Archive | March, 2011

Day 31: The Flaming Lips – The Soft Bulletin

31 Mar

Waitin’ for a Superman

I know two different versions of The Flaming Lips.  I know the Yoshimi version: a great band that makes what can only be described as awesome alien-pop.  I also know the Embryonic version: a band that is past its prime, drowning in pretension and legions of fans who will eat up anything thrown at them.  I was really glad to find out that The Soft Bulletin came from the former version of The Flaming Lips.

The Soft Bulletin is definitely the best album that I’ve heard by The Flaming Lips; probably because it sounds the least forced and most sincere.  Wayne Coyne’s lyrics are delivered with a passion that can still be heard on Yoshimi, but that has completely faded today.  Even in comparison to Yoshimi, though, The Soft Bulletin seems more genuine.  There are no complete misses, while there are definitely a few on Yoshimi.

Ultimately, I think this album speaks so strongly to me because it stays engaging the entire time.  There are no moments where I have to really try to appreciate the music, like on everything else that I’ve heard by them.  While the album isn’t comprised of 11 straight-up pop songs, the entire record is accessible, and fun to listen to.  Race for the Prize and Waitin’ for a Superman are standouts on the record, two undeniably fun, interesting rock songs.

It’s almost painful to know that a band has put together great albums like The Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi, but can’t seem to do it anymore.  Maybe they got tired of their sound, and wanted to mix it up.  I don’t know what happened, but it hasn’t been working out.  Oh well, albums like Bulletin aren’t going anywhere, no matter how many new “deep” “epic” “masterpieces” the Flaming Lips put out


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Day 30: Born Ruffians – Red, Yellow & Blue

30 Mar

Barnacle Goose

So I saw Born Ruffians open for Franz Ferdinand a couple of years ago.  All I really remember about their set was that my friend and I were shaking our heads the entire time.  Stuff like that seems to happen [a lot].  Turns out, 365 is a large number, especially when it comes to albums.  I’m getting material from anywhere that I can manage.   Haters gon hate.

So yeah, my 15-year-old self might have been a little harsh on that opening band.  Red, Yellow & Blue is a pretty solid album.

I could just be lazy, and talk about how Born Ruffians are your average indie rock band, but I’m not going to do that.  Sure, they seem like that upon first glance, with the standard guitar-singer-bass-drums-keyboard set up, but they do so much more with their music than most bands.  They’ve got a unique sound, at least on what I’ve heard from them.  Front man Luke LaLonde has both an awesome last name and voice.  It’s not that he’s a particularly great singer, but it’s what he does with his pipes that really set this band apart.  It’s almost like he uses his voice as an additional instrument, not afraid to add an echo or distortion effect every now and then.

I also found myself noticing how good the drumming was throughout the album.  Anyone who listens to a ton of indie rock knows that this doesn’t happen too often.  When the drumming sticks out, it must be pretty good.  Stevin Hamlin, you get some props.  Awesome beats — you made me notice them.

Overall, Red, Yellow & Blue is a very good album.  There are plenty of exciting tracks, Barnacle Goose, for example, that don’t sound like anything else out there.  Creativity is always a plus with me.


Day 29: Blondie – Parallel Lines

29 Mar

One Way or Another

My dad…well…let’s call his music taste…eclectic.  Yeah, eclectic.

This week, for Dad-Rock Tuesday, I was assigned Blondie’s 1978 album Parallel Lines.  I’ll admit, I went into listening to this record with a few preconceived notions.  Having never really listened to Blondie before, I mentally grouped the band with someone like Madonna.  I can see that I was wrong to assign that label now, but that’s what kept me from checking this band out before.

So I definitely misjudged Blondie, I’ll admit that.  That doesn’t mean that I’m now a Blondie fan, though.  Sure, this album doesn’t take overproduced pop to the point that Madonna did, but it’s overproduced pop nonetheless.  There’s very little variety in the songs, as a verse-chorus-verse format can be found pretty much throughout the album.  Maybe if a bunch of the songs were exciting, or brought something unique to the table, this repetitive format could work.

