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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Piracy v. Villainy? Whose Side Are You On?

Audio Overflow was founded on piracy. Were it not for the advent of the internet, of BitTorrent, this blog would probably not exist. If it did, it would hardly be what it is today. All of that music that I reviewed back in 2006 was mostly downloaded from P2P networks and file-sharing sites. In fact, it wasn't until mid-late 2007 that Audio Overflow started receiving legitimate advance copies of albums from artist, labels, and other sources. No surprise there. Most music blogs operate the exact same way.


But that is not what I will discuss today. Today I will ask you, the reader, to pick a side. Are you on the side of the pirates? Or do you you side with the villains? The RIAA? The big-business cronies looking to secure their fortunes for their trust fund babies? Both sides are at fault here. Who do you sympathize with?



Two days ago, I had no clue what I would write about today. But I knew that I had an advance copy of The Faint's new album, Fasciinatiion, in my "to-review" box and that I would probably go ahead and knock that one out if I had the time. Now, keep in mind that this is a legitimate advance copy with an FBI Warning and everything! I go to pop this CD into my laptop with the intention of transferring the songs to my MP3 player so that I can listen to it wherever I go. I do this with all my reviews, as i just don't have the time to sit at a desk all day and listen intently. To my surprise, an error message flashes across my monitor, informing me that my laptop cannot read this CD. Odd. I grab the CD case to find this message emblazoned across the back.
WATERMARKED & COPY PROTECTED CD! THIS CD HAS BEEN PROTECTED AGAINST UNAUTHORIZED COPYING AND HAS BEEN WATERMARKED WITH A UNIQUE IDENTIFICATION CODE THAT ALLOWS US TO TRACE ANY UNAUTHORIZED COPIES OR USAGE TO THE INTENDED RECIPIENT (YOU). YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY UNAUTHORIZED US OR DISTRIBUTION OF THE MUSIC ON THIS CD. THIS CD IS DESIGNED TO PLAY IN STANDARD AUDIO CD PLAYERS ONLY. IT IS NOT DESIGNED TO PLAY IN PERSONAL COMPUTERS AND MAY ALSO EXPERIENCE PLAYBACK PROBLEMS IN CAR SYSTEMS, DVD PLAYERS AND GAME CONSOLES.
0 out of 10 Stars

Think about this for a second. Even though I legally obtained a copy of this album, I am unable to use it in a legal and fair manner. Discouraged, I humbly walked over to my stereo system and put the CD in. Guess what, my stereo can't read it! The same goes for my car stereo, my game consoles, and my dvd players. What I have here is a useless piece of plastic, at most, a 5 second microwave light show! Notice the second sentence of that warning. If, say, I were to have this CD in my vehicle and someone broke in, stole it, and uploaded it to the internet, I would be punished!

How did we get to this point? Every month, we're bombarded with PSAs, FBI Warnings, and news of the latest RIAA out-of-court settlement. The RIAA has reported declining sales over the last decade, coinciding with the increase of P2P networks. Their reasoning, their explanation is piracy. But is it?

To an RIAA suit, this graph shows that piracy is affecting the music labels' bottom line. To me, it just looks like the high album sales that the RIAA was experiencing was a short phenomenon and that things are leveling back off. But what do I know? Well, I know that according to this study, that pirates actually buy MORE music. But how can that be? Well, it's simple.

Before the advent of the internet people had just a few ways to discover new music (television, radio, etc.), and all of those ways involved being told what to listen to by the record labels. MTV doesn't go out and find obscure artists. Clear Channel isn't browsing through hole-in-the-wall record stores. They're just playing what they're told to play, what they're PAID to play. But with the internet, people are actually able to hear as much music as they want to, and not just from RIAA artists. Sites like MySpace, iMeem, and Pandora are allowing music fans to hear music that they want to hear, not what they're told to hear. P2P networks offer the same freedom, and the same opportunities. As a result of hearing more music, couldn't it just be that these same people are choosing to buy more music?

I know that's true for me. I buy more CDs than anyone I know, so much so that I'm often lampooned for spending so much damn money on music. My personal collection is now over 225 individual albums. And guess what? Most of those were bought within the last 4-5 years as I started getting into indie music and downloading it illegally on the internet. You see, I do my downloading by a code. If I like what I download, I buy it. If I don't, I get rid of it. After all, there's no point in clogging up your hard drive with music that you won't listen to. Honorable as it may be, it's still quite illegal and I'm smart enough to know that not all people can say the same thing.

However, I'm also smart enough to know that I am never going to be prosecuted by the RIAA simply because I haven't downloaded an album from a major record in years. But far be it for them to reach out and help independent labels who are "struggling" (strange how you ever hear about that, ain't it?). The bottom line is that the big whigs at the RIAA don't care about their artists or their employees. They care about themselves, about their pocketbooks. Personally, I don't. Do you?

Sources + Additional Reading:

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 81

So The Streets have a new album due out soon, and if this video for the first single, "The Escapist," is any indication, the album will be a return to form for Mike Skinner. I can't quite say what I think of it at this point, but I know that I was a huge fan of The Streets' most recent album, while their other two left me wanting more (mostly just more actual rapping and less talking). Here's hoping this one won't bore me to tears!





"The Escapist" by The Streets, from the album, Everything is Borrowed.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Run Dan Run: "Basic Mechanics"

I typically try to start each review with a clever story or reminiscence that somehow ties into the album that I happen to be reviewing.  And as I sat here, staring at a blinking cursor for the last 10 minutes or so, I realized that I might have met my match with this one.  So let's just get to it, shall we?


Run Dan Run is an indie pop/rock quartet from Charleston, South Carolina, fronted by Dan McCurry.  On the band's debut album, Basic Mechanics, the group does an impressive job of displaying their wide range of talent and influences.  Everybody from The Postal Service to Broken Social Scene gets evoked in some way or another over the course of the album, but the band never submits to pigeonholing - always changing directions and moods unexpectedly.  McCurry, himself, is the brains behind the operation; taking over most of the writing and singing duties.  His voice is shaky and fragile, yet oddly compelling in an Emil Svanangen/Adrian Jewett type of way.  And though many will undoubtedly complain about his vocal flaws, his earnestness gives these songs a weight that they would lack otherwise.

Of course, being a massive fan of The Postal Service, my favorite song on the album is easily "Your Name Escapes Me," though the fact that it sounds more polished and complete than any other song can't hurt either.  Electronic drums and what sounds like a distorted Rhodes piano are the perfect accompaniment to McCurry's catchy chorus ("It's talk talk/It's touch touch/I don't mean/you don't mean/your name escapes me").  The band even nailed the whole male-female harmonies in perfect Postal Service fashion.  I could listen to this one for hours.  Likewise, another favorite has to be the brilliant, "Science," which brings back that same piano and a few electronic specks to keep things interesting.  It is from this song that the album gets its namesake ("Let's talk science/basic mechanics"), though my understanding of the lyrical content ends there due to my personal avoidance of all science classes in college.

