Archive | April, 2011

Day 51: The Drums – The Drums

20 Apr

Down By the Water

This record gave me a lot of trouble.  I was really having a hard time coming up with things to say about it. It’s not like I can usually spit out 250 or more words on an album without much thought (although that’s what it may seem like sometimes), but I usually don’t get pure writer’s block while listening to a record.  I didn’t understand how listening to close to 45 minutes of material that I had never heard before could leave me with absolutely nothing to say.

Then it hit me.

This album is one of the blandest things I have ever heard.

It’s not like it’s egregiously bad, as that would give me plenty to say.  It’s just that pretty much the entire record has been done before.  And then done again.  And then a few more times.  And then The Drums decided to do it one more time for good measure.  And then they decided to not give the album a proper name.  All of that led to a pretty uncreative and uninspired piece.

Imagine if The Killers and Phoenix had a baby together.  Now this baby would naturally be horribly deformed, as I can’t even imagine what science would have to do in order for a birth like that to be successful.  That deformed baby is The Drums.  It tries so hard to please both of its parents at the same time, but fails horribly, and will without a doubt be subjected to the mail room of indie bands for all of eternity.  Poor deformed The Drums…if only you weren’t so boring.

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Day 50: Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin

19 Apr

Good Times Bad Times

Here’s the deal: Led Zeppelin is essentially sacred to my father.  They are untouchable and infallible in his eyes.  That’s why I’ve been dreading this particular Dad-Rock Tuesday for a while.  What if I didn’t like this album?  I’ve listened to IV a few times, and I’ve been on the fence about it.  I also knew that if I spoke poorly of Led Zeppelin, I would be in ill favor in my household for the rest of eternity; so there was a bit of pressure on me to like this record.

Once I was able to get past the ’60s sound that this album has to it, I was able to see its merit.  Check out Dazed and Confused, and you’ll understand what I mean.  I’ve never been a huge fan of psychedelic, dreamy guitars—I feel that they’ve been completely worn out by now, nothing more original can come from them—but then I remembered that Led Zeppelin pretty much invented this style of music.  Once I started listening with that lens, I definitely started getting more into the album.

Led Zeppelin fared better with me than most of the other Dad-Rock Tuesday records so far.  When I listened to this record, I could just tell that there was something important, something game changing, about it.  Led Zeppelin, specifically Jimmy Page and his ridiculous guitar work, has a sound that’s been imitated countless times, but never duplicated.  I definitely have a ton of respect for Led Zeppelin (the band, and the record.)

Day 49: Tapes ‘n Tapes – The Loon

18 Apr

Insistor

So once again, a band name got the best of me.  There’s no denying that “Tapes ‘n Tapes” is an awesome band name.  I think it’s the symmetry or something.  I don’t know.  Anyway.

It’s unfortunate that The Loon couldn’t be as awesome as the collective name of its creators.  The album is shaky from the start, as Tapes struggles to find its true musical identity throughout.  Sure, it can be great when bands alter their sound a bit throughout an album, but only if you can really tell that they’re the same band. The Loon sounds like a compilation album, contributed to by a bunch of different bands covering the wide spectrum of indie rock.  It’s as if they can’t decide if they want to be a White Stripes or Wolf Parade tribute band, as they attempt white-boy-blues-rock and white-boy-indie-rock (I know, that’s redundant) frequently throughout the album.

The problem is, Tapes never really sounds comfortable in any of its genre attempts.  The whole record comes off as forced, and although it’s not too repetitive, wears really quickly.  Front man Josh Grier sounds bored and unenthusiastic on almost every song, which is something that only Julian Casablancas can pull off successfully.

There is one bright moment on The Loon, however.  Insistor is the album’s one creative and original track.  It’s fast paced, fun, and Grier actually sounds interested in his band for once.  It was enough to give me a little faith in this band.  There is a little potential hidden in this album, which was one of the group’s earliest.  Maybe they just needed some time to mature together, and find their sound.

Day 48: Girls – Album

17 Apr

Summertime

“Hey guys, let’s call our band ‘Girls.’  Get it?  It’s funny. Cuz were all dudes.”

“Bros, you know what would be really funny?  If we named our Album ‘Album.’  Get it?  It’s funny.  Cuz it’s an album.”

I’m convinced that Girls front man Christopher Owens–former member of the Children of God cult–said both of those phrases at some point.  I can just hear him doing it, in his low, laid back voice.  Or maybe I’m just kind of mad that I have to write about an album called Album, guaranteeing that this report will become bumbling and awkward…at least more so than usual.  Even worse, I actually kind of like this album called Album, so I can’t even have the pleasure of tearing a thing with such a stupid name apart.

I guess the name of the band does kind of work; all of the songs on Album are actually about girls.

