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Mon, 01 Oct 2007

Things We Wish For / Language Room
I need to spend more time on MySpace.

No, seriously. As much as MySpace is an amazing time sink, there are moments when it actually seems worthwhile. And in this case that value came in a feature I've grown to loathe: profiles with autoplaying music. Who's with me on this? Is there anything more annoying than to move from MS profile to Ms profile and get inundated with noise you really would rather avoid? But I digress.

'Cuz this was one occasion when I was stopped by what I heard. The song was Taking Life All Wrong, and it was just the kind of song I like: distinctive, strong on vocals and not overpowered by instrumentation, with something to say and yet willing to let me focus on the delivery as well as the message.

So thank you, random MSer. You don't make up for the hundreds of grungy or overplayed pop tunes I've heard in my MySpace ramblings. But it's a start.

Things We Wish For
[ Category: Alternative | 3 comments | Link ]

Wed, 26 Sep 2007

Under the Blacklight / Rilo Kiley
Sometimes they come without being called.

So I was sitting on the couch, reading the Television Without Pity recap for Monday night's season premiere of How I Met Your Mother. Which was silly, since I'd just finished watching the episode. And it's not like there was a lot of insight in the recap either. But there I was, reading somebody's description of something I'd just seen, and I came across a mention of Lily (Alyson Hannigan) and her Rilo Kiley hair. Which, not knowing anything about Rio Kiley, led to a Google search. Which got me to their website, where I got to enjoy Silver Lining from their new album. And, well, here we are. And that, kids, is how I met this band. Which will make more sense if you're a fan of HIMYM, although it still won't be funny.

Under the Blacklight
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 24 Sep 2007

The Reminder / Feist
The Reminder Blame Apple and their damn iPod Nano ads for this one. I like to think I'm immune to advertising, but Leslie Feist's 1234 is so earwormily catchy that I had to Google the lyrics to find out who was singing. Heck, it's so catchy it makes me want a Nano, for which I have absolutely no use. I mean, I'm already carrying an iPhone, which is what a Nano wants to be when it grows up. And yet I still want it, with that $100 store credit burning a hole in my virtual pocket. You have a lot to answer for, Leslie Feist, with your perfectly imperfect voice. And the rest of the album isn't bad either, even if none of it makes be want to buy stuff.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 17 Aug 2007

Young Forever / Aberfeldy
Young Forever Listening to new music for this blog, all I want to be surprised. Preferably without being repulsed or, worse, horrified. And every now and then I get my wish.

I wasn't expecting it, mind. Seeing two lions humping on the cover of Aberfeldy's first album didn't exactly fill me with anticipation, or at least not the good kind. But I guess that was their little joke. Or maybe lion sex has a different implication in Scotland, from whence these folks hail. Because if I had to pick one word to describe them, it would be something like "sunny". Which hardly ever makes me think of lions, caught in the act or otherwise. Maybe that's my problem.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 30 Jul 2007

Songs for Ice Cream Trucks / Michael Hearst
Songs for Ice Cream Trucks There was a time when my record collection was way too heavy on comedy and other novelty discs and frighteningly light on actual music. And even when I got things in balance I still had a certain fondness for oddities. I remember one trip to Tokyo where I discovered a shop selling CDs of music box recordings. They were every bit as tedious as you might imagine, which didn't stopping me from buying one. (Okay, two.)

So it's with a sense of both nostalgia and head-shaking that I approach Songs. It's supposed to evoke those tinny tunes that once brought such joy on the hot summer days of my youth. (Now it's Tanqueray & tonic.) In truth, I hear more videogame soundtrack than joy of summer in these selections. But that's me; your mileage may vary.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 25 Jun 2007

The Else / They Might Be Giants
I've always thought of They Might Be Giants as something of an acquired taste, rather like beer or many of the foods of my childhood, the kind of things that would be suspect or even mildly revolting to someone who didn't grow up Jewish in New York in the late 50s and early 60s. I first heard Giants on Tiny Toon Adventures, as I recounted around the beginning of this blog in a post about The Roches. And it took a while after that to appreciate their particular blend of tuneful and weird.