Again, the most impressive aspect of Basic Mechanics is the band's ability to create from a widely diverse musical palette.  The jazzy sounds of "Stop Sign" are completely different from the sheer minimalism of "Points of Departure," and were it not for McCurry's recognizable pipes, I probably wouldn't recognize it as the same band.  But traversing such different musical landscapes has its downfalls as well.  Not everyone is a fan of The Postal Service, and I particularly am not a huge Broken Social Scene admirer.  As such, the noise-fest that is "The Setup:The Blackout" has absolutely zero appeal to me.  McCurry's vocals spend most of the song buried under layers and layers of instruments that could use a volume adjustment, leaving me completely unimpressed.

For a first effort from a band that's only been together for less than two years, Basic Mechanics is pretty damn impressive.  Songs like the epic ballad (if there ever were such a thing), "Multi-Colored Lights" and the aforementioned "Your Name Escapes Me" clearly display a band with enough talent to cause quite a stir in the coming years.  The trick now is finding what works and what doesn't from this diverse collection and focusing the attention on fleshing out the good while trowing out the bad.  Let's face it, "mix-tape" bands like Run Dan Run are great for an album or two, but the great ones are the groups that can pick a specific style and then evolve and develop that over the years.  With Basic Mechanics, Dan McCurry and Co. have laid the groundwork.  Now all they have to do is start building.

Key Tracks:
1. "Multi-Colored Lights"
2. "Science"
3. "Stop Sign"
4. "Your Name Escapes Me"
5. "Points of Departure"

7 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 8

Is it still summer where you are?  I assume that unless you're in the Pacific Northwest (where it's currently in the 50s!!) that the answer would be a resounding "yes."  Here in H-Town, it's a paltry 100 or so, the perfect weather to hit the beach and do some surfing.  Unfortunately, surfing in Southeast Texas is just about as worthless as rock climbing in Kansas.  But for all of you out there headed out to the beach sometime soon, be sure to have this album in tow.


Incubus: Morning View
Recommended Activities: Skateboarding, Surfing, Beach Trip, Road Trip

I've already made my love for this classic modern rock album known, but now it's time for you to discover it all over again in an environment deserving of its greatness.  Said environment is typically a beach, but there's something to be said for a skatepark (or wherever your bitchin' line may lie) or vehicle as well.

If you're reading Audio Overflow, chances are you keep up with music and have heard Morning View on more than one occasion.  Therefore, I won't go into long, tedious rants about how awesome it is or why you should own at least 3 copies of it just in case.  No, for that you are more than welcome to read my Retro Review of the album, which states thing in a much more eloquent, formal way.  But just so you don't feel deprived of a legitimate reason for reading the last three paragraphs, here's the best song on the album.  

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)

Week 6 - The Elected: Sun Sun Sun (Road Trip)
Week 7 - The Bike Ride Through the Country Playlist

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 35-31)

Week two of our 8-week countdown extends beyond Of Montreal's older works and into some new classics.  Enjoy!



#35:  "Disconnect the Dots" from the album, Satanic Panic in the Attic (2004) - So the scene goes something like this.  I hear a few Of Montreal songs on the internet (from The Gay Parade, specifically) and decide, "Wow, that's really cool sounding.  I think I'll go buy that album!"  So I head out to my local record store, only to find that The Gay Parade is out of print.  Boo!  I pick up Satanic Panic in the Attic instead, never having heard a song.  I pop it into my vehicle on the ride home and "BLAM!"  I am an instant Of Montreal fan.  This lead-off track to that album hooked me right in with its catchy lyrics and sweet harmonies.  It came completely unexpected to me as I was expecting a whole lot more folksy, circus music.  What I got was an electronic pop masterpiece and one of my favorite albums of the last decade or so.

#34:  "Doing Nothing" from the album, Aldhils Arboretum (2002) - Though I'm no expert on popular opinion, I believe that their 2002 album, Aldhils Arboretum, is generally considered to be the worst of the bunch.  I heartily disagree, however, and find that even though it is not quite as solid as their best, it is far from their worst.  Another lead-off track, "Doing Nothing" sounds a bit like the Friends theme song before cascading into a wonderful indie pop treat.  Kevin's lyrics are sing-along quality, as they usually are, but even more here than usual.  Sure, the album is hit or miss, but this one will always give you a reason to pop in the ol' CD player.

#33:  "So Begins Our Alabee" from the album, The Sunlandic Twins (2005) - Whereas Satanic Panic merely hinted at the electronic pop direction that Kevin Barnes would take Of Montreal in the future, it wasn't until 2005 that fans actually found out what that would sound like:  awesome.  "So Begins Our Alabee" was the first track on The Sunlandic Twins that seemed to rely wholly on electronic instrumentation.  Though there is some slight bass and electric guitar, the majority of this one is synth-based, with enough electronic drums and flutters to get anyone excited.  A smart move by Kevin Barnes, as it made his then mostly-unknown band into one of the most-popular indie acts of the past few years.  A T-Mobile commercial?  Come on!

#32:  "Sink the Seine" from the album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2007) - Leave it to me to place this overlooked "filler" track from last year's masterpiece on this list.  The fact of the matter is that "Sink the Seine" remains one of the catchiest, most memorable tracks from Hissing Fauna.  Not much else to say.  I mean, it's only a minute long.

#31:  "Du Og Meg" from the album, Icons, Abstract Thee EP (2007) - Ahh yes.  What would an Of Montreal list be without mention of at least some of there EP-only tracks?  The simple truth is that if you're only listening to the LPs, you're missing out on a lot of great songs.  Where most artist will place throwaways on an EP, Kevin Barnes focuses more on the good songs that just didn't fit with the flow of his LPs.  "Du Og Meg" is an absolutely fabulous track that takes Of Montreal back to its roots in that it tells a story of a couple characters.  Of course, it's no "Jaques Lamure," but it's still one of the band's most infectious tracks.  Worth mentioning, worth listing, worth listening to again and again.
Week 1 - Songs 40-36

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

How I Was Abandoned by Modern Rock

I am a man.  Beyond that, though, I'm a muti-dimensional, complex human being; a person capable of feeling a wide range of emotions.  Why is it then that so much of today's modern rock songs only pander to the roided up, angry, "powerful" man?  Why is it that I can no longer turn on a rock radio station and hear something that caters to me?  Something that speaks to who I am?  I hope to examine this phenomenon and give you insight into how I became the indie rock-loving hipster that I am today with this Random Rant.

