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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Nowhere is where you find that Grand Dark Feeling of Emptiness

Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's Ease Down the Road vs. Neil Young's Everybody Knows this is Nowhere:

This is really a wonderful pair of album covers. A field of grass with a lawn mower cut "road" and a pointilist Neil Young with dog in front of mountains. I own these as CDs, but I'd like to see both covers in vinyl size.

I've been listening to both of these a lot. Probably 8 or 10 times each, which has been great. I was already somewhat familiar with both albums, so it was nice to listen more closely for a while.

They both have a rootsy feel, but in different ways. Everybody Knows This is Nowhere has a distinctly 60s feel in the harmonies but sounds surprisingly close to some alternative country of the 90s (or vice-versa, really). Which is maybe to say that this album was ahead of its time. I've never been that crazy about Round and Round, but repeated listens have made me like it more. There really aren't any duds on this album, though I don't care as much for The Losing End and Running Dry, but they probably share the most with Bonnie 'Prince' Billy's Ease Down the Road.

Ease Down the Road is a great album title because it makes you say things like, "Ease on Dow—no wait, Ease Down the Road?" While listening to the Neil Young album resulted in nodding my head and saying, "yeah!" listening to Ease Down the Road made me turn up the volume and say, "huh? what did he just say?" It kind of sticks in my mind as a string of notable lines like, "with my finger in his a@%," "You F#$% and what's to do? (background: you f@#$)," and "hand on shaft and licked his balls" (didn't catch this nugget until just now). But those notable lines make my ears perk up and then I listen to the usually bizarre, often moving impressions and stories in these songs and really appreciate them. I'd like to propose that this album is part of Will Oldham's middle period, characterized by less bleak-sounding music than his earlier work, but still dealing with overtly bleak ideas. Not that his more recent music is super sunny, but it feels more complex and has a more soothing sound. There's really a lot of sex in this album, much of it on the cheating, guilt-laden end of things: "Why's it seem we're doing right, when we're doing something filthy, in a rented room tonight." I find it refreshingly frank.

But then Neil rocks out with Cinnamon Girl and Down by the River and Cowgirl in the Sand and it's just really great rock'n'roll.

Everybody Knows This is Nowhere is a classic and one of those enduring albums that makes it onto "best 500 albums ever" lists made by institutions like Rolling Stone, but I think right now I'd rather listen to Ease Down the Road.

Winner: Bonnie Prince Billy - Ease Down the Road. Also, it comes earlier in the alphabet.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Let's keep this a rollin...

In the intrest of keeping this tournament moving, I'm going to reward those of you who did your homework early by giving you your next picks. Because Lord knows when those other hosers will get their next ones in. Oh, and mad props to Karl for actually getting his picks in early this time. I know some of you think his methodology is weak, but it's at least getting the job done.

And remember, if you aren't happy with others' picks, the faster you get your own in, the more picks you will personally get to make. These picks actually already bring us into the third division. Things are going to go quickly, so make sure you don't get left behind (it might also help if you check the blog every day like I do...okay, every hour).

Note that this is the second time Bonnie Prince Silly and Neil Jung have been matched up. They must hate each other by now.

Here they are:

(30) Flaming Lips - Soft Bulletin vs. (14) Cash - The Man Comes Around

(6) Neil Young - Harvest vs. (22) Bonnie Billy - Lie Down in the Light

(7) Portishead - Dummy vs. (10) Rolling Stones - Sticky Fingers

(15) Beatles - Revolver vs. (2) New Pornographers - Challengers

(32) Marvin Gaye - What's Going On vs. (17) Zeppelin - Zeppelin

(8) Arcade Fire - Funeral vs. (9) Postal Service - Give Up

(13) Yo La Tengo - I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One vs. (29) Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street

Monday, March 29, 2010

Quiz for Sarah (by Sarah)

1. Which album would you prefer to see performed live, from beginning to end?

  1. Laurie Anderson – Big Science
  2. Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

2. Which album made a bigger imprint on you in your naval-gazing college years?

  1. Laurie Anderson – Big Science
  2. Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

3. Which album is not produced by Daniel Lanois, whose trademark tricks have begun to wear on you?

  1. Laurie Anderson – Big Science
  2. Bob Dylan – Time Out of Mind

4. Which lyric do you prefer?

  1. “Put your hands over your eyes. Jump out of the plane. / There is no pilot. You are not alone. Standby. / This is the time. And this is the record of the time.” (Anderson)
  2. “When the rain is blowing in your face
 / and the whole world is on your case / 
I could offer a warm embrace / 
to make you feel my love” (Dylan) = BAAAARRRRFFFF.

5. On the other hand, which lyric do you prefer?

  1. “You're walking. And you don't always realize it, but you're always falling. With each step you fall forward slightly. And then catch yourself from falling. Over and over, you're falling. And then catching yourself from falling. And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.” (Anderson)
  2. “I'm crossin' the street to get away from a mangy dog
 / talkin' to myself in a monologue
 / I think what I need might be a full length leather coat
 / Somebody just asked me if I'm registered to vote” (Dylan)

6. Which track is more annoying?

  1. “Make You Feel My Love” from Time Out of Mind (point for Anderson)
  2. “Sweaters” from Big Science (point for Dylan)
  3. Both make me wish a car with exhaust issues would stall in front of my house playing Sean Paul’s “Get Busy.”

7. Which of these artists/albums riffs on the blues and make them seem more relevant than most contemporary blues musicians?

  1. Anderson
  2. Dylan

8. Which pick would yield the smallest chance of jabs regarding “token feminists”?

  1. Anderson
  2. Dylan

9. On the other hand, which artist has probably had more sex with Lou Reed?

  1. Laurie Anderson
  2. Bob Dylan

10. Which album do you most want more Music Death Matchers to experience because it would mix things up and whittle the remaining Dylan down to your own favorites?

  1. LA – Big Science
  2. BD – Time Out of Mind

11. Which album can be indisputably described as music, not performance art?

  1. LA – Big Science
  2. BD – Time Out of Mind


Anderson: 5

Dylan: 5

Inconclusive: 1


Oh poo. What now?

Laurie Anderson’s Big Science still sounds bizarre today, and it still feels oddly contemporary. Still, is this performance art or music? Does it really matter, as long as it’s good? What about the tracks that seem more and more like novelties (“Sweaters,” “Walking & Falling,” and two versions of "Let X=X") when stacked up against the more amazing tracks on the album (“From the Air,” “Big Science,” “O Superman,” “It Tango”)?

And then Dylan’s Time Out of Mind is tough to shake, but partly because of where it falls in his career. It's often considered his return or reinvention, and I will say that it was nifty to buy this album new as a 20 year old. I had been listening to Dylan through my teens and it was thrilling to hear something new from an (at the time) 50-something that felt overall relevant and substantial. But do I like this album because of what it meant on his timeline and because it eased my own troubles at the time, or do I like it because it stands up to the other greats in his catalog?

So here’s the trouble: How can I measure Dylan’s consistent (but not best) effort against Anderson’s unsettling, uneven breakout album? I can’t. I guess I’ll go with my gut here, even though I resent what my gut is telling me. (I mean, there are still two other Dylan albums I like better left in the death match, and Eric and Andy have enough points already, but Karl doesn’t.)

Sigh. Time Out of Mind wins.

