Posts filed under ‘Album Reviews’

Album Review: Jolie Holland- The Living And The Dead

Jolie Holland has returned to the music world with a new release titled “The Living And The Dead”. Her earlier releases had a kind of rustic lo-fi charm about them that felt like actual artifacts of many years ago. 2006’s Springtime can kill you was a decidedly glossier affair, with slinky jazz instrumentation amping up Jolie’s sultry vocals. On this new release, she has taken a fairly straightforward approach to her song structures which heightens certain aspects of her aesthetic, but ultimately fail in pushing her discography to new innovative heights.

The first single, Mexico City , sets the tone for the record with a rollicking rhythm set to Jolie’s ghostly voice which weaves in and out of the simple guitar progression. Unfortunately, this same sound is replicated a few too many times on the record on tracks like Palmyra, and Your Big Hands, diffusing the effectiveness of this new approach.

The standouts on the album are the tracks that recall a more traditional songwriting angle such as the breathtaking Love Henry, and Enjoy Yourself, which highlight her outstanding voice in more challenging tempo situations. All in all, a strong record, that will age well, but I get the feeling that we haven’t seen the peak of this singer songwriter yet.

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October 15, 2008 at 8:11 pm Leave a comment

Album Review: Weezer (Red Album)

Let me preface this review by saying that no matter what direction they take, Weezer have left a mark on rock music that will not fade quickly. By staying in the business for over 15 years and consistently churning out monster hits, for better for worse, they have become inextricably melded to the great pantheon of classic rock and roll. The Blue album helped to usher in a new generation of alternative music, fusing the crunchy indie rock of Pavement with the soaring melodies of the Beach Boys. Their second album, Pinkerton, served as one of the great cult classics of the 90’s. Its emotive ramblings matched with Rivers’ gunslinger guitar riffs spread through word of mouth and this thing called the “internet”, eventually garnering platinum status and critics stamp of approval.

After a hefty hiatus, the aughts saw a new slick approach from the crew in the form of a Green album that clocked in under a half hour and contained powerful, calulated bursts of power pop with a decidedly simplified lyrical prowess. Maladroit ushered in an era of excess as Rivers eschewed the short pop dirges for longer, self indulgent guitar solo saturated tributes to his childhood shred head heroes such as Kiss and Slayer. The next album, Make Believe, marked the first traces of alarming stagnation. With warm production and goofy sense of humor in tact, the collection of songs lacked the spark and vitality of the rest of their discography. The lyrics and song structures were utterly devoid of irony and any faint glimmer of experimentation. I began to ponder with increasing trepidation about the concept of a one time flag carrier of underground music longing to live in Beverly Hills with a straight face. Questions began to arise such as, “Is Weezer still relevant”, and “Are they still capable of making an interesting and listenable album? The answers are yes, and sort of, respectively.

The Red album is all at once, fun, progressive, nostalgic, and devastatingly front loaded. It gathers an exilerating head of steam only to fizzle out and die at just over the half way point. But I digress, lets start from the top. Troublemaker gets things rolling at a respectable jaunt that stretches all they way to track 6, Dreamin’. The songs here still contain simple, ridiculous lyrics, but they feel more lighthearted and genuine than anything else they have produced this decade. They feel like the product of an aging man taking a look back at his long career and tipping his hat at it than the outcome of some form of sterile thesis on pop music structure. The songs lightly touch on nostalgia of youth, musical influences, and zany pop culture references. There are plenty of surprises in the production, a laser sound here, a handclap there, that give the album a warm lived in feel. The guitars soar and swell on Pork and Beans and Heart Songs, and chug along through Troublemaker and Everybody Get Dangerous.

The crowning achievement here is the single The Greatest Man That Ever Lived (Variations On A Shaker Hymn). A multifaceted genre bending assault of the senses, TGMTEL is proof that Weezer still has importent things to offer in the future. Featuring rap, barbershop quartet influenced vocals, both power pop and grunge breakdowns, and an air guitar chorus, Rivers Cuomo has brought back the Blue Album esque giddy rock-out-in-your-room sensation for the first time since, well…the Blue Album.

The only thing holding the Red album back from being particularly memorable is basically the entire second half of the disc. The other three members of the group take over vocal duties for three songs respectively, and while this is not necessarily a poor concept, it results in zero accolade’s from yours truly. The vocal performances themselves are perfectly acceptable, its the songs themselves that are quite frankly just trite filler. Compared to the tracks that Rivers performs on earlier on the disc, these cuts are unadventurous, repetitive and cliche, fulfilling the AM gold prophecy foretold on Make Believe.

In time this album will sink into obscurity and be forgotten by the masses but beloved by aging Weezer fans who will no doubt confuse future generations with their six finger =w= salute and curious affinity for Happy Days reruns.

June 3, 2008 at 12:05 pm 3 comments

Album Review: Bonnie ‘Prince Billy’- Lie Down In The Light

Another year, another album from Will Oldham. This guy is starting to freak me out with his consistency. Lie Down In The Light is certainly a summer record. From the first stanza it is clear that the bearded one has moved on from the dense, and sometimes somber atmosphere of his 2006 release The Letting Go. The playful, light hearted nature of this album hearkens more to the mentality of 2001’s Ease Down The Road, but differentiates itself with starkly diverse instrumentation and song structure.

