Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Best Opinions Dressed Up as Reviews

A great thing about my boring job that I actually like quite a lot (here "that I actually like quite a bit" is meant to modify "my boring job" not the "A great thing" because why would I need to tell you that I really liked something great?) is that I can wear headphones while I work and I have been giving my iPod a workout. For months now I've been meaning to tell you what I think of all the new records I've been listening to and the old records I've been rediscovering. Behold! Opinions! A lot of what I say here will be brief because maybe I listened to the record so long ago that I don't remember much beyond what I have to say here or maybe my brief little comment is such a perfect encapsulation that to encapsulate anything more would just be encapsulating too much?

"Venus on Earth" by Dengue Fever
The songs that I really liked on this record were "Tiger Phone Card" (this is the first Dengue Fever song I ever heard and I was sold when the fellow sang "I'm 30,000 feet high/flying through the dead of night" because, suddenly, I was there) and "Sober Driver." The whole record is so atmospheric and well-produced and full of a certain mood (I say "certain mood" not to leave the mood without a name that I only infer but to express that I cannot express the mood that I'd like to infer) that it's almost too atmospheric, well-produced, and certain-mood filled. Definitely different, definitely a little ethnic-psychedelic. Get ready for heavy accents and other languages, this is world-music ala indie-rock.

"Let it Die" by Feist
This isn't the record with the 1234 song.
This is the record with her cover of "Inside and Out" which I like SO much (so much so much, nearly as much as Raining Blood much) that I downloaded...

"Their Greatest Hits" by the Bee Gees
We're not doing ourselves any favors by using the Bee Gees as the punchline to Saturday Night Fever jokes because that's what I used to do until Feist's "Inside and Out" made me want to hear their "Inside Out" and then I listened this whole two-disc set (well, almost the whole of it) and really, I'll say it, the Bee Gees are a great band with LOTS of great songs. Including the ones that were in Saturday Night Fever. "You Should Be Dancing", are you kidding me? All I've got to say is that if you're throwing an dance party on your back porch and ask me to pick the songs I promise you this one will be played.

"Third" by Portishead
This is a very good record. So good that I gave their first two records a re-listen because I didn't remember Portishead being this good of a band and always thought it was silly when people said they liked Portishead because those records weren't so especially good, according to my memory. Guess what? It was silly to like Portishead based on those two records because they really aren't all that especially good but it's very reasonable to say you like Portishead based on "Third." Oh, and if you want to like Portishead because you were a fan back in the day and you liked "Third" a lot too then I won't hate because your taste is at least 33% good.

Let me flesh this out a little more: Why weren't the first two Portishead records especially good? Because trip-hop was actually a pretty weak and not particularly interesting or fun genre that has NOT aged well and "Third" I wouldn't call it trip-hop at all...in fact, I had forgotten about trip-hop until trying to tackle Dummy again. "Third" is so not trip-hop that it practically has fast songs on it. It's good.

"Santogold" by Santogold
Okay, listen. I'm listening to this record right now and maaaan it's gooood. If you were like me you weren't paying much attention to Santogold because you figured she was just some sort of MIA clone or hanger-on. Guess what? Turns out she's not. In fact, a lot of the songs on this record don't sound like MIA at all (consider "Lights Out", it sounds like, uh, a pop song? A sweet and drippy excellent little pop song or "Say Aha" which is a quite a bit No Doubtish, but only in a good way) and the ones that sound like MIA stand tall on their on merits and excellence. I think I'd rather listen to this record right now than either of MIA's records because those ones it's like you've got to be ready to show up for a fight but this one you can lean back a bit more in your chair (it's like Daft Punk vs. Justice, but in reverse, and only in my mind).

"¡Viva la Vida!" by Coldplay
Holy yawners. Don't remember a single thing about it. Whatever happened to Travis?

"Fleet Foxes" by the Fleet Foxes
"Hillbilly Beach Boys"--what I wrote in my notebook while listening to this record the first time.

Don't let the two sentences of this review fool you, I love this record and have been re-listening to it frequently.

"Sea Lion" by the Ruby Suns
"Top-down island-cruising music"--what I wrote in my notebook while listening to the record the first time.

Sea Lion and Fleet Foxes walk nicely hand in hand, or listened to the one after the other. Again, just because I'm not saying a lot it doesn't mean that I don't like it a lot.

"Night Falls Over Kortedala" by Jens Lekman
First of all, it's hard to find this guys records when you're looking for stuff by Lens Jekman.
I heard his song "I'm Leaving You Because I Don't Love You" and decided I wanted to listen to more people with strong singing voices so I grabbed the record. I like the record. It's funny because a lot of the songs have a very grand (sometimes orchestral), very Barry Manilow-meets-Rufus Wainwright sound but he's often mostly singing about quaint moments, feelings, ideas, or memories. This makes the record a little funny if you listen to it too closely. But whether you listen to it through a microscope or from a distant, I think it's excellent and shall dig up more Jekman to enjoy. Ahem. Lekman.

And last but so not least...

"Tha Carter III" by Lil' Wayne
First, I've been a bit of a Lil' Wayne fan for a few little years now. And like many who like Weezy, the main thing that attracts me to him is the absolute ridiculousness of his rhymes and how he draws notions from places other rappers seem to have never considered. Yes, it would be good for me to give some examples of this, but picking out exemplary Wayne rhymes is quite the task...such a task. I'm ignoring the task for now and moving on.

Wayne is a prolific fellow and I've got more (err, four?) of his mixtapes on my hard drive then I'll ever listen to and the abundance of Wayne out there makes one wonder what to expect from a long-awaited album by him as new Weezy tracks are always seeping out onto the internet. Well, in the case of The Carter III what you get from an album is excellent production and excellent vision and the rhymes he's been hiding from us. Where his mixtapes may wander or ramble this record bangs and features a few tracks that nearly drive me completely out of my mind...for example, I almost practically can't take it when a car drives by me on the street blasting "A Milli"--the bass and the Rick Ross sample are just so perfect, it's too much.

Like most rap records, this one is a little over-long and after a couple listens you'll be picking and choosing your tracks, but on my first listen I couldn't help but think "This is the kind of record an enthused Rolling Stones critic would give the five red stars to"...let me check...well, four and a half, that's pretty close.

And if you're listening to the record, hang in there through all the talking at the end of "Don't Get It" to hear him take down Al Sharpton.


Abby Rose said...

I too am a large fan of the Santogold and Portishead records.
I am happy to hear you are too.

JayMoo and Stephoin said...

Can't wait to listen to Tha Carter III...it is queued up and ready on my ipod for tomorrow.

Also - Santagold. Listened expecting to enjoy MIA inspired music. Left disappointed. Your review makes me want to reapproach with no expectations.

marshall p said...

i love you.

Smash said...

I just saw the Fleet Foxes live last week here in DC and fell completely in love. I support your review.

Anonymous said...

This is an absolutely excellent post. I’m not going to comment on the individual records or anything but please know this is the type of post that should be coming from you, this is a good example of what you are capable of. The I-went-to-a-mormon-party-and-here-is-40-pictures posts are usually luke warm and certainly don’t grab your reader. Also, the food posts… nuf said.