Alternate Tuning

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Location: Charlottesville, Virginia, United States

Friday, February 25, 2005

LCD Soundsystem

I'm having trouble understanding what I feel about LCD Soundsystem's self-titled album. To start with, it's about as close to a perfectly-crafted alubm as I've heard in a long time. Murphy has every note, every blip, every word in just the right place, and the disc sounds incredible. While no song surpasses the singles from the past few years (particularly "Yeah"), every song is impressive, as is the album's cohesiveness. Murphy also plays the reference game well, nodding here and there to music history, and sounding fresh even while evoking (and sometimes invoking) his influences. If it sounds like it's a mechanical album, it isn't -- it's fun and affecting.

So what's my problem? I don't know. In some way, the disc is almost too perfect to be enjoyed (in the way that I've been spinning M.I.A's Arular far more often, and singing random phrases from it). I realize this sounds kind of dumb -- you don't look at Rembrandt and say you can't dig it because his use of light is too exact, and you don't read Dickens and say that narrative structure was too well-done to be enjoyed. Yet, I can't fully embrace LCD Soundsystem. It's not sterile and it's not un-fun, yet it hasn't been able to win a spot in my heart (even if the singles are there). It could be the perfection, although I love Monster Movie and say that album's close to perfect. Apparently I need more thought on this issue, although perhaps that's the problem...

The Mars Volta Review

I did a joint review of the new Mars Volta album this week. Look at it here to see how Adrien and I disagree. The short: I think it's very, very good.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The Jayhawks Look for Tomorrow's Green Grass

Yep, they're done. Not a big blow, but (along with Luna) the second time in recent months that one of those bands that I almost really like end their run.

New Releases This Week

Here are some of the more interesting of this week's releases. Discs I've heard are followed by a rating:

Monty Alexander -- Live at the Iridium (Telarc)
Rory Block -- From the Dust (Telarc)
Chatham County Line -- Route 23 (Yep Roc) 3/5
Crooked Fingers -- Dignity and Shame (Merge) 4/5
Petra Haden -- Sings: The Who Sell Out (Bar/None)
Iron and Wine -- Woman King EP (Sub Pop)
Kings of Leon -- Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA) 3/5
Phoenix -- Live! Thirty Days Ago (Astralwerks)
Scritti Politti -- Early (Sanctuary) [early tracks previously unavailable on CD]
M. Ward -- Transistor Radio (Merge) 3.5/5

Notably absent is MIA's Arular, which has been indefinitely delayed (and is stunning: 4.5/5). The exciting one for me is the new Iron and Wine, which is allegedly very good...

Monday, February 21, 2005

Pick of the Week (2/21/05)

Ddamage -- Radio Ape (Planet Mu) 2004

French post-electro-noise stuff. But the good kind.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Some Recent Writes

I've had absolutely no time to update lately, so for now, here are links to my thoughts on Cass McCombs, El-P, We Versus the Shark, A Cricket in Times Square, Crooked Fingers, and I Am Kloot.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

New Releases This Week

Here's some of the more intriguing releases to hit the shelves this week:

Blue Merle -- Burning in the Sun (Island)
LCD Soundsystem -- LCD Soundsystem (DFA/EMI)*
Mommy and Daddy -- Fighting Style Killer Panda (Kanine Records) 3/5
The Wedding Present -- Take Fountain (Manifesto)

Next week looks better...

*How can my localest record store not have this! I'll have to stop elsewhere on the way home today...

This Might Be the Funniest Thing You Read All Year

Terry Sawyer's always good for spewing wit, but today's feature is even better than usual.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Low -- The Great Destroyer

Oddly enough (at least according to my Amazon recommendations), The Great Destroyer is the first Low album I've heard. I can't comment on their change of direction, but this sound works great. I suspect that all the critics are right in saying that they'll win over lots of new fans with it.

I'm pretty much taken right away by the opening drums in "Monkey". The following conventionality of "California" is a bit of a let-down, but it's still a solid pop number. Then I'm back into Mimi Parker's drums on "Everybody's Song" -- or, more accurately, I'm into the garbage-can production of them. If she'd play the same part on a standard snare, the song would really lose something (a tom would be better than a snare, but still not as effective).

The track I really dig here is "Cue the Strings" -- it's really lovely. But the album works well as a straight-through listen, so I shouldn't really dwell on individual songs. The Great Destroyer's well-paced and -sequenced; check out the transition from "Pissing" to "Death of a Salesman". True craft shows on this disc, and it makes me interested in doing some back catalog digging (even if it will sound nothing like this).

