13 November 2007

stop-gap song-gab

just taking a little break from writing about music for that other place (most recently a bio and two reviews on sway - not yet pubbed but watch that link) to write about music here for a change. sidebar updated to include links to the old podcast posts. (i'd almost forgotten i'd started to do that. never fear, i've already got an idea for a new one: expect it later this week! ha, i mean decade!) also, some new links that i won't have time to fully follow, and a ish-ton of new titles in the acquisitions dept. flick, did i really buy/earn/acquire forty-seven new records in october? what the christ?! no wonder it's eternal! so you can see why i haven't been able to think of anything to write about here lately.

and that's not counting my prodigal/prodigious itunes/download influx lately - i'm still in the midst of processing new/ish albums by [in stupid lacitebahpla order] tunng, tmbg [bonus disc], the veronicas, the mitchell brothers, the clientele, the avett brothers, susumu yokota, sugababes, studio, sloan, skye sweetnam, royksopp, roisin murphy, radiohead, pole, paramore, pantha du prince, panda bear, minor majority, lucky soul, lil wayne, lethal bizzle, les savy fav, kompakt, kathy diamond, jens lekman, jay-z, iron + wine, helios, colleen, cassius, britney spears, black milk, beirut, amerie, aly & aj, aesop rock, and 65daysofstatic. er, among others. (and that's just the '07 stuff: new years' coming soon y'all - have you got your listing brain in gear?) (and a couple of those emboldments are based on a single serious listen, or even less - many of the others i've barely begun to graze.) back to the racket, basically. but it's been good to me, thistime, thusfar. guess i'll be reporting back on these... all in due time.

i have in fact managed to process more of that october overload than you might be imagining, though there's certainly a ways to go - i thought i could point to a few recordings that have stood out in recent weeks enough to achieve some prominence in my headspace - many of them, as it happens, on the older side of things. i'd post mp3s but i've been at a total loss for a decent server lately (free or otherwise, just so long as it works - let me know if you have suggestions.) couple youtube links tho:

"been it" - the cardigans
i know, it's pretty ridiculous that i didn't own first band on the moon until now (after all, it's officially a 1st-tier album by a 1st-tier band within the swedish pop/rock category - shhh i don't own any ace of base either, but that's also nothing a 99¢ bin somewhere isn't just waiting to fix.) guess everybody else had their fill of it about a decade ago (!), whereas i, c. 1996, was about a month late in jumping on the odelay bandwagon, which meant i lost out on the chance to catch the cards' opening slot on that beck tour which easily makes my missed-concert-regrets top 5. (this is in 8th grade mind you.) had things been different, my swede-tooth phase might have arrived significantly earlier - or not. actually, i was hepped to life a few years later, via "carnival" and "gordon's gardenparty" on my first girlfriend's first mixtape (aw), but never fully completely embraced it past a few songs.

so anyway, i had a pretty good idea of what i was in for when i finally snagged fbotm (for only 50¢!) at circle thrift the other week, but i don't think i fully anticipated just how much unmitigated poptastic brilliance it contains. of course i knew and loved "lovefool" for the perfecto-popslice it is (covered it in a college band, even, and no-way ironically), but it's almost diminished in its album context: among its less polished peers, it's so seamlessly shiny that it sounds sarcastic, revealed to be the snide euro-pop caricature it obviously always was - albeit note-perfect enough to outclass the genuine article even as it mocks it. but it's the weird, complicated, elegant, almost grotesque, blissfully jaded constructions - "losers," the "iron man" reinvention, "your new cuckoo" - that elevate this disc to the height of pop/rock in the most literal sense of that usually glossed-over term - or, better - art-pop, wherein not one iota of the pop is sacrificed, and yet it just bleeds archly artless artifice.

