Thursday, June 18, 2009

What I've Been Listening To Lately

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, so let's get this thing going with some quick thoughts on albums that I've been listening to somewhat recently.

Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul

Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse are responsible for the production of this album, turning over the vocals to the likes of Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), Gruff Rhys (Super Furry Animals), Frank Black, Iggy Pop, Julian Casablancas (The Strokes), James Mercer (The Shins), David Lynch, Suzanne Vega, and many others. The music is exactly what I expected: eerie, sinister, and a little strange. "Revenge" is a great way to start the album off...dark and lush and filled with organs. Just a terrific album. A shame it may never see the light of day (although you should still be able to stream it here).

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Song: "Revenge (feat. Wayne Coyne)"

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz!

I was not a huge fan of Fever to Tell. I liked Show Your Bones pretty well. I love this album. It kicks off with "Zero", a synthed-up, disco-ish dance song. It's fun, but still maintains their high level of creativity. The entire album slithers around behind a layer of synths and slick production. On first listen, it doesn't seem like much. But repeated listens peel back the layer of slickness to show a fantastic album underneath. From the dance-pop of "Zero" to the lushness of "Skeletons" to the slow building of "Runaway", this entire album is terrific. This band just keeps getting better.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Song: "Skeletons"

Manchester Orchestra - Mean Everything to Nothing

I liked their first album, Like a Virgin Losing a Child, almost immediately. The opening of "Wolves at Night" grabbed me from the very first time I heard it. This album was different. The opening song, "The Only One", starts with Andy Hull singing in a particularly whiny voice. With hardly instrumentation backing him up, it sounds a bit grating. I didn't think I would come around to it.
But I did.
I'm still not the biggest fan of that song, but the majority of the album is great. The breakdown on "Shake it Out" is the hardest thing they have done so far. Just listening to it makes me feel like jumping into a most pit of some sort. "I Can Feel a Hot One" is a nice little slow song. While not nearly as beautiful as "Sleeper 1972" from their first album, it's still a great song.
There are enough moments that I'm not crazy about to where I can't I love it...but I can say that I like it pretty well. It's definitely worth your time to check out.

Rating: 3.5/5

Favorite Song: "Shake it Out"

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

I went into this album with extremely low expectations. Her first album was hyped incessantly, and I never quite understood it. I liked "LDN" pretty well, but I wasn't crazy about the rest of the album. Still, I listen to everything, so I decided to give it a listen.
I was amazed at how much I liked this album. The songs are much better than they were on the first album, and the production is great. She still relies a bit too much on her "angry girl" images in her lyrics, but it seems to show up a little less on this album than it did on her previous one. I can't say it's an amazing album, but it's a very enjoyable listen.

Rating: 3.5/5

Favorite Song: "Not Fair"

The Killers - Day & Age

My love of The Killers is a little embarrassing. I know that I shouldn't listen to them as much as I do, but I can't help it. I've read interviews with them that make me want to punch them in the face. Still...I love them..
This album is no different. It's a slick pop album, full of songs that seem like they've all been done before (wasn't "Joy Ride" in a car commercial in the 90s?). But they do it so well. Even the much talked-about lyric, "Are we human, or are we dancer?" can't deter me. I love every song on this album...and it's about time I stop apologizing for that.
My name is Dusty, and I love The Killers.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Song: "Goodnight, Travel Well"

Kat Jones - Without a Sound

New music from Kat Jones is always a reason to celebrate. While I love the instrumentation of her albums, I've always had a soft spot for her low-key recordings. Just Kat, her guitar, and her amazing voice. This is one of the latter. It is six tracks of stripped down of which is a wicked murder ballad. Who could ask for more than that? Some of the strongest songs of her career are found on this EP. This is Kat showing off her considerable vocal prowess...and it's glorious.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Song: "The Moon Burns Red"

Kanye West - 808's and Heartbreaks

Leave it to Kanye to take an overused fad like autotune and create an entire around it. I would like to see the thought process that went into this album. This is the perfect instance of a man's gigantic ego getting in the way of good judgment.
Still, he's a talented producer, and that salvages this mess a little. If you can ignore the autotune attacking your ears for a couple of seconds, you can hear some great production in this album. Put in someone else's hands, this could've been a good album. Seriously, the production behind "Robocop" and "Love Lockdown" could've led to great things. Instead, we're stuck with a terrible concept and terrible execution.
If you feel up to it, try listening to "Paranoid" all the way through. It sounds like he's going for some sort of Michael Jackson vibe...but it comes off in the worst way possible. Just wretched stuff. It's scores a little higher than I would like, based solely on the production.