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Iron and Wine and Calexico

Pitchfork is reporting today that Sam Beam (the force behind Iron and Wine) and Calexico (whose Feast of Wire is incredible) are teaming up for an EP to be released this fall. I would love to see them tour together.

I'm also anxiously awaiting the new EP from I&W, Woman King.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

MIA Says:

You need to read the full interview that Aaron Wherry did with M.I.A. over at Pop (All Love).

Just a sample: "And then now it seems like what President Bush is teaching us is if somebody steps to you, you just kill him. Don’t even ask any questions. Just take him out. He’s the biggest bloody 50 Cent he is."

The new album drops Feb. 22. I'm sure it'll be worth a listen.

PS - Thanks to Adrien for the tip.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

New Releases This Week

These are the new albums that I'm interested in; unfortunately not necessarily the ones I've got. I'll start adding a rating for anything I've heard that's due out.

Andrew Bird -- The Mysterious Production of Eggs (Righteous Babe)
Dalek -- Absence (Ipecac) rating: 3.5/5
The Frames -- Burn the Maps (Anti)
The O'Jays -- The Essential O'Jays (Sony)
Out Hud -- One Life to Leave EP (Kranky)
The Pogues -- Streams of Whiskey: Live in Leysin, Switzerland (Silverline)
The Stray Cats -- Life from Europe (Surfdog)
Mia Doi Todd -- Manzanita (Plug Research) rating: 3/5
V/A -- Alone in the Dark OST (Nuclear Blast)

Some people are touting the Alone in the Dark soundtrack as the top primer for contemporary metal. I'll take their advice.

Who knew the Stray Cats were still together? What's the news on the Brian Setzer Orchestra?

Monday, February 07, 2005

Pick of the Week (2/07/05)

Norfolk & Western - Dusk in Cold Parlours (Hush) 2003

Lovely lo-fi with a Western feel. Mostly acoustic music with drumming by the Decemberists' Rachel Blumberg.

Thanks to Pete and Quigley for the tip.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Today's Listening

Brian's Radio Blog can supply all your needs today...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Woven Cover

Continuing with the covers of people I like by people I like Woven Hand (David Eugene Edwards of 16 Horsepower) does a version of Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine" on the self-titled album that's quite haunting. Edwards does something that a great cover should -- he brings out another side of the song. In this case, it's the darkness, making the narrator seem like a stalker. Edwards's creepy delivery makes the whole relationship seem more unhealthy than it is, with the narrator being in a deep, frightening place.

Edwards has that sound throughout his music, which makes listening to him an odd experience. At times he sings about the joys of salvation while sounding like the voice of a wandering spirit. Last year's release, Consider the Birds, was really impressive, but I've been enjoying Woven Hand recently, too.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

When a Favorite Covers a Favorite

It doesn't happen very often -- one of your favorite artists covering a track by another one, but I've heard one of thes performances recently. On the new Starbucks CD, M. Ward does a version of Pete Townshend's "Let My Love Open the Door." He's stripped away all the keys and turned it into an alt-country version, highlighted by the steel guitar playing. Musically, it's not much, but it really brings out the power in Ward's voice. It's a solid rendition, and reveals how good a pop song the original is (if a bit goofy due to the production).

The disc, much as I hate to admit it, looks good, and I've heard a fair amount of it (alas, no mp3s to share). Two other highlights for me: Calexico does "Love Will Tear Us Apart" and Neko Case does "Buckets of Rain."

On a related note, one other cover is getting some recent attention, Marianne Faithfull's version of PJ Harvey's "No Child of Mine." While I don't think the album deserves quite the excitement it's generating, this track is wonderful (for the record, Harvey helped out with it). For the next week, you can take a listen here:

No Child of Mine

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Coachella Lineup

Coachella has its full roster up now. It's quite astonishing:

New Releases This Week

After last week's stunning list of releases, it's no surprise that this week is a bit slower. Here's what's on my radar:

Chiaro Civello -- Last Quarter Moon (Verve)
Ed Harcourt -- Strangers (Heavenly/EMI)
The Impossible Shapes -- Horus (Secretly Canadian)
Cass McCombs -- PREfection (4ad)
The Roots -- The Roots Presents: A Sonic Event (Image Entertainment)