Hot Lines (Or Blue Fuss)

Massive Attack Blue Lines vs Killers' Hot Fuss

On some days, Blue Lines strikes me as pure genius. I think I overdosed on trip-hop in the past. After DJ Shadow, I scavenged all the lesser trip hop acts on Mo Wax which led me to Massive Attack. Over the past week, Blue Lines seems a little boring.
Listening to any Killers' song makes me play "spot the influence". At times, they feel like they're ripping off another artist, but they sure do rip off other artists well. They craft very catchy tracks. Lyrically, Brandon Flowers needs some work (he may be one of the worst lyricists that I know), but the words definitely stick in my head.

I can't believe this is happening, but I'm pushing the Killers on to the third round. Now, that's a massive attack on intelligence

Songs of Substance, Songs of Love

Both of these picks are kind of cheats. Substance is a best of....I guess I did say best of's were okay, so okay. 69 Love Songs is definitely a box set. I definitely said no box sets. I'm feeling slightly bitter I have to listen to an entire box set. How did this slip by me?

Substance was the first CD I ever bought, and New Order was my first concert. I used to have a Substance poster. I wish I still had that poster. Before I've even listened to these albums, New Order has the advantage.

After listening to Substance, here was my general take:

80's music in the best possible way.

Ceremony: Amazing. Love the bass. Love the guitar line.
Everything's Gone Green: Amazing.
Temptation: Totally amazing. Seriously, one of the best songs of the decade.
Blue Monday: Kick-ass.
Confusion: Good.
Thieves Like Us: Kick-ass.
Perfect Kiss: How much ass does this kick!?! Maybe best song of the 80's?
Subculture: Good. This song keeps getting better.
Shellshock: Really good.
State of the Nation: First so-so track.
Bizarre Love Triangle: Totally amazing. As totally ass-kicking as synthesizers are capable.
True Faith: Really, really good.

Substance is one of my favorite albums of the 80's. Side note: You know what I think is my favorite album of the 80's? Violent Femmes - Violent Femmes. I can't believe that didn't make it on anyone's list. Just listened to it the other day, and it stands up and then some. This could have taken both of these down.

69 Love Songs

Here's what I thought during each disc:

First disc: This is really good. This is better than I remember it. I like the songs with banjo. I like the songs the girl sings. "The Book of Love" was Jane and my first dance at our wedding. Steve does a great cover of this song. If the other discs are as good, this could beat Substance.

Second disc: Wow, there's quite a bit of filler on this disc. I'm bored; I'm going to read the linear notes: gee, this guy seems like a pretentious, pompous ass. His voice reminds me of mine: I don't really care for it. A lot of this sounds like 80's music but not in a good way. Some of this sounds like it belongs in a musical: I hate musicals. Here's hoping the third disc pulls it out--I don't want to keep giving Eric points.

Third disc: Eewww. This is horrible. I'd so much rather be listening to The Hold Steady or The Clash right now. Oh my, it's getting worse. I'd so much rather be listening to Graceland right now. I think he's borrowing melodies from his other songs and making them worse. Seriously, I'd rather be listening to Cut Copy right now. His voice reminds me of mine: I hate it! "For We Are the King of the Boudoir"--what the hell is this shit? I just channeled Dwight and spewed all over.

Seriously, I have a theory. Those of you who picked this album haven't actually listened to the third disc in 10 years (or possibly ever). I actually challenge you to go back and listen to it. I give Andy props for choosing just the first disc. I should give him some bonus points for this. I wish I had only had to listen to that one. I'm exhausted right now. I can barely write more than a simple sentence.

Winner: New Order - Substance
Loser - Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs (or 15 good songs, and 54 mediocre to craptastic songs)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Legend vs. Behind the Sun

Hmm, hmm, lets see, what to say, what to say.

Let's start with Legend.

I'm no Bob Marley fan, but you have to give more than a few shout outs to this collection* of songs. This is something that I could throw on a slightly occasional rotation.

Occasional rotation doesn't sound like high praise, but it is. While it isn't my cup of tea, it is some good shit, and you can't deny that. Well except for the steel pans. I think that's my biggest gripe, maybe my only complaint.

Poor Chicane. I'm still (super) mad at Jeff for calling my cat fat, and this album for some reason has brought up all that pain. Actually, I blame Steve too. Not for my cat, but for Chicane. And Dwight -- I could have been listening to Luna right now. What a bunch of Jerk-asses.

Beyond the pan flute, there isn't much here that doesn't remind me of taking a dump. You have to do it over and over again, day in and day out. You're doing the same damn thing you did yesterday. So repetitive, so boring. (Just like eating... ugh, what a vicious cycle.)

I don't know why I can't stand this repetitive stuff, maybe it is because it is repetitive. I just wonder what happens in the studio when this stuff is being recorded... Does anyone yell out after a take, "man, you really programmed those three keys real awesome like!", and then, someone else fires back, "No man, that sucks! Let me remix it".. I mean, why don't they just get the remixist to be the mixer and save a few bucks?

"Halcyon", I'm pretty sure I've heard before, but then again, maybe it is the ATB song, or that Orbital song, whatever, they all sound the same. I'm sure Jeff would know... "guy, ATB Halcyon is 134bpm, Chicane Halcyon is only 133bpm, and Orbital doesn't do anything between 128 and 137 bpm because they still use a mac classic to generate those authentic beats". This version could use a little more flange as well.

But lets get down to the heart of the matter, and decide who will really win. Lets break it down to "Don't Give Up" and "Three Little Birds".

Don't Give Up reminds me of those late night paid programming 'shows', that try to sell you a self-help coaching 'program'. You can do it, just be motivated and all that crap... and you know what will probably happen when you buy the 21 cd set? They'll just tell you "Don't give up", "stay motivated", "think success". Over and bloody over again for 14 hours. This song is the same damn thing.. and for 2 effing tracks at that. Did you give up during the last 2 songs?? well lets remind you.. we've remixed it, now it contains more positive!. "Do what you wanna do..." yeah, that's real great advice... you know what I want to do? Not listen to this song ever again. Ever.

Three Little Birds, on the other hand, is a little more realistic.... "Dude, you might have been totally shafted by some asshole who thought they deserved whatever they 'wanna', but it's gonna be alright".

Legend smokes the sun.

* best of collections should be illegal Brian.

