Oct 142008

Tuesday Playlist for 2008.10.14

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Intro: Well it’s been a pretty crazy week here, and I’m beat, so the column may be short this week, but it’ll be on time.

Listening: Okay, so the new Oasis album, Dig Out Your Soul.  I’m not going to go into too much detail, because I’m hoping to post a couple of proper reviews on it later this week.  One will be by yours truly and the other by my long-time friend and total Oasis fanboy Trevor.  (Some readers may remember Trevor from his review of the last Jimmy Eat World album.)  Spoilers: I really like the album, Trevor’s not such a fan.  Basically, I think it’s a hell of a good Rock album and, while it’s certainly not the best Oasis album, it’s their best release since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?.

I’ve also gotten a chance to give Everything Is Borrowed, the new album by the The Streets a spin, and I was a bit taken aback by it.  It’s much poppier and whimsical than the previous records.  I’m a fan so far (just got it a few days ago), but anyone expecting the gritty sound and smirking, self-aware, satirical style of Original Pirate Material or A Grand Don’t Come for Free will be be surprised.  Mike Skinner’s still making good use of his sharp wit and his accented-yet-agile vocals.  The highly-syncopated aesthetic is still there, but minor tonality has been swapped out for major and themes of the highs and lows of everyday street life have been replaced with more abstract themes and a more symbolic style.

A great example of this new direction is the hoppy, keyboard-heavy “Heaven for the Weather”, the chorus which is, at first blush, Mike Skinner’s take on the conundrum of hell sometimes seeming the better place to end up in the afterlife.  (The chorus observes “I wanna go to heaven for the weather and hell for the company.”)  In classic Streets fashion, however, there’s some depth to the song, which is also about temptation and discerning the right thing to do.

All in all, though, despite its wit, the album isn’t on par with Skinner’s earlier works.  Skinner seems musically out of place without growling samples and gritty, tongue-in-cheek recollections of urban life.  The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living was not only satirical, incisive, and quick-witted, it was also musically rich without the music distracting in any way from the lyrical focus of the songs.  Skinner obviously knew how to weave his unique vocal stylings in with his Garage-influenced Electronica sound.  With a lighter, more pop-oriented sound, his gruff Mockney accent seems out of place, as does his stuttering cadence.  The result is a sort of aesthetic dissonance which, in places, doesn’t the album a real disservice (especially on track like “The Way of the Dodo” and “The Strongest Person I Know”).

Diehard Streets fans will certainly find some stuff here to like.  There are still clever turns of phrase and some nice beats to be found here and there.  Unfortunately the album is often too disjointed and stylistically dissonant to make for a very rewarding listen.  (E.g. the clash between the light, folksy piano lines and Skinner’s unmelodic, nasally, heavily accented voice on “The Strongest Person I Know” is almost cringe-inducing.)

Upcoming: If you like foppish Mope-Rock, there’s a new Keane album coming out.  If you like overwrought pop versions of Christmas songs, then Sixpence None the Richer has your covered.  If neither are really your thing, well, next week you can get new albums from Kenny Chesney, Electric Six, Brett Dennen, or Of Montreal.  There’s also an EP from Matisyahu due out.  And if none of that appeals to you, well, maybe new music just isn’t your thing?

And they just announced an album by some old timey rock back.  The band’s called Guns and something?  Roses, maybe?  Oh well, their album Chinese Democracy (which has been “in the works” for over a decade) is finally out in November.

Thinking: So all of you need to carve out 90 minutes of your day and listen to this twopart, 90-minute interview with Lester Bangs.  Bangs was THE rock critic 70s and early 80s.  If you want to understand the formation of modern rock music, listen to this interview and then go get a copy of Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader.

The interview is essentially 90 minutes of Bangs’ random musings on the state of the music industry at the turn of the 1980s.  He dwells quite a bit on what’s good and bad in punk/new wave and why they’re important.  It’s a must-listen for Stooges and Velvet Underground fans for that reason if for no other.

News: Björk, Yorke, and Pitchfork, Oh My!  Turns out that Nordic songstress (I use the term loosely) Björk is teaming up with Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke on a new single.  The song, “Nattura” will be released next Monday and Pitchfork Media (who broke the story) are already creaming themselves over it.

Of course, they’ll have tough competition, from that 7-year-old who’s tearing up the charts in the Europe and Asia.

From the “It’s About Damned Time” file, the last venue played by Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valen’s is being declared a Rock and Roll landmark by the Rock and Roll hall of fame.

I think that’s about it.  Oh, save for the stunning news from the EU that loud music  still bad for your hearing.

Song of the Week: Well, it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of John Lee Hooker.  I ran across this recording of him playing “Serves Me Right to Suffer” a few days ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.  The man was definitely one of the greats.

Jun 272008

State of the Blog Address

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So I’ve been thinking lately: the weekly review thing has been a lot of fun and has been exceptionally informative, but I think it’s time for a definite break from it. The format as it was was good, but eventually got to feel decidedly like something I had to do rather than something I wanted to do. This is no one’s fault but my own.

Honestly, I think the experience of writing those reviews, all of music which I didn’t pick for myself, has been a great one. I think I’m a better writer and a better listener for the experience. But too often, with as busy as my life has been, I’ve considered it a chore. As chores go, it sort of necessarily ranks towards the bottom of things, since I don’t get paid for it and it’s not necessary for getting through my day. But I did feel like I had to do it. There were even days when I thought “oooh, I should write a FTT post about X! Oh, wait, I’m already a week overdue on my review, I shouldn’t post anything until I get that done . . . ”

So I think that it’s time for a hiatus from the reviews. Honestly, I think that this will increase the rate at which I post here and (hopefully) increase the quality. My friend Ann (half of the hot new movie blog Cine-ful Thoughts) made an excellent point today about “stopping by and just seeing more videos.” I think they’ve sort of become my default filler these days.

So here’s the deal: no more weekly reviews. But more posts, more actual content, less filler. I’m thinking of doing a sort of weekly music newsletter sort of thing. Instead of holding myself to reviews, I’d like to write more about the music industry, what I’m listening to at the moment, and what’s going on in the swiftly evolving world of modern music.

So I’m thinking that there will still be some sort of weekly post, but it will be more of the stuff I care about. With as busy as life is, I think that if I come to this project thinking “I get to write about X” as opposed to “I really should write about X”, then I’ll be better and happier about posting. But overall, and more importantly, I’m shooting for more frequent and more content-full posts. There will still be reviews and videos, just not on a schedule and not chosen by the readers.

For all of you who voted: thank you SO much. I’m a better listener and a better writer because of all of you. And thanks to everyone for reading. I hope you’ll continue to do so. I also hope you’ll all continue to participate in the comments. And now, I’m going to lead out with a video of the Dead Boys covering “Search and Destroy” by the Stooges.

P.S: I’m also going to do something one of these days about the plain default blogger template that I’ve been using. Note to self: learn PHP and a sense of visual aesthetics.