Aug 062008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.8.5

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Intro: Okay, well, I’m a little late starting this one (11:53pm), but it’s still Tuesday, so I declare that this still counts as on-time. I’ve got a lot to get through, so I’m just gonna jump right in.

Listening: Well, my progress up through recent musical history’s brought me more or less up to the present. Been listening to some of my favorite 2007/2008 releases (Our Love To Admire FTW!) and even getting around to checking out some new albums and bands to which I’d been meaning to listen.

Speaking of which: why did no one tell me about the Rakes before? Their song “Binary Love” popped up a few times on one of my Pandora stations, so I added it with the hopes of hearing more of their stuff. Well, as so often happens, one thing lead to another and before I knew it, I’d bought Capture / Release and was using it to soundtrack my drive to Helena this last weekend. Honestly, the album isn’t quite as brilliant as I was hoping, but it’s still pretty strong. “Strasbourg”, “22 Grand Job”, and “Work, Work, Work (Pub, Club, Sleep)” are all fun. Also I’m enough of a geek that I’m pretty sure I want “Binary Love” played at my wedding.

I also grabbed The Last Shadow Puppets debut, The Age of the Understatement. It’s more introspective and complex than either Alex Turner or Miles Kane’s previous work. From the lush string parts on “My Mistakes Were Made For You” to the oddly cacophonous vocal counterpoints on “Separate and Ever Deadly” the album’s full of pleasant little aural surprises. I’m not sure what I think of it as a whole quite yet, but I do like it. If you like either complex, novel rock music or are a fan of either Arctic Monkeys or the Rascals, it’s well worth a listen.

I also just picked Conor Oberst’s new self-titled which just came out today. If you haven’t heard the single off it (“Danny Callahan”), it’s available for download here. If you’d prefer to just stream it:

Warning: it’s not exactly a happy tune. It is, however, beautiful and moving. Speaking of the album…

Upcoming: Wow, how did I not know that Oberst’s new release was due out today until I saw it on Amazon’s frontpage? I seriously need some new sources for upcoming release dates. Metacritic is accurate, but woefully incomplete. The Billboard lists are so noisy as to be practically unusable. News sites are, of course, hit or miss, since they all differ in what releases they deem mention-worthy. Where do you folks hear about new releases?

In concert news, Puddle of Mudd are playing Spokane tomorrow (2008.8.6) night, if you’re into that sort of thing. Also, I learn by way of a comment here at the blog that The Shondes are touring this Fall. They’ll be playing several shows over on the coast. (Alas, none here in the Inland Northwest, but that’s nothing new.) If anyone’s interested, I’m seriously considering heading over to catch the Seattle show. Finally, Alt-Country masters Wilco will be playing Spokane on the 21st of this month. They give a GREAT live show, and if I can scrape together the funds, then I’ll definitely be hitting it up.

News: Did you know that Lee Perry is a dirty old man? Neither did I, but his new single “Pum Pum” is pretty much a stoned, dirty old man’s ode to cruising for sex in nightclubs. Wait, why do I say “pretty much”? That’s EXACTLY what it is. It’s also crazy-groovy. The man has a masterful command of the Dub/Raggae side of things.

(Warning: lyrics are not safe for work, beats are not safe for staying still in one’s seat. Download Link. Hat Tip to 3Hive.)

Also, those perpetually catty folks over at PopJustice are right: the new Streets single is pretty disappointing. I won’t go so far as to say that it’s “shite”, as they so eloquently put it, but it’s definitely no “Stay Positive”.

Thinking: So I’m a huge sucker for unique voices. Voices that, after a few listens, anyone could pick out of a audio lineup. Louise Wener, Tom Waites, Robert Smith. I love artists whose voice is entirely their own. It’s a little like hearing an instrument that no one else in the world can play. Paired with a good writing talent (either their own or a partner’s) and the possesors of such voices can turn out some truly brilliant music. (Louise Wener is a great example of that: a fantastic songwriter with the unique voice necessary to really make her songs her own.)

What I think is really interesting is how often these voices wind up either spawning genres or, at least, defying being placed into them. I think that part of the reason that Alt-Country became a big thing is that Billy Bragg and Jeff Tweedy have such unique voices and musical visions to accompany them. Similarly, I think that the current wave of singer-songwriters is thanks in large part to the unique voices of people like Conor Oberst and Ben Gibbard.

I think that the vocal qualities are one of the key things that shapes a new musical movement or genre. It’s why so many singers in the late 90s sounded like bad Kurt Cobain or Eddie Vedder impersonators. In a way, their voices were distillations of what the genre was meant to sound like.

Just a thought that’s been rattling around in my brain of late.

Song of the Week: I’ve been going back to this tune over and over again ever since I got the album. This is “Orphans”, by Beck, off of Modern Guilt:

Aug 152007

Interpol, Our Love to Admire

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Artist: Interpol
Album: Our Love to Admire
Label: Capitol Records
Release Date: Tuesday, 2007.7.10

Interpol’s much-anticipated major label debut, Our Love to Admire is, in many ways, Interpol’s strongest record to date. It feels like the album in which the group finally found their minimalistic groove. Where as their 2004 release Antics seemed unfocused, incohesive, and scattered, their Our Love to Admire feels like an album from a band which has finally found its feet. The album is a collection of deceptively simple-sounding tracks in which the parts all click together with clockwork precision. The brooding, rhythmic rock that the first two albums promised, but never fully delivered on has finally come to fruition.

Tunes like “Pace is the Trick”, with its focus on its somewhat surreal, abstract lyrics and its simple, yet imminately catchy guitar hooks, really drives home the spare, hook-laden aesthetic that Interpol have been trying to master for years. It perfects the mopey, abstract rock that was evident on Antics. Whereas prior offerings have sounded experimental and somewhat muddled, tunes like “Pace is the Trick” sound professional and mature.

