Monday, August 25, 2008

Random (sometimes second) Thoughts on Music from the Road

Thanks to a recent purchasing binge and a great big ole stack of discs that Wobs dropped on me right before vacation, there was quite a bit of new music listening--or I should say listening to music that was new to me and some of it was actually new. So here are a few random thoughts on those discs (although truth be told I didn't get to all of them--I mean really you have to know that someone who goes to the same place for vacation each summer isn't in all that an experimental mood when he hits the road for a summer break!).
  • John Mayer Okay, so I already wrote about On Any Given Thursday and some of you pointed out that all the entertainment/gossip reporting about JM might get in the way of appreciating his music--and indeed it did seem that for the two weeks after I picked up the disc, I saw pictures of this in every mag rack I passed (do I get points for not naming names and posting a picture in a shameless attempt to drive traffic to my site?). Now I am sure that there are hipsters out there who will be just too cool for this album given his pop status (since all things pop are, well, not hip), but I am going to stick by this pick, although I am not sure it means I am going to go out and buy a bunch of his studio albums.
  • Fleet Foxes This one was on my list to get from the first review I read and after hearing the cut "Mykonos" which leads off the Mixwit comp over there on the right (although it is from an earlier EP and not on this first full album). Critics have pretty universally talked-up this album and as I noted earlier, the comparisons to CSN abound. But I gotta say, I am not quite there. It is a decent first album--decent. There is some fine singing and wonderful harmonies (sometimes more Beach Boys than CSN) and the lead, Robin Pecknold, has a really strong voice. But as an album--despite having listened to it a lot (and noting Neats' eyeroll each time) I just haven't been as impressed as some. The songs weren't consistently strong, the mix seemed a bit foggy to me somehow, and it didn't make me want to play it until the grooves were gone. I could see checking out another effort from them as they clearly have lots of talent, but this would get one of those 3 and 1/2 out of 5 ratings for me making one wonder if it was more 4 or more 3. I will let you be the judge.
  • Loose Fur Stripped down Wilco credited with leading to a line-up change and new sound for Wilco heading into their fourth album. Any Wilco fan is going to dig this album, Born Again in the USA, but the question for me is if and where to start dipping into the Jim O'Rourke discography--the solo one, although feel free to educate me on his Sonic Youth stint as well. You can check out Loose Fur's "The Ruling Class" on the Mixwit comp as well.
  • The Walkmen Okay so Wobs laid two of their discs on me, Bows and Arrows (which made me think of some amped up version of U2) and A Hundred Miles Off which I immediately liked more. I confess to not having listened to either carefully enough to comment critically, although I can't quite tell if they are one of those bands that are just a bit too something for me, or if I am eventually going to really like. I recently read a review of their new album You and Me over at Pitchfork where they noted: "You & Me isn't as hard or immediate as the band's earlier records, but that's not a complaint; its sound is coy, and invites you to spend time with it." Perhaps that will be the way with these guys for me.
  • Bon Iver Lastly, as this seems to be going on, I never came back to Bon Iver after my first mention of this album and my hopes that it would be as strong as "Skinny Love" which is the first tune I heard--it is. I am not sure how to describe this meditative and yet edgy disc. The guitar sound (and work in many cases) is quite unique--the singing and lyrics are intriguing and the overall songs are wonderful (and yes it does somehow sound composed by a guy in a cabin in winter). Many have commented on the strength of this album, so I won't go on, but here is one observation that might not have shown up anywhere and that is about how many of the songs end. They seem to come undone, to disassemble--as if the song is so constructed, so tightly constructed, that he just can't hold it together and it all falls apart in some clanky chaos--and somehow that fits just perfectly with this album for me.
Okay, so that is enough for now--meant to comment on the new Beck, but I think I will leave that for another post. And just a heads up--the nights are beginning to have that autumnal feeling to them, so you can imagine to see a slight shift into more posts about jazz here. It will be interesting to see how genre specific folks are in their listening habits!


Lisa B. said...

Fleet Foxes: they opened for Wilco here and I enjoyed them very much. I downloaded their disk from iTunes recently, though haven't yet listened. (did I detect a small patronizing glance askance at the Beach Boys in favor of CSN? Because dude, that is just not right. The Beach Boys are all-time sublime. For shame. Unless I misread your tone, in which case never mind.)

Bon Iver: on my Shuffle right now. Liking it very much.

CPS said...

Oh no, no, no--not trashing Brian and the Boys at all (but appreciate you getting your Southern Cali-back up)! I really just meant it as a flat observation--if you listen to how the album opens and I think you will say BB not CSN . . . oh and of course some of my best albums are Beach Boys.