So I got the impression that Owens has had some girl problems in his life.  Fairly depressing lyrics abound, sometimes thrown over happy instrumentation, but usually left for slower, sad-sounding guitars.  Just check out Headache, where he sings “I only wanna be with you, all the time” over and over again.  It’s the way he sings it though, as if he’s more desperate for that than anything.  I think we’ve all been there, which makes that song, as well as the whole album-Album-really relatable.

My favorite song on the record, Summertime, takes a concept that’s fairly hard to make sad…well…sad.  It’s not even that the lyrics are particularly depressing either.  Once again, it’s Owen’s delivery, and his clear, depressing, desperation.  “Summertime,  soak up the sunshine…with you.”

Day 47: Frightened Rabbit – The Midnight Organ Fight

16 Apr

The Modern Leper

Accents.  Accents, accents, accents.  When a singer has a prominent accent of any sort, their band automatically becomes better in my book.  Yeah, that’s probably a bad thing.  Sure, it was the cause of my now-regrettable Mumford & Sons phase.  I am also aware that it puts me on the same level as a fourteen-year-old girl who just discovered Muse.  Truth is, I don’t care.

Let’s take a look at some of the great bands with accents, the ones that I still love, even after that initial novelty has worn off.  Groups like The xx, Arctic Monkeys, and lets not forget, Los Campesinos!, the world’s greatest band (that is an objective fact).  They all have accents, but I’ve learned to love them for their actual sound.

I’ve noticed that I am especially drawn to the Scottish accent.  I love bands like Franz Ferdinand, We Were Promised Jetpacks, and now Frightened Rabbit.

I hope the effects of singer Billy Kennedy’s Scottish brogue won’t wear off, but it wouldn’t be the first time.  In the past, with certain bands, I’ve suddenly looked past the accent.  At that point, I realize that I’ve been listening to what is essentially the same song played on repeat ten times, and then packaged as an album (Mumford).

But I don’t think that’ll happen with Frightened Rabbit.  I did my best to look past the accent, and I found that there really are a bunch of legitimately good songs on this record.  Kennedy’s lyrics are genuine and heartfelt.  Sure, they’re a bit melodramatic at times (“you’re the shit and I’m knee-deep in it” on My Backwards Walk) but I firmly believe that music can greatly benefit from a touch of melodrama.

Frightened Rabbit also prove that they’re versatile.  Whether they’re rocking out on fast-paced, depressing, opener The Modern Leper or confessing everything on Floating in the Forth, they always seem in their element.  Accent or no accent, I like this band.

Day 46: HEALTH – Health

15 Apr

Crimewave

I do this thing where I download an album without doing any research on the band, or what kind of music they make.  With a blog that requires a new album every 24 hours, this is just something I kind of need to do.  If I were picky with my selections, there’s no way I’d have close to enough material.  Plus, I’d be denying myself all of these great bands that I’ve been iffy about before listening.  So I’m going to stick with my blind, random album grabbing; even if it means I’ll be subjecting myself to more noise rock.

It’s everywhere.  Seriously.  I can’t seem to avoid it.  I’ve been doing this blog for about a month and a half now, and I’ve already listened to more noise rock than I had in my previous seventeen years of life combined.  It remains…not for me.  What can I say? I like vocals.  I like happy.  I like stupid, gooey, melodrama.  HEALTH offers me next to none of that.  There’s a little bit of singing every now and then, but it’s mainly used as another layer of sound.  Let’s face it, these tunes are not aimed at me.  

I guess noise rock is just too far out there for me.  Too deep for me, you might say.  And I can live with that.  I’m not going to pretend to like something just because it may make me seem cool or different (I rely on the stuff that I actually like for that.) I’m just going to be perfectly honest and open.  I think noise rock is awful.

Day 45: Beach House – Teen Dream

14 Apr

 Zebra 

When the term “dream-pop” is used to describe music, a red flag always waves in my head.  Long, abstract, patches of distorted guitar, and unintelligible vocals are what immediately come to mind.  Music that tries so hard to make you “chill out,” but just ends up coming off as obnoxious and try-hard.  As you may have guessed, I’m not always the biggest fan of this type of music.  The slow tempos and lack of action usually lose my interest pretty quickly, if not immediately, so Beach House’s much-hyped Teen Dream was at a disadvantage with me when I saw that “dream-pop” label.

Turns out, I didn’t mind Teen Dream too much.  I found it fairly calm, even a little relaxing.  I was able to zone out during the record, which is always nice to do every now and then.  Unfortunately, that does make it fairly difficult to accurately write about any songs in particular.  I’m not sure if that’s even necessary with this record, though.  To really be appreciated, Teen Dream needs to be listened to as a whole.  Listening to just a couple of tracks won’t really do it justice.