The 1990s
Favorite Bands: Live, No Doubt, Foo Fighters, The Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Rage Against the Machine, The Offspring, Oasis

Most of my youth I spent consuming the media that was presented to me.  Movies, music, television - I ate it all up.  This was before the time of the internet, before one could discover new music with a few mouse clicks and a pair of speakers.  Music was what MTV told me it was.  Grunge music was everywhere, sending hair bands and 80s metal bands to the curb.  Like most, the first time I can remember hearing an alternative rock song that I just flipped out for was probably when Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" first showed up on MTV.  As great as they were, though, I was still young and a few years away from being able to appreciate it all.

I hit my prime in the mid-nineties, with the groups listed above.  I remember the first time I heard "Lightning Crashes" by Live, knowing that it was a powerful song without fully able to comprehend what it was all about ("placenta" was a foreign term to a 10-year old).  And great music has always been able to do that, to take you to a place that you can appreciate without having experienced it yourself.  "Tonight, Tonight" or "1979" by the Smashing Pumpkins are equally as touching, and beautiful.  And while these bands also had their moments when they rocked out like nobody's business, they were always at their best when toned it down to subtly express their inner anguish or turmoil.  Oasis is right up there with them, as "Wonderwall" and "Don't Look Back in Anger" remain some of my favorite songs to this day.

The other bands on the list - No Doubt, Stone Temple Pilots, Foo Fighters, etc. - were about having fun.  For as great as it is to have a song move you emotionally, a song that can make you smile, that can make you have a great time just by listening to it is also a wonderful thing.  And for as much as I hate the Offspring these days, as a 14-year old kid, "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" was good enough for me.

2000-2003
Favorite Bands:  Finger Eleven, Incubus, Relient K, The Grass Roots, System of a Down

It's a bit weird, but for the most part, this period of my life was overrun by two bands: Finger Eleven and Incubus.  There wasn't a whole lot else that mattered to me.  Looking at the above list of bands that I enjoyed, I notice that they all have the same thing in common.  They can be fun and a blast to listen to, and can also move you with lyrics that speak to you, or melodies that infect you.  I've always been a cheerleader for Finger Eleven.  Even now, though I don't listen to them, I'm glad to see they're finally achieving some mainstream success after all those years of being pushed aside by their label to make room for Creed and the likes.
But modern rock music started to change during this period.  As new bands like The Killers and Franz Ferdinand introduced people to an entirely new side of rock music, lesser bands began to garner much of the attention.  One look at the Billboard charts for 2003 can adequately show the change.  Bands like Trapt, Seether, 3 Doors Down, Chevelle, Nickelback, Staind, Saliva, and Cold had some of the top singles of the year.  Bands who worship the power chord, speak only in cracked, loud voices, and make rock music for the sex and the drugs were quickly becoming the norm.  

I felt abandoned by rock music because it was no longer speaking for me.  I didn't drink, spend my weekends on endless sexual conquests, and I required more of my music than a "powerful" voice from some "powerful" dude singing over "powerful" chords.  Testosterone-fueled music overran rock stations and tv channels.  What happened to making music that was original, that was real, that was multi-dimensional?  As I soon found out, it was there all along.  I just wasn't looking for it.

2004 - Present
Favorite Bands:  Of Montreal, Death Cab for Cutie, Band of Horses, Bright Eyes, Cursive, The Flaming Lips, Radiohead, The Shins, Muse

In 2004, a friend of mine showed me a CD from a group called The Postal Service.  A few days earlier, I had gone out and seriously considered buying Linkin Park's Meteora.  The first time I listened to this group, consisting of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, I was in love.  Literally.  This was music that spoke to who I was.  It was pop music, but its lyrics were deep and meaningful, its compositions fun and interesting, and the voice of Gibbard was astonishing.  I made my friend drive me to the local Best Buy so I could buy a copy for myself.  I wore that thing out over the next year or so.

However, the CD had a much larger impact on me.  It made me aware to and entirely different realm of music that they called "indie."  I went on the internet and looked up The Postal Service.  *click* Their singer is Ben Gibbard. *click* He sings in a band called Death Cab for Cutie. *click* A girl named Jenny Lewis did vocals on The Postal Service's album. *click* She sings for a band called Rilo Kiley. *click* Amazon.com says that if I like Rilo Kiley, I'd like a band called The Shins. *click* *click* *click*  

You see, as I was slowly becoming disenchanted with modern rock music, I was amazed by this wealth of different, talented, and interesting bands that were just waiting for me to listen.  Today, my favorite bands still share the same characteristics as they always have.  They are sometimes emotional, sometimes fun, and muti-dimensional.  Just like me. 

At the time of this writing, the Modern Rock Charts on Billboard.com still shows all of my least favorite groups.  But hidden amongst the Staind and 3 Doors Down are bands like Coldplay, Weezer, and, yes, Death Cab for Cutie.  As a society and a culture, we deserve more music like this:  music that speaks for itself rather than trying to prove its toughness, music that isn't afraid to show different facets of the artist's personality.  As humans, we are all different and equipped with the capacity to experience all that the world has to offer.  Shouldn't our music reflect the dynamics of our being?  If you're like I was, and you feel completely disenchanted with the music that the radio and MTV keeps sending at you in waves, look elsewhere.  There's a whole mess of music waiting to be discovered.

And that's about as cheesy of an ending as you're gonna get!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 80


"No One's Gonna Love You" by Band of Horses, from the album, Cease to Begin.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Cansei de Ser Sexy: "Donkey"

A few years back, I'm flipping through the pages of a music magazine when I happen upon an article proclaiming a practically unknown Brazilian band named Cansei de Ser Sexy, or CSS, to be the greatest thing since sliced bread (more or less).  Being the blindly-led sheep that I find myself to be when it comes to music, I check out their debut, self-titled album, listen to it a few times, and set it aside.  I forget about it.  And then, like most, I see that dang iPod Touch commercial featuring the unquestionably intoxicating "Music is My Hot, Hot Sex" and I'm hooked.  But just on that one song.  For as praised as CSS was, I just never gave it the chance it deserved.


For their second album, Donkey, the raucous Brazilians are back, once again trying to party their way into my heart.  Though my first listen was rather un-noteworthy (I was admittedly, pretty distracted), every listen since then has been an exciting, infectious affair that I just can't get enough.  The punchy drums and bouncy bass line that heralds the start of "Jager Yoga" drew me into what has quickly become my favorite song on Donkey.  The mononymous Lovefoxxx shelves singing for a more energetic, in-your-face styling of vocalization - sounding something like a subdued cheerleader.  Her declaration of "We didn't come into the world/ to walk around/ we came here/ to take you out," is unbelievably catchy, and listeners will undoubtedly find themselves shouting right along with her.

