Archive | June, 2011

Day 122: Metronomy – The English Riviera

30 Jun

The Look

Wait, what was that I just heard?  Was that an interesting and creative record?  Made by a band categorized as “indie rock?” Really?  Wow, haven’t heard one of those in a while…

Records like this are what keep me going.  I would have abandoned Swole Ear long ago if all I was listening to were crap like Hoodie Allen and Radio Head.  Sure, records like those may have resulted in some of my best posts, but I would go crazy listening to that garbage over and over again.

No, Metronomy doesn’t suck.  In fact, this band’s record, The English Riviera, is pretty much as far from sucking as a record can be.  I guess I’ll describe the band’s music as minimalistic indie pop rock, but that doesn’t really do it justice.  Think Hot Chip, but with the electronic turned down a tad, and the pop turned up.  Wait, no, that doesn’t work either.

Truth is, this music is a little hard to describe, as good tunes often are.  If a record is good, that means that it’s fairly original, which in turn means that it’s hard to compare to anything else.

Metronomy manage to do a lot with what appears to be a little in The English Riviera.  There’s never too much going on at once, with simple beats and sparse synths that give it an almost empty sound.  It never gets too hyperactive, or goes over the top, which is a welcome change of pace from lots of the WE-MUST-HAVE-TWENTY-INSTRUMENTS-GOING-SIMULTANEOUSLY cutesy bands out there.

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Day 121: King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King

29 Jun

I Talk to the Wind

How does one follow up a post like yesterday’s?  A post that hates on an influential band because it’s no longer relevant?  With another post about an old, influential record, of course.

I’m sure that you’re all thinking the same thing.  Something along the lines of “wait, this guy hates pretty much every old band that he listens to because they’re old.  Why should I bother with this post, it’s going to be the same thing all over again.”

Hold on, I’ll tell you why.

Yes, I do hate King Crimson, and  I hate their record, In the Court of the Crimson King.

Wait, wait! Bear with me for a moment.  I hate this band for an entirely different reason than what you’ve read before.

This record sucks.

Yeah, it’s old.  Yes, it’s considered influential.  Neither of those affected my perception of In the Court, though. No, no, after about two minutes through the first track, I knew that this record has always sucked.  It sucked back in the 60s, and it sure as hell sucks now.  Yeah, it will in a hundred years too.

Flute solos.  What the hell?  No one wants to hear a flute solo.  If you say you like this album, you’re lying.  By the transitive property, you would have to like long, boring, flute solos, and I know for a fact that you don’t.  #truth

It’s not just the flute solos, though.  This record has the nerve to go on for 43 minutes, even though it only has five tracks.  That’s just obnoxious.  Let’s not forget that each and every track could have had 4+ minutes cut, and they all would have been just as boring.  Lyrically, everything’s either vague or really repetitive.  Even the brilliant, creative line “Yes, I feel tomorrow, I’ll  be crying” get’s old after it’s repeated three hundred times.

It’s not that I’m not a fan of prog rock—it’s that I’m not a fan of awful music.  This is a record that is showered in nothing but praise, and I don’t understand why.  There is nothing redeeming about it.

Day 120: The Stooges – Fun House

28 Jun

1970

I love it that all of these bands called “influential” got next to zero attention when they were actually releasing music.  Groups like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges are credited with redefining rock, yet most music fans had no idea who they were back in the 60s and 70s.  It’s weird — kind of like how people always get into the work of a particular artist after their death.  I mean, it’s still happening today.  Twenty years ago, no one had any idea who the hell Cap’n Jazz was.  Their influence over the Midwest emo scene is undeniable, though.

Anyway, my father has given me another once underappreciated record for this week’s installment of Dad-Rock Tuesday.  Believe it or not, once again, I am thoroughly underwhelmed.

I know I come off as ignorant with these posts where I hate on “classics,” and that’s because I am.  I wasn’t around at the time, and the fact that Fun House was a game changer doesn’t make it any more interesting to me.  Sure, I can bulk up on all of the history and whatnot that surrounds this band, but I’m still bored by its music.

I know that if Fun House were released today, I, along with most music listeners out there, would avoid it like the plague.  To me, it just sounds tired, trite, and obnoxious.  Yes, I know that this is probably really original and creative for its time, but I can’t unhear everything more creative that has happened since.

Day 119: Radiohead – OK Computer

27 Jun

The Tourist

Let’s go back to August 5, 2008.  It is the first day of Lollapalooza, featuring Jack White’s Raconteurs and Thom York’s Radiohead with their own respective headlining spots.  This is back when Lollapalooza was semi-capable of putting decent schedules together, so they had The Raconteurs close out the Budweiser stage—the second biggest—early, giving Radiohead an unopposed slot on the massive AT&T stage.  What did my dad and I do?  Well, we got as close as possible for The Raconteurs, being the Gillis fanboys that we are, and then left.  All we heard of Radiohead was the first few seconds of their opening song as we walked away from Grant Park.  On our way out, we passed people going into the festival for the first time that day.  We’re so hipster, we effing skipped Radiohead.