Rating: 1.5/5

Favorite Song: "Robocop" (if there was an instrumental version, I would be a little happier about it)

Eminem - Relapse

I never have been a huge Eminem fan. Sure, he's talented, but he always seemed more interested in the shock factor of his music than anything else. I've never been able to listen to an entire album of his all the way through. This album is pretty much the same for me. There are some great songs ("3 AM", "Bagpipes from Baghdad" and "Same Song and Dance" are my favorites), but there are also some terrible ones ("My Mom" and "Insane" being the main culprits). There are some other decent songs here and there ("We Made You" is catchy, but it's not really all that good), but, honestly, I don't remember too many songs from the album, and I've listened to it 5+ times now. I think that means it's not a terrible album, but it's not all that great, either.
Still, the songs that are good are great. "Bagpipes from Baghdad" is a great reminder of why Dr. Dre is still considered to be one of the best producers in the business. Just terrific stuff.

Rating: 3/5

Favorite Song: "Bagpipes from Baghdad"

Elvis Perkins - Elvis Perkins in Dearland

Elvis Perkins' first album was all full of death and depression, which went well with his voice. This album stands in stark contrast to that one. It's a pretty upbeat album, and it shows a large influence of New Orleans music. Horns blaring and feet stomping and tambourines shaking. It's a different Elvis Perkins, and it took me a little while to figure out whether or not I liked it. As it turns out, I love it.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Song: "1 2 3 Goodbye"

Eels - Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire

On this album, the Eels take a page from their Shootenanny! days; distorted blues rock, mixed with slower songs of love and loss. There really isn't much to distinguish this album from some of their previous ones, but there's nothing really wrong with that. This is a strong set of songs from a consistently great band. It's also a pretty accessible album, so, if you have yet to really listen to the Eels, this is a pretty good place to start.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Song: "Beginner's Luck"

Common - Universal Mind Control

I've been listening to Common for a little while now. I haven't been with him since the beginning of his career, but I have been listening to him for a number of years now. I thought Be was terrific. I, of course, loved Like Water for Chocolate. I am in the minority of people who thought that Electric Circus was great. I even thought that Finding Forever had some great moments on it.
So it is with much sadness that I say this: this album was terrible. Utter trash. I'm not sure what he was going for, so I'm not sure if he accomplished it. As I was listening to this album, my audio receiver cut out, leading me to believe that it killed itself because it was forced to play this.
I tried, Common. Really I did. I hope this is not the end of the line for us. I hope you still have some great music in you. I hope you bounce back from this album in a big way (although that may be tough, seeing as how you did an appearance on the new Jonas Brothers album).
I will give this album a slightly higher rating than it deserves...but only because I like you. Next time I will not be so kind.

Rating: .5/5

Favorite Song: N/A

Coconut Records - Davy

I don't ask much of Coconut Records. I ask for good pop music. Nothing fancy. Thankfully, he has delivered. Again. Sure, the lyrics leave a bit to be desired ("And I was a drummer, in a band, that you heard of"), but that doesn't bother me so much. This album sounds good. It has a nice feel to it. It's obvious that he is a big Beatles fan...their influence is all over this album. He is not reinventing the wheel on this album, but he has managed to make a great little pop album. Sometimes, that's all you need.

Rating: 4/5

Favorite Song: "Any Fun"

Bat for Lashes - Two Suns

On this album, Natasha Khan channels her inner Kate Bush to make a great album. Full of synthesizers, ethereal songs, fantastic percussion, and that voice...that voice that so perfectly fits her style. This album is more cohesive than her previous album, which makes this one a better overall album. My words are unable to do this album justice. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Rating: 4.5/5

Favorite Song: "Sleep Alone"

1 comment:

Fosterface said...

I had to hold my nose at first listen to Day & Age, but then I read this and even though I sometimes wonder why you listen to some albums until you like them, I figured I'd give it another go.

It's all about expectations, my friend (I'm helping you through Lee Corso-less times). I listened and liked. Good call.

Is the Bat for Lashes album that much better than the first? I liked the first song for about a minute, then the rest trailed off, or fell off.

I like the Eels album.

Because of Elvis Costello, I won't touch an album by anyone named Elvis with a ten foot listening pole.

Really liked the DangerMouse & SparkleHorse and Everyone Else album. Except the last two tracks. Eghh, the guy's voice made me throw my back out.

What do you think of the new Sonic Youth? Reviews of the new Dinosaur Jr. keep saying, joyfully, "they're back!" It's pretty good. And the new Jonas Brothers? I wasn't going to give it a shot, but the fact that they're on the cover of this month's Good Housekeeping made me think twice. And confirmed that I won't give it a shot. Ears are better spent with this .