The entire album revolves around Deborah Harry’s vocals, as well.  Not that she’s a bad singer, but that consistent focal point over the entire record gets really stale.  She did have solid instrumentalists backing her up.  Maybe hearing the focus shift towards them every now and then could have added some intrigue, or at least broken up the repetitive nature of Parallel Lines.

While looking for something positive on the record, I did find the classic One Way or Another.  Does it have all of the traits that make the rest of Parallel Lines boring? Yeah.  It’s really catchy, though, and remains stuck in my head as I’m writing this.  It also comes early in the album, before the formula really had time to sink in with me.

I understand the appeal of Parallel Lines.  It’s about as standard as Pop-Rock can get, with a polished, clean sound throughout.  I’m just looking for something a little grittier, a little more real.


Day 28: Johnny Foreigner – Waited Up Til it was Light

28 Mar

Eyes Wide Terrified

Dammit, Los Campesinos!  Why must you influence my music-listening habits so freaking much?  Here’s yet another band that Gareth pimps relentlessly on the Campesinos! Twitter account.  And guess what.  They kick ass.

Johnny Foreigner might as well be called Los Campesinos! Jr., though.  Alternating male-female vocals? Check.  Handclaps? Check.  Awesome, melodramatic lyrics?  Check.  They are so similar to LC!, it hurts.  I love them though.

It didn’t take long for me to know that Waited Up Til it Was Light was going to be a great record. Honestly, JoFo had me from the opening casio-tone riff on Lea Room, the energetic opener.  The moment that I fell in love came on the third track, Eyes Wide Terrified.  Towards the end of the song, the guitar and drums cut out leaving only a solid bass-line.  And a group chant.  If there’s one thing that I’m a sucker for, it’s a well-executed group chant.  So almost everything cuts out, then a million voices start chanting what had already been repeated a million times throughout the track, “Your life is a song, but not this one!” The chant ends with a final shout of that line, followed by a hyperactive resumption of the guitar and drums.

I started scrambling to get ahold of every piece of music that JoFo has ever made before I even finished listening to this album.  I only do that when I really love a band.

They don’t sound like a Los Campesinos! rip-off, they sound like they are sincerely making the music that they want to.  The fact that it sounds like my favorite band is just a bonus.

Day 27: Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings

27 Mar

The Crystal Cat

Dan Deacon…what a bro.  I love the guy.  I’ve been lucky enough to see him and his ensemble live twice, and they have put on two of the best shows that I’ve ever been to.  His shows are so ridiculous and fun for a couple of reasons; the music translates live very well, and he’s amazing with getting the crowd involved.  My all-time favorite concert moment was at Dan Deacon’s Lollapalooza set in 2009.  He had a guy go into the crowd and lead a call-and-response interpretive dance, which ended in synchronized, rhythmic trash throwing by the crowd.  It was beautiful.

You’d think that it’d be hard to capture that amazing atmosphere in a single album, but Deacon manages to do a pretty good job.  While there’s nothing that can compare to a Dan Deacon show, Spiderman of the Rings comes close.

When it comes to describing Dan Deacon’s music, one word comes to mind: happy.  There’s not one downbeat word, bleep, or bloop throughout the entire album.  Most of Deacon’s vocals are altered, making them high-pitched and all but unrecognizable, only adding to the joy that seems to pour out of his work.

It’s not like Deacon is just pressing random keys on a synthesizer. He know’s what he’s doing musically.  Take the 11-plus minute track Wham City, for example.  Comparable to Sufjan Steven’s epic Impossible Soul, the song is made up of multiple movements, all equally catchy.  He brings the same vocal loop in and out of the song a few times, and always uses it effectively.  Honestly, it’s something you just have to hear for yourself.

