Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Two Albums from 2009 I Don't Understand

Before I get to my Best of 2009 list (coming in a couple of days), I thought I'd talk about a couple of albums that have received terrific reviews, but that I never really "got".  It's not that I hate these albums...I just don't understand why everyone else seems to love them.
I'm not saying these things to bring your hatred crashing down upon me.  These are just things I feel that I need to get off my chest.

Phoenix - Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

There are some extremely catchy songs on this album...that cannot be denied.  "1901", while making its way to commercials, is still a great song.  The synths make you want to move, while the vocals beg you to sing along.  "Lisztomania" is a little obnoxious (the name bothers me quite a bit), but it's still a catchy little song.
And so the album goes.  It's only 9 songs, but, by the end, I feel like I've heard the same song at least 5 times.  The songs are catchy, synth-driven tracks with processed guitars and a nice voice.  It could have been released in 1986 and no one would've batted an eye.  I kind of like the album, but it's rarely something that I ever think about.  I haven't ever found myself in a position where I think, "You know, I'd really like to listen to that Phoenix album."  It's not bad...but it seems pretty forgettable.
And something else has been bugging me since this album came out; didn't The Black Kids roll with this same sound only a year ago?  They released Partie Traumatic in 2008, and, while it carried some early buzz, it never really took off (Sharon and I wrote about it last year).  They're a five-piece, synth-based band that was stuck in the 80s.  Sure, the vocals didn't sound as good (they were a bit whiny at times), but it was the same sound.  The songs were upbeat, catchy, and, ultimately, pretty forgettable.  Just like Phoenix.  I know it's not really "cool" to like The Black I'm not really sure why it's suddenly "cool" to like Phoenix.  If someone could explain this to me, I would very much appreciate it.

Favorite Track: "1901"
Rating: 3/5

The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You

I already caught some heat for my thoughts on this one, especially considering some of the albums that will end up in my top 20.  Still, it bears repeating.
The first song on this album is incredible.  "I And Love And You" is a beautiful song, filled with great instrumentation, great lyrics, and an earnest voice.  I had heard bits-and-pieces of The Avett Brothers before this...but I was not prepared for this song.  It's a beautiful song.
However, the album goes downhill from there.  There are a handful of songs on the album that I like quite a bit ("Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise", "Ill With Want", and "Imcomplete and Insecure").  But, overall, this album just feels pretty "blah".  There's really not much to it.  The pain that filled "I And Love And You" was gone, replaced with a sort of indifference.  And that's how I feel about the album...indifferent.  I love one song, like a few, hate one ("Kick Drum Heart"), and don't really care about the others.  I have listened to this album around 10 times, and I can't tell you what half the songs sound like.  Oh, I know they're slowish and are based around acoustic guitars with some drums, piano, and cello filling out the songs (and I know that the upbeat songs all sound almost exactly the same), but I don't remember specifics.  It all gets rolled up into one big ball of indifference in my head.
Since I like the first song on the album, I have listened to this album more often than the Phoenix album, but my overall feeling is the same: I don't hate fact, I even kind of like it.  But it's rare that I want to listen to the whole thing.

Favorite Song: "I And Love And You"
Rating: 3/5

Please leave comments and let me know your thoughts.  Tell me how wrong I am.  Tell me why I'm wrong.  But, for the life of me, I can't understand the major appeal of these albums.

1 comment:

Fosterface said...

Right with you on the Phoenix album. I may have wanted to like it, or at least wanted to like Lisztomania, for the reference to Liszt, the Hungarian romantic-era composer. The name is still annoying. But I just couldn't get into it. And I tried. Whatever value there was in the aforementioned song, it was trashed 3 or 4 tracks later.

I felt the same way about the Grammatics album. On "Murderer," I just got sick of the guy saying "he's a murderer," over and over again. Then the next songs were flat and wiped from memory whatever good points existed from the first two or three tracks.

2009 was a strange one for music - I think my top 5 are:

1. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca
2. Andrew Bird - Noble Beast
3. Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
4. St. Vincent - Actor
5. Dead Weather? or Handsome Furs?