Thursday, October 27, 2011

Tom Waits, St. Vincent

Tom Waits – Bad As Me

I have long been in love with Tom Waits, so I was really looking forward to this album.  His first album of all new material since 2004’s Real Gone (and his first new music of any kind since 2006’s Orphans: Bawlers, Brawlers and Bastards.
And it doesn’t disappoint.
He doesn’t really break any new ground here, but he doesn’t need to.  He has broken enough ground in his career.  He is equally at home in dirty, shuffling blues (“Chicago”, “Bad As Me”), tender ballads (“Talking at the Same Time”, “Last Leaf”) and dark tales of post-war life (“Hell Broke Luce”).  There are a couple of songs I’m not overly fond of (“Raised Right Men”, “Satisfied”), but, for the most part, this is Tom Waits at his best, taking sounds from his previous albums and melding them into something new that can be equally beautiful and terrifying.
On top of some of his regular musicians (his son Casey on the drums, Marc Ribot on guitar, Larry Taylor on bass), he is also joined on this album by some pretty big names: Keith Richards, Flea, and Les Claypool all appear on at least one track.

Favorite track: “Hell Broke Luce”
Rating: 4.5/5

St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

Upon the release of her first album (Marry Me), Annie Clark (the mastermind of St. Vincent) was seen to be a quirky songwriter, somewhere in the vein of Regina Spektor, but with less piano.  The second album (Actor) took her a little bit away from that, with her carefully sculpted soundscapes that brought about a marriage of chaos and beauty.
With Strange Mercy, Clark delves more into the latter description.  The songs are filled with distorted guitars and huge synths, while her voice floats over it all, and sometimes dips back down to join.  It’s a beautiful, organized chaos, and it’s amazing.  Turn it up loud enough, and you can easily lose yourself in these songs.
Even the slower songs are extremely interesting.  There are so many layers and textures to them.  And her phrasing is perfect.  The sublime "Champagne Year" just wouldn't sound the same in the hands of anyone else.
She has a way of twisting melodies that is just fascinating to hear.  There is a Pixies documentary that came out a few years ago in which PJ Harvey tried to describe Joey Santiago’s guitar style.  She said he seemed like he was bending the music in such a way that you almost had to twist your body to feel like you were hearing it correctly.  It’s an odd description, but I completely understand what she is saying.  And I feel the same thing about this album.  This happens especially towards the end of “Cruel”.  The music just keep building and her voice just keeps getting higher, and it’s almost impossible to listen to it while sitting still.  And I love it.

Favorite track: “Strange Mercy”
Rating: 5/5

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Zola Jesus, The Weeknd

Zola JesusConatus

Spooky, glitchy, and lush.  This album feels like a combination of Kate Bush, Bjork, Bat for Lashes and Florence + The Machine.  Her voice is amazing…haunting and threatening and heartbreaking (sometimes all at once).  It’s 55 and rainy outside right now, and this album feels perfect.  

Favorite track: "Vessel"
Rating: 4.5/5

The Weeknd – House of Balloons

I had been hearing about this guy for a while, so I thought it was about time I’d give him a shot.  I like it.  It’s a nice little R&B album.  A little different from what I usually think of when I think of R&B (he uses a lot of interesting textures), so that certainly helps (some songs have a touch more Reznor than your typical R&B album track).  There are times when some of the songs kind of bleed together, but, for the most part, I really like it.  He’s no Frank Ocean (who is?), but, if you’re looking for a good R&B album, you could do a lot worse than The Weeknd.  (The same review pretty much applies for his second album, Thursday.)

Favorite track: “The Knowing”
Rating: 3.5/5

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Duke Spirit, Veronica Falls, Lisa Hannigan

The Duke Spirit – Bruiser

Where their previous albums had a fairly abrasive rock edge, this one seems a little different.  That edge is still there, but it’s been softened a bit.  They seem more concerned with the textures of their songs.  Liela Moss (lead singer) seems to be finding a new way to use her voice, as she slinks it around these new arrangements.  It’s a different direction for The Duke Spirit, and I really like it.

Favorite track: “Homecoming”
Rating: 4/5

Veronica Falls – Veronica Falls

Most of this album feels like a 50s doo-wop album, drenched in reverb.  Pretty melodies and harmonies are everywhere.  The songs are driven by a nice little guitar line, and drums that don’t do much beyond keeping the beat.  It reminds me of Loveless Unbeliever by The School, but with more reverb.  It’s a nice little album.  There’s not much to it, but it’s fun.  The sun is shining outside, and this seems like a good album to be listening to right now.

Favorite track: “Come On Over”
Rating: 4/5

Lisa Hannigan – Passenger

Damien Rice’s favorite back-up singer releases her second album.  It’s good.  Not altogether different from what she has already done, but it’s nice.  Folksy, with some pretty interesting arrangements.  Somewhere along the line, though, all of the songs kind of bleed together.  It’s a pleasant enough album, but nothing really jumped out at me.