Day 26: Abe Vigoda – Skeleton

26 Mar

Live-Long

I saw Abe Vigoda open for Vampire Weekend a year ago.  Wait, that was exactly a year ago.  March 26, 2010, according to the setlist that I snagged.

Weird.  Anyway, I saw these guys a year ago, and I don’t remember too much from their set, other then that my friend and I couldn’t stop making fun of the huge vein the singer had popping out of his neck.

My other connection with this band is through Los Campesinos!  At Lollapalooza in 2009, Gareth Campesinos! was wearing an Abe Vigoda shirt.  If a band is good enough for him, they’re good enough for me.  Well, that’s not entirely true, as I can’t stand Xiu Xiu, his favorite band.  Okay stalker mode is over now.  The dude wouldn’t even accept my friend request on Facebook.  Time to move on.

Enough distractions.  It’s Abe Vigoda time.

Think Surfer Blood meets No Age.  I love Surfer Blood.  I do not love No Age.  There’s plenty of the Surfer Blood-esque ’60s style surf-pop throughout Skeleton, but there’s also that obnoxious distortion and static that I’m not a big fan of.  I’ve managed to move past it with Abe Vigoda, though.  They don’t let noise take over the album, using it sparingly and effectively.  I guess I can handle it in small doses.

Skeleton is made up of short, powerful bursts of energy.  Every song on the album is under four minutes, which means even the mediocre ones don’t go on for too long; not that there are too many of those.  Live-Long might be my favorite track on the record, exhibiting what lots of the good songs on Skeleton have, a fast tempo, a good beat, slightly distorted, jangly guitars, and a sound unique to Abe Vigoda.



Day 25: Hot Chip – Coming on Strong

25 Mar

Baby Said

I got into Hot Chip last year after their album One Life Stand got a ton of hype.  I loved what I heard, mainly in tracks like I Feel Better and We Have Love, two infectious, danceable, fast songs.  The upbeat songs on that album were able to overshadow the slow songs that I didn’t like too much, and One Life Stand became one of my favorite records of 2010.

I figured that I should check out what else Hot Chip had to offer, considering how much I enjoyed their most recent work.  I decided to start at the beginning, with Coming on Strong, their debut from 2005.  This album seems to be entirely composed of slower songs, comparable to Alley Cats or Take it In on One Life Stand.  While I still prefer the faster, happier songs on One Life Stand, Coming on Strong has made me appreciate the great beats and passionate lyrics that can be found on the melancholy tracks.

My main beef with Coming on Strong is its length.  I can only take so many minimalist electronic songs in a row, and the album had a lot of trouble holding my attention for all of its 51-minutes.  Call it ADD, I don’t care, I need some exciting, catchy songs on an electronic album to stay interested.

The slower tempos made me focus on the words used in the songs more than I normally would. With lyrical gems like “Fuck you, you fucking fuck” on Bad Luck and “I’ve been to all the beaches on the strip and you better believe this shit” on The Beach Party, let’s just say that Coming on Strong won’t be shooting to the top of my “favorite albums” list.

Day 24: Bomb the Music Industry! – Album Minus Band

24 Mar

 

Does Your Face Hurt? No? ’cause It’s Killing Me!!!

Sometimes you just need some fast, angry music; glad I picked today to finally check out the much-hyped Bomb the Music Industry!  I’ve heard good things about this DIY punk band for a while now, but it took Jeff Rosenstock, the mastermind behind the band, playing a show with Sean Bonette, the mastermind behind Andrew Jackson Jihad, for me to get around to listening to them.  That show’s tomorrow, and I am psyched.

Back in 2005, Jeff Rosenstock’s band The Arrogant Sons of Bitches had just broken up.  He was having girl problems, and on top of all that, Bush had just been elected for a second term.  What did Rosenstock do?  Record an angry song called Cananada on his Powerbook, naturally.  His friends liked it, so a full album followed.  Most of the other songs sound a little more polished then the sub-lo-fi Cananada, but not by much.  I had to turn the “vocal booster” setting on in my iTunes equalizer in what proved to be a futile attempt to understand the lyrics to a few other songs.  That gritty, lo-fi, DIY sound is a huge part of the appeal of Album Minus Band, though.  It really makes it seem like the music is coming straight from Rosenstock’s broken, angry heart.  Of course, with a name like Bomb the Music Industry!, you can’t really have a polished, studio sound.

