Archive for the Track Review Category

The Song Of The Decade: A Pre-Pitchfork Prediction

Posted in Track Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2009 by peteymenz

Despite the fact that this decade is in no way over, Pitchfork Media is still going ahead and publishing their top 500 tracks of the 2000s. Though I hope that Lightning Bolt’s new album, Earthly Delights (out Nov. 13) includes at least one track that makes the Pitchfork writers sorry they jumped the gun, the truth is that there’s probably nothing left in the 2000s that will significantly affect Pitchfork’s list. Which is not to say they didn’t mess up; if listing 300 tracks without a word of description for any isn’t a cheap trick, then I don’t know what is. However, I’m not here to review Pitchfork; I’m here to beat them to the punch and name my best track of the 2000s, which won’t be bettered in the next four months and probably not in the next four years. Yes- All My Friends is just that good. Read on; For all of its virtues, Someone Great never struck me as a particularly emotionally resonant song. Something in James Murphy’s falsetto lends the song a certain archness that’s been apparent in nearly every LCD Soundsystem song, from Losing My Edge to New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down. So, as good as Someone Great is, it seemed to lack a genuine emotional push, which is probably because Murphy made the music (taken from 45:33) before the words, which he probably made up on the spot. It was the “emotional” (quotation marks very important) song I expected LCD to make; musically fantastic, lyrically witty, and with a raised eyebrow All My Friends is a bit different, as it marks the point where even though Murphy references Steve Reich with the piano, he doesn’t need to make the song about Steve Reich and how he was totally into Music For 18 Musicians before you and your friends were. It’s a cutting song, but the damning lyrics are sympathetic, unlike pretty much every other song Murphy ever wrote. All My Friends is about living a hedonistic life and finding it hollow, about aging and regretting, and, despite the first person, about Murphy himself. Losing My Edge, LCD’s first song, was also about Murphy. But the difference between this and All My Friends is the difference between Rodney Dangerfield and Woody Allen. What Losing My Edge lacks is transcendent; what All My Friends lacks is the designation of best song of the decade. Coming from me, it doesn’t matter too much, but if any song represents the general mood of the 2000s (slightly elegiac, darkly humorous, emotional), it’s this one. And you can dance to it.

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Elevator Music: Two New Songs

Posted in Stupid Bands, Track Review with tags , , , , , , on July 7, 2009 by peteymenz

Today, I legally downloaded the first single, Boy 1904, from Sigur Ròs frontman Jónsi Birgisson’s side project with his lover Alex Somers, listened to it, and found the absolute nadir of ambient music.  

It’s easy to see why people like Sigur Ròs; it’s absurdly beautiful music that’s also essentially meaningless.  The lyrics are sung in a nonsense language made up by Birgisson, meaning uptight parents don’t have to worry about the band spreading any messages dealing with Satan, vegetarianism, or gay lifestyles, no one has to worry about getting the words wrong (it’s all phonetic anyway), and no one has to bother looking for any artistic message whatsoever.  The good thing is that this it’s pure pleasure music, and thus pretty listenable.  Boy 1904 is listenable too.  But what makes it so much worse than Sigur Ròs is that it’s pretty much the same thing they always do; anthemic melody stretched out and slowed down, but never to mind-boggling lengths.  The Ramones had more complexity than this.  There are no layers to this music; repeated listening doesn’t reveal anything at all.  

What strikes me most about it is how it’s even more meaningless than the usual stuff from the group; it features a recording of the last castrato singer, which doesn’t add anything to the song (Jónsi sounds like his balls were cut off anyway), the title doesn’t even pretend to be something in Icelandic, and worst of all, it’s treated to sound like some old record.  The song wants the air of something antiquated and epic, but it just rings false.  The album, Riceboy Sleeps should be more of the same.

Right after that song finished, my iTunes library switched to “If I Ever Feel Better” by Phoenix, which has pretty fluffy lyrics and might be just as meaningless.  But it’s infinitely better than Boy 1904, simply because it has a beat.  

 

AIR has a new song out too, from their upcoming album Love 2; like Boy 1904, it follows the same pattern, but it’s a hell of a lot more successful, simply because AIR is more fun to listen to than Sigur Ròs.  Do The Love even indulges in B-movie synths and the cheesiest vocoding effects these Frenchmen have used yet.  It’s an immensely enjoyable and lightweight track.  