How can you not like this I mean really.

cinderella was a hoodrat

first of all, I’ve never much listened to either of these two…my main exposure is from the “I’m not there” soundtrack, that crazy bob dylan biopic from a coupla years ago…the hold steady faithfully revisit “can you please crawl out your window” and sufjan stevens overanalyzes “ring them bells”…anyway…

the main thing that I look for in any music is this…do I understand why they are doing this? why did they write these songs? why did they become musicians instead of doctors, lawyers, truck driver's wives etc...if i can answer those questions, then we're off to a good start...this is what i feel sarah was getting at in her first match-up (luna vs. the band)...


i have to say, this has been a my toughest matchup, so far...i agree with uncle eric about sufjan stevens...his voice lacks bite to me...his albums, "illinois" in particular, are heavy on concept, cleverness, and complexity...i find this to be a deeply weird album that lacks a perceptible emotional it's weird just to be weird...the sprawling epics, like "the tallest man..." and "come on feel the illinoise..." just wear me out and make me irritated...the quiet ones, like "john wayne gacy, jr." and "casimir pulaski day" don't annoy me as much, but the singing just doesn't do it for me and the end of the day "gacy" seems like a cheap lyrical trick about original sin...deep in a shallow way...i listened to whole thing again today without stopping and i felt like i really accomplished something...i like the chorus in "the man of metropolis steal our hearts"...i tried, i really tried...i watched youtube clips, read reviews and interviews, and watched a bunch of his BQE documentary on just doesn't do it for me...

when I first heard “separation sunday”, i thought hey, this is the more fully realized/hardcore version of “only the good die young” by billy joel that the world has been waiting for…i listened to it while reading the lyrics and that made it a lot more enjoyeable...he really does have something to say and has found a convincing way of getting it across...i don't know shit about catholics, drugs, and hoodrats in the twin cities, but this album still makes sense to me...i really like "don't let me explode" "charlemagne in sweatpants" and "how a resurrection really feels"...this is a weird album, too, but it feels more honest and less of a put on...i really hate the line: "she got screwed up by religion, she got screwed by soccer players"...dumb, dumb, dumb...

what made this such a hard decision is guilt..."illinois" is so highly seeded i felt that unless i loved what it was against quite a bit, i'd pick just didn't work out that way...the winner: the hold steady

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Alphabet fight

Neil Young - Everybody Knows this is Nowhere vs. Bonnie Prince Billy - Ease Down the Road

I decided that I would listen to the first songs of each of these two albums and then decide based on which artist comes first in the alphabet.

Bonnie Prince Billy wins.

Just kidding. Real matchup to follow. Sometime.

MIA vs. Nick Cave

My level of exposure to these artists was about the same, so I decided to keep it simple: Listen to both albums, listen to them again, and then choose the artist that could win in a fist fight.

I figure Nick Cave as the kind of guy who would be like, "I'm warning you! I know karate!" and then be like, "Okay, fair fight?" and when MIA held out her hand to shake it he'd sucker-punch her.

I'm thinking MIA is more the bitey kind. Rrrrr!

So. First blood: MIA. But height, weight, and reach all go to Nick Cave. Winner: Nick Cave!

Now, I know a lot of you might disagree with my methodology. But you can't disagree with the outcome, given the methodology. Or was it the other way around?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Four Micks Vs. Seven Swans

Achtung Baby by U2

*I can still remember listening to this on my cassette tape Walkman back in 1991, a little confused and disoriented but thinking that something strange and exciting was happening in my musical world...

*Almost 20 years later, I think this album holds up incredibly well. I don't think it's a stretch to say it is one of, if not THE, greatest album of the 90s. (Although I know many would disagree with me, I also consider this the first album in U2's most adventurous and exciting period of music making, stretching over the course of Zooropa and Pop).

*Eno and Lanois's production is friggin' awesome; this album SOUNDS amazing...

*I love a good beat; this album has A LOT of good beats...

*I still think about "Even Better Than the Real Thing" a lot when I am watching TV & film or playing on the computer. I still get goosebumps when the drums kick in on "Until the End of the World". I still feel devastated when I listen to "Love is Blindness".

*The only semi-dud here is "Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses". And if that's as bad as things get, we're all gonna be just fine, folks.

*As I asked with Odelay, why the hell wasn't this on my list?!?

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 4.7 (A new high...)

Seven Swans by Sufjan Stevens

*A little background: Mr. Stevens and I got off to a bad start a few years back. I read all these critics raving about this quasi-Christian Detroit-born guy who had written an entire album about the state of Michigan. I was pumped. How could I not love this album? About my home state, my hometown, with all this love from the music press?! I ran out and got my copy of Greetings from Michigan, and...The first listen was pretty disappointing. The second time around didn't get any better. And by the third, this guy was just starting to piss me off. There was nothing here that resonated with me: musically, emotionally, experientially. Ugh.

*Since then, Sufjan has come to symbolize a lot of what I don't like about a certain brand of "indie" music: Too self-consciously clever; too unnecessarily complex; too heavy on concept; too impressed with itself for being clever and complex and heavily conceptual. And then there is the above photo: I will let it speak for itself.

*BUUUUUUT...I am specifically judging Seven Swans here, and I must admit I had not listened to it in its entirety before. And I will say: It was not as bad as I feared it was going to be.

*I was relieved that Sufjan does not play all 348 instruments which he knows how to play on this album, instead keeping the sound largely "stripped down".

* I appreciate the many forthright Christian references on the album, especially as Sufjan does not seem to be commercially pursuing a CCM audience.

*At his best here, Sufjan earns the comparisons to Elliot Smith which he has received. There is a hushed sincerity to his voice which is persuasive (as on "The Dress Looks Nice on You"). However, at other times, his voice seems far too smooth and delicate for my tastes and even for the subject-matter (as on "A Good Man is Hard to Find", a truly disappointing track for me, as I am a huge Flannery O'Connor fan, and this song did not resonate with my experience of her story at all).

* I can see how this album could grow on the listener, especially if you were into this style of alternative folk. But I just don't have the motivation to pursue any more listening to it than I have already done...

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 3.0

Achtung Baby takes it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Next Round! Woo-hoo!

Well folks, you should all give yourselves a pat on the back. Things were a little slow there for a minute, but you've all stepped it up. We're now finished the entire first round, and the winners can start competing against one another. It took a little work--and apparently some coffee, vodka, and brandy--to get those final picks in, but we did it.

I had a pretty good round, so Eric and I are now tied. Andy had a good round too and nudged by Sarah. Slippers actually added some major points even though he's not playing anymore. I'll have to let him know that his Guh choice took down Yankee Foxtrot.

Here now are the scores after the fourth division:

Eric 190

Andrew 190

Andy 134

Sarah 131

Brian 116

Bruce 100

Kevin 92

Karl 90

Jeff 84

Dwight 74

Jane 67

Steve 22

Okay, and now for the next round of picks. Because the rounds will now be moving quicker, we can finish an entire division and still have a few left over. So the following is all of division 1, round 2 and the beginning of division 2, round 2. I tried really hard to make sure no one got any of their own picks to listen to and to make sure that no one got anything they've already had to judge. Let me know if that isn't true, and I'll try to fix it.

Two final things: Could we try and get these in by a week or so? And also, Andy, just let me repeat what George Michael (the singer, not the character) once said: "listen without prejuidice."

Division 1, Round 2

Andy: (1) Sufjan Stevens - Illinoise vs. (16) The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday

Eric: (8) Sufjan Stevens - Seven Swans vs. (9) Achtung Baby

Me: (5) Magnetic Fields - 69 Love Songs vs. (28) New Order - Substance

Steve: (4) The Band - The Band vs. (20) Nick Harper - Light at the end of the Kennel

Jeff: (3) The Cure - Disintegration vs. (19) Joni Mitchell - Blue

Bruce: (22) Neil Young - Everybody Knows this is Nowhere vs. (27) Bonnie Prince Billy - Ease Down the Road

Karl: (10) MIA - Kala vs. (26) Nick Cave - Murder Ballads

Brian (15) Massive Attack - Blue Lines vs. (31) The Killers - Hot Fuss

Beginning of Division 2, Round 2

MVB - (16) Bob Marley - Legend vs. (32) Chicane - Behind the Sun

Kevin - (8) Stone Roses - Stone Roses vs. (24) Bob Dylan - Highway 61

Jane - (5) Air - Moon Safari vs. (12) Beck - Midnight Vultures

Sarah - (4) Bob Dylan - Time Out of Mind vs. (20) Laurie Anderson - Big Science

We Are Not Alone

So it looks like those bastards at MTV are doing a little death match of their own...