The album itself is a mix of punk and hardcore, with plenty of fast guitars and shouting.  Quick tempos are present throughout the record, only slowing down on Cananada and album closer Future 86.  The song names are pretty awesome too, with plenty of quotes, caps, and punctuation (i.e. “FRRRREEEEE BIIIIIIIRRRRD!!!!!! FRRRRREEEEEEEEE BIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRDDDDD!!!!!!!” and Ready…Set…No!!!).

Rosenstock’s Anti-Bush mindset is pretty amusing too.  His shout of “Four more years, yeah right!” on 45-second album opener Blow Your Brains Out on Live TV!!! And the sample of comedian David Cross’ Bush-mocking Shut Up You Fucking Baby bring you right back to 2005.


Day 23: Spiritualized – Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

23 Mar

Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space

Some music is made to zone out to.  For me, this type of music is usually music that I describe as “dreamy,” with a few consistent elements present, like big, loopy guitars, faint, oft unintelligible, layered lyrics, and an overall cohesiveness. In order for the listener to achieve maximum spaceyness, everything needs to come together into a single ear-pleasing sound.  Spiritualized have mastered the art, as can be seen on their 1997 album Ladies and Gentlemen we are Floating in Space.

The name of this album is great for a couple of reasons.  Not only does it serve as a stark reminder that we just don’t matter all that much; it also describes the feeling you get when you listen to the record.  I had to shake myself out of a dream-like trance multiple times while listening to the album, mainly during songs like I Think I’m in Love and Home of the Brave, two examples of dream-rock at its finest.

The best song on the record doesn’t fit in with the formula, though.  The album opener/title track is a really engaging song, in contrast to the rest of the zone-out tunes on the record.  Layers of vocals pile up on top of each other beautifully, with blaring horns going off in the background, creating a unique and inventive song.

At 70 minutes long, the album does drag at points.  The second half, excluding seventeen minute closer Cop Shoot Cop, can get pretty boring.  Cool Waves and Broken Heart start out uninteresting, continue with that trend, and go on for way too long.  Ultimately, I’m being a little nit picky.  The majority of the album is amazing, with relatively little fat that should have been trimmed.


Day 22: Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy

22 Mar

Werewolves of London

For this week’s edition of Dad-Rock Tuesday, my father picked Warren Zevon’s 1978 album Excitable Boy for me to listen to.

Wow.  You know that feeling when you love an album?  I’ve got that feeling with Excitable Boy.  I’ve got it to such an extent that I’m having trouble thinking about what I’m going to write about, so excuse me if this post is below the mediocre quality that all three of my readers have already come to expect from me.

I’ve heard a little of Zevon’s other work before, mainly The Wind, which got a lot of play in my house back in 2003.  I always liked what I heard, but never really thought about checking out any other music that Zevon made.  Thank God for Dad-Rock Tuesday.

Excitable Boy has a sound that I associate with the ’70s.  Some of the songs sound a bit like Springsteen, mainly the title track, sax and all.  Hold on, let’s talk about that title track.  This was the point where I knew I was in love with the album.  The song Excitable Boy, at first glance, is an upbeat song with catchy “oooohs” coming from the background singers, but quickly turns into a macabre tale as Zevon sings about this excitable boy raping and murdering his junior prom date.  What’s so great about this is Zevon’s consistent, almost happy delivery of the lyrics, even when the song turns dark.

Another great thing about the album is the way it starts up, does what it needs to do, then finishes quickly.  At 32 minutes, and with nine songs, the album never drags on for too long, and doesn’t overstay its welcome.  You gotta love that.