Favorite track: “Passenger”
Rating: 3/5

Friday, September 02, 2011

Fall Music

The last couple of days notwithstanding, the weather has begun to cool down.  The first Saturday of college football is tomorrow.  Almost without warning, Fall is in the air.
That got me to thinking about the music I like to listen to during this time of year.  Everyone has those albums that just seem to sound better depending on the season.  Or the mood.  Or the precipitation.
I decided to look through my music and pick out the albums I usually turn to around this time of year.  This is not a complete list, but it does include some of my favorite albums for this time of year.
Since there are so many, I've decided not to write reviews for them.  Or give them ratings.  Suffice it to say, I love all of these albums, and they would all get somewhere between a 4 or a 5.  The only order they're in is alphabetical.
Feel free to share your own albums in the comments.  Hopefully I'll write some more of these in the future, but I make no promises.

The Appleseed Cast - Low Level Owl: Volumes 1 & 2
Favorite track: "Doors Lead to Questions"

Beck - Sea Change
Favorite track: "Lost Cause"

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha
Favorite track: "Cataracts"

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme
Favorite track: "Part 1: Acknowledgement"

Common Children - The Inbetween Time
Favorite track: "How Many Times"

Counting Crows - August and Everything After
Favorite track: "Anna Begins"

The Cure - Show
Favorite track: "From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea"

Dear Euphoria - Heal My Violence
Favorite track: "Heal My Violence"

Elliott - Song in the Air
Favorite track: "Carry On"

William Fitzsimmons - Goodnight
Favorite track: "Hold On With My Open Hands"

A Girl Called Eddy - A Girl Called Eddy
Favorite track: "Girls Can Really Tear You Up Inside"

Granada - Takes a Lot of Walking
Favorite track: "Once Long Ago"

Emmylou Harris - Red Dirt Girl
Favorite track: "Red Dirt Girl"

James Iha - Let it Come Down
Favorite track: "No One's Gonna Hurt You"

Margot & the Nuclear So and So's - The Dust of Retreat
Favorite track: "Talking in Code"

Marissa Nadler - Songs III: Bird on the Water
Favorite track: "Diamond Heart"

Ola Podrida - Belly of the Lion
Favorite track: "Sink or Swim"

Paper Route - Paper Route EP
Favorite track: "Let You Down"

Pedro the Lion - It's Hard to Find a Friend
Favorite track: "Secret of the Easy Yoke"

Elvis Perkins - Ash Wednesday
Favorite track: "While You Were Sleeping"

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson - Summer of Fear
Favorite track: "Summer of Fear, Pt. 2"

Shearwater - Rook
Favorite track: "Home Life"

Sparklehorse - It's a Wonderful Life
Favorite track: "Gold Day"

Starflyer 59 - Gold
Favorite track: "Messed Up Over You"

Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans 
Favorite track: "To Be Alone With You"

Talk Talk - Spirit of Eden
Favorite track: "I Believe in You"

Velour 100 - Fall Sounds
Favorite track: "Joy"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Girls, Zee Avi, I Break Horses, Loney Dear, Red Hot Chili Peppers

Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost

At times, they recall their sunny-pop influences from the 60s.  At others, they bring to mind early 90s alternative rock.  Sometimes this happens on the same song. It can be a schizophrenic album, but it all works well together.  Nowhere is this more evident than on “Vomit”, which starts in the mold of 90s rock, then transitions into breezy pop, and ends with a repeating refrain of “Come into my heart,” while a Procol Harum-esque organ plays in the background, and a chorus backs up the refrain.
It’s a good album for these fading days of summer.

Favorite track: “Vomit”
Rating: 4/5

Zee Avi – Ghostbird

Light, airy folk, with a hint of bossa nova at times (and more than a hint at other times).  It’s a good album for a lazy day…somewhere in the vicinity of Bebel Gilberto or Carla Bruni, with some Feist thrown in for good measure.

Favorite track: “Concrete Wall”
Rating: 3/5

I Break Horses – Hearts

A nice little summery shoegaze album.  I like it, but there’s not much to it.  By about the middle of the album, all of the songs bleed together into one big reverb-soaked mass.  There’s nothing wrong with that (like I said, I like it), but I was at the end of the album before I knew it, and I couldn’t really think of any songs that sounded much different from the rest of the album.  This seems to be a good one to put on and just let the sounds wash over you.  They basically sound like Beach House, with more than a nod to the drones of My Bloody Valentine.

