Posted in Music on October 30th, 2010 by Tom

So the real surprise here is that I did not hate this album. Believe me, I was ready to.

I’d been unimpressed by the battery of pre-release material from New York’s long-running post-punk revival boys who introduced a lot of people to this type of music. Lo and behold, though, I still find myself listening to it about once or twice a week.

Still, it’s an Interpol album. For me, this means that the music is really obnoxious and depressing when you’re in the wrong mood, but sufficiently spot-on when you feel a little edgy and don’t mind brooding for an hour or so. The band’s biggest weakness has been the uniformity of their sound. I seldom remember the titles to most of the songs because it’s all the same to me.

The only exception is for the two or three best songs on the album, which really are fantastic in their own right. We’ll drop an example to make the point:

‘Summer Well’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The third track on the album, this is the first one that really makes your ears perk up and pay attention. The chorus bounces a little bit, and really has a lot of drive and power behind it, shaking you out of the typical Interpol-doldrum that you can become lulled into listening to a full set of the band’s slow, downer tunes.

The next song, ‘Lights’, is OK. This one was really pushed as ‘the song you ought to like on this album if you care for Interpol at all.’ I’m iffy on it. Once it gets going, it’s not bad, and the backing chorus “That’s why I own you,” has a really cool ring to it, but I just wish Interpol would cut loose for once.

I’m not saying that every song has to be ‘PDA’, or that they should even be trying to recapture that exact idea, but could we get something that has a beat faster than my pulse? The answer is yes, at least for a moment, and the song is called ‘Barricade‘:

[ mp3 ♫ ]

This type song is what keeps me coming back to Interpol even though I’m never totally sold on their overall style. It’s the perfect blend of dark coloring with enough power/drive/tempo behind it that you could pump your fist or tap your foot, and even dance a little bit to the “full speed…” bridge segment. It’s fantastic!

However, if that was too much excitement for you, don’t worry. There’s 23 more minutes of slower, plodding tracks for you to cool off to. I’m being a little hard on songs like ‘Always Malaise (The Man I Am)’, ‘Safe Without’, and ‘Try It On’. Each of these picks up at one point or another, ultimately proving to be pretty satisfying listening experiences, but just never quite to the extent of the tracks cited above.

The most egregious offense, and textbook example of what makes Interpol a snoozefest at times is ‘All of the Ways’. I wish there was more to say, but there isn’t. It drags, it’s boring, both in terms of content and style, and I usually skip it. The closer, ‘The Undoing’, is anything but that: a solid showing to close out the ten-track effort.

I feel bad being so flippant about my distaste for some of the material on the album, because ultimately I have to recommend it to the casual Interpol fan. Interpol is not the record I want it to be, but my love-hate relationship with the band is going on seven years now, so I’m not their best advocate (in spite of 60+ listens to Our Love to Admire and 70+ to Turn on the Bright Lights).

Give it a shot. It’s worth it even if you only like the three or four great songs. If you enjoy anything else, all the better.

Interpol – Interpol


Not In Love (ft. Robert Smith)

Posted in Music on October 26th, 2010 by Tom

So file this one under the strange-but-true category… Pitchfork reported yesterday that Robert Smith of The Cure fame had teamed up with Crystal Castles to rework their track ‘Not In Love‘. You can hear the original on my writeup of Crystal Castles, but below is the new cut with Smith’s vocals.

‘Not In Love (ft. Robert Smith)’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I’m really sortof weirded out by how much I like this. I enjoyed the original version quite a bit, but it does add something when you can tell what the words are, and Smith really does the tune justice.

The single is out December 6, which will feature the above song as an added bonus.
For the original: Crystal Castles – ‘Not In Love’.

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Posted in Music on October 14th, 2010 by Tom

I always worry that I review things too quickly, and that a review is better if done from afar, but the site could use an update, and I’ve been listening to this album a ton since picking it up two weeks ago, so why not?!

Flamingo is Brandon Flowers’ solo foray, and I’m comfortable saying that it is exactly the record you think it is. Flowers is the component of the Vegas-based Killers which pushes the music from being bargain-bin New Wave synthpop to something epic. Sure, maybe he pushes a little too hard, and then people call him melodramatic, and the accusation isn’t entirely unfair.