most of all, it's "been it" - perfectly perfect pop, with about four times its share of hooks, but more than that, so inventive in every direction - i could dissect practically every second and come out gleaming and beaming - it's like the breeders "cannonball" like that - but, i hazard, better? just a couple - that indelible opening, synch'd bass and bass-drum pick-up fill before it bursts into full-on cooing pop. the varied hesitations in the deceptively arhythmic verse riff [0:35]. fake-out slope-rhyme of "sister" with "mistre-ess." the alarm clock at [2:13]. the seemingly antithetical verse (crunchy rock sparseness) and chorus (fleshy pop swoon) unexpectedly merging [3:20] for a tantalizing moment (rok gtr + pop vox) before the entropic, unspiralling breakdown. whew. and all of it, of course, lofted heavenward by nina persson's gossamer croon, the band's truly unshakable asset, in finest feather here.

this has been my dishwashing album of choice lately (along with in rainbows), and that's the one that keeps sending me back for the replay button. the feel-good dishwashing hit of the fall! yeah i know it's old news - shut up. at this rate i'm going to have to actually investigate those later-day cardigans records that i'd always passed over dubiously...until then, though.

"one sound" - knife in the water
awright. already wrote about this one. maybe you didn't notice though, plus i thought it belonged in this round-up. could've come up with another of their tunes to write about - the album keeps going and growing on me; "seat of pity" has been in my head plenty, and i went and got earned myself their later cut the cord album too, which promises to be just as enthralling. but this'll save me some work. here's what i wrote:

"dusty semi-country minimalism. nine minutes plus. same progression just repeated and repeated, sometimes with verses. organ harmonizations just so-slightly off, never quite resolving they way they should, but growing familiar enough that you almost don't notice - the unsettling rendered inconspicuous through desensitization. 'i want to fall right back to sleep/to dive back in the sheets.' hypnotic."

and it's still just as powerfully intense. between these guys, okkervil (new album very nice), and spoon (obv.), i'm cultivating some major affection for austinites lately, and looking to expand - def. intrigued by what i hear about future clouds and radar (and cotton mather, of which that's an offshoot.) go tx!

"can i change my mind"
- tyrone davis
got this a few months back but it just keeps getting better. totally my serendipitous soul find of the year - and not from one of those collector-cheatin' rare-groove compilations i'm so ardently ambivalent about neither - just a budget-quality reissue i stumbled across in a random $2.99 bin in boulder. the whole album's sweet - "knock on wood" gets reinvented as a ballad, the arrangements throughout are consistently stellar, even when the songs sometimes dip below that mark - but it's plain to see why the title cut was the single, and apparently a respectable hit, though mostly lost to history, at least for folks like me.

it locks right off into a loping, almost mellow funk groove, with a nimble, rubbery bassline and chunks of guitar hittin' on the 2 so fat you could slice 'em - plus another guitar licking out effortlessly spidery spangles. and the horns - a single unison swell, repeated once up an octave, and then retreat, to make room for mr. davis' achingly langorous entrance on the vocal. the way he yawnily slides into that opening line - "...aaw, she didn't bat an eye" - is just priceless. ditto his smooth semi-crack on the word "time" at [1:14]. aw shucks. so gooey.

an intriguing premise too - it's nothing new under the soul sun for him to be lamenting his lapses that lost him his love, realizing it only too late - but the way he asks the title question, so innocently, as though he'd be doing her the favor, when clearly it's her mind that would need the changing. sly, kinda, but seductive. ooh, and check the reggae version by mr. mittoo, too.

marshall crenshaw - marshall crenshaw
part of my ongoing campaign to get more comfortable or at least better acquainted with the [non-synthpop, non-talking heads] 1980s, partially sparked by my reading of this fascinating, smartly-written book, whose most substantial contribution to my understanding of the t-heads was a historical contextualization by means of occasionally interjected news-headline highlight reels, pop'n'politics anecdotage, and downtown-scene local color. also part of my ongoing campaign to get more familiar with more singer-songwriter types, if nothing else so that i can have more coherent things to say (and examples to give) in situations like that knotty wrangling with folk songwriting i was doing a few posts ago.