King Of The Dogs: This Song’s A B***h

Posted in Stupid Bands, Track Review with tags , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by peteymenz

 

King of the Reasons to Die Young

King of the Reasons to Quit While You're Ahead

Iggy Pop is not the greatest singer in the world.  Yes, he is the first and foremost reason people listen to the Stooges, but what he does is not so much sing as talk loudly (as best heard on the seminal “I Wanna Be Your Dog”) or talk excitedly and scream and whoop (nearly all other songs by the Stooges).  As I see it, the only time when Iggy actually sang in a normal manner and did this successfully was on 1977’s Lust For Life, his best solo album.  

Iggy Pop does not attempt to sing in a normal manner on his newest song, “King of the Dogs”, but it pretty much sucks nonetheless.  Simply put, he sounds like a weak Disney villain cranking out his musical number.  The plausibility of this is shocking; Iggy hasn’t done anything worthwhile in years, he’s pretty much lost any aura of danger, and he voiced a baby in the Rugrats movie.  I have concluded that Iggy Pop was slated to appear in a new Disney movie until executives decided it was a horrible idea.  His next album, Préliminaires, is not an album about French philosophy; it is the scrapped soundtrack to the movie, an excerpt of which appears below.

 

THE NEW FILM FROM DISNEY: JOHNNY AND THE KING OF THE DOGS

Johnny, a nice all-American-verging-on-Aryan youth walks into a dark cave.

JOHNNY (frightened): Gee, I sure hope I don’t meet the king of the dogs!

On cue, the King of the Dogs, voiced by aging punk rocker Iggy Pop, comes out.

King of the Dogs: Muahaha!

The King of the Dogs begins singing a song, entitled “King of the Dogs”.  It should have a cheesy jazz backing track, highlight none of Mr. Pop’s talent (self-mutilation, shooting up on heroin, being ripped, being bored in a transcendent manner), and generally suck.  Lyrically it should be clichéd and uninspired, but not in any enjoyable manner.  

Johnny stands in shock.  The song finishes.

JOHNNY (confused): Didn’t you use to be really cool and stuff? And make music that started punk rock?  And make a much better song about dogs? 

KING OF THE DOGS: Well…. it’s a step up from the Weirdness, isn’t it?

 

 

If you really want to hear the song, here it is on Pitchfork Media.

Track Review: Tortoise: Prepare Your Coffin

Posted in Track Review with tags , , , , , , on May 5, 2009 by peteymenz

I envision this song as the theme for the next James Bond movie; at the very least, I demand that Lil Wayne raps over it for Random of Solstice or whatever.  Jokes aside, the new song by post-rock kings Tortoise is made for a spy soundtrack, given its quick tempo, slightly sinister melody, and vaguely tropical air.  This means it is quite different from classic Tortoise; it’s about as pop as one can get when you compare it to tracks such as 1996’s Djed, from the landmark record Millions Now Living Will Never Die.  This is not necessarily a bad thing- I did enjoy the track- but the poppier aspects of Prepare Your Coffin may bring to light the most embarrassing aspect of Tortoise’s sound; a semi-alignment with background music.  This problem is true for nearly all post-rock, and though Tortoise’s best work (the aforementioned Millions Now Living Will Never Die, TNT) is some of the greatest music of the 1990s, there is no denying it’s as tough listening as the avant-garde sounds of 1970s noisemakers Throbbing Gristle or even This Heat.  But Prepare Your Coffin is an instrumental pop song, meaning that barring transcendence (Miserlou, Telstar, Rumble) it is disturbingly close to music solely created to play second fiddle (no pun intended).  It is perfect for a spy soundtrack, perfect for pretending one is in a spy movie, and perfect for film trailers.  But besides that… there’s not much to recommend Prepare Your Coffin.

Track Review: The Field, The More That I Do

Posted in Track Review with tags , , , , , , on April 23, 2009 by peteymenz

The Field’s 2007 debut album, From Here We Go Sublime, was something like blissed out Philip Glass; the music was just as broken-record repetitive as the opera Einstein on the Beach, but instead of the stately forbidding dread Glass conjured up, Axel Willner (the sole member of the group) goes for a fantastic transcendence, at sometimes melancholic, and at other times, for lack of a better word, sublime.  