Rating: 3.5/5

Loney, Dear – Hall Music

Loney, Dear haven’t changed much since they started.  Three albums in, and they’re still making the same sort of big, well-orchestrated pop music that they did on their first album.  However, they do it so well that the sameness of their albums doesn’t really bother me.  This is a good, solid album.  There are a handful of songs that I like a lot, and the rest of them fall into the category of “pretty good,” even if I can’t remember exactly what separates them.  Still, they know what they’re doing, and it shows.

Favorite track: “What Have I Become?”
Rating: 3/5

Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You

I didn’t care for Stadium Arcadium, but, for some reason, I was hoping that I would like this album.  I do not like this album.  It starts off well enough with “Monarchy of Roses”.  It’s not a great song, but it’s decent, and it’s a good, high-energy song to start things off on the right foot.  The album quickly falls off, though, culminating in the awfulness of “Look Around” and “Happiness Loves Company”. 
To quickly summarize: it’s an album filled with a couple decent songs, a lot of bad ones, and a couple terrible ones.

Favorite track: “Brendan’s Death Song:
Rating: 1/5

Monday, August 08, 2011

Tiny Ruins, Asteroids Galaxy Tour, Mister Heavenly

Tiny Ruins – Some Were Meant for Sea

Beautiful, delicate folk songs.  I love her voice.  It’s perfect for this style.  She reminds me a lot of Marissa Nadler, which is never a bad thing.  And, like Nadler, this feels like a really good album to listen to on a cold day.  Hopefully those days will be here soon.

Rating: 4/5
Favorite track: "Death of a Russian"

I heard this band on a new Heineken commercial, and I really liked their sound.  Kind of old-timey, but modernized.  So I tracked down their album and gave it a listen.  I like it.  There are times when the songs kind of bleed together, as they don’t really deviate from their style, but still…it works.  I don’t like all the songs, but I like enough of the songs to enjoy the album.  It’s kind of a ragtime-meets-70s-lounge-meets-Gorillaz sound…if that makes any sense.

Rating: 3/5
Favorite track: "The Golden Age"

Mister Heavenly – Out of Love

They describe their sound as “doom-wop”, and it makes perfect sense.  Mister Heavenly is comprised of Honus Honus (of Man Man), Joe Plummer (of Modest Mouse) and Nicholas Thorburn (of Islands and The Unicorns), which makes them a super-group of sorts (their touring bassist is Michael Cera, but he doesn’t play on the album).  Their sound is rooted in the vocal/musical style of doo-wop, but infinitely darker.  It’s an interesting sound.  There are enough good (and catchy) songs to make this a good listen.  It was a great listen on a dreary, rainy day like today.

Rating: 3/5
Favorite track: "Pineapple Girl"

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

My Followers, The Lassie Foundation

I looked the other day and saw that I had quite a few followers on this little music blog (47, to be exact, but I assume a lot of them are of the spam variety).
Considering I don't really do much with this, that's pretty amazing to me.  I think I know two of you.  So that means that I don't know how the vast majority of you found me (or why you read me).
If any of you - my followers - read this, please leave a comment (or send me a message) as to how you found my blog...hidden deep within this corner of the internet.

And now, a short review:

The Lassie Foundation - Pacifico

This album came out 11 years ago (has it really been that long?), but I listen to this album - without fail - multiple times every summer.  It's a terrifically fuzz-poppy can find their sound somewhere between the shoegaze of Ride and the feel of the Beach Boys.  It's a gorgeously shimmery album  If you're looking for a perfect summer album, it's right here.  If you've never listened to this album, check it out now, before summer ends.  You can download the entire album at Amazon for $6.99 right now.  That's a great deal.

Rating: 5/5
Favorite track: "El Rey"

Monday, August 01, 2011

Joss Stone, Babette Hayward, Brilliant Colors

Joss Stone – LP1

There was a time when I loved Joss Stone.  That time was when her first album – The Soul Sessions – was released.  I loved the sound of it.  I loved her voice.  And I keep thinking that I love Joss Stone…but I think I still just love that first album, because I have yet to hear anything released since then that has captured my attention.  I don’t hate this album.  It’s a decent album.  But there’s not much that draws me back to it.  She still has a terrific voice, and there are a couple of pretty good songs on this album…but there isn’t enough to make me want to keep listening to it.  As far as a modern soul/pop album goes, you could do a lot worse…but you could also do quite a bit better.

Rating: 2.5/5
Favorite track: "Newborn"

Babette Hayward – You Might Be Somebody

I have listened to this album at least 3 times by now, and nothing really stands out.  It’s not bad.  It’s an extremely listenable album.  But it’s fairly innocuous chick-pop, with nothing to separate her from the thousands of others who inhabit that genre.

Rating: 2/5
Favorite track: "That's Gold"

Brilliant Colors – Again and Again

A good summer-pop album.  They have the sound of a girl group, but drowned in fuzz and reverb.  It’s a short album, which is good…they don’t have enough variance in their sound to keep you interested for a long time.  But still, it’s a nice little album.