But for as catchy as CSS has always been, they've also spent the majority of their time straddling the line between enchantingly obnoxious and downright annoying, rarely crossing over to the dark side.  On first single, "Rat is Dead (Rage)," however, Lovefoxx's vocals are highly off-putting.  The first time I heard her say, "She screamed so LOUD," chills went up my spine.  By the last time it comes around, I practically felt like glass shattering.  Fortunately, she and the band make up for their misstep with the contagious dance epic, "Let's Reggae All Night."  The production here is among the album's best, with a very cool 80s new wave-esque sample playing at the end of every bar.  This one is definitely a favorite.

While the first three songs on Donkey are in no way revolutionary for CSS, fans will immediately notice a new level of polish on the album that will either be a welcomed addition or an upsetting annoyance - the disappearance of dirty, sexy, punk stylings for a more poppy, clean sound.  Kiss those dirty guitars goodbye.  The added polish gives the band an uncanny resemblance to Canadian pop band, Metric, a personal favorite.  This new approach isn't limited to the album's first tracks, however, but spread across the entirety of Donkey.  The good news is that, aside from "Rat is Dead (Rage)," this is an incredibly solid pop album, severely lacking in the dud tracks that often populate the genre.

Highlights include the thick, wet synths and sliding guitars of "Left Behind," the 80s pop stylings of "Move," and the inescapably sweet chorus of "Believe Achieve" ("I believe that love was created just for me and you. People say it's not, but I know it's true!").  But every song on this album is great in its own way, and all of them will get you moving whether you like it or not.  You may not feel the need to get all sweaty and dirty, as CSS's debut undoubtedly inspired, but Donkey is far from a sophomore slump.  If anything, it proves the universality of great pop music and its ability to take so many different forms, yet always inspire the same, jubilant reaction.  If you feel like dancing, grinding, or just getting downright rowdy, Donkey comes highly recommended.

Key Tracks:
1. "Jager Yoga"
2. "Let's Raggae All Night"
3. "How I Became Paranoid"
4. "Move"
5. "Believe Achieve"

8 out of 10 Stars

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 7

Again, I'd like to reiterate that unless you have all of these songs on your iPod or have rigged up some ingenious contraption that allows you to carry your laptop on your bicycle, this playlist may just be a waste of time for you.  At the very least, you can close your eyes and imagine the scene while sitting at your desk.  Totally your call on that one.


The Bike Ride Through the Country Playlist

Allow me to preface this playlist by noting that while I have been through the country, and have in fact ridden a bike, I have yet to combine the two into one awesome, soothing experience.  But having knowledge of both parts of this one activity gives me enough of a reason to post this playlist.  It's got the predictable highs to keep you going, as well as some accompanying lows that will hopefully allow you to better appreciate your surroundings.  

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)

Week 6 - The Elected: Sun Sun Sun (Road Trip)

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Friday, July 18, 2008

The Top 40 Songs By Of Montreal (Songs 40-36)

So now that we all know that Of Montreal's next album, Skeletal Lamping, is due out on October 7th, it's time to start getting excited.  Being the eager fanboy that I am, I'll do my part by listing the Top 40 Of Montreal Songs over the next 8 weeks!  Yes, eight whole weeks.  Not a good time to swing by the ol' Audio Overflow if you're not an Of Montreal fan, but hey, I'm too pumped up to care!  Hope you enjoy!


#40:  "Nicki Lighthouse" from the album, Horse and Elephant Eatery (No Elephants Allowed) (2000) - This was one of the first songs by Of Montreal that I ever heard.  It drew me in with its nonsensical lyrics about "the strangest girl that's ever been" who has a bad habit of eating her dinner on her ceiling and wallpapering the floor.  But what really did it for me is the song's sing-along coda of "I'm a big fan/ Nicki Lighthouse/ You know that I am!"  It's a fun song to pull you out of whatever sort of funk you may be in, as most good Of Montreal songs do.

#39:  "Tim, I Wish You Were Born a Girl" from the album, Cherry Peel (1997) - Of Montreal's first album is kind of a mixed bag.  There are some true gems, and others that just don't do it for me at all.  This song is one of the better tracks from that album.  It really help set the whimsical, carefree tone that many of their later albums would take and was one of the first times that listeners had reason to question Kevin Barnes' sexuality. 

#38:  "Let's Go For a Walk" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - "Let's Go For a Walk" is not nearly as wonderful by itself as it is in the context of the album that it is on.  Coquelicot tells the story of a fairy-like creature of the same name who falls asleep and goes on many adventures with imaginary characters.  This song wraps up the album beautifully as a heartbreaking goodbye to all of her friends that she has made.  It is one of the most beautiful songs that Kevin Barnes has ever written.  The instrumentation is simply gorgeous, and the minimal lyrics are welcomed over his usual SAT word-filled verses.

#37:  "Rose Robert" from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - Another one from Of Montreal's 2001 concept album, this song tells the story of Rose Robert, a strange character with whom the narrator loves to cross-dress and "gurgle and squeak" rather than speak.  It's a zany song, even for this album (which mostly sounds like drug-induced circus music).  Despite the claims of some that it's far too silly, there's actually a lot of cool guitar stuff going on in the right speaker, not to mention a beautiful piano solo and attractive vocal melody.  This is one to sing along to when you're taking a long trip home in the middle of the night. It keeps you awake.  Trust me, I know.

#36:  "Go Call You Mine" - from the album, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (2001) - This one only clocks in at 1:30, and yet it features probably more instruments than any other Of Montreal song.  Kevin only sings for the last 30 seconds, leaving the first minute to be filled with one of the best instrumental performances on any Of Montreal album ever.  It's a difficult song to describe, so I'll just let you listen to it.  I hope you'll agree that it deserves a spot on this list.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mr. Fish: "Soft Serve Assault"

Let's talk about high school bands for a moment, shall we?  I absolutely loathe high school bands.  Their music is simplistic, predictable, and usually falls under the genres of punk, emo, or "screamo."  They live to mimic the exact sound of their favorite artists, with visions of rock stardom and groupies in their head.  I grew up in an area where nearly everyone had a band in high school.  None of them were all that good.  One or two have gone on to moderate success.  Let me reiterate:  I hate high school bands.  And it is for that reason that I'm a bit surprised by Mr. Fish, a high school band from Mission, Kansas.  The sound on this album, Soft Serve Assault, is really unique, and what does hearken back to other artists, they're typically from decades past. 