The new single by the Field, The More That I Do, somewhat lives up to the promise that the new album, Yesterday and Today, will be a more organic affair.  It’s a denser and somewhat more complex track than the stripped-down loops on From Here We Go Sublime.  This does not mean it’s better.  Over the eight and a half minutes of The More That I Do, Willner trys to indulge with a kind of melody (with glockenspiels ripped off from Dan Deacon) and “oh yeah” vocals that suggest his version of a house anthem.  This does not necessarily mean that the track will not be fantastic, but in this case, Willner’s attempts to branch out only illuminate the basic flaw of his music; there is one reason to listen to the Field, and that is because of the singular feeling of euphoria that the tracks can often create.  But The More That I Do fails at this, and because of this, it’s not that great a song.  The beat is nothing special, the melody is vaguely pretty, and the vocal samples get a bit annoying by the song’s end.  Though Willner is talented enough to make the track possible to listen to for its entire length, it’s simply not enjoyable.  This new style does not bode well for the new album, though the fact that Battles drummer John Stanier will be guesting on Yesterday and Today ensures that I will pick it up.

Nuggets 2.0

Posted in Track Review with tags , , , , on March 19, 2009 by peteymenz

A few months ago, I posted an article lamenting the death of creativity in guitar playing.  I lamented the fact that a lack of creativity in guitar playing would ultimately lead to the end of rock and roll.  Now, as I write this, the situation seems even worse.  Critically acclaimed (at least by Pitchfork Media) indie pop band The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (Fall Out Boy song title-cum-wimpy band name) use a guitar sound perfectly ripped off from C86; it’s nearly postmodern indie pop, which tends to undercut any emotional impact the lyrics may have.   The hardest riffs of the twenty-first century were played by Death From Above 1979- on a bass.  And like it or not, No Age and Boris can’t save rock and roll by themselves.

But the difference now is that I don’t actually care about the death of the guitar, because I have seen rock and roll’s future, and it is dance music.  In some ways, this is a revival of the late 90s “electronica is the new rock” craze, but there’s a subtle difference here- now it’s “electronic music is the new garage rock!”

Yes, garage rock.  Sloppy garage rock.  Sloppy, fantastic, Nuggets-worthy garage rock.  And it’s largely because of Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Their new album, It’s Blitz, is a strange kind of departure from their previous indie rock sound.  They are now a largely electronic band. but they do not sound like obsessively programmed electronica.  They don’t even sound quite as professional as Fat of the Land-era Prodigy.  They do, however, sound fantastic. 

First single Zero might as well be the New York Dolls translated into a dance anthem- it’s primitive, rough, and near out of tune.  And this makes it absolutely amazing.  Zero is one of the most organic electronic songs I’ve ever heard, because it is a rock song, but not a rock song that could be done with guitar, bass, and drums.  This is the true dance-punk, this is the true nu-rave, this is rock and roll.

A few days ago, I talked to a member of the electronic group Bluebird Handwriting.  He told me going electronic was the easiest and cheapest way to make good music.   Sounds an awful lot like garage to me.

Years of Refusal To Make Good Music… Until Now: Morrissey’s New Single

Posted in Track Review, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 14, 2009 by peteymenz

 The problem with most of Morrissey’s solo work is that most of it is too similar to the Smiths- and Johnny Marr did it better than whoever Morrissey is working this. The major exception to this is Morrissey’s superb 1992 album “Your Arsenal”, which manages to meld the most assertively British singer of the 80s to good old rockabilly. Lyrically, Morrissey also escaped from the Smiths on this album, throwing away most of the angst and heartbreak for anti-Americanism (Glamourous Glue) and glammy declarations of… something (You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side). And when the heartbreak did surface (Tomorrow), the music could lift it out of a Smiths photocopy. Then Morrissey spent the rest of the 90s with mediocre albums, returned with a fairly good record in 2004 (You Are The Quarry), and made the most blandly stereotypical Morrissey record in 2006 with Ringleader of the Tormentors, which, aside from lead single “You Have Killed Me”, was largely bad, though not quite as bad as his upcoming record, Years of Refusal, appeared to be. The incomprehensible title seems to refer to abstinence or being straight-edge or vegetarianism or whatever. So it comes as a surprise that here in 2009, more than 20 years after the breakup of the Smiths, the lead single of Years as Refusal, “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”, is not just a solid track, not just a good track, but a great track. Honestly, folks. Yes, it seems like Morrissey by the numbers, and to some extent it is. But it’s so well done that it could be a Smiths song; the songwriting is impeccable, the production is devoid of any bombast, and (gasp) Morrissey’s histrionics are not just bearable, as they are in the best of his solo work, but they are downright enjoyable. It’s a shame Morrissey just released another greatest hits- this belongs right up front.