Excited for High Violet

Posted in Music on April 28th, 2010 by Tom

the_national_In just a few weeks The National will be dropping their newest album, High Violet, and it looks to be well worth the wait since 2007’s Boxer. I’ve included a live track shamelessly pilfered from Music the World Forgot of their performance of ‘Terrible Love‘ on Jimmy Fallon that I absolutely am in love with.

Just recently, the entire album went up streaming on the New York Times Website, along with an exhaustive but fantastic five-page article on the band. Since I know everyone’s going to hear the album, I won’t bother to encourage you to check it out, but DO take a look at the article. It gives a really intimate look at the band as a type of “family,” which I don’t think I would have guessed, knowing them just from their music.


‘Terrible Love (Live)’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The National

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Work

Posted in Music on April 26th, 2010 by Tom

shout-out-louds-work-artI’m still not 100% sure how I feel about this. All I know is that I was completely stoked to hear the new Shout Out Louds album, the follow up to what is at the moment my Favorite Album of All Time, Our Ill Wills, and it took me more than I month to sit down and write about it. I’ve only listened through it about 9 or 10 times, at that. Its astounding how underwhelmed I was by the whole thing.

And part of me expected it. How could it possibly exceed my expectations when I was holding it to such an impossible standard?! So I’ll take some of the blame, but I don’t think it’s all me. A good analogy would be to take a peak at the cover of the album, displayed at left; below are smaller images of their other two records:

howlgaff illwills

The new cover is in monotone, showing a group of real people. The older record covers used deep but vibrant colors, the first showing animated silhouettes and the second spelling out its artist and title in the abstract language of international maritime flag signals. The first two look fun. The new one looks boring…

Is it bad to say that’s essentially how the music shakes down too? It pains me to speak anything but praise for a band that’s played such a formative role on my musical consciousness, but I have to tell it like it is: this album is not exciting in a few places. Let’s start at the beginning though: the teaser single, ‘Walls‘.


‘Walls’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

This song is a great builder! It starts of slow, but confident, eventually rising to the frantic “To get to know your self you’ve got to run away / never trust any one / so run away / run run run run run run!” The song has great lyrics, a compelling and exciting melody, and it keeps things going right through the conclusion. And then the track that follows it, ‘Candle Burned Out’, sounds exactly like the titled implies. It’s a slow, lengthy, meek virtually emotionless venture; the whisp of smoke following an extinguished flame. That’s perhaps the sharpest contrast.


‘1999’
[ mp3 ♫ ]


‘Fall Hard’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The opening set of ‘1999’ and ‘Fall Hard’ are solid, however. In particular, the former touches on the type of energy that we’ve come to expect from the SOLs. Problem being, that pace just isn’t sustained throughout. Lethargy runs rampant, in spire of the technical craft and expertise that went into making the record. The result is an album I’d be happy to hear in an elevator, a dentist’s office, or have going in the background, but something I hardly ever que up intentionally. Which is sad.

Towards the end, some effort is made to reclaim the album with ‘Show Me Something New’, but even this faster number is itself nothing new. The whole affair collapses in on itself with ‘Too Late, Too Slow.’ I couldn’t have said it better myself, at least with respect to the latter. The whole damn thing is just TOO SLOW. Granted, they’re artists, and have the right to make the music they want to make. That said, I didn’t see any risks here. Very little pushed the envelope. Even the best tracks would have been marginal in comparison with the earlier works. A friend of mine and I were talking the record over, with his ultimate conclusion being that whereas the SOLs usually have a smattering of great songs with a filler track here and there to hold it together, Work ended up being an album filled with… filler. Not bad, just not exciting.

I’ve listened to ‘Tonight, I Have to Leave It’ more times on its own than I have if you summed the number of times I’ve listened to each track off of Work. I expect it to remain that way. In spite of my feelings on their present effort, I still have the faith that the Shout Out Louds have a lot more to give, and my excitement for what’s to come remains by and large undiminished.

Shout Out Louds – Work

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Quick Updates: MGMT, She & Him, Rogue Wave

Posted in Music on April 23rd, 2010 by Tom

So I’m trying to graduate from university, and that’s going on, taking time, etc. Among all that though, I’m doing my best to stay up on some music. Quite a few albums came out in the last month or two, and I wanted to weigh in on a few of them here.

MGMT
MGMT
Congratulations

So it’s not really what I expected. I don’t think it’s what practically anyone was expecting. Honestly, I don’t fully comprehend the driving force behind the MGMT hype, however. Their debut album had some high points, but I guess in my heart of hearts I don’t believe they’ll ever write a song that’s better than ‘Kids.’ In a deftly intelligent move it appears they won’t even be hanging around in a similar sonic genre to their earlier work.

