Mar 272007

Hey folks, thanks to every who dropped by and voted last time around. It looks like the Democratic process has decreed that next Tuesday I’ll be reviewing the Kaiser Chief’s second album, Yours Truly, Angry Mob. I’ve just this moment purchased it off of Amazon and shall put it into heavy rotation just as soon as it arrives in my hot little hands.

Also, in case anyone missed it, my review of Low‘s Drums and Guns is up. Link.

Now comes the moment you’ve all been waiting for, the list of candidates for next Tuesday’s purchase, to be reviewed on April 10th. Your options, as presented by Metacritic and augmented by a few choice options from Billboard and TopHitsOnline are:

Jarvis Cocker, Jarvis
Hilary Duff, Dignity
The Field, From Here We Go Sublime
Fountains of Wayne, Traffic and Weather
Kings of Leon, Because of the Times
Ozomatli, Don’t Mess With the Dragon
Partridge-Andrews-Barker Project, Monstrance
Sister Vanilla, Little Pop Rock
Throbbing Gristle, Part Two – The Endless Not
Paul Wall, Get Money– Stay True
Venetian Snares, Pink + Green
Timbaland, Timbaland Presents Shock Value
Chevelle, Vena Sera
Static-X, Cannibal

Cast your votes now!

*One note: I removed the new boxed set of The Wedding Present’s Complete Peel Sessions. Why? Because I don’t want to spend $77 bucks on a bunch of material from a band that I’ve never been that big on. It’s not that I think too many people would vote for it, but on the off chance that they did, I wouldn’t want to let them down by punking out and not getting it. Besides, no one wants to sit through me reviewing 6 discs worth of The Wedding Present.

Mar 262007

Low, Drums and Guns

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Artist: Low
Album: Drums and Guns
Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: Tuesday, 2007.3.20
Score: 7/10

Low’s latest release, Drums and Guns, sounds like it will be a great album when it’s done. Unfortunately, as it currently stands, it feels like the rough notes for a true masterpiece. This dynamic leads to a somewhat rewarding, though largely frustrating listening experience. The overall effect is one of glimpses of brilliance peaking out from between half-finished thoughts and raw, jumbled chaos. Polished greatness flashes now and again in an otherwise unimpressive, and often noisy field.

Nowhere is this unfinished quality more apparent in the tracks “Hatchet” and “Your Poison,” both of which literally feel like they’re missing whole segments of the song. “Hatchet” is perhaps the sweetest music-geek ballad I’ve ever heard. (“I know you’ve got a thing for ordinary guys / but I’ve heard your records and they sound a lot like mine”). Unfortunately, the tantalizingly catchy guitar hooks and the solid bassline end suddenly after the second verse in an unexpected, half-hearted lift. Almost as if the band got bored with such a sweet, straight-forwardly groovy song and decided to end it halfway through. It feels like there ought to be another two minutes or so of the song, and I, for one, would really like to hear them.

The next track on the album, “Your Poison,” suffers from a similar, though more perplexing problem. Instead of simply leaving off the second half of a brilliant song, the band seems to have omitted the middle three minutes of this one. Whether through forgetfulness, laziness, or spite, I’m not sure, but whatever the cause I would dearly love to hear the full tune. It begins with an a capella chorus which, with the addition of pounding drums and a rumbling guitar, suddenly builds to a thunderous, angry climax. The effect is a powerful start to what promises to be a great song of heartbreak, anger and woe. The promise, unfortunately, goes unfulfilled, as the band skips right to the calm, cathected finish with repeated moans of “your poison.” Again, the ending is an amazing finish to a song that never was. And so the 1:13 track delivers us a promising beginning and a fulfilling finish, with no actual song to go along with them.

The unfinished quality of the album is really more endemic, however, than a couple of tracks that leave the listener feeling let down and wanting more. The album, overall, has a rough, fuzzy quality to it. Muffled, distorted instrumentation and an all-around faded sound permeate the album, often to great effect. This noisy, unpolished aesthetic is, perhaps, best shown off in the opening track “Pretty People,” which features co-vocalist Alan Sparhawk crooning mournfully over plodding drums and scratchy feedback. The simple, morbid message (“and all the pretty people, you’re all gonna die”) is an upfront, honest reflection of the rest of the album, which is full of rough noise and lyrics that, when comprehensible, are often fairly morose.

The personal highlight of the album, the dark, marching “Sandinista”, is another excellent representation of the album as a whole. Clattering cymbals and steady, semi-militaristic drumming support moaning, vague lyrics about the horrors of war. The whole song is permeated by dark, indistinct washes of sound, giving it a dreary, yet suspenseful quality.