I didn't realize they were still interested in music over there.

Regrets, I've had a few, but then again...

Ever since my list was posted, I've been silently coping with a crippling regret - "why did I pick all those shitty albums when I coulda picked these shitty albums instead" Just for fun, here's what I wish I picked and what I wish I didn't pick:

Shoulda picked:
Marianne Faithfull, broken English
Mazzy Star, So tonight that I may see
Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
Jenny Lewis and Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat
Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Show your bones
The Smiths, Strangeways...

Shouldn't of picked:
Laura Marling, Alas I cannot swim
Neil Young, After the gold rush
Bob Dylan, Basement Tapes and Bringing It all Back Home
The Zombies, Odessey and Oracle
Radiohead, OK Computer

Anybody else have any Death Match regrets eating away at their musical vanity?

Monday, March 22, 2010

The cat came back

Gee, that's a small cover of Bringing It All Back Home. Question: Why isn’t Blonde on Blonde in the tourney? Doesn’t that seem like the most obvious Dylan choice for us to agree on? In any case, I don’t quite feel equipped to talk about Dylan. Maybe that’s because I never got into the whole mythology thing. It seems like there’s a fixed time in your life where you become obsessed not just with the songs of your favorite musician but with their whole life. By the time I started listening to Dylan, it was a little too late for that, and that’s probably good because it lets me concentrate on the tunes themselves a little more. So I’ll just say this about Bringing It All Back Home: I understand it was an important album in terms of transition for Dylan, and it has some absolutely amazing songs, but ultimately, it’s just not one of my favorites. The songs I enjoy most on Bringing It Back come at the beginning and the end. In the middle though, about the time I reach “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream” I’m a little tired of him doing his cocky blues/rock n’roll thang. I think it’s a good tune, as are “Maggie’s Farm,” “On The Road Again,” and “Outlaw Blues,” but having them all sit on the first half of the record gives me a slightly claustrophobic feeling. I picked Highway 61, and you could probably level some of these same criticisms at that album, but I feel like as Dylan continued his career, he was able to instill a little more roll in his rock n’roll. Bringing It All Back Home switches gears for its acoustic side, but I’ve never been all too keen on “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and “Gates of Eden” takes a little bit of slogging to get through. Nice then that Dylan wraps things up with “It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)” and “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” I do wonder if I would like this album more if it had been sequenced differently. Just a thought.

Wow, that's a big picture of You Are Free. I’ve already commented that I think You Are Free is an underrated Cat Power album. Maybe I’m wrong about that, but I don’t remember our particular group of friends getting geeked out about it the same way we did for Moon Pix. I do like Moon Pix, especially “Metal Heart”, but I don’t think it’s all that consistent. You Are Free might not have anything quite as good as “Metal Heart” or “Lived in Bars” (from The Greatest), but it has a lot that comes awfully close. The opener “I Don’t Blame You” is classic Cat Power, and “Good Woman” lives up to its name. “Free” and “Speak For Me” start a little questionable, but they both convince me by their ends. I love the chorus of “Fool”—it might even be good enough to convince a naysayer like Jeff. There are a few so-so tracks like the mediocre “He War” and “Shaking Paper,” but there are plenty more great tunes--“Maybe Not,” “Half of You,” and “Evolution”.

So Cat Power should probably be the winner. I’m pretty sure Chan Marshall would pick Dylan herself, and I hate to advance another token feminist for Sarah after she knocked out The Clash and Bruce knocked out my Springsteen choice, but I’m trying hard to be a less surly, less petty individual these days. Okay, Cat Power wins, and Sarah does too. As Clay Davis would put it, "shhhheeeeiiiiiiiiiiiiiiittttttt."

Flashdance Asspants Vs. No Pants

F*ck this sh*t, I'm getting out the bullets...

Odelay by Beck

*Didn't like this album when I first heard it in '96. I was real depressed at the time. Re-visited it about 6 months later and loved it. Came to think of Beck as rock's Great White Hope at one point (This hasn't exactly panned out, but whatever...)

*Has a "Beastie-Boys-meet-Captain-Beefheart-at-a-roller-skating-party" kind of vibe to it.

*Has some great little phrases like "flashdance asspants" and "smokestack blacktop novacane boy"

*Fun, funky, still fresh; great beats, great use of sampling (I love the use of Van Morrison's Them -covering Bob Dylan- on "Jackass")

*Has an exotic dog performing an impressive feat on the album cover

*Personally regard this as Beck's crowning achievement thus far in his career and one of the true high points of 90's pop rock

*Couldn't believe how much I enjoyed listening to this when I pulled it out last week. It's still in the glove box CD rotation.

*Why the hell didn't I put this on my list?

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 4.5 (My highest grade yet...)

The Album with the Butts on It by Sigur Ros

*Didn't really like these guys when I first heard them circa 2002; I think the album I got was ( ). (That is probably their most easily pronounced album title.) Thought they were too glacially paced, without enough solid beats I could grab on to, and also overly dramatic at times

*However, this album sounded different than I expected, at least for the first few tracks. "Poppier" might be pushing it; "more consistently energetic" might be closer. But things definitely slowed down to a crawl again by mid-album...

*Has a "Bjork-in-a-mellow-mood-meets-Coldplay-on-the-set-of-a-romantic-indie-drama" kind of vibe to it. This could be your thing; it is not mine.

*Has a lot of indecipherable Icelandic lyrics, often sung in falsetto, like "[Insert indecipherable Icelandic lyric here]"

*The sound is pretty (but precious), grand, almost over-the-top dramatic/ theatrical at times

*Has naked man-ass on the album cover

*Felt a huge sense of relief when I finally made it through the whole thing (Never a good sign...)

*A quick note about the language: I do enjoy listening to many non-English lyrics, even if I don't know how to translate them. My wife has gotten me interested in a lot of current Spanish-language pop (Check out Bomba Estereo, Calle 13, Julieta Venegas), I have enjoyed both traditional and contemporary Indian music (even before "Slumdog Millionaire" came out), and I regard Serge Gainsbourg as some kind of Gallic-pervert-genius. However, Icelandic, at least as I heard it on this album, almost sounds too much like English...And thus, I often found my brain trying to de-code what these fellas are prattling on about, but all I could come up with is gibberish. This experience reminded me of Italian artist Adriano Celetano's wonderful 1973 song/ video "Prisencolinensinainciusol", in which he has composed non-linguistic gibberish following the phonological rules of English to sound like actual "English"...Now that's a catchy song.

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 2.9

Odelay wins!

Next Assignment

I am still waiting for my next listening assignment...or did I miss something?

Until then...Buckethead...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

clever post heading fusing two album titles

So, long story short, after lots of stuff 'including the fact that this website doesn't recognize words between <> type brackets, which means I have to write them for a fourth fucking time, this time in ' ' format' and other goings on, this website decided to delete all of the things I had written after I had written everything else. I will try to repair it as best as I can, but if anything seems a little off, blame Google. Fuck off, it did it again.