So what does it mean that I don't get that sense of weird listening to The Else? Have they mellowed? Or have my musical taste buds been so corrupted, at least where they're concerned, that I can't be disturbed any more? Truly a puzzlement. Now I'm just left enjoying the music, which is hardly a complaint. Still, I miss being disturbed. (No, not like that!)

The Else
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 06 Jun 2007

Cassadaga / Bright Eyes
Who does Conor Oberst want to be when he grows up? Okay, that's unfair; he's clearly creating something original, at least a lot of the time. But I can't help flashing, as others have, on Dylan, or Springsteen, or, at least on Soul Singer In a Session Band, Billy Joel back when we cared about him. Which as I say isn't fair; as much as the influences are there, so is the originality. And there are worse things to be than this generation's Dylan, assuming he himself doesn't qualify for the honor. Cassadaga
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 23 May 2007

Fear of a Blank Planet / Porcupine Tree
I write this as we prepare to mourn the death of Internet radio, music podcasts and every other form of music distribution not sanctioned by the few major record labels. There's panic in the land as CD sales sink without a trace and three old men at the Copyright Office plunge their long knives into the goose that might have delivered golden eggs. Okay, enough with the metaphors and the rants; either May 15th saw the death of a thousand fees or it didn't. If it did, groups like Porcupine Tree and albums like this one were the hardest hit. There are no three minute tracks here; the shortest is nearly twice that, while the appropriately named Anesthetize clocks in at a radio-hostile 17:43. So where exactly does a proper album get a hearing if not via the Web? Proper in the sense of a self-contained and coherent work, rather than a mere collection of unrelated tracks of an appropriate length to put on a CD? Unless something changed between my writing and your reading, we may still be wondering. Fear of a Blank Planet
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 18 May 2007

The Orphans / Kristeen Young
If I hadn't just read that Kristeen Young was raised in a repressive home, I think I'd have figured it out. I always wanted to rebel, but my parents just didn't give me much to work with. Kristeen was luckier, a word I use in the most ironic way possible. And she's making the most of her rebellion, with her distinctive voice and her well earned anger. Think Kate Bush with a switchblade and you'll get the idea. The Orphans
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 04 May 2007

Fighting Naked / HUMANWINE
How to describe HUMANWINE? (They insist on the upper case; says so on their MySpace page.) They sound almost operatic, or like one of Andrew Lloyd Weber's better theater scores, combined with maybe traditional Middle Eastern. And with a touch of the Tiger Lillies for seasoning. Or maybe they're just the Dresden Dolls's weirder cousins. Or is it the other way around? Suffice it to say that I like them. A lot. And that whatever expectations I may have had before I listened, I didn't mind having them blown to bits. Fighting Naked
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 23 Mar 2007

Costello Music / The Fratellis
It was Costello Music's cover art that first caught my eye. (Yes, I'm shallow. Nice of you to notice.) But their music's kind of compelling as well, in an early 60s British Invasion sort of way. Kind of an early Beatles sound, unless my ears deceive me. Which, truth to tell, they often do. Lying weasels, ears. Costello Music
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Wed, 14 Mar 2007

Myth Takes / !!! (Chk Chk Chk)
The first thing you notice about Myth Takes are the rhythms. (Okay, if we're being grammatically correct, those would be the first things. But that's not important.) This is clearly dance music; even I, coordinationally challenged individual that I am, can recognize that. But there's more going on here, I think. !!! (and thanks for the pronunciation guide, guys) isn't just a combination of their disco and funk influences; they've created something new and, to me anyway, compelling. Almost makes me want to find a dance floor. Well, it would, if I weren't so concerned about breaking a hip. Myth Takes
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 15 Jan 2007