As a whole, the album has the feel of a raw, “lipstick on the gorilla” kind of effort. And while, in some cases, that kind of approach be quite effective, in the case of Drums and Guns, it just leaves the listener wishing the band had bothered to finish the great album that they’d started. The lyrics range from the fairly lucid and clever (“Hatchet”, “Murderer”) to Gertrude-Stein-esque ramblings (“Belarus”), while generally keeping with a theme of violence and personal demons. (Hear especially the cynical, satirical “Murderer,” a prayer to God offering to “do [his] dirty work.”) And while the lyrics are always ambiguous (at sometimes more than at others), they are also often poignant (“Come clean and off with your head / the streams of bright, rosy red / your heart will do the rest.”)

The melodic themes throughout tend toward the down-tempo and the evenly-paced, which sometimes causes things to drag (especially on the ponderous “Dust on the Window”). It does make excellent use of percussion, both kit (at the hands of drummer Mimi Parker) and digital, especially on the rhythmically rich tracks like “Always Fade.” The song also makes excellent use of effects and sampling, especially on tracks like “Belarus” which features an improbably jaunty, Tchaikovsky-esque violin accompanied by a heavily distorted chorus of sampled voices.

I honestly can’t say I would recommend this album for general consumption. It certainly does have its amazing moments, but as a whole, it’s an extremely mixed experience. If you’re the kind of person who might be interested in rough, dark, synth- and drum- heavy music that plays the spectrum somewhere between folk and rock, then it might be for you. If not, you may want to consider finding a place online (e.g. iTunes, eMusic, etc.) where you can pick up the tracks “Hatchet”, “Sandinista”, “Murderer”, and (if you don’t care about lyrics making any sense) “Belarus.” And we can all hope that the brilliant points that showed through in this rough sketch of an album will be more distinct and better developed the next time around.

Mar 262007

I’d totally missed the fact that the new Bright Eyes single was released a couple of weeks ago. It’s gratifying to see that it’s a real, proper single, with a healthy chunk of B-Side material to make buying it a good idea. In addition to “Four Winds,” the single off of the forth-coming Cassadaga album, it’s got 5 other tracks not found on the album, making it more of a single EP than a conventional American single.

This is something I’ve complained about elsewhere and to many people, but most American record labels and/or bands either don’t know how to craft a good single or simply refuse to do so. I’ll pay 8 bucks for the radio single plus a few other songs that won’t be on the album. I won’t, however, pay that much for the radio single and two shitty remixes thereof.

So props to Conor Oberst and his Saddle Creek Records label for putting out a single record worth buying.

Info here on Cassadaga and the Four Winds single, as well as a few .mp3 dowloads. I highly recommend “Four Winds” and the brilliantly-named “No One Would Riot for Less.”

In other news: The lineup credited on the new album is impressively all-star. Ben Kweller, M. Ward, Janet Weiss, and Jason Boesel, amongst others.

Mar 252007

Well I’ve been listening to Drums and Guns quite a bit, and I’m really enjoying the album. I must confess, however, that it would be a lot easier to concentrate on it, if it weren’t for Harvey Danger’s album Little by Little which I snagged a couple weeks ago. I am apparently entirely unable to stop listening to it. With such seriously catchy songs as “Wine, Women and Song” and “Cream and Bastards Rise”, it’s one of those albums that sticks with you even after you’re done listening it, and so many is the time this week I’ve caught myself listening to Low, but humming Harvey Danger. And given the fact that Little by Little is available for free download over at HarveyDanger.com, it has become apparent to me that this is clearly a fiendish plot by John Roderick to derail my efforts here at Fifty-Two Tuesdays with catchy tunes and clever lyrics. Well I’m here to tell you, John, your fiendish plot will fail! I will review Drums and Guns despite your best efforts to cause me to push it from my mind. Your nefarious schemes will accomplish nothing. Nothing, I tell you! (Except of course causing me excessive toe-tapping, dancing, smiling, and humming.)

Mar 232007

Things just keep getting better and better here at Fifty-Two Tuesdays. The latest feature idea, which I’m quite a fan of, is the idea of a weekly review of an old album that’s good, but that most people may have missed. The idea here is for the reviewer (who will hopefully rotate from week to week, if I can get enough interest going) will pick an older album that they like and that doesn’t have the wide listenership that they think it merits and write about it. Pretty simple idea, but I think it’ll be a nice way to round out the content.

What do you think, my fair readers, are you as interested in older music as you are in new release stuff? Would you listen to people squee about their favorite albums? Would some of YOU maybe be able to squee about favorite albums from time to time?

Mar 212007

Well I’ve been thinking about other things to do with this blog and I’ve decided that it would make a perfect place to start cataloging a project that my friends Trevor Skelton and Aaron Lewer originally came up with. This project, which I have just now dubbed “The Phantom Record Store”, is based on a compulsion shared by most music geeks: the creation of imaginary bands.

Any time you get two more more music snobs in a room, the probability that one of them will utter the phrase “Hey, you what would be a great name for a band?” approaches one as a function of time. This inevitable creation of phantom bands is something that Trevor, Aaron, and I do with stunning (read: saddening) regularity, often with the help of our friends Becky and/or Josh.

