Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quick Hits - The Winners List

In retrospect, I really should have posted the winners list first. Oh well.

In case you've missed all the "drama," here are the previous posts in this chain:

The Undecided List, Part 1
The Undecided List, Part 2
The Losers List

All in fun, of course! Your opinions may be different than mine -- which, I might add, you are all quick to point out. (Thanks for that.)

Without further ado:
  • Against Me! - New Wave (2007). This goes against the grain for me in several ways. First it grabbed me lyrically and not musically first, which never happens -- that's just not the way I normally process music. Secondly, these guys are from what I like to refer to as "Generation Why Me," which I generally can't stand -- songs about clipping their nails and not getting their BMW, blah blah blah. But these guys don't have that attitude at all. From the first song ("New Wave"), they clearly establish their manifesto and ambition: "I am looking for the crest of a new wave/We can be the bands we want to hear/We can define our own generation/Is there anybody on the receiving end?" Wow.
    Example 2: "Up the Cuts" challenges everyone: the a.d.d. generation, the music and video industry, the government's crackdown on digital piracy, and even "all the punks still singing the same song."
    Example 3: "Thrash Unreal" is a story about a drug user: "No mother ever dreams that her daughter's going to grow up to be a junkie/No mother ever dreams her daughter's going to sleep alone."
    Example 4: "White People for Peace" points out how impractical musicians' contributions really are to an armed conflict: "Protest songs in response to military aggression/Protest songs to stop the soldier's gun."
    Example 5: "Americans Abroad" is an honest self-reflection of potential hypocrisy: ""While I think I'm not like them, I'm not so sure/...Wherever we go, Coca Cola's already been/...I just can't help but think that there's a comparison."
    I just cited lyrics from half the songs on the album. They're plain-spoken but eloquent. They are loud, questioning, and smart. These guys are the new punks. Musically, they are not unbelievable but very solid, and overall it's a great package. I was shocked to see this was their 5th album -- time to check the back catalog.
    Verdict: Car CD Changer. Be prepared, it's loud.
  • The Automatic - Not Accepted Anywhere (2006). Another entrant from the "Why Me?"/"Whiney" generation. Better musically than Against Me!, but a little less deep on the lyrics. These guys have something going on that I can't put my finger on; but it makes me think they could create greatness. Lots of promise here, especially musically (both in arrangement and vocal tonality/harmonizing). It's nice poppy punk with odd lyrics... big song in Europe from this album was "Monster."
    Verdict: Portable CD Case. I really like this album too.
  • Johnny Cash - Live at Folsom Prison (1968, re-released in 1999). After watching Walk the Line, I remembered that I always kind of liked Johnny Cash. And that I was probably ready to give him a try once again. I can’t complain about this one – this is about as good as you’ll get from a live album. I had never heard "25 Minutes to Go," which is incredibly tense and powerful.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Enon - Grass Geysers...Carbon Clouds (2007). To be honest, after 2002's brilliant High Society, Enon was followed up with both an underwhelming collection of originals and an underwhelming collection of b-sides, at which point they definitely had graduated from the "must buy the next album" merch rating to "let's wait for a review, shall we?" Fortunately, this was reviewed well, and wow, it's really the proper follow-up to High Society. This group is so quirky that they are much better when they rein themselves in slightly. Plus I love their bass sound. Check out "Mr. Ratatatatat," my favorite song on the album, or "Dr. Freeze," or "Pigeneration." I think it's great.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Car CD Changer.
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg - 5:55 (2007). This is really superior -- even with this being a little more mellow than I prefer, it still worked in the car. Charlotte Gainsbourg tells stories. They're great, they're impactful, and every note sounds like it's precisely placed. I'll compare this to Cat Power's You Are Free -- yes, it's that good. This album is for everyone.
    Verdict: Totally fantastic. Car CD Changer album that I'll put into the Portable CD Case because it's a little laid back.
  • Motörhead - Ace of Spades (1980, re-mastered version released in 2001).Yes, this is the second post to feature Motörhead. What has happened to me? Truth be told, these guys were so heavy they scared me as a kid. Now that I'm older... well, they still scare me. But you have to hand it to Lemmy and the boys -- this is a classic album. The songs? Legendary ("Ace of Spades"), down to earth ("[We Are] The Road Crew"), incomprehensible ("Love Me Like a Reptile"), creepy ("Jailbait"), and surprisingly introspective ("The Chase Is Better Than the Catch") all rolled up into one. It's all I'll ever need from these guys.
    Verdict: Hell yes recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • N.WA. - Straight Outta Compton 20th Anniversary Edition (2007; original released in 1987). I had a pithy little post about this album, but then thought it was a good idea to edit the html for formatting. Bad idea -- I managed to lose everything. So I'm giving this review over to fate. Thus: this album is good, not worth getting if you have the original.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Pylon - Gyrate Plus (2007, original version released in 1980). This is a re-issue that had to happen, but much like during their actual career, it's questionable whether anyone will notice. Notoriously the victims of bad timing, they folded in 1983 after two albums (Gyrate and Chomp), right before the Athens, GA, scene that they helped create blew up into the American rock Mecca it became. Then they got back together in 1990 for the phenomenally underrated Chain, breaking up again right before Grunge/Alternative broke. When Rolling Stone named R.E.M. "America's Best Band" in 1987, R.E.M. said the award actually belonged to Pylon -- four years after their breakup! Their stuff has been out of print for years, otherwise I'd recommend the desert island must-have Hits as your first intro. But this album is very good -- they even threw in their best song, "Cool" (previously available only as a single or on Hits), which is an all-time great song. Throw in an unreleased demo and two other single-only songs and you'll see why this band was way ahead of their time. One of my all-time favorite bands; you should check this out if you like R.E.M., the B-52's, or really any non-crappy music in general.
    Verdict: Recommended. Car CD Changer.