Comfort of Strangers / Beth Orton
Comfort of Strangers I discovered Beth Orton through her covers: an absolutely haunting version of The Five Stairsteps' Ooh Child and a faintly chilling, almost stalkerish sounding rendition of Bobby Vinton's I Love How You Love Me, sadly missing from the iTunes Store. But much of her other work has left me cold; it's too overproduced to let me focus on Orton's voice and her delivery. Which is why I appreciate Comfort of Strangers. Overproduced is a word that need not apply here.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 10 Jan 2007

Destination / Once Just
Destination Catchy. And borderline incomprehensible. Which leads me to wonder if the incomprehensibility of their lyrics adds to or detracts from the catchiness of their songs.

I didn't discover Once Just; they discovered me. And I'll deduct a point or two for the way my emailer didn't acknowledge being the drummer for the band, going so far as to refer to them in the third person. Naughty, naughty! But I'm not one to hold a grudge. (I can hear my friends snickering over that last remark.) Besides, I really enjoyed listening to Little Boy on their website; it sounds like a ska-influenced version of The Proclaimers. Which is a good thing.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 22 Dec 2006

You Know My Name / Chris Cornell
You Know My Name He's okay, this Cornell, a good vocalist for the latest Bond. Granted, he's no Shirley Bassey. But at least he isn't another Madonna. The only thing worse than her performance of the title song to the last Bond film was her performance in the last Bond film. Wooden's being kind.
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Fri, 08 Dec 2006

Boneclouds / Mason Jennings
Boneclouds Listening to Mason Jennings, my first reaction was "troubador". I could just picture Jennings in an earlier age, wandering from town to town with his guitar and his low key romantic delivery. This, his first major label recording, is much more produced than his independent releases. But it's not what I'd call overproduced. I can still picture him walking the countryside, only with a few more instruments in a wagon trailing behind. Or have I just been reading too much fantasy lately?
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 15 Nov 2006

Sleep England / Michael Cashmore
Sleep England Michael Cashmore was both composer for and a performer with Current 93, a band that takes distinctive to the point of peculiar. This first solo album feels more personal, more minimalist and more welcoming than his collaborations. They're instrumental background pieces that somehow refuse to fade entirely into the background. They aren't brash, they don't shout "Pay attention to me!", and yet somehow they hold your attention. I'd call them borderline New Age if I didn't think that would be a kiss of death.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 16 Oct 2006

Plague Songs / Various Artists
Talk about your bad ideas! What we have here is a collection of tracks that represent the Ten Plagues that Moses (with a little help from God) used against Pharoah in Exodus. (For the biblically challenged, think Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner.) I mean really; who wants to hear songs about boils and lice and blood everywhere?

But sometimes a bad idea can be realized so well that it goes beyond not bad and edges into brilliant. I imagine part of the challenge is to find the right people for such an odd project. And that they've done, including personal favorites The Tiger Lillies and Imogen Heap. But even more amazing is that they've produced such a listenable album. Certainly more entertaining than hearing Edward G. Robinson intoning "Where's yer messiah noooowwww" every year around Passover.

Plague Songs
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 20 Sep 2006

Beautiful Awkward Pictures / Toni Collette & The Finish
Beautiful Awkward Pictures Listening to music by someone who's well known and respected in another field is a nervous-making proposition. Anybody can sing, after all; but damn few of us should be heard doing it. (Me least of all, I hasten to admit.) Surprisingly enough, Toni Collette is as good a vocalist as she is an actor. And that's very good indeed. Can't wait to hear the rest of the album.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 15 Sep 2006

Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars / Jennifer O'Connor
Over the Mountain, Across the Valley and Back to the Stars Jennifer O'Connor is a singer/songwriter whose work is both deeply personal and instantly accessible. Her performances are so sweet and melodic and simple that they may hide the effort it took to get them that way. If she has a fault, it's that she makes it all seem so easy, even a tiny bit superficial. Or maybe that's just me.
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

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