Problem is, even with different scenery, I still have the same gripe about MGMT as I ever did: They write a few stand-out tracks and bubble-wrap them with little pockets of vacuous music I don’t care about. Their albums lack a cohesive element that I really notice missing. ‘Flash Delirium’ is a great song, and even-later-in-the-album ‘Brian Eno‘ makes me want to root for these guys, but the other stuff, particularly the title track, just leaves something to be desired.


‘Brian Eno’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

MGMT – Congratulations

she-and-him-volume-2-coverart
She & Him
Volume Two

With little to no exposure besides seeing Zooey Deschanel in movies, and know about Matt Ward’s association with the Monsters of Folk, I jumped into this record and was pleasantly surprised. It’s really quite pleasant music, which seems to be kinda rare these days. Hearkening back to an earlier age, to be sure, Volume Two is like a mild sedative: puts you at ease after just a little while, but can put you to sleep if you’re not careful. Tracks to pay attention to are ‘In the Sun,’ ‘Don’t Look Back,’ and ‘Over It Over Again‘. These were my favorite parts of the record, and they’d be well suited with about 6 or 7 of the other tracks in there, but as is the other material blends together a bit too much for me to fully get behind this work as top-tier.

For sure, give it as listen. It’s harmless, and hardly off-putting, but if you’re looking for the drive of the better tracks, you’ll need to sift through a lot of material to find it.


‘Over It Over Again’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

She & Him – Volume Two

Permalight-Rogue_Wave_480
Rogue Wave
Permalight

I knew nothing about Rogue Wave except that I saw them open for Death Cab for Cutie in the summer of 2008 and that I did not hate their set. I looked into Permalight because it had a cool name, and I thought their earlier track ‘Publish My Love’ was pretty decent. The album frustrated me because there are such glimpses of potential, but most of them go unrealized. With no context, I’m not sure if that’s a phenomena limited to this album, or if I’d say that about most of their work. A few tracks, ‘Solitary Gun’ and ‘I’ll Never Leave You’ in particular, sound too much like Ben Gibbard vocals rip-offs, layered over songs Ben would never lend his voice too. They’re irksome, but not deal-breakers.

The other irritation is there are just a few bad songs floating around in there. ‘You Have Boarded’ with its brash bravado and obnoxious key change destroys any emotional impact that quiet, brief, but well-crafted epilogue-track ‘All That Remains’ could have had. ‘Stars and Stripes’ is similarly devoid of anything interesting, with so many layers of gimmicks that you just want it to end so you can hear yourself think again; too much! I’ve griped enough though; parts of the album I really did enjoy.

Solid tracks include ‘Permalight’, ‘Fear Itself’, and ‘Right With You’. They have catchy hooks that’ll get stuck in your head, and they don’t reach higher than the band can deliver on. The only think holding these songs back is a bit of overproduction, but not to the point that they’re unlistenable, as mentioned above. ‘We Will Make a Song Destroy’, and ‘Good Morning (The Future)‘ are by far the best that Rogue Wave have to offer on this LP. The latter would have been a better opening than ‘Solitary Gun’, but does well as the second track on the record with maybe the most interesting melody. ‘We Will Make a Song Destroy’ is the boldest track on the album, and in spite of the goofy lyrics, sounds like a rock song. Here the band takes some of their biggest risks, but instead of making them look like idiots (see above), it works quite well.

I’m willing to admit I might have been asking for the wrong things from Permalight, but that said, it was not an entirely wasted venture. Fans of the band should be proud of the effort, and I cautiously would recommend it, but I’m already looking forward to what these guys can do with a little more time.


‘Good Morning (The Future)’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Rogue Wave- Permalight

Just wanted to cover some ground to make up for lost time! In the next week or so, look for Spoon, Shout out Louds, and the National.

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Jetpacks in the new Kick-Ass film

Posted in Music, Nerd on April 10th, 2010 by Tom

And by ‘jetpacks’ I of course mean Scotish rockers We Were Promised Jetpacks. Listen carefully, and you can here a favorite here at Schrödinger’s Blog ‘Keep Warm’ playing over the first 25 seconds:

I’m not 100% positive, and the song isn’t on the soundtrack, but I’m fairly certain I recognize the song. Kick-Ass is in theaters April 16th, and the comic book was fantastic, so expect good things!

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