Rating: 3/5
Favorite track: "How Much Younger"

A non-music related note: while I have been writing short, not-very-well-thought-out reviews of albums that I've been listening to at work, one of my younger brothers has started an amazing blog where he looks at different baseball statistics.  It can be fairly in depth, but they're extremely interesting.  If you have a free minute - and if you care at all about baseball - head over there and check it out.  His blog is called Statistical Meanderings, and it's incredible.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Blueflowers, Theophilus London & Washed Out

The Blueflowers – In Line With the Broken Hearted
It kind of sounds like they took the pop sounds of the 50s, 80s, and 90s, then just kind of took turns with the sound of each decade.  Also, there are moments where they mix in some spaghetti western-sounding stuff.  I kind of like it.  They don’t jump out to me as an amazing band, but I like their overall sound pretty well.  There are times when the lead singers voice starts to sound a little squeaky, but it doesn’t happen often.  At times, it sounds like their going for the whole Mazzy Star thing, especially in her vocals; there’s definitely more than a hint of Hope Sandoval there.

Favorite track: "When it Started"
Rating: 3/5

Theophilus London – Timez are Weird These Days
I’m normally not a big fan of British hip-hop (that is to say, I don’t really like Dizzee Rascal or The Streets), but there’s something different about this guy.  The music really tends more towards electro than hip-hop the majority of the time.  But, unlike the two artists I just mentioned, London actually has a good feel for the music…a good flow.  I never really got that feeling from Dizzee Rascal or The Streets.  I don’t love the whole album, but there were enough good moments to keep me interested in it throughout.

Favorite track: "Last Name London"
Rating: 3/5

Washed Out – Within and Without
I guess this is what the kids are calling “chillwave”.  I can see that.  It’s airy music and vocals layered over electronic beats.  There wasn’t much here that jumped out at me, but it seemed like a nice album to kind of put on in the background on a lazy day.

Favorite track: "A Dedication"
Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Even More Quick Hits

Apparently my goal was to post so seldom that people would stop checking the blog, then throw an insane amount of reviews at you.

The Cool Kids - When Fish Ride Bicycles

I loved their first album (The Bake Sale), so I was looking forward to this one.  They do a very good job of paying homage to their old school heroes (especially Run DMC), while not making it cheesy.  They continue that trend on this album.  Actually, I think they did an even better job on this album.  Those influences are still there, but they seem to be trying to craft their own sound on this one.  It's an infectious album.

Favorite track: "Rush Hour Traffic"
Rating: 4/5

The Bony King of Nowhere - Eleonore

It's a folksy little album.  There's not much to it.  It's not bad, but there's nothing that separates him from the legions of others that sound exactly like him.  Basically, it's a less-good version of the first Fionn Regan album.

Favorite track: "Eleonore"
Rating: 2/5

Des Ark - Don't Rock the Boat, Sink the F***er

I don't really know what to make of her.  I think I like it.  There are songs that are stripped down and pretty, and others that are basically emo tracks.  It all seems to work.  The music seems serious enough...but then there's a track called "FTW Y'all!!!!", and I just can't take her seriously...even though it seems like she may not be taking herself seriously.

Favorite track: "My Saddle is Waitin' (C'Mon Jump on It)"
Rating: 3/5

R.E.M. - Collapse Into Now

Kind of feels like an older R.E.M. album...back when they were consistently making good music.  Even if it doesn't rank up there with their best work, it's still a good album.  Listen loud.

Favorite track: "Uberlin"
Rating: 3.5/5

Tyler, The Creator - Goblin

At times, it's a horrorcore album (which he talks about on the album).  At other times, it's an incredibly interesting look into the mind of a young kid who shot up to fame in a hurry.  In those moments, it's a fascinating listen.  Overall, it's a bit long, and, by the end, all of the songs start to sound the same.  It's a dark album, but there are a number of amazing tracks on this album.  It's well worth a listen.

Favorite track: "Yonkers"

Rating: 3.5/5

Action Bronson - Dr. Lecter

This guy borrows his sound from Ghostface Killah...fantastic verses over soul samples and the occasional electric guitar.  He never quite reaches the transcendent levels that Ghostface does, but he's still really good.  The entire album is fantastic, with a handful of stand-out tracks.  Right now, this is my hip-hop album of the year.

Favorite track: "Chuck Pearson"
Rating: 4.5/5

Frank Ocean - Nostalgia, Ultra

Like Tyler, The Creator, Frank Ocean is a park of the Odd Future crew.  But Ocean is the R&B crooner in the group, which sets him apart from the rest of them.  I'm a little undecided on this album.  I think I like it - there are even a couple tracks I love - but I feel like I should like it a little more than I do.  Maybe it'll grow on me with future listens.  As it stands now, I like it pretty well.

Favorite track: "Lovecrimes"
Rating: 3.5/5