Does that make us “hipster,” though?  I’ve always believed that it just means we had common sense.  I can now confirm this opinion as cold hard fact after actually listening to a Radiohead record.

Radiohead is on the biggest pedestal imaginable in the indie rock world.  In the land of the jaded and unimpressible, the Thom York is king.  I’ve never understood why.  The songs that I’ve heard have been mediocre at best, like a less anthemic Muse.  Who wants that?  Muse is great because of its over-the-top-fight-the-power-capitalism-sucks-buy-our-major-label-releases insanity.  Take that away, and you’ve just got really boring, whiny, space rock.  You’ve got Radiohead.

Maybe I’m missing something in OK Computer.  Maybe I am dumber than all of you, and it’s going right over my head.  I doubt it though.  What I really think is going on is that all of you just suck. LUMI.

Day 118: They Might Be Giants – Flood

26 Jun

Birdhouse In Your Soul

Everyone knows They Might Be Giants.  I guarantee that this band has found its way into your life at some point, even if you don’t realize it.  TMBG has been around for close to thirty years now, and their music has been almost everywhere.  Before listening to Flood, I traced my Giants roots back to the glory days of the Homestar Runner website.  The group’s song, Experimental Film, got a music video made for it by those guys, and it’s pretty good.

After listening to Flood, though, I realized that They Might Be Giants’ music had made its way into my life much, much earlier.  When the band’s cover of Istanbul (Not Constantinople) started playing, I knew that I had heard that song at some point.  After a little Wikipedia-ing, I found out that it was used in a Tiny Toon Adventures music video.  For anyone who’s really out of touch, Tiny Toon Adventures was a Loony Toons spinoff featuring Bugs Bunny and company as “kids.”  Mainly, that meant that they were smaller, and I think some wore diapers.  Even as a six-year-old, I felt bad about watching that show, like it was even too dumb for me.    

Anyway, my point is, TMBG has made its way into my life so many times before I finally got around to listening to an album (thanks elcheeserpuff), I was essentially bound to love them.  Flood is quirky, and from the many Giants songs that I’ve heard over the years, pretty standard for them.  Long story short, these guys have been making great music for three decades, and I have a lot of albums of theirs to listen to if I want to catch up.

Day 117: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

25 Jun

Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!

Concept albums don’t fly with Swole Ear.  Story records require close lyrical examination in order to reach optimal effectiveness.   Usually, I’m trying to simultaneously listen to a record and write these quirky little posts that you all have come to love and depend on.  When it comes down to it, I just can’t listen to the lyrics all that closely.

What a shame; I would love to hear the words on this album.  This is a record about Lazarus, the guy that Jesus brought back to life in the New Testament.  Here’s the catch: it takes place in 21st Century New York City.  As interesting as a concept as that is, I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t really pick up on any of it; I got all of that from the album’s Wikipedia entry.

I still got the gist of this album, though.  Swole Ear isn’t a complete waste of time, just a partial one.

From what I could tell, Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!! is a pretty solid record.  If anything, Nick Cave has a really cool and unique voice—that’s always something that wins me over.  No, I don’t really know exactly what he is sing-talking about, but I do know that it sounds good.

As for the Bad Seeds, they’re just as good with their instruments as Cave is with his voice.  Lazarus has a cool, semi-punk sound, like punk rock recorded on decent equipment by real musicians—it’s still kind of harsh and angry, but a lot of thought went into the music.

So no, I can’t personally confirm that this album is in fact about a 21st Century resurrection, but I can guarantee that I like the way it falls upon my ears.

Day 116: Cults – Cults

24 Jun

Bumper

The hype:  some believe it, some scorn it, and others are oblivious to it.  If you’re anything but the latter, it’s a fact that the hype is going to effect your opinion of the music that it is being placed on in some way.  I tend to scorn the hype.  Odd Future? They suck (and they’re homophobic Nazis, but that’s for another day).   Band of Horses?  Get out of here.

So when I begin listening to a hyped band’s hyped album, it’s already at a disadvantage.  Something special needs to happen for me to get over my hate of the hype.

That special something can be found in Cults’ creatively titled Cults. 

Imagine that Sleigh Bells and Tennis had a baby.  Now for some reason, unlike The Drums, this baby turned out okay, with no visible deformities.  It’s going to take a while before we’ll really be able to see if this new band-baby is all there mentally, but for now, it’s looking good. 

All three bands that I mentioned are male-female duos, featuring the ladies taking over on the vocals.  The delicateness of Tennis is merged with a few of the heavier elements of Sleigh Bells, and something entirely new (as well as entirely awesome) is the result.

Cults is a pretty safe, indie pop record, but sometimes that’s just what you need.  Fortunately, it gets the job done in a unique enough way to make it listenable.  Yes, the glockenspiel has been all but worn out in this genre, but I’ll look past it in this case.  Another band has been added to the Lolla list.

