Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Album Catch Up

The 25 albums list is done, but there was a lot of music I wanted to write about that I didn't get a chance to yet discuss. Here I will write a few reviews in one shot, but a little bit shorter than usual.

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Dig! Lazarus! Dig!

Only recently have I gotten into the Bible thumping goth God. Much of Nick Cave's tales of depravity and sinners is a modern Edgar Allen Poe tale, but with less words ending in "ore" and more amazing rock music. The thing I've learned about Cave is that he loves these tales so much that over every album, he weaves essentially the same stories of those who commit these sins and the innocents who get sucked up into the kind of carnage that can come from that. On the new album, he resurrects poor Lazarus in the middle of New York City, a dingy town in the words of Cave. Most who sing about NYC don't talk about "a soup queue, a dopefiend, a slave, then prison, then the grave." It's not the kind of New York State of mind you hear about, but it's one that's all too real. "More News From Nowhere" plays like a noir version of a Dylan story song filled with ladies of the night "100 foot" men and people transfusing with panda blood. It's a long track filled with great imagery. The album is filled with less melodic vocals like some other Cave albums and is almost spoken word at points, but it's overall a good listen and another decent album in Cave's prolific career. The best part of the album is the cocky swagger of every song. I would love to hear The Rolling Stones do a rendition of "Today's Lesson."

Coldplay - Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends

Not gonna lie, this may be Coldplay best album. It's nothing brilliant, but it's a damn good showcase of a band who was known to recycle their own sound from Parachutes to X&Y. This time, they change it up and decide to mix in some new sounds. This may have been with the help of producer guru Brian Eno, but I think it may also have been a conscious effort for the band to show that they aren't talentless hacks. The concept is very run-of-the-mill, but the songs about revolution and romanticism are ones that are at least heart felt, if not a bit stale and cliche. Needless to say, it's a fantastic pop record. "Viva la Vida" takes a page from The Beatles' "Eleanor Rigby" by pouring on the melody with strings and some small backing instrumentation. Dare I say it's one of the most addictive songs I've heard this year? Yes it is. "Cemeteries of London" and "Lost!" are also two fantastic pop songs. The rest of the songs lack a bit of editing as most have to parts to them that don't fit together. Again, it's not brilliant, but it's a great pop music record that falls somewhere in the middle road of records that have come out this year. It's definitely worth taking a spin or two.

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Death Cab can't write a bad album, but they can't really write a great album. And there is not a damn thing wrong with that. Narrow Stairs is a slice of pop music, just like Coldplay, but with a little bit better songwriting. Gibbard and Co. know how to write a good tune and a good lyric. They even wrote an epic! The eight-minute "I Will Posess Your Heart" swoops with grandiosity much like Wilco's "Spiders (Kidsmoke)." For those with ADD, there is a radio edit out there. My personal favorite, "Long Division" sounds like a b-side from Transatlanticism with it's hooky guitars. Then again, most of any Death Cab song would fit on any of their albums throughout there career. I think that is what brings me back. Consistency isn't something to harp on. If a band does the same thing over and over but does it well, why complain? Electric Six has been putting the same record out for years now too and do I love them? Sure do. The streamlined production on Narrow Stairs is the best thing about it. The melodies float in the air and inside your ears. They know how to write a song and they continue to write good music.

Ratatat - LP3

Instrumental music is something I've grown to love more and more over the past few years and Ratatat is one of the catchiest instrumental bands. Using synths and guitars that sound like synths and hip-hop style beats, they write these melodic songs that just make you want to dance or chill. Another great thing about Ratatat is their way of genre mixing. They have songs like "Mi Viejo" which is a mixture of electronic music and classic spanish guitar sounds. "Mirando" sounds like the back beat to a hip-hop jam much in the style of MF Doom mixed with M.I.A. It's tribal beats and funky synths seem like they could have an amazing jam written to them, however sometimes I feel like it would ruin the vibe of the track if there were lyrics. "Falcon Jab" is a personal favorite and not because of the imagery of a giant bird face punching you, but for it's Brian May sounding guitars and it's funky beat that gets my dance juices flowin'. The album as a whole is a little more diverse in tone than their bast two efforts making it stand out, but it's again the same from a band that has it's formula and doesn't entirely change it or fuck with it. It's also a band that doesn't have to change what they got. They are a unique musical act and should keep it up.

Dr. Dog - Fate

I can't not like Dr. Dog. Their music is to enjoyable, but I can hear why the critics aren't so in favor for them, or at least the ones I've heard talk about them. Their latest is a re-hash of We All Belong and the band can't seem to get past their love of Syd Barret and Rubber Soul era Beatles. And can you blame them? What's not to like about late 60s psych folk? It's fun and Philadelphia has a lot of bands with the similar vibe flourishing right now (i.e. Lemons are Louder Than Rocks, An American Chinese, etc.) Dr. Dog knows how to write great love songs and great melodies. "The Old Days" sounds perfect for a good old 8mm family video of some kids playing in the yard, eating cake or just all around silly youthfulness. I love songs with that kind of vibe. "From" is one of those excellent love songs that is filled with awesome harmony and solid musicianship. As much as Dr. Dog emulates the greats like the Beatles, they still have some vibe all their own. Their ain't nothing wrong with taking a page out of the classics book.

Be sure to check out Left of the Dial for my write up on the new Jet Age record which is fantastic. And I am currently working on another stand alone piece on the new David Byrne/Brian Eno record.

2008 is shaping up alright so far. Hopefully that Autolux record and that Secret Machines record drops soon.

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