<> type brackets were added after I had finished writing my post. I was still too alert (see below) so I went back and listened to some more. 'if it makes it easier, just copy, then paste everything with a ' ' around it, or possibly a <> around it, into a new Microsoft Word document, then delete everything between the ' ''s or the <>'s depending on what is still left in this clustercuss of a post, and then read the review.>

Begin orginal review:

I don't want to be harassed anymore, so I am staying up late to listen to these albums. I have started the Anathallo about 4 times, but it has been a busy week. What with work, and March Madness, and Sugar Camp days. You know how it is. Yo La Tengo is a band that I haven't listened to as much as I should have, or probably as much as I have let on. I have one of their best of albums, and I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass. I have listened to And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out before, and have fond memories of it. Oh, and Autumn Sweater is one of my favorite songs ever. I had never heard Anathallo before. I couldn't tell if Steve was being sarcastic or not when he suggested it was unfortunate to have to listen to Canopy Glow. Hold on, I have to get some more vodka....there, much better. I drank a bunch of strong coffee today because I knew I had to make sure I didn't fall asleep without listening to these albums, but now it's getting late, and I'm still pretty wired, so I am trying to counteract that with booze. Which is kind of my thing.

Anyway, I listened to Anathallo first, because Grooveshark asked if I wanted to restore my previous session, which, I guess I did. I had never heard these guys before. It is the kind of thing that should be right up my alley: lots of instruments and voices, orchestral, 'mostly' happy music 'my only complaint with this album is that it is a little to derivative of Sufjan, though this band has been around for awhile, so maybe they have always been that way'. And you know what? It was right up my alley. When I go back and listen 'which I have now done' to the album again (which [side note - my laptop just ran out of battery power, and I thought I had lost the post thus far, but I didn't. Which makes for an awesome story, I feel] I will, probably lots) then I will be able to break it down, track by track, and tell you what I loved about each song 'of the entire album, the only two songs I feel were so-so were Northern Lights, and Cafetorium'. In any case, as Canopy Glow was winding down I decided that it was the album to beat 'and did Tower Of Babel ever make a nice end to the album'.

Like I said, I have fond memories of And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside-Out. It is probably informed by the title and cover art, but I remember there being a vibe surrounding this whole album that is the kind of thing I'm drawn to: down-tempo, sparse, and with organ sounds 'and yes, I am aware that this is pretty much the opposite of what I said I dug earlier, but as Homer put it, "
I want it all: the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, the creamy middles. Sure, I might offend a few of the bluenoses with my cocky stride and musky odors -- oh, I'll never be the darling of the so-called "City Fathers" who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about "What's to be done with this Homer Simpson?" Only, it wasn't there. There is some really good stuff here 'Our Way To Fall, From Black To Blue', don't get me wrong. 'Also, Night Falls On Hoboken feels like it was written for me personally, and was almost enought to tip the scales all by itself'. But there are also some misses too. 'Everyday didn't quite work for me, and I didn't like the spoken word part of The Crying Of Lot G'. I think ultimately this is a departure album from what Yo La Tengo do best, and that is exactly what it feels like. They experimented, and it paid off well at times , and at other times 'like the overbearing high-hat on Saturday' they ended up just staring at a test tube full of a greyish looking liquid wondering why more stuff didn't happen when it was mixed with some other stuff (this may be the worst metaphor of my life [I would like to blame the vodka, but the fact is I am a terrible writer]).

And so Anathallo will be heard again. and I hope it is by me, because I am eager to listen to it again 'which I did', which, when you think about it, it really the ultimate litmus test (see what I did there) for what should advance.

Two additional things:

1) After writing this post I went to grab a picture of the cover for Canopy Glow. It's terrible.
2) While searching for said album cover, Target tried to sell me a Gazebo Light. So close, Target, so close.

(I wish you could experience this review as I experienced it. It encompassed 2 ½ 'now 4 ½'
influenced by (as already mentioned) caffeine, lots of vodka, Farmville, some brandy, healthcare (cheers to healthcare, jeers to the rusty tailgate that is John Boehner), reading In Cold Blood, and more brandy (after the third time it deleted my insertions). Which is to say, that it sounded good at the time, or, more importantly, it sounded good in my head. Goodnight all.)

Documentaries vs. Woody Allen flicks

So here's the thing about jazz. Sometimes I really like jazz records once I'm a little way in, but they're, for me, in the same category as Harpers articles and documentaries: I have to be cajoled into beginning to listen or read or watch. Which is probably a symptom of intellectual laziness. And I do not like what I deem "crazy jazz." Apparently, some people call this brand of jazz "free jazz," but that seems overly generous to me. Take Pharoah Sanders: I cannot unravel the music from the noise in most of his "songs." Which is probably a symptom of tone-deafness. But there you have it.

As for Beatles' albums, the other set of things that I can think to put in a category with them are Woody Allen's early and middle-ish movies because 1) I always think I am more familiar with them than I really am, and that makes me pick them up off the shelf more rarely than I should, and 2) re-listening or re-watching is always worth it, but there's always also a little grit of something that I would rather edit out.

At least that's how it is with Abbey Road for me: "Here Comes the Sun" is sunny and tender, warm with earned nostalgia, but then there's the somewhat shoddy replica of that song's lyrics at the beginning of "The Sun King." "Carry That Weight," with its orchestral bits--from the sudden horns to an electric guitar that echoes their fanfare--also wins me over, as does "Come Together." And there's a bunch of songs here too that I think are playful without being vapid, one of which is "Mean Mr. Mustard." Then again, there's a couple of clunkers, by my lights, one of which is "An Octopus's Garden." I think it's stupidly psychedelic. It, like Revolver's "Yellow Submarine," is catchy and noisome. Perhaps I just don't like songs about being underwater. Nor do I tend to like songs written by someone horny improvising with a mod garage band, which, if I had to guess, I would say might describe the composition process for "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

In contrast, Blue Train does not have a single dud track. My favorite track, "I'm Old Fashioned," saunters around its melody in a way that seems lazy but is secretly virtuoso. True--it doesn't hearten me the same way that "Here Comes the Sun" or "Carry That Weight" do. Indeed, nothing on Blue Train nudges me toward better cheer the way some Beatles songs can. Nothing on this record, though, seems cheaply done. When the horns solo, they do so with a memory of the song's melody. This is not free jazz: the instrumentalists tether their improvisations to a guiding tune with exactly the right laxity and right precision, easing your way between chord changes.

So: Blue Train wins over Abbey Road.

Wilco Yankee Foxcrap Hotel vs. Guh We are Sunburning

1. I hung out with Jay Bennet after he got kicked out of Wilco.  He had this wicked warehouse studio in Chicago and I felt like a kid in a very expensive candy store tinkering with all kinds of stuff and recording some indie Diva who never amounted to anything. 

2. I hung out with Guh at a hockey game in Toronto where the Staff of Sonic Unyon records played the Artists of Sonic Unyon.  Guh was the band that did all the sports types music stuff in between plays.  They let me have two tiny crash cymbals. 