the same (the former, esp.) is true of the feelies [crazy rhythms, 1980] and aztec camera [high land, hard rain, 1983] albums i also picked up recently, and scritti politti before that - of that bunch, crenshaw is clearly the least post-punk (ergo least punk) and most songwriterly - not sure if he quite fits into the "new pop" rubric with which i'm haphazardly lumping the others, but whatever. i've known for a long time that i would like this - it's just been a question of whether i'd go with the readily available original release or hold out for the spennier rhino bonus-tracks reissue: i didn't. actually i don't think i really knew who he was until tara mentioned him, with vague disinterest, as somebody her dad liked - even though i feel like my dad might have one of his albums, maybe even this one.

right, so it's very obviously dad-rock - there was probably no disputing that even at the time - but let's not forget that it's still rock (it came out in 1982, the year of my birth - according to amg "a brief, exhilarating moment in between the fall of disco and the rise of MTV, when the eternal verities of real rock & roll broke through once again.") it reminds me, more than anything, of the likes of joe jackson and graham parker (and oh yeah robert gordon duh - elvis c. was never this prosaic), though not as punkily disaffected as either of them ("cynical girl"'s lyrics notwithstanding) - especially the way he talks about 'girls' (might as well spell it 'gurls') girls girls, walkin' down the street [q.v. "pretty girls," "local girls"], feels like a direct lineage from the beach boys and big star. is it just me or do people like this no longer get away with making reference to 'gurls' anymore in such a flip, factual manner?

anyhoo, peep it it pops. (obviously, btw, what this really is is power-pop, 'nuff said.) i couldn't choose a favorite track to single out for this - "rocking around in nyc" has one of the nicer unanticipated harmonic moves (the "...she's facing disaster" bit); the groovy "there she goes again" has been known to course through my head in the mornings, compelling me to put the album back on; "someday, someway" is a perfectly sensible single choice with swell harmonies - though in general i like the rootsy-cutesy rockabilly cuts less than the more straight-forward rockers (although honestly the best thing on here might be the cover of arthur alexander's "soldier of love," because that song is just so awesome and it's a pretty good cover.) which, ultimately, is kind of the problem - marshall crenshaw is a triumph of formalism, and everything on it shines with wholly admirable, consistent craftsmanship, but not with the spark of truly inspired, individuated songs-qua-songs. still craftsmanship is something - you certainly don't get it this good too often. remember, i like formalism.

[eta: if only marshall crenshaw were a brit (bloody sounds like one innit?) he would get some coolness points for being pub-rock, which is clearly what this is, except that it's american. nevermind that pub-rock is like the most dad-rock thing conceivable, it's still cool because it begat brinsley schwarz who nick lowe who begat elvis costello, or something like that. right? i need to investigate it more, but first somebody needs to make the early nick lowe albums available/affordable. obviously it should/would be yep roc, who are his current label and who just reissued robyn hitchcock's catalog and billy bragg's before that. ok?]

transient random-noise bursts with announcements - stereolab
i don't have anything to say about the music on this yet, except that it's slightly underwhelming so far (tim sendra don't fail me now), but now that i've finally got it, which means i've now completed my collection of classic-era (i.e. pre-cobra) 'lab proper full lengths (groop's an ep rite?), which for a long time didn't really seem possible (though as it turns out there are only five)...i thought i'd be justified in asking a question that has always bothered me about this album:

is it "[transient random]-[noise bursts with announcements]"

or is it "transient [random-noise] bursts with announcements"?

i like the latter better, i think, as a theoretical description of music (that there would "random-noise bursts", which happened to be transient, as the primary feature, followed by the announcements.) but the former kind of seems more likely? can't tell.

as far as more current stuff goes, well i will admit that skye sweetnam's "music is my boyfriend" (awesome video too), roisin murphy's "overpowered" (ditto), lethal bizzle's "police on my back," britney spears' "heaven on earth" (yeah, "piece of me" too but that's old hat) and the veronicas' "untouched" all remain pretty righteous. but y'all knew that right?

as rumored, the bonus disc to they might be giants' the else, entitled cast your pod to the wind, is pretty phenomenal ("why did you grow a beard," "brain problem situation," "i'm your boyfriend now," "employee of the month" = future classics), though despite being fluffier and fresher, it'd be hard to say it's actually better than the album proper. which is also quite good by the way.

oh yeah, and did i mention that i rather like this devon sproule character?

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