Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Death Cab's Picked a Title

So according to wonderous Pitchfork, Death Cab for Cutie has finally named their upcoming album. It's called Narrow Stairs...and that's all I've got. I was hoping for a little more information, like some track titles but I suppose that they're going to trickle little morsels of info until fans have worked themselves to a froth waiting for the album. There's more to come, kids.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The "New Soul" of MacBook Commercials

Mac is back at it, trying to get as close to the Feist vibe from the iPod Nano commercials without actually using another one of her songs on the new MacBook Air ads. no one would notice. The latest little ditty is "New Soul" by Yael Naim who, if scattered bio information is correct, is a French woman who was raised in Israel. Apparently she's only 50% of the equation though, the other half being a guy named David Donatien. There's really not much on them but I do wonder if the duo will ride the Mac train out of obscurity or will people tire of having their tastes dictated. The trendiness is difficult to deny. Stay tuned.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Adventures in Trying to Find The National

Sometimes I can't help but wonder if the CD industry is trying to drive itself out of business. Yesterday I set out on what I thought would be a twenty-minute mission at max to buy Boxer by The National. It's been long overdue so I was admittedly verging on giddy. Normally the highest level of difficulty I experience in buying a CD is figuring which way the alphabet is running up the racks. Boy, do I wish that had been the case. I visited the soul-sucking Best Buy of the local suburbia only to find two copies of Alligator. No Boxer. Points for having older discs, but wouldn't it be prudent to stock the most current? Surely this was an oversight. On to Target...which, as it turned out, didn't even have the little place marker.

Really? I wouldn't classify The National as obscure indie rock any more. In mere months they went from a suggestion friend to friend to the cover of Paste Magazine, gracing many a "Best of 2007" list. Something's not right.
Finally I stopped into a different Best Buy. Nothing. Where else was there to go? That was (musically) the end of the road for that part of town, and what words of advice were offered to me? "Why don't you just get it online? Get an iTunes card and download it."

Fortunately for CD makers, I'm patient and also due downtown later on where I know exactly where to go to buy an album by a lesser-known band. After an afternoon of chasing my tail and subsequently a nap, it makes me wonder if it would not be easier to just get it off of iTunes. I would like to think that it was just bad timing, that the trucks pulled in after I left, brimming with a fresh stock of discs, but I doubt it. I've long loathed Best Buy for crushing the life out of little independent record stores, so I hold them to the idea that they better do a decent job because in the end all parties-- store, customer, and artist are losing.

Happy MLK day.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ringo's Got a New Album...(We'll see how this goes).

I'm sure that being a member of the Beatles was both a blessing and a curse. Few people can or are willing to deny their contributions as well as their worth in the in music and culture. It's probably pretty great to have lived through such a significant movement but at the same time it sets the bar that much higher. Nothing but the best is expected. Surely any one of those four guys are/were capable of producing extraordinary musical creations so my big question is this: what in the name of all things good and holy happened with Paul McCartney's "Dance Tonight?" I don't get it. It wasn't retro and simplistic for the beauty or art of it, it was just a lazy mess of self indulgence. I couldn't bare to potentially waste my money on the rest of the album which was mysteriously heralded as some kind of plastic-encased disc of glory. Now that I've heard that good old Ringo has concocted his 15th solo album entitled Liverpool 8, I can only fear a similar fate. It's true that McCartney has always been more inclined toward sappy ballads and such but who is to say what mood Ringo was in while recording.

In any case, Starr's latest was released yesterday. The single also called "Liverpool 8" is (according to a Rolling Stone article) something of a "musical autobiography." Isn't that a tad in the vain of the whole Memory Almost Full concept? It's like they're reaching the point where there's nothing to do but look back. Geeze. To quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail-- they're not dead yet! Apparently messages of love and peace are prevalent throughout the album. I guess that's fine, not exactly ground breaking but I suppose he's got to sing about something.

I hope my worry is misplaced. I haven't heard any of it yet so there's always the chance that it rocks and I'll gladly say so. Cross your fingers.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Shins: Wincing the Night Away

Like probably 75% of Shins fans, I first found them on the Garden State soundtrack, but perhaps a few years later than most. I've always known of the existence of theses indie darlings but when Santa left their January '07 release under the tree, I finally was able to put a sound with a reputation. The weeks since have been a steady effort to get familiar enough with each song on a musical and literary level as not to write a superficial and somewhat uninformed review. Wincing the Night Away is a mix of folk, alternative, rock-- of course, plus a distinctly retro vibe at points, and a tad of whimsy. The easiest proclamation to make is that it's a terrific record. Another easy proclamation is that it's pretty cryptic. There seems to be endless chatter dissecting alleged references to Alice in Wonderland or the true meanings of songs. Trying to wade through the lyrics and take in the intricate musical flourishes is challenging. It's also a worthy pursuit. In the end answers to those questions are probably irrelevant. It doesn't impact the quality or even the allure.

Picking out standouts is also relatively pointless. All the songs are well crafted. Perhaps "Pam Berry" is a bit slow and heavy but its saving grace is that it's short. I like "Australia," "Red Rabbit," and "A Comet Appears." From there, I'm going to leave it at this, if for some reason The Shins have alluded your record collection, pick it up and see for yourself why writing a review seems insurmountable.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Killers Sift Through the Sawdust

Sawdust is really a mixed bag. I think that's the most appropriate statement. At this point I'm not sure I could slap on stars or a letter grade. There's good and bad, strong and weak. Coming in at seventeen tracks, it's important to remember that this is not supposed to be a cohesive album. There are songs like "Glamorous Indie Rock and Roll" which were put on the Limited Edition of Hot Fuss or bonus CD of Sam's Town (so they're nothing new) and songs which missed the cut all together. The best tracks include "Leave the Bourbon on the Shelf" which begs the question why it didn't find a home on one of their albums, "Ruby, Don't Take Your Love to Town," and "Romeo and Juliet." The two former would have fit pretty well with the sound of Sam's Town, but there can only be so many tracks on an album. The latter is really cool, not quite a retelling but definitely a lyrical joy sans synth. There's also a new version of "Sam's Town" done at Abbey Road in '06. I like the fact that the uncomplicated piano and drums highlight Flowers's vocals. It freshens up the song where as many songs don't survive a strip down.

Here's what didn't go so well. Sawdust suffers from a handful of flat out weak songs. "Show You How" and "Move Away" are unremarkable. There's nothing about them to distinguish them. "Shadowplay," which I believe is a cover, starts off decent but loses something along the way. The last track is a remix of Mr. Brightside which runs about ten minutes. Quite frankly, it's not worth the time. Jaques Lu Cont throws in an echo here and an echo there, a little bit of distortion and a completely unnecessary and cheesy rhythm that if anything, detracts from why the song was cool originally. Just when you're thinking that it's winding down, the ipod says there's 4 minutes left.

Like I said, it's a mixed bag. The weak tracks are disappointing but the really worthy ones do a good job of making up for them. We'll see what comes up next.