I hate Wilco.
Guh rules.
We are Sunburning wins.  Obviously.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Ladies & Gentlemen, Steve Roach is floating in space

So, Ladies and Gentlemen wins. I remember going to two Spiritualized shows in Boston. One was incredible. They had about 12 horns up front and each song seemed to build to a perfect crescendo of bearable and wonderful noise. The next show I went to just seemed noisy. I'm not sure what the difference was. Anyway, listening to Ladies and Gentlemen reminded me of the first one.

Oddly, I thought I owned Ladies and Gentlemen and thought I'd have to go searching for Steve Roach, but when I shuffled through the old Ipod, I found that I only had Let It Come Down, and I did have New Life Dreaming. I'm almost positive that is thanks to Bruce, but I don't remember him putting it on there for me. So, I listened to New Life Dreaming first, and it was okay. Unfortunately, I think it's just a matter of taste. I liked what I heard, and I can imagine a few scenarios and moods where I would listen to it, but I just don't enjoy it that much.

Although I think I like Let It Come Down better, mostly because I know it so well, Ladies and Gentlemen was a pleasure to listen to. My only complaint is that some of the Spiritualized lyrics don't sound so great to me anymore. At times they just sound whiny. In the end though, Ladies and Gentlemen reminded me of that great concert I attended when I was first introduced to Spiritualized. I"ll let someone else later in the competition write more eloquently about this album, but it definitely moves on.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Classic Rock Album vs. Some Electronic Music (or Token feminist songwriter)

Part of the reason this has taken me so long is because I've been busy, but I think the bigger reason is that I've been listening to these two albums a lot (The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle vs. Bjork Homogenic, in case it's not clear from Jeff's labels) and thinking about them. The song from Springsteen's TWTIATESS (I just can't write that title over and over) with which I was most familiar is Wild Billy's Circus Story because it was on a mix tape a while ago. I've probably heard the rest of the songs several times before, but just registered them in my mind as "Springsteen from the 70s." I was very familiar with Bjork's Homogenic, though I've listened more to her most recent work lately and put Vespertine on my list.

The production on Homogenic is something that can't help but jump out at you. Maybe it's the cluttered music I tend to listen to these days, but the production on TWTIATESS really jumps out at me, too. Everything is it's own instrument or voice and, while there are quite a few layers throughout, it mostly remains distinct. I really like the sound of the drums here. I'm no drummer, but here are my impressions: The bass drum has a nice flat punch to it that sounds really round and has enough low end to cut through, but not so much that it sounds boomy and the snare sounds really hairy, if that makes any sense. The playing is tight and just enough behind the beat to feel "we're just hanging out and playing" laid back.
The horns are well-deployed, especially the baritone sax. You really have to love the baritone. Springsteen's voice is, well, Springsteen, though I like him better later on when he has more gravel.
Some thoughts on some of the songs:
The E Street shuffle exhibits all the production characteristics I love, but it sounds a bit too much of its time. I think Chips might have looked to the end of this song for chase music.
4th of July, Asbury Park - has a nice summer's almost over sound, but he does this annoying thing with his voice that sounds like the line is so emotionally difficult to say that it's causing him heartburn. And the line, "You know that tilt-a-whirl down on the South beach drag, I got on it last night and my shirt got caught," and others like it don't quite take me there like I want them to. I've been to Asbury Park, which is relatively run down these days, and it is kind of interesting to picture it now and then paste these images on top.
Kitty's Back - This starts out as a kind of boring slow blues, but then goes into this shuffle thing that seems to have been popular at the time (Ice Cream Man by Tom Waits, for instance). I would like to propose that this has its roots in what I call the "hippie shuffle," as heard in songs such as Truckin' by the Grateful Dead, which found its greatest expression in "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Yes, Andrew, I've just associated one of your picks with hippies. Friends, please call the police if you don't hear from me in the next few days.
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) - This is a damn fine Springsteen epic complete with evocative lyrics and some wonderful organ and horns. The only thing missing is glockenspiel. Seriously, I love the glockenspiel all over Born to Run. This guy agrees with me. He likes Springsteen glockenspiel so much he composed additional glockenspiel parts for the songs that don't have glockenspiel.
Overall, this is an enjoyable album and I would say this is in the category of music I'm glad I've been introduced to that Andrew was asking about before. I think September might be the best month for listening to this album and thinking back on the awesome stuff you did over the past summer.

This is one of the freakier album covers I've seen. Volta's cover makes Bjork look like a kid's toy, and Medulla has some bondage-ish weirdness to it, but Homogenic is uncanny and thus, spookiest of all.
As I said before, I've liked this album for a while, but I hadn't listened to it in a bit, so I was curious how I'd feel about it. Answer: I still really like it. Homogenic is a really consistent-sounding album that I generally want to listen to all of. It does dial back a bit for me after track 5 - "All Neon Like," sounding a little more like her earlier albums from "5 Years" through "Alarm Call." I've sometimes wondered if those songs had less participation from one of the producers, Howie B, who I associate with the full, round, electronic sounds of the first five songs and "All is Full of Love."
The production on this album is, on many songs, similar to TWTIATESS in the space it gives to each sound. Some songs, like "Pluto," are fuzzier and more muddled, and others, like "Bachelorette," have tons of strings filling every possible hole. It's hard to explain exactly why, but I just love the place this album takes me in its sound and often ambiguous, but image-laden lyrics.
Thoughts on a few of the songs:
Hunter - This song gets me excited to listen to the album. It's mysterious and a bit menacing and says, "you're about to experience something unique, here."
Joga - This album sounds really cold compared with TWTIATESS, but songs like this have always stirred me emotionally. It's like hot chocolate after a day of downhill skiing. No, wait, it's like some wacky herbal tea after a day of cross-country skiing. Granted, this song uses the word emotional right at the beginning of the song, so maybe I'm just following orders.
All Neon Like - Conjures images of fantasy adventures like "The Never Ending Story." And it's weirdly comforting:
With a razorblade, I'll cut a slit open
And the luminous beam
Feeds you honey, heals you
Pluto - Sometimes I just skip this song, but sometimes it makes me want to dance around madly shaking my fists making animal noises. Then I lie on the floor and watch the ceiling fan as I listen to:
All is Full of Love - This just makes me feel mellow and good. By the way, you really have to love this song not to have it ruined by the music video.
I've gone back and forth on these two albums over the past week+ and I think it comes down to this: I can explain why I like Bruce Springsteen's The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle better than I can explain why I like Bjork's Homogenic and the less-explainable is just more interesting and enduring to me. Homogenic wins.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Since all of my picks...

keep getting knocked out, I would like to re-submit, to be more in line with the rest of the group. Here goes:

