Friday, June 27, 2008

Ten Tracks to Ease Your Mind

I haven't done a list in a while and recently I've been in meditation mode. Here is a random list of ten songs that soothe my mind that I would like to share with you. Find these songs and make a mediation mix out of them. These are great for passing out to late at night. If I can get a youtube video of the song for these tracks, I will let the music do the talking. No Particular Order. Just all great.

10. Brian Eno - "An Ending (Ascent)" Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks

9. Tim Buckley - "Song to the Siren" Starsailor

Nina Simone "Wild is the Wind" Wild is the Wind

7. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - "People Ain't No Good" The Boatman's Call

Radiohead - "Weird Fishes/Arpeggi" In Rainbows

5. Charlotte Gainsbourg - "The Operation" 5:55

4. Warren Zevon - "The Mutineer" The Mutineer

3. David Bowie " Slip Away" Heathen

2. Arcade Fire - "In The Backseat" Funeral

1. Nick Cave and Warren Ellis "Song for Bob" Assasination of Jesse James OST

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Arm's Way Sees Islands Polish Their Sound

There once was a band called The Unicorns. They released an album, Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone?, and then just like their band name's legacy, dissappeared. Then came Islands, from two of the members fo the Unicorns and they released an album called Return to the Sea. This album was one of those kooky, genre bending affairs that although was a little off the wall from time to time, it still worked and had a party/exciting vibe to it. This year, Islands has followed up 2006's Return to the Sea with a much more stable and standard sound in Arm's Way.

Arm's Way sees Islands dropping the heavey synths and the kooky vibes for the most part for a more standard baroque guitar pop sound. Less synths, less islandy break-downs and more guitars and heartfelt lyricism. After repeat listening's, I can't decide whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. My problem with Arm's Way isn't the songwriting, but the lack of the off-the-wall goodness that Return to Sea was so great for. Minus a few mid-song turns like during "J'aime vous voire quitter" when it goes from a fast jaunty guitar pop song into a full on bossa nova jam section a la Zep's "Fool in the Rain," the album is too tame compared to what made Islands intriguing. That being said, the songs are still high quality writing overall with sweeping baroque sounds and guitar riffs left and right.

The music of Islands on Arm's Way blends prog of the 70's song structures, baroque pop a la fellow Canadians Arcade Fire and indie guitar posturing of every other run-of-the-mill band crawling out of the woodwork. This is prevalent on the first single "The Arm" which has definitive structure changes, strings and everything you'd expect. It's really all in comes down to Nick Diamond's vocals and writing to shine through on this album. The music isn't as sparkling and fresh but the lyricism is something to enjoy. A cleaner more focused Islands isn't exactly a great thing, but it's definitely a good listen.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Coco Loco

With so many records to listen to in a given year, it's hard to listen to every great album when you don't work for a newspaper or an entertainment magazine. I either have to buy my albums, steal them or just miss a lot of music. I catch up with albums late all the time. Last year I was ready to deem the self titled release from Danava one of the years best, but that was actually from 2006 even though I probably listened to that record more than any other. This year, I discovered one of my favorite all time people's first solo album. That man is Jason Schwartzman and his record under the group Coconut Records is entitled Nighttiming is a collection of excellent power pop songs that stand as a testament to having a great time.

In a recent A.V. Club segment of Random Rules, where famous people randomize their iPod for them and explain why songs are on it, Schwartzman gave an uncompromising view into what his Coconut Records sounds like: Solo Paul McCartney. His love for the melody and straightforward pop master himself shows through the tracks on Nighttiming very much so. The structure of the album itself harkens the feel of McCartney records like Ram or McCartney. The songs are catchy, trippy, melodic and hypnotic. It's a taste of power pop that rivals other groups raising the pop flag high like Nada Surf and Band of Horses, but with a touch of something different.

The album kicks off with a quiet little ditty entitled "This Old Machine." With care-free backing vocals care of none other than Kirsten Dunst, it's a good opener to set the mood of the album. it's something to put on while smoking a doobie on a warm summers day at the shore with your feet at the edge of the outgoing tide. "West Coast" has as much power pop anthematic hooks as anything Schwartzman's old band Phantom Planet has put out, but there is a drop of melancholy goodness that makes this song as bittersweet as it is catchy. Schwartzman's voice crackles with insecurity as the piano hook and crescendo bring it into the atmosphere the way a Jon Brion song would. I dare you to not sing along after listening to this track a few times. The songs "Back to You" and "Nighttiming" show that Schwartzman can make you dance just like any other power pop band can. Step aside, The Killers and Maroon 5, Max Fischer is here to get anyone and everyone out on the dance floor without sounding repetitive.

Schwartzman teams up with Dunst again on the silly acoustic track of "Summer Day", again perfect for a doob enhanced walk on the beach. Zooey Deschanel also steps up to lend her fantastic vocals on the jaunty lo-fi country ballad "Mama" and the dreamy closing track "Ask Her to Dance." Any way you approach an album chock full of pop songs, it's hard to say any of it is new or different, because it never will be. What makes a pop album good is it's variety and it's replay value. Coconut Records has no place being as good as it is, even though I guess thats an unfair statment to make about anything. But when you look at it, power pop like this is for some reason no longer popular. It should be becase this collection of songs is diverse and has much more to offer than half the crap that is on the Top 40 charts. Nighttiming is a fantastic album of McCartney songs not written by McCartney, and that is a great compliment to Jason Schwartzman for being able to replicate the sound of a pop music genius and add his own personal musical voice to the mixture.