  • Peter Searcy - Spark (2007). I know you've been waiting with bated breath since this post... and here is the exciting conclusion! Well, somewhat exciting. Since the great song "Losing Light Fast" in 2000, I've held in with Peter -- that album (Could You Please and Thank You) was okay, but you could hear that he had the potential to pull it all together into a great, confident album someday. And Spark is that album. The promise of CYPATY, the guitar chops and emotive lyrics of 2004's Couch Songs, and finally slightly too sweet poppiness of Trust Falls... this album takes the best of all of those efforts and rolls them into a great culmination of Peter at his best. This is pop gold, Jerry, gold!
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Superchunk - Here's Where the Strings Come In (1995). I'm playing Pandora Radio at work. Hey, I recognize that song! It's "Hyper Enough" by Superchunk. Yes, Denis tried to convince me this band was worth listening to, but I could never get into them. Then Pandora moves on to another song by a different group, then another... background noise for a half hour... hey! Another cool song! This is odd... it's also by Superchunk. "Silver Leaf and Snowy Tears". And also on Here's Where the String Come In. Huh. Back to background noise for an hour... Wow, this voice sounds familiar. There's no way... yup, the 3rd great song I've heard in two hours, and, yup, from Superchunk, and yup, from that same album -- this one is "Detroit Has a Skyline." I'm sold. Guess I needed a blind taste-test to hear what I was missing. The rest of the album doesn't disappoint either. Time to visit the back catalog!
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Car CD Changer.
  • The Thermals - Insound Tour Support 2.0 (2007). I really got this b/c of the old Insound Tour Support series, which (although I ultimately got screwed on $ on it) had some great, unheard music. I actually like this better than More Parts Per Million, which Dan will likely have a cow over, but this collection of live tracks is just my speed, and captures these guys at their best -- live.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Tool - Aenima (1996). I loved Tool's debut album, and really never found a reason that I had to go out and get any of their other albums. Through trial and error (and their declining radio airtime re-peaking my interest), this is my other favorite album by the band. It's got some great songs but overall is not as satisfying as their debut. Great to listen to in the car.
    Verdict: Portable CD Case.

- Snilch

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