30. I own a guitar – I (What I am singing about is very important)
29. Strum softly – kind of whine, kind of sing
28. Songs about love – and songs about not being in love
27. Token feminist songwriter – I can sing too!
26. Canadian band – that’s where it’s at
25. Some Electronic Music – I’m eclectic
24. Good ol’ Rock and Roll – cause it rawks!
23. Strum softly – kind of sing, kind of whine
22. U2 – you just can’t get away from U2, no matter how hard you try
21. Seminal band – I like their stuff, really I do
20. I own a guitar – II (more songs about what I am thinking and feeling)
19. someone French – this is about the right place in the list for someone French
18. Another Canadian band – these guys are great, too
17. Cat Power – something about Pixies, or the moon, or whatever
16. Out of place artist – Just because
15. Yet a third Canadian band –a lot of good music coming out of Canada right now
14. Punk from the 70’s – something with a lot of yelling
13. A whole bunch of people – and lots of instruments (the more the better)
12. funk album – shout out
11. Classic rock album – You know, I’ve come to appreciate classic rock again, on a much deeper level than before
10. I’m never – gonna come up with 30 of these
9. No. 9 – Yep, it’s No. 9
8. I own a guitar – III (this time it’s personal)
7. Some band you’ve never heard of – don’t you feel ashamed that you’ve never heard of this band?
6. Nick Drake – okay, I do like Nick Drake
5. The dogs with bees in their mouths – and when they bark
4. Bob Dylan, or Lou Reed – take your pick
3. 90’s alt rock – I almost forgot
2. Crooked Saints – Beatrice (at least one person is likely to advance this)
1. Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

wilco VS his name is alive

i'm gonna tell you my initial reaction to both.
i don't own either of these albums, and had maybe heard a few songs from both.
first impression:
wilco (being there) - some of this reminds me of the constantines, some of this reminds me of the band, and all of this reminds me of music that i love.
his name is alive (Ft. Lake) - are you serious? this is in the competition? ugh.

now wait a second... that was just first impression.
here were my second impressions:
wilco - holy balls! i love this! i really, really love this!
his name is alive - i thought i liked these guys. what happened with this album? i love it when a band explores different genres and is constantly changing, but not like this!

now, i did give them both a third try, and this is what my impression was:
wilco - yes! i get to listen to this again.
his name is alive - i'm not listening to this again.

so... wilco (being there) gets the surprise win.

also, this will be my last call.
i'm out.
i will be moving soon, and have no computer to keep at this.
in fact, i don't know where i'll be for the next couple months, other than vancouver.
so... shit!
i trust that all my picks will be gone by the end of the next round.
sorry if this screws anything up.

Let It Be OK

I admire the haphazard charm of Let It Be, and recognize a number of iconic tracks (like the title track, “Across the Universe,” “Get Back,” and the grating, yet popular, “The Long and Winding Road”). And I giggled more than a few times listening to this album, but I wasn’t always giggling with The Beatles (as I was on “Maggie Mae”). Sometimes I was giggling at them. Examples:

  • the cloying but oddly fascinating “I Me Mine”
  • the disposable “Dig It” (Did the Beatles help popularize the novelty/skit track? I do not thank them for this.)

Lest I sound sacrilegious, I realize the charm of this album may just be dated or lost on me.

You know what doesn’t sound dated or uneven though? OK Computer. And it’s not just because it came out twelve years ago instead of forty. Nor is it just because

  1. I love a good concept album, even (especially?) if that concept is entropic (the imminent demise of everything nice like love and bunnies, the coming doom of corporate and technological takeover, the only saving grace: alien abduction).
  2. I love songs that mention my name that are not “Sara Smile” by Hall & Oates or “Sara” by Jefferson Starship. I have a gold star for the random stranger who will someday serenade me with a line from “Lucky” instead.

Nope. It’s because there still seems to be more to catch sonically, lyrically, and conceptually on this album, even after hundreds of listens. Maybe it helps that Yorke’s not winning any awards for chief enunciator.

It feels eerie listening to the album here in 2010, as if we’ve somehow reached the culmination of Yorke’s nightmare. I’m a recent convert to the likes of Orwell and Vonnegut, and conspiracy theories are brain candy for me. However, I am far too burdened with a sense of responsibility to do something truly wacky and creative with my paranoia. When the rare brave person does take such risks, and with such results, I’m dumbstruck.

Finally, in case I have overcomplimented this album for its pessimism, it’s fascinating that the fears that fuel OK Computer are also what make its genius possible (globalization and information technology, for example).

Watching Elephants Smoosh Mollusks

White Stripes - Elephant vs. Ween - The Mollusk

- Tell them you haven't listened to Ween before, but you have listened to The White Stripes

- Tell them that Ween swearing in their songs is pretty rad.

- Mollusk has a great sound, nicely varied, and interesting

- Remember when you bought Elephant in Canada... in the mall. Tell a story about it, and relate it to Zeppelin somehow.

- Tell people you'll keep listening to Ween

- Everyone loves the white stripes... except that person who said they didn't

- You aren't that person.

- Remember to read over the review, to make sure you didn't write strips instead of stripes... people will think you're talking about whitening your teeth... terribly relevant, but not the point of this exercise.

- Suggest everyone listen to both these albums* *not at the same time

- Listen to the albums again, but this time write down legitimate, musically-related points about the songs, and present them as the basis for deciding who wins.

- Under all circumstances, make sure Dwight's album loses.

- Make sure Elephant wins regardless, don't tell anyone you let your cat decide.

- Finish this before Andrew starts complaining.

I'm feeling heavy

Afghan Whigs - 1965 vs. Polyphonic Spree - Together We're Heavy

The good news is that either choice will likely piss off a Zwart, and isn't that the whole point of this whole competition...upsetting the Zwarts.

I'm not really familiar with either of these bands or albums. I know Greg Dulli from his stint as the singer from Backbeat (which I remember being a crappy Beatles biopic, but I don't think I've seen it since it came out). I remember liking Debonair and Gentleman in high school. I also remember Andrew loving the Afghan Whigs. Polyphonic Spree I know only by having seen them perform on Letterman and thinking they'd be pretty cool to see live (I love rock n roll gimmicks and dug the robes)...also, I feel like they may have been on Scrubs, back when the show was decent.

On first listen, I enjoy the retro-soul feel to the Afghan Whigs' album (Andrew, do you call them the "Afghans" or the "Whigs" for short?). Musically, this album has aged pretty well. On first listen to the Spree, they sound pretty similar to certain Flaming Lips songs, but not as good. On first listen, I'm not that interested in the music or the lyrics.

I re-listened to both these albums in the car a week later after the first listen. I enjoyed Polyphonic Spree's album much more on the second listen. The second time around, the album didn't feel as forced/fake sounding, and more enjoyable. The second time
for 1965 didn't go that well. I know they're "90's alternative rock", but on second listen, I feel like I'm listening to a long-lost 80's hair metal band. Lyrically, it doesn't seem all that dissimilar from an 80's rock band either.

Polyphonic Spree

Monday, March 15, 2010

Weezer vs. The Elected

This is the first match up for me that doesn't have stuff I've heard before...I've never been much of a 90's alternative fan, so Weezer kinda passed me by...I recognize their power-pop significance or whatever and know that they've stuck around for awhile, i just never thought about listening to them...I remember listening to some of these songs on a alternative radio station in Kalamazoo (somebody help me...92.somthing) while driving for JTS at Calvin...I certainly didn't dislike the "blue album"...I thought it was pretty catchy...Undone (the sweater song) has a cool chorus and i enjoyed the video on youtube...Say it ain't so and Holiday were two of my favorites...