But the creation of phantom bands goes far beyond just coming up with names that would look good on a show flier. Often, these bands take on a life of their own, complete with ideas regarding genre of music, first (and sometimes subsequent) album titles, album cover art, titles of singles, etc.

So the grand idea, then, donned one day to Trevor and Aaron, geniuses that they are, to someday come up with a whole record store full of phantom bands. Real album art, in real jewel cases, in real CD bins, with totally fake bands, through and through. A tall task, to be sure, and one that may never see the light of day. But that doesn’t change the fact that we do have a lot of ideas for bands of varying degrees of awesomeness and completeness. And from this day forward, they will start residing here at Fifty-Two Tuesdays.

And to kick things off, here’s one I’ve kicking around in my head for awhile. I thought of this band name a year or so ago and after much googling I could NOT believe that the band name wasn’t already taken. It was inconceivable because the name is just TOO perfect. So without further ado, I give you album number one in Phantom Records:

Band Name: The Crosshairs
Debut Album: Muzzle Velocity
Debut Single: “I’m Hit!”
Genre: Hardcore Punk
Album Art: The band in the distance, silhouetted on a white background as seen over the shoulder of prone, rifle-wielding, female figure.

Mar 212007

Made a few formatting / configuration settings to the blog. Most notably, anonymous commenting is now allowed. I figure making it so people don’t have to register to comment will encourage more people to do so. Here’s hoping anyway.

Thanks for the great response to the project.

In another note, while the pickings for this week’s voting (options in the previous post) were taken from Metacritic’s list of releases for Tues. March 27th, I am well aware that this is nowhere near a complete list of releases. I’m not sure how yet I’ll generate the list of potential albums, but it seems like my options resolve to either a limited listing from a place like Metacritic, or a noisy, overly-complete list from the likes of Billboard.com or something. Alternately, I could plow through a complete, billboard.com-style list and cull out a selection of options myself, but I’d be loath to do that, since I kind of want to keep my biases out of the album selection as much as possible. Half the point of this blog is to get other people to decide my music for me, with the hopes of getting a chance to listen to and critically analyze/review a wide variety of music.

At any rate, I’m hoping to have all the kinks worked out by Tuesday, in time for the first real post.

Mar 202007

Hi there, folks! This is the beginning, I guess. And I suppose it’s always good at beginnings to explain what’s going on. You know, so people know.

So welcome to Fifty-Two Tuesdays! So what is it, exactly? Well, here in the United States, Tuesday is a very special day of the week: new album release day. That’s right, it’s the day when all the record labels deep dig into their bag of goodies and distribute CDs to good little boys and girls. Or rather, to good little record shops around the country and across the internet so that boys and girls of any moral character can purchase them, as long as they have the requisite funds. It’s like Christmas 52 times a year! Hence the title of the project: Fifty-Two Tuesdays.

So what is this blog, then, exactly? Well it’s a music-review blog, roughly speaking. But it’s a little different kind of project. Every post will consist of three sections.

1.) A review of an album which came out on the previous Tuesday. This, then, will be a new release (a week old), that I will have purchased (no piracy here at FTT) and had a week to listen to. Reviews will be provided by yours truly or, in case I am unable to fulfill my functions as reviewer for that week, a guest reviewer.

2.) An announcement of which album (released the day of the post) I purchased for the next week’s review.

3.) A listing of the upcoming releases for the next Tuesday so that you, the readers, can vote (yes, vote, as in Democracy HOORAY!) for what album I will purchase to review in two weeks time. I will abide by the popular vote.

There may be other content appearing on this blog from time to time, reviews of other CDs, ruminations about music in general, reviews of shows, etc. But for now, the only strictly planned posts will be the one post per week.

So, it gives me great pleasure, now, to announce that the new release reviewed on this blog will be Low’s Drums and Guns, which I have just this moment purchased from Amazon.com. My review of it will go up one week from today. On that day, I will also purchase a new album that has been released that day. It’s up to you, my loyal readers, to decide which. Your options, according to Meta-Critic, are as follows:

Chamillionaire, Ultimate Victory
Fabolous, From Nothin’ To Somethin’
The Fall, Reformation Post T.L.C. – [US release; already out in UK]
Good Charlotte, Good Morning Revival
Macy Gray , Big
Kaiser Chiefs, Yours Truly, Angry Mob
Klaxons , Myths Of The Near Future – [US release; already out in UK]
Lil’ Flip , I Need Mine
Jennifer Lopez , Como Ama Una Mujer
Mika , Life In Cartoon Motion – [US release; already out in UK]
Shawn Mims , Music Is My Savior
Grant-Lee Phillips , Strangelet
Prodigy [of Mobb Deep] , Return Of The Mac
Redman , Red Gone Wild
Timbaland , Shock Value
Laura Veirs , Saltbreakers

Please post votes to the comments section, one vote per person (including yours truly).