Jun 20, 2005

record reviews

Phoenix - Alphabetical
I like this album. Against my better judgment I like this album a lot. At first I suspected it was too poppy and syrupy for my tastes. Apparently confirming my suspicions was my wife's comment, "Who is this? This is good." after popping it in the CD player. My wife is a member of the Dave Matthews fan club (hint: this is bad). It's Top 40 radio fodder. This is a little surprising because, first, they are French. I usually expect something a little more experimental, less safe from French groups. Second, Astralwerks put this out. Huh? There are doses of Daft Punk and Prince here and there. There's even moments when I hear the Bee Gee's. Did I just say that? However, I find myself putting this CD into rotation as much as anything on my current playlist. It's got 'that perfect summer CD' written all over it conjuring up that slightly upbeat, laid back feel which is de rigeur for me to give it that kind of label. And in spite of all the syrup there are enough moments of unique hooks and interesting melodies to make me reverse my first impression of 'oh God why did I buy this'.

Goldfrapp - Felt Mountain & Black Cherry
Being a backup singer on Tricky's Maxinquaye album is enough for me to buy your album. Even if only an ounce of that greatness diffuses through I'm going to be okay with the album. Besides she's done work with Orbital as sort of a contingency plan if diffusion doesn't occur. I am okay with this album. Nice voice. Pleasant musical work behind it. I don't understand the Portishead comparisons. Portishead channels Billie Holiday. The lead singer - Allison Goldfrapp - seems to be channeling Shirley Bassey on sedatives. There's something distinctively 60s moddish sounding about the two records without coming off as kitschy. Kind of like the aural equivalent of Twiggy dressing in Armani. It sounds dated but doesn't look foolish doing it.

Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan
Dour. I'm thinking this guy goes out drinking with the Red House Painters. The first song is called Flint (as in Flint, Michigan). That's the first sign you're not going to be greeted with anything resembling the Hall & Oates' "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)". All the arrangements are plaintative and sparse. Piano here, quiet horns there, banjo in the middle. It's nice. Not earth shattering nice. Just nice. Except for a couple of weird songs where it seems Stereolab burst into the recording studio and incorporated their signature loops of analog instruments and 'la la' backing vocals. Weird.

Bloc Party - Bloc Party EP
I have a theory. All of these 80's retro bands (Bloc Party, Fischerspooner, Interpol, etc.) are sneaking into my parent's basement where I keep a very large stash of 80s vinyl records, picking out the most obscure bands and songs, and doing covers of them. Why do I think this? Because every time I listen to these albums I am convinced I've heard the songs before but I cannot for the life of me remember what band or what song it is. I know it's something semi-obscure. Take Bloc Party. I've seen the comparisons - The Cure, Gang of Four, Johnny Rotten, etc. I'm sorry. These comparisons aren't wrong necessarily. Bloc Party does sound like them. The problem is there is only one comparison that is truly correct. And that is the comparison to the obscure band that originally did these songs that now lies buried under dust and high school text books in my mom's basement. Big Country maybe? The Alarm? Icicle Works? Urban Guerillas? Arghhh! Mom! Get a security system installed pronto.

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