Friday, January 12

Reviews: Music

Yo La Tengo: I Am Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass
OK, Yo La Tengo. We both know you think this is all some kind of enormous joke. Mood metal, fuzzy bass-heavy psuedojungle, power pop, and treacly emo chamber music? All in the first 8 tracks? But I'm going to get you anyway: I'm going to enjoy it all, just to spite you.

Mogwai: Mr Beast
More spare, expansive mood metal from the acknowledged masters thereof. If you like it, you'll like it; if you think that distortion pedals don't have a place outside arenas and rock bars pretending to be arenas, you'll probably want to give it a miss.

Dire Straits: On Every Street
An old record; released in 1994, On Every Street was Dire Straits' last hurrah. Showcasing lead singer and guitarist Mark Knopfler's increasing interest in Country as a genre, especially as it intersects the Blues. Displaying their typical lyrical mix of sad ballads about war and nihilistic pop tunes about partying, this is actually my favourite Dire Straits album.

Drive-by Truckers: The Dirty South and A Blessing and a Curse
Take country's regret and sadness and complaint about the unfairness of the world. Mix it half-and-half with Alt-rock's anger and malaise. Add a great deal of musical craftsmanship and some genuine pathos, and you have a ridiculously clich├ęd review of a couple of very, very good alt-country albums.

Radiohead, OK Computer
Why did nobody tell me this album was actually good? ...ok, why didn't I listen?

Sloan, A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005
Sloan's one of those bands whose singles I've always enjoyed, to a point; none of them really ever grabbed me enough to make me buy a record, but when I saw a collection of their singles on eMusic the opportunity was too good to pass up. I wasn't disappointed: all the harmonized vocals, major-chord power pop, and goofy lyrics I remembered liking on the radio, all in one place.

Stars, Set Yourself On Fire and Nightsongs
A friend introduced me to the Stars, describing Set Yourself On Fire as "an album either for falling in love or killing yourself". Ah-yup. Soft melodies, a male/female vocal combo that at its best pulls at the heartstrings mightily and at its worst is entirely tolerable, and masterful arrangement.

Tragically Hip, World Container
Another 3 years, another Hip album, another painful exhibition of how ruined a rocker's voice can get. Downie's lyrics are still in top form -- obtuse poetry that somehow is all the more meaningful for its obtuseness -- but his recent musical training, and his voicebox ravaged by twenty-plus years of touring? has led him to create arrangements? that never resolve? and always end phrases on an upnote? make the album? sound? like a valley girl?!? and it's tragically annoying, because that's really the only flaw the album has.

The Black Keys, thickfreakness
I'm just going to quote the eMusic user Earwax here:
"Okay, who are these guys? Has Hendrix come back as two white guys from Ohio? Has Cream reformed under an assumed name?"
Blues rock at its fuzziest, a bluesman's voice over thick, crunchy guitars over a drum set that does more than just hold down 2 and 4.

The Decemberists, Picaresque
Brainy indie "pop" -- a word that, in The Decemberists' case, covers the gamut from persian-influenced rock to sea shanties about revenge, via early-18th-century folk ballads -- is about as close as it's possible to come to describing this masterpiece of an album. A great album to walk to work to; there's more than enough content, musically and lyrically, to occupy a mind on what otherwise would be a wasted half-hour.

The Hold Steady, Boys and Girls in America
4 guys? Check. Drums? Check. Bass? Check. Lead Guitar? Check. Singer/Rhythm Guitar? Check. Rock songs about partying, getting wasted, recovering from getting wasted, and partying some more? CHECK. An uncomplicated, unpretentious rock record that does exactly what it sets out to do: entertain you for 40 minutes, then leave you smiling and wanting more.

TV On The Radio, Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes
This one, unfortunately, was a mistake. falsetto duets over tweedlyboop electronic beats, with random noise samples thrown in to approximate drums? Maybe I just don't get it.