And that makes listening to Mr. Fish somewhat enjoyable, because I was pleasantly surprised by who their sound is influenced by (Frank Zappa, They Might Be Giants, and other silly, fun acts).  The lead-off track, "Hillbilly Death Cry," is in no way impressive.  An instrumental rock track, it really does do a great job of showing how limited this band really is at such a young age.  But listening to it makes you appreciate the next song that much more.  "Redundancy" is a simple song, with what originally seem like rather depressing lyrics.  When Kyle Little says of a man, "He got a gun and put a bullet in his mouth," it's a bit shocking.  Then when everybody else puts a bullet in their mouth, you start to realize that this might all be a bit tongue in cheek.  It's quite the catchy song.  The chorus, in particular, has been stuck in my head for days now.

"Octopus Ride" is a sillier affair, with Little singing "I wanna ride on the octopus," during the song's chorus.  The song has an appropriately "beachy" feel to it; light with syncopating pianos and distant harmonies.  Like its predecessor, it's also a very catchy song.  It almost makes me want to take a ride on the octopus, but then I remember that I'm deathly afraid of those things.  "S.O.L.VE.N.T." is a rambunctious track in which Little shelves singing to do some talking about, what else, solvents.  He says, "Want something to make the ladies' knees go weak? Memorize the list of these solvents I speak," just before he goes and lists off a bunch of those solvents.  There is a really cool synth that plays in the back throughout the song.  It finally comes through with a really awesome solo during the breakdown.  This is one of my favorites on the album, for sure.

From here, the album takes a bit of a detour.  "American Hands" is a well-made song, with small saxophone flourishes and appropriate crescendos and falls, but Little's melody is nowhere near as impressive as it has been thus far.  This seems to be the band's "radio song," the most mainstream-friendly track on the album.  It's got a southern rock feel to it, but I'm simply not digging it. On "Venom", guitarist Nathan Goldman takes over on vocals.  His voice is on par with Little's, and the song itself is upbeat and catchy for a while.  Ultimately it just winds up being far too repetitive for me.  Lacking a true chorus really hurts this song, as it just makes you feel like you're listening to the same thing over and over again (which you kind of are).  "Gimme Some Rope" is the album's downer, a southern rock/country music whiskey ballad.  Little sings "Gimme some rope/ I wanna tie a knot around my brain," and I wish him good luck as I skip ahead to the next track.

That may have seemed mean, but honestly, I just can't get enough of "(I Wanna Get My Ass To) Space," a funky, Zappa-inspired song about the planets and (clearly) Little's unfailing desire to visit all of them (except for Pluto).  The song is hilarious in an "LOL" kind of way.  He sings, "On earth people might make fun of you/ but in space it doesn't matter 'bout your unfortunate haircut."  My favorite part, however, has to be when he yells out "Pluto" while a chorus of shouters holler back, "Hell no!"  It is a silly song, to be sure, but it's also an absolute blast to listen to.  "Th' Ballad of Salad" is equally as ludicrous, but more in the vein of a 50s ballad doo-wop ballad.  Little makes sure to note that "any kind of salad" is his "favorite dish," and even though that makes me think so much less of him, I can't help but adore this track.  The album ends with "Superfamous," an upbeat punk song about how the band is going to be...you know.  They don't seem to mean it seriously (as is the theme with most of the album), but having no previous knowledge of the band and not knowing them personally really makes this song a whole lot less interesting than it should have been.

Overall, Mr. Fish is a high school band that is brave enough to forge their own path in the music world.  You don't see that often, and frankly, I've never seen it at all.  Soft Serve Assault isn't the greatest album in the world, but it showcases the band's talent, humor, and charm well enough to make me want to keep an eye out for the band in the future (or, at the very least, add 'em as friends on myspace).  In a world where musicians take themselves waaaay too seriously, it's refreshing to hear a group of guys who can just play music, have fun, and not care what others think.  If they go the route of most high school bands, they'll be broken up by the time they all get to college.  But for what it's worth, I'm really hoping that's not the case.  

Key Tracks:
1. "Redundancy"
2. "Octopus Ride"
3. "S.O.L.V.E.N.T."
4.  "(I Wanna Get My Ass To) Space"
5. "Th' Ballad of Salad"

6 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 79

So there was a whole bunch of hoopla this past week over Radiohead's new music video for "House of Cards." Why? Well, because it was shot entirely without cameras. I'll let that sit with you for a while. There were no cameras used in the "filming" of this "video." I'm not sure how it all works (something about lasers), but the end result is pretty awesome-looking.




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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

E3 '08: Music Games

So I'm working really hard on this week's review, but I haven't really got enough ears-on time with it yet.  Expect it by Thursday.  Until then, I thought I'd give everyone a little update as to what is happening at the E3 convention in Los Angeles.  As many of you know, this is the huge, yearly video game convention where big titles are announced, demoed, hyped, etc.  Being a gamer, myself, and a fan of music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, I thought I'd let all of you in on the news.  Chances are, if you're an avid gamer, you already know this stuff.  But if you're living outside of nerdville, here's what's happened so far.

Xbox 360/PS3

Guitar Hero: World Tour - There wasn't a lot of hype surrounding GH:WT, the next installment in the mega-series, what with the huge Rock Band 2 tracklist revealed just a few minutes before Microsoft's Press Conference.  What we do know for sure is that World Tour will release with an exclusive R.E.M. track pack, as well as Metallica's forthcoming album as DLC.  There was a little mention of being able to import and play your own music, which if implemented correctly, could be HUGE.  Otherwise, I'm still not planning on buying this game, as I already have one fake drumset in my house, and I don't see the need to further clutter things with GH:WT's incompatible kit.

