Sunday, August 8, 2010

Weekend Music Roundup

Music always creeps into my work. There's no avoiding it. It's inevitable. My writing is heavily influenced by the English Romanticism and I've always been obsessed with the rhythm of the words. It's not always about what you say, but how you say it. I try to say everything lyrically. In many ways, I try to create writing that will give the reader a similar feeling as to what music gives me. None of that has anything to do with this list, except that it explains my drive to continue to discover and listen to new things. On with the new then...

Dogs - We are the Dogs EP: I've reviewed most of this band's back catalog on here before, so why not their newest release. This London based indie pub punk band has been making some great music for the past several years. This new EP shows the band maturing musically. Still very socially conscious in a smart way, but with a more radio-friendly sound. Not that they weren't always catchy in their own unique way. They really feel like a new version the Manic Street Preachers (but not quite up to that level...yet).

Arcade Fire - The Suburbs: I listened to this more out of a sense of obligation than interest. Though I loved the band's debut The Funeral and still consider it one of the best albums of the last decade, I really didn't care for Neon Bible. To me, Neon Bible sounds like an Eddie and Cruisers album (an indie combination of the Boss meets Actung Baby). No wonder it was a huge success, it was exactly the boring kind of album that people love. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much with this one. However, I was wrong because this is a very good album. The depth of story and portrait of suburban life's desperation and boredom (a theme I've written plenty on) is spot on. Musically, it reflects back to the swirling beauty of The Funeral. All in all, very impressive.

Gayngs - Relayted: An altogether unique album that is a delight to listen to. It's so hard to pin this one down, there's so many influences going into it. The overall effect though is a same sort of neo-psychedelic soul record that Portugal. The Man creates every now and then. There's so much space in the songs. They are so free and open that it makes for a great summer kind of record.

Richard Ashcroft - United Nations of Sound: The new album by Verve frontman Mad Richard is a definite step-up from his two previous solo efforts, which though decent, got mired in an adult contempo feel while trying to be more Marvin Gaye than they actually were. This album is a nice compromise. There is the clear soul influence, but also some of the frantic energy of the Verve. The opener "Are You Ready" could be a Verve song. Other stand outs for me are "She Brings the Music," "America," and "How Deep is Your Man." Certainly some uneven songs, but still a good album by one of my music heroes.

The Rural Alberta Advantage - Hometowns: This 2008 album was released on Saddle Creek (the Nebraska indie folk label responsible for many great releases last decade). What I love about this album is that though it's clearly Midwestern indie folk, they fuse that with up tempo acoustic playing. It reminds me of the earliest Bright Eyes eps and albums. It's angry, sad, and beautiful at the same time.

Cocoon - From Panda Mountain / I Hate Birds EPs: Prior to the French folk pop's stellar 2007 debut All My Friends Died in a Plane Crash, they released these two eps, featuring a lot of songs that would eventually end up on the album. However, the versions here on subtly different, but enough so that they make it worthwhile to seek these out. Think Belle & Sebastian's first album, but not as hopeful.

Antsy Pants - Antsy Pants: Released in 2006, this is a home project featuring Kimya Dawson (of The Moldy Peaches) and an 11 year old boy named Leo (of Bear Creek). It's very simple folk, almost like indie campfire children's songs if such a genre existed. But it's done really well and turns out to be a much more impressive album than one might think on the surface. "Henry Kelly," "Tree Hugger," "Amazing Kids Doing Amazing Shit," and "Sleep" are my personal favorites.

Grizzly Bear - Yellow House: I don't know what it is about this band that causes so many people see greatness. The music is pretty, but essentially boring. It simply feels soulless to me. It's okay. I wouldn't turn it off, but on the other hand, there's nothing about it that pulls me in either. It's about as interesting as the cover.

The Jayhawks - Blue Earth: The 1989 release by the alt-country band improves on the recently re-released self-issued debut, but falls short of their the next two classic albums. Still though, it's quite a good album. We start to hear them move away from the Gram Parson's sound toward the Neil Young sound of the next two albums. A must have, but only after you've already worn out Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow the Green Grass.

Melvins - Lysol: The pioneers of sludge metal and one of the true unsung bands that have had more influence on music over the past few years than many realize. This 1992 album is one 30+ minute song that puts Black Sabbath through the drone filter. Not as easily accessible as some of their releases but still a great example of the genre.


  1. Haven't heard of any of those but they sound really cool. I agree with music having a connection to writing. Or even just to life in general. When I look back at events in my life they're so often tied to the music I was listening to at the time.

  2. And I thought my range was wide. I had a weekend catching up on the Cambridge Folk Festival and for some reason early Roxy Music.