Day 115: Dead Kennedys – Plastic Surgery Disasters

23 Jun

Government Flu

Swole Ear is a funny thing.  Well, for me at least.  I can’t speak for all of you.

What I mean is, I really get to analyze my taste in music, as well as really go deep about what I like (and hate) about music.  Let’s take Dead Kennedys, and their Plastic Surgery Disasters, for example.

Back in October of 2007, I had just gotten my hands on a copy of Guitar Hero III (the one that prominently featured an animated Slash).  At the time, it was the greatest thing ever created, as far as I was concerned.  It was the first GH game made for the PS3, and I thought the soundtrack was outstanding.  One song that really stood out in the game was Dead Kennedys’ Holiday in Cambodia.  Looking back, I really think I liked it because it was fun to play.  I kind of ignored the not-so-subtle political undertones.

Then, I went through my initial music discovery phase.  I started listening to happy (and albeit, what I considered “obscure” music.)  I disowned everything that appeared on the Guitar Hero games, mainly because all of my friends knew those songs as well.

Now, I’m at a place where I analyze music based solely on what I think of it.  I’ve also begun embracing hardcore and punk music, so ptchfrkabortion’s suggestion that I listen to Dead Kennedys came at the perfect time.

As far as punk music goes, you can’t ask for anything better than Dead Kennedys.  This band is angry, plays fast, and embodies the old school punk “fuck you and your dog” attitude.  Plastic Surgery Disasters is exactly what I was expecting, which, by all means, is a great thing.  If you ever decide to burn down a government building, this record should be your soundtrack.  Not that I would ever advocate that.

Day 114: Architecture in Helsinki – Places Like This

22 Jun

Heart it Races

I think about and analyze music through comparisons.  I live and breathe similes, if you haven’t noticed.  I need to compare what I’m hearing to something I’m familiar with; it’s just how I evaluate music, and everything else for that matter.  So sometimes, I may make a comparison that seems a little out of whack, a little unCONventional—it’s just an analytical tactic of mine.

 There, now that I’ve taken a nice chunk out of this post’s word count, I’m going to make a kind of strange comparison.

Architecture in Helsinki is a lot like Matt & Kim.

Maybe that hyperactive duo is on my mind because I just sold a ticket to one of their shows on Craig’s List (The Thermals are playing the same day, can you blame me?)  But I heard so much Matt & Kim in Places Like This, which was not at all what I was expecting.

Architecture in Helsinki is a band that got together in 2000, about five years before Kim and Matt even released an EP.  They’re also from Melbourne, Australia,  which is a pretty long way from Grand Street in Brooklyn, the energetic duo’s beloved stomping grounds.  Architecture is typically classified as indie pop, but more in the vein of the Los Campesinos! variety, i.e. goofy lyrics and general over-the-top-ness, compared to MK’s fast-paced amateurish happiness.

I couldn’t help but think a lot of Matt & Kim throughout Places, though, and I think I know why.  Both bands attempt to do a lot with a little.

While the members of Architecture do try and hide it, they do have a fairly minimalist, get-the-job-done-quickly approach to making music.  They rely on as little time and instrumentation as is effectively possible.  Even with five members, Architecture rarely has too much going on.  The beats are simple, the synths calm and the guitars unobtrusive.  Matt & Kim do this because they have to—they’re two people with limited musical knowledge—it just feels a lot more deliberate with Architecture.

I did enjoy Places Like These, though.  I’m used to listening to indie pop bands that go all out and all over the place.  It’s nice to hear something that’s comparatively calm, and arguably just as captivating.

Day 113: Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

21 Jun

Atlantic City

Bruce Springsteen is not known for his records.  His live shows are legendary, and his greatest hits compilations are stacked, but The Boss’ albums are often lacking.  I’ve had the misfortune of listening to his two most recent, and like most of the world, was unimpressed.  I’ve listened to Darkness on the Edge of Town, one of his older records, and it still didn’t blow me away.   There are a few solid tracks mixed in with way too much garbage—so there’s no saying that he got worse over time.  Naturally, I was a little leery when I saw a Springsteen record on my Dad-Rock Tuesday list.  I figured it would just be another Bruce CD—a record with a little solid stuff, but a lot more awful.

Let me start off by saying that this is not the Springsteen that I know.  His trademark voice is still there, but has a sad, tortured twinge to it.  I also noticed that the E Street Band is absent.  It’s just Bruce, a guitar, and a harmonica, for almost the entire record.

All of that makes for a much better full album than what I was expecting.  The usual over-the-top full band insanity that is the average Springsteen record is completely absent.  Nebraska is powerful and consistently entertaining.

With tales of murders, criminals, corrupt cops, and everything in-between, this album actually sounds more like a Johnny Cash record than the goofy stuff that I was used to.  Of course, with a record cover like that, I really should have expected better.

Depressing, dark, and personal are three words that I would have never used to describe Springsteen’s music before. I’m glad I heard this, though, as I now have a whole new view of The Boss and his tunes.