Rock Band 2 - This was the biggest music game announcement yesterday.  Rock Band 2 will ship with 85 master tracks, including a Chinese Democracy track from Guns 'n' Roses' "upcoming" album.  Does this mean that Rock Band 2 will go the route of Duke Nukem Forever and get delayed for, well, ever?  Let's hope not.  Here's the full track list:
AC/DC: "Let There Be Rock"
AFI: "Girl's Gone Grey"
Alanis Morissette: "You Oughta Know"
Alice in Chains: "Man in the Box"
Allman Brothers: "Ramblin' Man"
Avenged Sevenfold: "Almost Easy"
Bad Company: "Shooting Star"
Beastie Boys: "So Whatcha Want"
Beck: "E-Pro"
Bikini Kill: "Rebel Girl"
Billy Idol: "White Wedding Pt. I"
Blondie: "One Way or Another"
Bob Dylan: "Tangled Up in Blue"
Bon Jovi: "Livin' on a Prayer"
Cheap Trick: "Hello There"
Devo: "Uncontrollable Urge"
Dinosaur Jr.: "Feel the Pain"
Disturbed: "Down with the Sickness"
Dream Theater: "Panic Attack"
Duran Duran: "Hungry Like the Wolf"
Elvis Costello: "Pump It Up"
Fleetwood Mac: "Go Your Own Way"
Foo Fighters: "Everlong"
Guns N' Roses: "Shackler's Revenge"
Interpol: "PDA"
Jane's Addiction: "Mountain Song"
Jethro Tull: "Aqualung"
Jimmy Eat World: "The Middle"
Joan Jett: "Bad Reputation"
Journey: "Anyway You Want It"
Judas Priest: "Painkiller"
Kansas: "Carry On Wayward Son"
L7:  "Pretend We're Dead"
Lacuna Coil: "Our Truth"
Linkin Park: "One Step Closer"
Lit: "My Own Worst Enemy"
Lush: "De-Luxe"
Mastodon: "Colony of Birchmen"
Megadeth: "Peace Sells"
Metallica: "Battery"
Mighty Mighty Bosstones: "Where'd You Go"
Modest Mouse: "Float On"
Motorhead: "Ace of Spades"
Nirvana: "Drain You"
Norman Greenbaum: "Spirit in the Sky"
Panic at the Disco: "Nine in the Afternoon"
Paramore: "That's What You Get"
Pearl Jam: "Alive"
Presidents of the USA: "Lump"
Rage Against the Machine:"Testify"
Ratt: "Round & Round"
Red Hot Chili Peppers : "Give It Away"
Rise Against: "Give It All"
Rush: "The Trees"
Silversun Pickups: "Lazy Eye"
Smashing Pumpkins: "Today"
Social Distortion: "I Was Wrong"
Sonic Youth: "Teen Age Riot"
Soundgarden: "Spoonman"
Squeeze: "Cool for Cats"
Steely Dan: "Bodhitsattva"
Steve Miller Band: "Rock'n Me"
Survivor: "Eye of the Tiger"
System of a Down: "Chop Suey"
Talking Heads: "Psycho Killer"
Tenacious D: "Master Exploder"
Testament: "Souls of Black"
The Donnas: "New Kid in School"
The Go-Go's: "We Got the Beat"
The Grateful Dead: "Alabama Getaway"
The Guess Who: "American Woman"
The Muffs: "Kids in America"
The Offspring: "Come Out & Play (Keep 'em Separated)"
The Replacements: "Alex Chilton"
The Who: "Pinball Wizard"
There are some interesting tracks, to be sure.  And even though I'm a little miffed (read: completely and utterly dumbfounded) by the lack of Muse (!!!), I'm really looking forward to tearing into System of a Down, Beck, and effing Mastodon!  All downloadable content from Rock Band will be compatible with Rock Band 2, and by the end of the year, there should be 500 songs available to Xbox Live/PSN users.  That's pretty impressive.

Lips (Xbox 360 Exclusive) - Lips is a new singing game from Microsoft Game Studios that really looks and feels like one of those SingStar games that I'm not too fond of.  The big difference is that you'll be able to connect your Zune or iPod and play with the songs that you already own, giving you a potentially endless number of songs to play.  I'm not sure how this functionality will work though.  Will it lower the vocals and turn it into a karaoke machine?  Will it detect the vocals of the song and place the notes on the screen and make it into an actual game?  Will it do BOTH?  No one really knows the answers to this yet, but more will be revealed as the convention moves on, I'm sure.  For the time being, it's a pretty interesting title that I'll definitely keep my eye on.  Oh, and apparently the mics are motion sensitive (and they light up).  Neat!

Wii

Samba de Amigo - This stylized maraca-based rhythm game for the Wii is essentially a re-make of the Dreamcast classic of the same name.  That means nothing to me though, as I never played that game and am not entirely convinced that I should.  It's all about shaking maracas (or your Wii Remote in this case) to the beat, so if that's your thing, keep an eye out for it.  The only development that came about this week is the announcement that the game will support Downloadable Content (which is a first for Wii, to my knowledge).  The first track pack will include: 
"I Want Candy" - Bow Wow Wow
"Are You Going to be My Girl?" - Jet
"Mambo Mambo" Lou Bega
Umm...well, I'll let those songs do the talking for me.  If SEGA was trying to get this game on my radar, that didn't do it.

Wii Music - The big announcement for Wii was the long-awaited Wii Music from Nintendo.  In the line of Wii Sports, Wii Fit, and Wii Play, Wii Music is a game designed to get grandma off the couch and into the game.  I don't know folks, this one just looks a bit ridiculous to me.  Now, I'm all for playing virtual instruments, but holding the Wii Remote like a saxophone and blowing?  I'm not that big of dork.  Not yet at least.  Consider me un-wowed.

Nintendo DS

Guitar Hero: On Tour - Decades - Quite the mouthful, but Nintendo announced today that Activision is already underway on a sequel to the just-released (and *ahem* just-reviewed) Guitar Hero: On Tour.  Not much information about this one yet, but apparently song-sharing will be available.  I think this means that if a friend has the original, you can share songs from Decades to entice him or her to buy it.  Clever.

Rhythm Heaven - This is apparently a sequel to a game released on Game Boy Advance in Japan.  But it's coming to America, and reading the description, it seems a lot like Elite Beat Agents.  If that's the case, I'm in!
---------------
That's all I've heard so far.  Any of these seem like winners to you?

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Perfect Summer Soundtrack - Week 6

Week six of this crazy endeavor is upon us, people. This week, I've featured an album that is the perfect accompaniment one of the best summer pastimes, the road trip.


The Elected: Sun, Sun Sun

Recommended Activities: Road Trip

Certainly there are albums out there that are better suited as "road trip albums." But The Elected seemed to have had that goal in mind when creating this 2006 album (my #3 of that year, I believe).

The album's first track is titled, "Clouds Parting (8:13am)" and its closer is "At Home (Time Unknown)." The 12 tracks that lie in between are all relatively calming pop/country songs that are perfectly accompanied by the equally calming (or boring, depending on your point of view) landscapes of middle-America. In other words, it is perfect, and perhaps best-suited as a road trip album.

But more than anything, Sun, Sun, Sun, is an album about self-discovery, or even a self-awakening. What begins as a meek, somber album eventually builds into something altogether triumphant and reassuring. In many ways, a road trip can also be about self-discovery, or at the very least a discovery of your country, your history. Personally, there's nothing I'd rather listen to on such a journey than this album.