Right off the bat, Easy Does It sets the tone of the album by evoking themes of love and family. The feel of the album is decidedly more traditional and accessible than perhaps ever before in his career. The production is slick, and his backing band is right on the money providing Nashville staples such as steel guitar and backup harmonizing vocals from the likes of Ashley Webber.

There is nothing revolutionary about this album, and it is hardly a departure for Oldham, but it is so warm and inviting its impossible to scoff at. The ticket to success here is how natural and casual it sounds. It is more akin to a live album than a studio recording. It would not be a stretch to imagine hearing a performence of Lie Down In The Light on something like A Prairie Home Companion, as Oldham has tapped into that particular brand of Americana with this release. This is not the dark and scary Bonnie Prince, it is the homespun one with a large beard and comfy sweater sipping tea on the porch. So sit back and relax and enjoy the down home feel of Lie Down In The Light, thats what its made for.

May 20, 2008 at 11:39 am 1 comment

New Beck Track: Chemtrails

Beck is very sneaky, like a top secret recording ninja. We knew he was up to something with Danger Mouse in the studio. Now it has been revealed that the project is an album slated to be released this summer called Modern Guilt

Recently, like the sneaky ninja that he is, Beck has quietly put a song from the upcoming LP called Chem Trails on his website. It displays something that the rehashed nostalgia and casual nob turning of The Information have not brought to the table: a fresh side of the enigma that is Beck. This track sounds new and vital, resounding speakers with affecting layers of production while Beck’s signature croon dances about. He sounds confused and lost, but at least he is searching for something again. Check out the new track HERE

May 20, 2008 at 6:28 am Leave a comment

Album Review: Colin Meloy Sings Live!

Following the recent release of two solo EP’s filled with covers of Morrissey and Shirley Collins, Decemberists front man Colin Meloy turns the focus to himself with his new full length solo acoustic album, Colin Meloy Sings Live!

There are a host of classic Decemberists tracks to choose from here, as well as a track from Meloy’s previous band, Tarkio, a Shirley Collins cover, and the fantastic unreleased tune, “Wonderful”. Meloy’s trademark nasal crooning flits around each of these songs, making them sound warm and inviting despite the sparse instrumental arrangement. The between song banter and crowd chatter are kept to a minimum, but still provide enough personality and wittiness to recreate the feeling of being at a live show.

A particularly humorous moment comes with a performance of the unfinished track “Dracula’s Daughter” which is prefaced by Meloy saying that it is the worst song that he ever wrote. He proceeds to launch into the particularly wacky cut to great comedic effect. Other standouts are “The Gymnast, High Above The Ground”, and the epic “California One/Youth And Beauty Brigade”.

Despite the warm “around the campfire” vibe, the songs performed here just don’t sound that much different from their originally recorded counterparts. As a result, fans, particularly those who have not seen Meloy or the Decemberists live, will marvel at the intimate glimpse this release gives into Colin Meloy’s live prowess. Newcomers or casual fans will simply scratch their heads and pick up a Decemberists studio release instead.

Colin Meloy-Wonder

April 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm Leave a comment

Song Of The Day: Neutral Milk Hotel-Oh Sister

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As you may know, the seminal Neutral Milk Hotel album, In The Aeroplane Over The Sea turns ten years old this weekend. Upon discovering this anniversary, I immediately sat down and charged through the bands short and powerful discography. On Avery Island serves as a fuzzy, blissed out prelude to Aeroplane, creating a greater context for the latter to resonate through your subconscious on an unending loop. One of my favorite things about this band is their ability to create songs that I enjoy thoroughly, but upon later inspection realize contain life alteringly beautiful poetry. Over long periods of time certain songs will just decide to reveal themselves to me as more than a great tune, but a deeply affecting piece of art. Such is the case with Oh Sister, one of the handful of unreleased NMH tunes. Sharing lyrics with the great epic, Oh Comely, this track is much shorter but maintains just as much theatrics, and a great sense of urgency. A tucked away hidden gem, it feels like buried treasure, extracted from the topsoil of forgotten bootlegs. So please go and listen to the two main albums in their entirety, let them wash over you and fill you with visions of Two Headed Boys and Flying Gramaphones. Once you have done this, play this track as a sort of epilogue, a supplementary piece, it certainly deserves its place in the pantheon of classic NMH songs.

Neutral Milk Hotel-Oh Sister.mp3

Oh sister, sweet brown and beulahery
And milk from your blisters on your grandmother’s jewelry
There in the parlor all naked in front of me
Watching the lights from the cracks
Making archery animal designs –
Jeff Mangum

February 10, 2008 at 6:42 pm Leave a comment

Smashing Pumpkins- American Gothic

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This surprise release is a great way for Billy Corgan to start off ’08. After a satisfying but questionable release last year with Zeitgeist, this fresh EP focuses on the acoustic side of things. Casting aside the gloom, American Gothic instead is filled with sunny, crisp tunes that beg for repeated listens. The new direction borrows heavily from Corgan’s days in Zwan, but indicates that there are still areas he has not yet traversed. This release has single handedly restored my faith in the Pumpkins future. I give it a solid B.

Smashing Pumpkins- Rose March.mp3

January 5, 2008 at 5:18 pm Leave a comment

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