2010 Best Of

Posted in Music on December 11th, 2010 by Tom

Read the Full List Here

I’ve been hard at work on my top albums of 2010, and it’s finally done! Head over to the article for the complete list, commentary, songs, etc.

In the next few weeks, I’ve got exams and the like, so I probably won’t have more to share until I get home later in December. Until then, I hope you enjoy the list.

-Tom

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New Pornographers Live in Boston

Posted in Music on June 21st, 2010 by Tom

This past Friday, while searching for a place to live in Boston, MA, I had the great, great fortune to catch a live show by the New Pornographers at the House of Blues. I got there in time to see the opening set by the Dodos, which was alright. I haven’t gotten particularly excited about that group in the past, and their live arrangements didn’t exactly sway me, but it was entertaining enough to pass the time.

The real show started soon enough, and it did not disappoint. The generous setlist was as follows:

Main Set
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Sing Me Spanish Techno
Up In the Dark
Myriad Harbour
Use It
Crash Years
Adventures In Solitude
Jackie, Dressed in Cobras
All the Old Showstoppers
Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk
Go Places
Jackie
Moves
Your Hands (Together)
Twin Cinema
My Shepard
The Laws Have Changed
Silver Jenny Dollar
Mass Romantic
The Bleeding Heart Show

Encore
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Challengers
The Slow Descent Into Alcoholism
Testament To Youth In Verse

Looking back at the list, it’s hard to believe there were that many tracks. Then again, Case, Newman, and co. really kick it up a notch, and so it goes by quickly. Nearly every song is at least a little faster than its recorded counterpart, and some (Jackie, Dressed In Cobras, in particular) are noticeably so.

The best part of the performance was getting to “see” the sound of the New Pornographers disassembled. Having faces to match with the plethora of vocalists the group employs was really cool (especially with as much harmony as the songs use), and the sheer degree of coordination of the group was impressive, to say the least.

There was very little time wasted on banter with the crowd, which I appreciate… the exception being when someone near the front hurled a copy of Together onto the stage, nearly hitting A. C. Newman. There was an awkward moment (the group was in between songs) where they all just stood there, a little stunned. This was quickly broken by Neko Case murmuring into the mic,

Case: “What… the fuck. Who did that…??”
Newman: “Jeez. It’s our own record, too.”
Case: “I will fucking FIGHT you, whoever did this.
*crowd cheers*
Case: “Seriously.”
*more cheers*

…and so forth. They were sports about it, but there was a scary moment where I really thought she was going to fuck someone up. Which, in grander scheme of the show, was pretty awesome. Aside from that little incident, everything else went without issue.

I was pleased to hear so much material from 2007’s Challengers, which I feel has been rather underrated thus far. I really respect the group for that, because it would be easy to stock the set with tracks from their older records, but instead they really embraced the new material, appearing to be having a lot of fun with it. The Together tracks sounded brilliant, and made me want to spend even more time with the album.

The show was everything I could have hoped for, and it was a privilege to see these talented individuals work their craft in person.

NOTE: Sorry for the lack of songs. I recorded a few on my phone, but the quality was so sub-standard that it’d be pointless to put them up here. I’m going to experiment with mobile setups, and hopefully get better samples of future shows for the blog.

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Together

Posted in Music on June 14th, 2010 by Tom

One of my most anticipated records of the year, Together lives up to the quality work I’ve come to expect from the New Pornographers.

Since my college roommate first gave me a copy of Twin Cinema the nearly-orchestral compositions as well as the knockout vocals of Neko Case and Carl Newman (both products of the New Pornographer’s “Indie Super-Group” classification) of the group have kept me hooked. Their catalog both before and after Cinema has been laudable.

The singles that preceded this particular record, ‘Your Hands (Together)’ and ‘Crash Years‘, are the driving forces which carry the effort. They follow, as a pair, the opening track ‘Moves’, whose gutsy string section marks a departure from past records where they seldom played a staring role, instead backing the more traditional guitar/piano solo lines. Simply throwing strings on a section in and of itself is not as impressive as how they’re used, and it’s here that you can really hear the level of sophistication the band has reached.


‘Crash Years’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

Similarly, the brass on ‘A Bite Out of My Bed‘ gives this album a layer of texture that, though it was not really missed previously, had been missing. It helps alleviate one of the few legitimate criticisms of the New Pornographers I ascribe to, which is that many of the tracks can bleed together, sounding too similar. Even still, after 10-15 listens, a couple of the middle tracks (‘My Shepherd’, ‘If You Can’t see My Mirrors’) don’t really grab me like the earlier ones do (‘Moves’, the singles, ‘Jenny Silver Dollar’, ‘Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk’).


‘A Bite Out of My Bed’
[ mp3 ♫ ]

The closer, ‘We End Up Together’, is a great companion track to ‘Your Hands (Together)’. Minimalist at first, it layers on some strings and the playful

Mah mah mah mah
We end up together

chorus evokes a surprisingly sentimental “awwwww” in me, beautifully rounding out these 12 new tracks. I should expect no less.

The New Pornographers – Together

An Aside: The snowglobe-esque album art is also worth a closer look; I like it a lot.

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