Key Tracks:
1. "Would You Come With Me?"
2. "Fireflies in a Steel Mill"
3. "Sun, Sun, Sun"
4. "The bank and Trust"
5. "Biggest Star"

Buy from Amazon : Buy from Insound : Download from iTunes

Week 1 - Rooney's Self-Titled Debut (Beach Trip, Road Trip, Skateboarding)
Week 2 - The Picnic Playlist
Week 3 - Of Montreal: The Sunlandic Twins (Road Trip Sing-a-longs, House Parties, Frisbee Tossing)
Week 4 - The 4th of July Party Playlist
Week 5 - The Pump Me the F*** Up! Playlist (Mountain Climbing, Fight Clubbing, Wakeboarding, Kayaking, Parachuting, Murdering, Running)

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Discovering The Known! Way To Go!


Picture it... you're hanging out with a group of people. Suddenly a song comes on the radio. You've never heard it and most of your friends have never heard it... save one. That friend then begins to tell you, in no humble manner, that that band/musicians is the best and his most favorite. It's his favorite and it's so unique, it's never been played on the radio before. In fact, he discovered it... if it wasn't for your high and mighty friend, nobody's ears but his own would have befallen this song. He takes much pride in knowing that he alone liked the band when every one else either wouldn't give them a chance or passed them along for a band/musician with more money, talent, etc... This guy is what I like to refer as "superior annoying guy". He likes to think he's god's gift to anything musical. In most cases, he listens to indie music, but occasionally, he'll "discover" a really good band that no one's ever heard of. Superior annoying guy can be found in almost every group of friends... except the group with multiple superior annoying guys... then he just blends in.

Well, some people thankfully grow out of that stage, including yours truly. Yes, I have been in superior annoying guy's shoes, but when I look back, I feel that I can use the excuse that I was young, dumb, naive, immature and out of touch. Most of what I'd "discovered" had been discovered years before I ever came across the song in an unpopular movie that only 10.5 people had ever seen. Looking back now, I'm embarrassed that I ever met my inner superior annoying guy. The music I liked was sometimes unique and sometimes original, but never a discovery. I really feel like the only time you're discovering a musician is if he's a bum under a bridge, you happen to strike up a conversation, he happens to have an instrument in his stash which he begins to play as the earth shattering beauty not only spills over from how well he plays, but also how the angels accompany his majestic voice. You can see how my "discoveries", and probably many of yours pale in comparison. Did Simon Cowell really discover Leona Lewis... or did he simply hear her sing amongst a crowd in a well known club one night where he was the only one who had actual bargaining power to sign her. Now, I'm not saying she's without talent. She in fact has a beautiful voice, but discovery? I think not. More like right place, right time.

Below is a list of musicians and songs which I have personally discovered. They just happened to be so good that eventually people caught on to them and they ended up on the radio... No one else is responsible for the success of these musicians, how popular they are, or how they've been or will be remembered... only me. (wink wink)

Disclaimer: These are from different periods in my life, including pre-teen. Criticize accordingly...

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Friday, July 11, 2008

The Top 5 Albums That Need to Be On Rock Band

Since the video game juggernaut Rock Band was first announced over a year ago, one of the game's greatest, most intriguing aspects was the ability for users to be able to download whole albums to utilize in the game. Unfortunately, Harmonix and MTV Games have been slow to release these albums so far, and with the release of Rock Band 2 just a few months away, I have to ask, "What gives?" How many albums are available at this moment? Well, you can count them on one hand, if that means anything. So this post is my call for more albums, and 5 in particular that will actually get me excited about this feature of the game (sorry, The Cars just ain't doing it for me). These are the Top 5 Albums That Need to Be on Rock Band!


#5: Incubus: Science

Why?: For as cookie-cutter as Incubus' last album was, one forgets that their major label debut in 1997 was one of a kind and waaaay ahead of its time. For the most part, music on Rock Band is pretty straightforward. S.C.I.E.N.C.E. is anything but, with tracks that will make your head explode from the shear amount of craziness going on. There will be a few hurdles to jump, like how do you get "Magic Medicine," an instrumental song, on Rock Band? But I'll leave that to the powers that be.

Key Tracks: "Redefine," "Vitamin," "A Certain Shade of Green," "Summer Romance (Anti-Gravity Love Song)"


#4: The Mars Volta: De-Loused In the Comatorium

Why?: If Harmonix is going to put a crippled version of The Mars Volta on the game (Coheed & Cambria), they might as well put on the real thing as well. The Mars Volta's debut album is still their best yet, and who wouldn't want to play "Eriatarka" on drums? Most importantly, however, this would show all those kids who love that damn C&C song what Prog Rock is supposed to sound like. And who knows, maye they'll realize how gay they've been acting all this time.

Key Tracks: "Inertiatic ESP," "Roulette Dares (The Haunt Of)," "Eriatarka," "Televators," and "Take the Veil Cerpin Taxt."


#3: Queen: Greatest Hits Vol. 1

Why?: A greatest hits album may seem like cheating, but honestly, who would want to play a single Queen album when they could play their greatest hits? This collection has every great song that the band ever made, if you name it, it's probably on here. That's all I have to say. If you have a problem with that, meat me in the back after this post. (EDIT: So I just got finished re-reading this post and saw that I wrote "meat me in the back" which is probably the best euphimism for gay sex ever! Totally accidental, of course, but too good to fix. Enjoy!)

Key Tracks: "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Bicycle Race," "Somebody to Love," "Seven Seas of Rhye," "We Will Rock You"


#2: Radiohead: OK Computer

Why?: Please don't make me explain myself on this one. This is arguably one of the best alternative albums of all time and I don't think you'd find many people who would be willing to argue that point. Really it all boils down to one thing: me getting to play "Paranoid Android." That's it. That's really all I care about. Sure, every song on this album is great and worthy of being on Rock Band, but come on!

Key Tracks: "Paranoid Android," "Karma Police," "Electioneering," "No Surprises," "Lucky"


#1: Eagles: Hotel California

Why?: It's one of the best albums of all time, featuring one of the best songs of all times, which contains one of the best guitar solos of all time. Is that enough of a reason for you? Yeah, I thought it would be. In case you're still a doubter, check out these tracks.


Key Tracks: "Hotel California," "New Kid in Town," "Life in the Fast Lane," and "Victim of Love"

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Jim Abel: "Thunder"

Occasionally I'll be driving down the street when I see an old couple walking together.  My response is always the same - an unrepentant "awwww."  That's essentially the same reaction I had when Jim Abel's Thunder arrived on my doorstep, complete with a picture of the artist, himself.  Now in his 60s, Jim Abel is living his dream, writing, recording, and playing his unique style of music in front of live audiences all around the Kansas City area.  This, his fourth album, is dripping with proof that this man truly loves what he does, and I respect that.  Unfortunately, respect can't really get me to like music that I would otherwise dislike, and Thunder has more or less proven this to me.