But out on his own, Flowers no longer needs to push or pull anyone or anything. The record sounds more or less like a Killers album where Flowers got to make all the decisions. This works out really well in some places, and falls flat in a few others. For instance, the opening track: ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas.’ I guess I’m just sick of Brandon Flowers singing to me about Las Vegas. Isn’t that what Sam’s Town was all about? Is there really that much more to say? I don’t think so, but that’s me.

After that, ‘Only The Young’, which has a pretty crazy video, starts to get things going into a better direction. The first really great track is the third, ‘Hard Enough‘. It wouldn’t be an indie side-project without the requisite Jenny-Lewis-Guest-Vocal-Track, and Flowers doesn’t leave us hanging, and Lewis’s vocals really are a fantastic accent to this heart-felt tune.

‘Hard Enough’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I like the following track, ‘Jilted Lovers & Broken Hearts’ because it gets a little closer to having the “punch” that defines the best Killers tracks, really building towards a pretty epic finale: this is one track where he pulls it off.

The second half of the record is a mixed bag. ‘Playing With Fire’ is a solid song, if a little bit lengthy and slow at almost 6 minutes. The next pair, ‘Was It Something I Said?’ and ‘Magdalena’ are too alike and jangle-ly to really be that great. There’s definitely moments where you can feel something cool going on, but these ones are pretty stock “Brandon Flowers sings about some event happening with some girl taking place in an ambiguously south-western setting” type songs. Not bad, but kinda blah.

One of my favorite tracks of the past summer is the late-breaker ‘Crossfire’. It’s disappointing that more of the material couldn’t have hit this sweet-spot of drama and emotion paired with as much restraint as Flowers can muster, because it really makes for great music. Whoever the house band percussionist was, they seem to do particularly well on this track. Also: the video has Charlize Thereon in it, and is really great in an action-packed sort of way.

Disappointing then that this is followed with ‘On the Floor’, the most boring, preachy piece of music out of the ten tracks. I appreciate artists trying to play around with more traditional styles of music (here: gospel, soul), but damn does it stick out like a sore thumb, and sound like crap to boot.

Luckily, the closer is really, really good. Oddly named, ‘Swallow It’ has a really curious message about the merits of growing up, taking responsibility, and it dials down the grandiose style of most of the bigger songs before it while still having a really distinct sound. I like this one so much I usually listen to it twice before moving on to a different record.

‘Swallow It’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

All in all, it’s like I said: this is exactly what you would expect from a record by, about, and largely for Brandon Flowers. I think he still is at his best as the larger-than-life component he plays in the Killers, but if you even remotely enjoy his past work, it’s hard to go wrong with Flamingo.

Aside: Seriously, though: can we be done with Las Vegas after this? …please?

Brandon Flowers – Flamingo

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So Jealous

Posted in Music on October 2nd, 2010 by Tom

I’ve been trying to fill in some gaps in my back catalog, and this was a real priority. I’ve had Tegan and Sara pop up on mixes given to me fairly frequently, and I liked their most recent effort, Sainthood, enough to honorable-mention it in my 2009 write-up. Give those two facts, I set out to give 2004’s So Jealous a try.

A quick glance at the track list confirmed that most of my encounters with the band were lifted from this very record, which is always nice. It’s easier to spend time listening to new and unfamiliar songs when there are known favorites peppered in there to keep you invested. Even though it’s not new to me on listening to the album, I’ve got to go ahead and share ‘Take Me Anywhere‘.

‘Take Me Anywhere’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

I’m a little sheepish in admiting it, but I can’t get enough of the raw sentimentality of this song. And that’s sortof the name of the game with Tegan and Sara. You get songs about love and heartbreak with zero filter. Disclaimer: it’s not for the callous and unfeeling.

So Jealous was also the vehicle for what I’m sure was many people’s introduction to the band, ‘Walking With A Ghost’. I forgot how much I liked this song! My favorite tune that I hadn’t heard yet off of this record was ‘I Know I Know I Know‘. It’s a little depressing, but musically it has a lot to offer:

‘I Know I Know I Know’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Other great songs include ‘Where Did the Good Go’ and ‘Speak Slow’. The record is a few tracks too long for my taste, but the material is so solid that it’s hard to really lodge any legitimate complaint. So Jealous is a solid effort by some talented musicians, with a few stand-out tracks that really demand you stop and take notice.

The Quin sisters were up for the Canadian Polaris Prize recently for the aforementioned Sainthood. They even performed live with fellow nominee Owen Pallett, another recent favorite of mine, which was pretty cool.

Tegan and Sara – So Jealous