While it may be an accurate way to describe this record, Teen Dream doesn’t really sound like any of the dream pop that I’ve heard before.  There are discernible vocals, and the reverb remains in-check most of the time.  It does have a very “dreamy” feel to it though, with plenty of synths, and high-pitched vocals.  If you’re looking to relax, this album can definitely help you out.


Day 44: Telekinesis – Telekinesis!

13 Apr

Coast of Carolina

Telekinesis is comprised of one dude: Michael Benjamin.  Even with two first names, he remains a single person, a person who is capable of putting together an entire kick-ass album by himself.  I always find that interesting.  What must go through the mind of someone like that?  Is it a superiority thing?  Does he think that he is the only person capable of realizing the vision that is Telekinesis!?  I don’t know.  It doesn’t really matter, though. With Telekinesis’ debut, Benjamin proved that he ain’t need nobody.

What makes Telekinesis! so great is its simplicity.  Benjamin doesn’t go over the top and play an entire symphony by himself, as pretty much every song is made up of 4/4 percussion, a couple of layers of guitars, vocals, and every now and then, a little piano.  Benjamin knows that the best songs are often the ones that require the smallest amount of digestion on the listener’s part. He doesn’t touch on any complex themes with his lyrics, sticking mostly with love, the indie rock standby.  He never goes into any face-melting guitar riffs or gut-busting drum solos, and he knows that he doesn’t need to.  All components of the album blend together spectacularly, probably because the same person put them all together.

There actually was not a single track on this record that I didn’t like.  Benjamin has that indie-pop sound down to a science.  Catchy guitars, simple beats, and melodramatic lyrics are used liberally throughout the record, and sure, he’s not reinventing the genre, but he doesn’t need to.


Day 43: The Police – Outlandos d’Amour

12 Apr

Next to You

This Dad-Rock Tuesday, I was assigned The Police’s debut, Outlandos d’Amour.  Going into this listening, I knew one thing about The Police: that Message in a Bottle is a song of theirs—ah, the Guitar Hero days.

So this record is pretty hit-or-miss for me.  I can’t deny that songs like Peanuts or the classic Next to You got a fair amount of foot tapping out of me, but unfortunately, the whole record fails to meet the standard of those few songs.

The tracks that miss, in my opinion, are the extremely repetitive ones.  Guess what word gets said about a hundred thousand times during So Lonely. I’ll give you a hint; it rhymes with “only.”  That’s not the only stuttering song on the record.  All I’ll say is, whoever you are, Roxanne, you’re supposed to remember to put on your red light.

Sting’s vocals can become obnoxious as well.  When he uses his normal voice, everything’s fine.  I’ll go as far as to say it sounds great.  If only he sang every song like Next to You. Unfortunately, he decides to use a really annoying falsetto for far too much of the record.  Maybe songs like Hole in my Life or Truth Hits Everybody could have been somewhat listenable if the singer didn’t sound like a whiny toddler.

I’ve never really been a big fan of new-wave, so the fact that I didn’t love this record didn’t come as a huge surprise to me.  Looking back, I always avoided playing Message in a Bottle on Guitar Hero…I’ll send an SOS to the world (∞x)…


Day 42: Ghost Mice – Europe

11 Apr

England

Concept albums are strange things.  They attempt to convey a story of some sort in the form of a musical record.  This can be a pretty tough thing to do because of the strict song structures that bands usually adhere to, things like having choruses  and verses.  Rhyming is usually kind of important too.  Because of all of those restrictions, the concept in an album can sometimes fall flat.  With Europe, Ghost Mice decide not to let established ideas of what is or is not a song interfere with their concept.

In early 2000, Ghost Mice members Chris Johnston and Hannah Jones decided to take a trip to Europe, without any plans or reservations, and only enough money to spend $10 a day.  Europe tells the story of that journey.  While it sounds to me like the trip itself was miserable, its stories do make for a pretty good album.

It turns out that some great stories can come out of a couple of Americans wandering around Europe, camping on the sides of roads, and relying on hitchhiking to get around (don’t worry, according to the liner notes, Chris heard “rumors that it was easy and safe” over there.)  Europe definitely could have fallen flat if Ghost Mice had decided to conform to established song structures.  Ghost Mice doesn’t conform to anything though. “We are anarchists” can be found in the liner notes as well.  Fortunately, Johnston’s stream-of-conscious-style delivery gets their entire story out.  Every now and then, they’ll throw a rhyme or some repetition in just for good measure.

Sure, it’s unconventional.  Sure, the actual trip seems like a bad idea to me.  Yeah, the talk of soy ice cream (they’re vegans, of course) can get a little annoying.  Ultimately, though, Europe is definitely a solid album, as strange as it is.