There are really just a multitude of problems with Thunder that make it a truly difficult listen for me.  The thing that immediately struck me about Abel's music is that the recordings are not of the highest quality.  His vocals, in particular, always seem to be brought far to the front of the mix, spotlighting any flaw - big or small - that may be present.  Many times it seems to completely overpower the instrumentation on the songs, which can be quite good at times.  On the album-opener, "Jenny O'Farrell," for example, the layers and layers of instruments really make the song worth remembering.  It's an upbeat, lighthearted song that is definitely nothing I would listen to regularly, though I found it to be completely charming.

Unfortunately, most of the songs on Thunder aren't nearly as exciting as this one.  I'm not a stickler for upbeat, happy music either.  It's just that when Abel lowers the pace of his songs, they all start to sound the same to me.  There are a few that stand out, like the beautiful and poignant "The Mystery of Life" or the equally impressive "We Won't Mention It Again" where the following line really stood out to me:

Come, dear Clare, friend beyond compare, let us wander as we dare, 

till our footsteps rhyme for the only time, 

and we won't mention it again. 

An hour or two, till the ev'ning dew and the healing fog comes in. 

Our hands might touch, but not too much, 

and we won't mention it again. 

And that's one good thing about Jim Abel:  no matter what you think about his music, you simply can't deny the man's talent as a storyteller.  His songs are vivid in their imagery, which makes the poignant songs more touching and the humorous ones ("Never Give Advice" or "Swappin'") funnier.  That doesn't necessarily make up for his vocal imperfections or his sometimes dragging compositions, but it doesn't really hurt either.

What Thunder has that many albums these days don't is "passion."  As I stated before, one listen to the album will make it abundantly clear that Jim Abel really does have a passion for songwriting.  Unfortunately, I jut can't find the passion to appreciate it in the way that many people may be able to.  Personally, I think that Jim Abel would be quite enjoyable in a live setting.  But in the privacy of my own home, vehicle, or wherever I have a choice of what I listen to, I'll probably just go ahead and choose something else.

Key Tracks:
1. "Jenny O'Farrell"
2. "The Mystery of Life"
3. "We Won't Mention It Again"
4. "Swappin'"

4 out of 10 Stars

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Video of the Week - Week 78

I really do like The Wombats, folks, so I'm going to do everything in my power to get you to listen to them at least once.  Here's a video to "Let's Dance to Joy Division."


The Wombats - "Let's Dance to Joy Division" from the album A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Wombats: "A Guide To Love, Loss & Desperation"

I was fortunate enough to have received (and reviewed) a copy of The Wombats' debut EP here in the states back in February.  It didn't take me a long time to fall in love with the band.  I found their witty tales of boy/girl woe to be irresistible, and the short, 5-song album really got me excited for their full length debut.  After only a few months of anxious waiting, it has finally arrived.  Does it live up to my expectations?


Totally.  All of the wit and charm that The Wombats displayed on that EP (not to mention, all of the songs) are still in full force here.  The intro-track "Tales of Girls, Boys & Marsupials" is a playful,  acapella  song that simply repeats its title for a minute or so.  As a "real" song, it doesn't do much.  But as the first song on the album, it does a brilliant job of letting listeners know exactly what they're in for.  It runs head on into what was the EP's strongest track (and it accomplishes the same feat here), "Kill the Director," in which singer Matthew Murphy compares his strange love life with a romantic comedy.  He memorably shouts in the song's bridge, "This is no Bridget Jones!," and I still can't help but shout right along with him.  It's such an awesome song!

That song is followed by two other "old" tracks:  "Moving to New York" and "Lost in the Post."  Both songs are well-written, highly energetic, and incredibly infectious tunes, and it's good to be able to hear them in the context of a full album.  It's not until track 5 that I actually get to listen to some new material, and "Party in the Forest (Where's Laura?)" is just as good as anything I've heard from the band up to this point.  Matthew's vocal melody in the verse drags a little at points (as it does on "Lost in the Post"), but he more than makes up for it in the chorus.  "School Uniforms" is a decent song, but it can be a bit overwhelming on the first listen.  In this frantic, chaotic track, Matthew does make a few witty observations about childhood inadequacies.  My favorite is when he sings, "It all went downhill/ you grew tall/ I stayed the same/ I guess that's just puberty/ making us boys always play a losing game."  

"Here Comes the Anxiety" is the obligatory downer track.  After all, not everyone can be happy all the time, though you think with a song like "Let's Dance to Joy Division" that the opposite would be true.  This song, the one they advertise with a little sticker on the front of the CD packaging, is one of the best "new" tracks on the album.  Matt sings, "Let's dance to Joy Division and celebrate the irony," though I doubt that many people in The Wombats' target audience would understand why that would be ironic, or that they could even name a Joy Division song (even though he alludes to one in the bridge).  Personally, I find "Backfire at the Disco" to be a better dancing song all around, and as the lead-0ff track to their EP, it brings back memories of  the first time I heard the band.
"Little Miss Pipedream" is just as amazing as it was the first time I heard it, though the band has added a lot of electronic flutters and effects to change the sound of the song slightly.  Still, it maintains its self-depreciating charm just fine.  The next two songs, "Dr. Suzanne Mattox PhD" and "Patricia the Stripper" are both pretty forgettable tracks, though one can hardly blame someone for dismissing them when they're sandwiched between "Pipedream" and the album-closer, "My First Wedding."  The latter track is one of The Wombats' best songs, and features everything from loud group vocals to thick, wet synths.  Matthew describes his experience in going to the wedding of a girl with whom he has a past.  He acknowledges that she wasn't right for him, but notes that "She's my heartless bitch that I just can't seem to get enough of!"  Needless to say, a lot of drinking and hijinks ensue.

So once again, I'm blessed with the pleasure of being able to listen to The Wombats, and I have to say that I am once again very pleased with the experience.  To be honest, I was a bit afraid that the band's attitude and style would wear thin on me in large, full-length LP doses.  To my surprise, A Guide to Love, Loss & Desperation has only left me wanting more.  Though I've only had the album in my possession for a few days, it has already gotten more plays than I care to note.  For the most part, the highlights of this album are the songs that were featured on that EP that I keep bringing up over and over again (sorry 'bout that).  So if you're just looking for a small fix, I totally recommend that you pick that one up.  But if you're a normal person and you're into bands like The Killers or Art Brut, you'd be dumb not to give this one a chance.  The Wombats may not be the most original bands in the world, but they sure are one of the most entertaining!

Key Tracks:
1.  "Kill the Director"
2. "Moving to New York"
3. "Party in a Forest (Where's Laura)"
4. "Backfire at the Disco"
5. "My First Wedding"

7 out of 10 Stars

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