I hear Modest Mouse, I can hear them. Likewise Tapes 'n Tapes, Menomena, now-defunct The Unicorns and off-shoot band Islands, and even to a lesser extent, I hear a bit in The Shins.
Precisely, the birth of the "computer riddims", that all-digital drum and bass reggae that bridged the gaps between roots, dub and dancehall. Barrington Levy, Tenor Saw, U-Roy, Sister Nancy, King Tubby, Gregory Isaacs, Wayne Smith, and Lee 'Scratch' Perry all had a hand in there somewhere...
24 Hour Party People (DVD) - released August 9, 2002
Steve Coogan is Tony Wilson, and only the Lord knows this about him: why the fuck did he never sign the greatest band out of Manchester, UK, The Smiths to Factory Records? If you love The Happy Mondays, you'll love this flick. If you like Joy Division and New Order, you may only mildly like this flick. It sort of portrays New Order's manager, Rob Gretton in bad light, and Ian Curtis as a violent douchebag, but I guess Tony outlived them all, so it's his story, eh?
Hezekiah Jones just may be my favorite songwriter currently, and this may just be my favorite song at the moment. I often quote lines of this song to complete strangers around Berkeley. It's like a Kurt Vonnegut novel; "...I spent 17 years in the woods I did hide, from oh-eight - two-thousand twenty-five... on the Mississippi Sea, I got myself time-share property, we can spend July there, just you and me...", and that pedal steel accompaniment is just so perfect.
75 Or Less
Great music website with record reviews in 75 words or less. Hell, I need at least 75 words in the first paragraph. But in an extraordinary way, more is done with less, call it an economy of words.
Here's my stab at all the un-reviewed albums that I promised going back to April.
Dntel - Dumb Luck, released April 24, 2007, SubPop Records
The album's opener is absolute murder, one of the worst things I've ever heard. Yeah, way to introduce yourself Jimmy Tamborello, now please: shut the fuck up! On track 2, Grizzly Bear's Ed Droste sits in for an ambient wash-out, could've been a great song and the only saving grace is Jenny Lewis' offering, but this album drags on with no-names until it finally dies at 42 minutes. Oh, yeah: Conor Oberst, too.
Overall rating: 75
Charlotte Gainsbourg 555, released April 24, 2007, Vice /Atlantic Records
Whenever Air releases an album, guess who gets to sing on some of them tracks? Serge Gainsbourg's daughter, the co-star of that awesome movie, Science Of Sleep, that's who. It doesn't suck. There's some good tracks: Little Monsters starts along a trip-hop path and Night-time Intermission has a pretty nice bass and piano line. Pass this up...
Overall rating: 69
Feist - The Reminder, released May 1, 2007, Cherrytree/Interscope Records
Posers listen to Norah Jones. Real Music People listen to Leslie Feist. No one else's voice melts me quite like hers. The way it breaks, the way her vocals always sit upon the music perfectly, her timbre, Ooh la la, je m'aime certains Feist. Quelqu'un a dit à moi, écoutent ceci. Je suis dans l'amour, vous dupe ! Et c'est le sain...**
Overall rating: 92
** - Holy fucking shit, I like me some Feist. Somebody said to me, listen to this. I am in love, you fool! And this is the sound... (This asterix doesn't count towards the review's word count, it's just a translation.)
Deerhunter - Fluorescent Grey EP, released May 8, 2007, Kranky Records
This is a cut-to-the-chase EP. No ambient tracks here, which dominated Cryptograms, which is already one of my favorite albums released this year. Atlanta's favorite freak-band is back with a concise 16 minutes of "b-sides" from Deerhunter's preceding release back in January. This is some really trippy shit, and if Anton Newcombe is reading this, "your band could've been this good!"
Overall rating: 89
Voxtrot - Voxtrot, released May 22, 2007, Beggar's Group Records
A late-80s, twee-soundtrack homage for a John Cusack project that has been lost for almost 20 years. It's a bit on the sugary side, sort of like a lo-fi Panic At The Disco. Anyway, song 3, Ghost, has a very similar piano line to that mega-hit from The O.C. by Phantom Planet. I hear these Voxtrot cats have quite a following now.
Overall rating: 72
The National - Boxer, released May 22, 2007, Beggar's Banquet Records
Another album similar to Voxtrot's, but with an edge and a heart that makes it less abrasive. Excellent piano, great lyrics delivered with a smooth croon by Matt Berninger. I'm also taking this stage to nominate Slow Show for my Song Of The Year.
Overall rating: 87
Pelican - City Of Echoes, released June 5, 2007, Hydra Head Records
Scouring your eardrums with the predictable and played out drop-D tuning is Pelican, who really fucking rocked me on their last offering, The Fire in Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw. Eh, I guess Mastodon can hold the fort down until Pelican finally gets their act together. Or can Austin, Texas' By The End Of Tonight save Prog-Metal from obscurity? Basically, Pelican are disciples of ...and You Shall Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.
Overall rating: 59
The White Stripes - Icky Thump, released June 19, 2007, WarnerBros Records
I honestly haven't listened to The Stripes in like a year. Okay, Jack and Meg are getting heavier. Basically, I'll reiterate what I always say about this band: if Led Zep had been born 30 years later, were from Detroit and went all Prog-rock on us, and happened to be brother/sister/husband/wife? Icky Thump is a bit more bottom-heavy than previous offerings.
Overall rating: 77
Now for a full-length review:
Freaky Hijiki may or may not be some bad-ass Japanese seaweed, but those subtle congas (by Alfredo Ortiz, by the way...) that rise into the mix are so right on, giving way to hand claps and a sick drum break by Mike D, whose playing has improved immensely since the days of Groove Holmes, POW, and Sabrosa.
The Rat Cage has some of the best keyboard work on the album, swirling and whistling above the bouncy bass and dancy drums. Has a darker feel to it, but it fades into a cacophony of hand whistles like we was ravin' back in 1996....The Melee is by far the messiest track on the album, and it has a dance-a-delic quality to it, like Medeski Martin and Wood tried to eat a pound of mushrooms and rehearse, and then the newly sober John Scofield tried to jam with them, and he went home because the funk tasted like drugs...
You may rest assured that as the Beasties age, so does their reputation, serving to give themselves a timelessness that few other bands, albeit 20-plus years in the game, can afford themselves like these guys have.
Overall rating: 84