I hadn't heard the Elected even though I'm a bit of a Rilo Kiley fan...At first I thought it was kinda boring and over long, but it grew on me...I'm a sucker for warm pop songs...I've listened to it alot on for the past week...

i don't have a lot more to say...I think Weezer is a great album that should live on and will...The Elected will probably be overshadowed by Rilo Kiley/Jenny Lewis stuff, however, it is what I'd rather listen to...Winner...The Elected

Round 3 Brackets

Do clicking on it to make it bigger for your optic nerve to make it into information for your brain:

I'm very disappointed in you all (except for me, Steve, Eric, and Jane)

Apparently, you all have lives, but you still need to get your picks in. We're so close to wrapping up this first round. Then, we get to see the winners start competing with one another. Those of us who have done our diligent duty now get to close out the final division:

(13) Wilco - Yankee Foxtrot Hotel vs. (20) Guh - We Are Sunburning


(19) Beck - Odelay vs. (14) Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust (or as I like to call it, the one with the butts on the cover).


(15) Bob Dylan - Bringing it all back home vs. (18) Cat Power - You are Free


(16) Beatles - Abbey Road vs. (17) John Coltrane - Blue Train

And below are the scores after the third division. Eric is still the reigning champ. Sarah had a huge round, and Bruce and Karl have pulled up significantly as well. I feel like there is a conspiracy happening here with this threesome. I need to make sure these three can't pick each other's albums anymore. I mean, that's how we end up with Cut Copy winning.

Eric 156

Sarah 115

Andrew 113

Andy 92

Kevin 88

Bruce 87

Brian 86

Karl 83

MVB 82

Jeff 60

Jane 42

Dwight 42

Steve 19

I'll also take this opportunity to ask whether anyone has discovered or re-discovered any music they're excited about.

Now c'mon, get those picks in. It's all about multi-tasking.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Is Jane a Woman? Is she a Siamese Twin?

Well, here's one thing that Smashing Pumpkins and Lambchop have in common: at times, I've overdosed on each album. In the first case, I blame myself. In the second, I blame Andrew. My recovery in either case, however, has been complete, and now I find all sorts of reasons to like each of these records--to begin with, the slightly nasal voice of Billy Corgan and the lounge-lizard falsetto of Kurt Wagner. But these two albums also quiet and swell with a winning variety, and little nuggets of sound and lyric crop up in each. And each also keeps its best for last, I think. The title track of Is a Woman is my favorite on the album, with its reggae lilt and the imperative that works its way into the chorus ("Write this down"). Likewise, the end of Siamese Dream stands out. Don't get me wrong--I warmed to "Today" and "Disarm" all over again--but the last few tracks of the album fit in all kinds of dynamic stuff: piano ballad stuff sits right next to the closest thing to heavy metal, in the way of guitar solos, etc., that I like (sorry, MVB).

That said, I find Is a Woman a more consistently pleasing record. It sashays and slackens and trumps up energy in all the right places. It habitually works in phrases that tickle my fancy, the most memorable of which is "chicken of the sea." So I'm choosing it.

That's right: Is a Woman wins. And y'all should know that Andrew did everything he could to make sure that I gave Siamese Dream the benefit of the doubt: he air-guitared up a storm, windmilling often, and called one track "epic." And he overplayed Is a Woman for about three months before the Music Death Match began. But it just wasn't enough.

Rattle in the Basement

This was probably the most interesting match-up for me so far...Two sprawling albums that both seem to be striving to pay appropriate due to American roots music...I'm not convinced I have anything really original to say about either one but, hell, here goes...

Rattle and Hum by U2

I loved this sh*t when I was a teenager. I had a t-shirt with the album cover on it (Just because I got it at K-Mart or JCPenney or something didn't mean the authenticity of the rock and roll it represented was any less, well, authentic.) But that was a long time ago. (I am now 58.) My tastes have broadened and matured, U2 have gone on and made other albums, and I have heard many a critic/ music snob poo-poo this record as U2 hitting rock bottom. The usual argument goes something like thus: Disoriented by the newly found uber-celebrity status achieved with The Joshua Tree, the four lads from Dublin tried to prove they were worthy of being the world's greatest rock band by setting off to discover "America" for themselves...What resulted was a pretentious and ridiculously over-done album (and movie) full of references to Elvis and Billy Holiday, the gospel and the blues, presented as if Bono and the boys had uncovered them for the rest of contemporary musicdom to marvel at. Mercy mercy me, as Marvin Gaye put it.

Well, I only half-buy that line. After listening to Rattle and Hum a couple times this week (for the first time in literally years), I was surprised by how many great tracks there are among the ruins. I will acknowledge that the cover songs are superfluous, as are most of the live tracks (with the definite exception of "Bullet the Blue Sky"). Bono is positively at his preachy and self-righteous worst during some of the onstage banter captured here. And I don't know how the hell "Van Diemen's Land" made the cut...A little Edge-written yarn about a poet banished to Australia?!? Seriously? Huh?

But back to the good stuff..."Desire", "Angel of Harlem", and "All I Want Is You" genuinely surprised me by how great they still sound. True classics. And then there is that quiet little "Love Rescue Me" (co-written with Dylan!), an absolutely beautiful track which has never gotten the attention it deserves. And while I am probably in the minority on this one, I actually realy like "God Part II" ; its driving rhythm section and refreshingly ironic lyrics seem to me just a tiny foreshadowing of the changes around the corner for U2 (i.e., the recording of Achtung Baby, which I still regard as their magnum opus).

A mess? Yes. Still hip? Yip. Well, sort of.

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 3.9

The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan and the Band

I should start by saying I listened to the "official" release of this album on Columbia Records, not any of the legendary bootlegs or "The Great White Wonder" or any of that crap. I love Dylan but not that much. I leave that sort of thing to Andy Wilson, to whom anyone reading this should refer if they have further questions about the history of these recordings, their larger significance in the history of American music, their uniqueness in the discographies of both Dylan and the Band, their unparalleled incorporation of traditional music forms from the "old weird America" of the early twentieth century into the new weeeeeird America of the late 1960s., etc. Yep, I would talk to Andy if you have questions about any of that stuff. Him or Greil Marcus. But I'm not gonna talk about that here because I start feeling a little over my head. Hell, I felt out-of-my-league reading the liner notes...Geesh.

Anyhoo, Disc One really is killer. Solid as hell. The opening rave-up "Odds and Ends" just gets me all excited and the enthusiasm hardly wains for the next half-an-hour or so. It's been said before, but the looseness of the music and the sense of fun these guys sound like they are having making this album are down-right infectious. The bass-playing and the organ-swirls are consistently impressive. "Yazoo Street Scandal", "Goin' to Acapulco", "Apple Suckling Tree", and "Please, Mrs. Henry" all stand as some of my favorite songs recorded by Bob or the boys from the Band. "Bessie Smith" is a keeper, too. And "Lo and Behold!"...Good Lord, like it or not, that song is so catchy it could get stuck in your head for a week and a half.

My excitement does cool a little on Disc Two...Maybe I need to listen to this double album one disc at a time to appreciate it properly. Some of the tracks just start feeling a little too "straightforward" or "mid-tempo" or something. But there are some great songs here, too...My favorites probably being "Crash on the Levee", "You Ain't Going Nowhere", and "Open the Door, Homer".

Despite all this praise, I do have to say I don't fully understand what makes this album so entirely unique or historically important. It just sounds like top-notch "Americana" music to me...Perhaps this is because I live in a post-alternative-country universe in which there is now a whole genre's worth of bands making quality "American" music. I don't know. I better go consult with Andy about this one...

Uncle Eric's Overall Album Rating: 4.2

The Winner: The Basement Tapes