Another song which exemplifies this newfound maturity and development is the lead track, “Pioneer to the Falls.” Supremely simple guitar licks click neatly with the sporadic, syncopated drum lines. The lyrics, as they do across the album, drift between the bizarre, but comprehensible (“So much for make believe, I’m not sold. / So much for dreams we see I’m not prepared to know.”), to Shins-esque resonant gibberish (“In a passion it broke, I pull the black from the grey”).

What’s most interesting is that, to a great extent, the simplicity that the album plays at (and sells quite well) is really kind of a sham. There’s actually a lot of scoring going on, with thickly layered guitar and bass lines, and remarkably intricate percussion work laced throughout. That such musical depth can feel like such simple and effortless artistry is impressive. It’s also a testament to the band’s growth, since the same kinds of tunes which sounded busy and cluttered in 2004 now fall together seamlessly.

The lyrics add another level of complexity to the album. While they retain a great deal of the abstract resonance that characterized the work on previous albums, there’s definitely been more thought put into them. Not only has Paul Banks kept the lyrical power, he’s also learned, it seems to blend that power with the other instrumentation. On “The Scale” for example, the interplay between the imagistic lyrics (“I have a sequin for an eye / pick a rose and hide my face”) and the music is impeccable. The instrumentation doesn’t simply underpin or support the lyrics, but rather the two work together reciprocally. And while it seems like a comparatively simple thing, it’s remarkable the extent to which instrumentation and vocals tend to get in one another’s way in a lot of modern music, including quite a few previous efforts from Interpol.

Our Love to Admire isn’t, in any sense, a new direction for the band, but it is a codification and a realization of what they’ve always been trying to do. This is the kind and caliber of album that Antics had the potential to be. But whereas Antics and (interesting, to a lesser extent) their debut, Turn on the Bright Lights feel unpolished and uncertain, Our Love to Admire is a confident and mature release. Interpol always knew what they wanted to accomplish, but this is the first album where it really feels like they’ve done it.

Aug 052007

Giving Pitchfork a run for its money . . .

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Hey everyone, I’m sorry I’ve been so catty the past couple weeks here at Fifty-Two Tuesdays, but I’ve been trying to read a broader scope of music news sites lately and that decision has exposed me to, among other things, the sludgy gloop at the bottom of the music reviewing barrel. A perfect example of the pap that one can dredge up from those foul depths, courtesy of Tiny Mix Tapes: “Unlike sophomore effort Antics, Our Love To Admire isn’t even a contractual obligation to push off without care.” (Link) What does that even MEAN? Seriously, folks, I don’t care if your reviews agree with mine, or if your style is anything like mine, or even if your goal in reviewing albums is like mine. But please, PLEASE, at least make your reviews intelligible! And less you think I’m depriving that sentence of some context which would clear up its symantec significance, here it is in all its non-sequitor-ish goodness:

“No thanks. Nearly three years have elapsed since any new material has surfaced, and the best the gloomsters can offer up is a prolonged re-hash of songs that barely worked the first time around. Unlike sophomore effort Antics, Our Love To Admire isn’t even a contractual obligation to push off without care. But boy does it sound like one; a band phoning it in, out of steam, and running on a few lingering fumes and smoldering coals. If that were the case it would be understandable, yet not forgivable. However, this poor piece of plastic doesn’t fit that description, and realizing that Interpol are aiming to impress with their major label debut is cause to audibly groan.”

And I thought the TMT article headlines were bad.

Clarity. It’s your friend.

Jul 272007

Well, it looks like we have a 3-way tie for next week’s album. So, by exercising my right to tie-breaking, I’m casting my vote for the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album.

Between backlog on my promises here and an incredibly uninspiring release lineup this week. (The only that’s made a real blip on my radar is the new Korn album, which I’m, shall we say, less than enthusiastic about.) A quick check of Metacritic and the Billboard charts reveals a somewhat-hyped album by a band called Common and a bunch of late-summer re-releases.

I can’t say I’m really surprised. The major summer album season has come to a close and we’re sliding into the release doldrums that usually settle in this time of year. The big-name albums have already hit the market and, after the last few weeks we’ve had, I can imagine most bands aren’t thrilled about releasing this close on the heels of so much awesome material. (I mean, coming out on the heels of the Smashing Pumpkins comeback alone would be enough to give any new release an uphill battle for recognition, not to mention all the other well-hyped stuff that’s come out lately.)

So here’s what we’re gonna do: I’m declaring this next week a Fifty-Two Tuesdays catch up week. I’ve got a list of things I’ve been meaning to write and/or have promised you all to write and/or started already, so I think we’ll forgo voting for a new album this week and see how much catching up I can do in the next week or so.

So, here’s the plan for the next week:

– Review of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Is Is
– Review of The Chemical Brothers’ We Are the Night
– Review of Interpol’s Our Love to Admire (Which has been in extremely heavy rotation in my world the past week or so.)
– A ranty little essay I’ve got started, kvetching about one of the big review/news outlets. (Which one has earned Aaron’s ire? Tune in later this week to find out!)
– One or two other small items I’ve been wanting to blog about but have slipped through the cracks lately
– Misc. other stuff I might run across.


P.S: Scroll down or click here for my review of They Might Be Giants’ The Else.

Jul 262007

"How are things on the West coast?"

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Okay, I know I promised that I’d have the review up today, just a day late, but sporadic internet outages and work pressures dictated otherwise. It’ll be up tomorrow. Totally totally will be. Promise. In the meantime, enjoy this bizarre little video from Interpol, whose new album Our Love to Admire is out on Capitol Records and is amazing.

So here’s Interpol with “The Heinrich Maneuver”: