Monday, November 10, 2008

You Asked, So I Listened

Any of you who asked me to listen to albums may think you were shouting into a void, but, yes, I was indeed listening. Since I'm still clearing my backlog, I thought I'd acknowledge a bunch in one fell swoop. If yours isn't here, fell free to a) e-mail me and b) prepare to be further ignored. (I probably just forgot.) I do appreciate the suggestions, so feel free to keep them coming.

The list:
  • Bitch Alert - I Can Feel Your Bones (2006). This is from Andrew, who I think was legitimately shocked that I actually bought something by this band. I'd called it homogenized Finnish punk. "Skeleton" is an amazing tune - well, in a simple, catchy, well-harmonized, broken English sort of way. This album is decent, but it's more a novelty in terms of the way the album comes off. The ladies have some chops but it doesn't completely work. I really hope they didn't try and write this in English, because if they did, start digging for bodies in the backyard now. Maybe they were low on cash and just had Babelfish translate the album, although I'm not sure what you input (in Finnish) to output (in English) themes like stealing money from widows who just killed their abusive boyfriends, peeling skin and "feeling" bones, and asking to get beat up by your drug dealer, if you started with lyrics of, say, peace, love, and understanding. Not sold yet? Example one: they try to rhyme "star" with "star" in one song. Eight times. (To be fair, it's almost the same as trying to rhyme "orange.") Example two: they try to rhyme "worry" with "sorry." Example three: they have songs called "Would You Be My Mental Big Sister, June?" and "Please Let Me Die First." And I didn't even talk about the song told through the eyes of a stuffed bear that comes to life after hours and watches television. I am running away screaming.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.

  • Donna the Buffalo - Sliverlined (2008). This was suggested by Dave, whose meetings and videos we produce. I was surprised to find out Donna the Buffalo has been around for 20 years - and Dave tells me they've got a rabid fanbase called "The Herd." I picked this album as the reviews indicated this was a good reflection of both their past and present. Now I'm admittedly not a huge jam band fan (as they were described online), which scared me, but I think that's an inadequate and facile description. They actually compare more favorably as a folk-rock (as opposed to country-rock) Drive-by Truckers - excellent musicians, multiple writers, different voices and styles on different songs, but all the while remaining true to their band's sound. I'm not sure what I was expecting; it was not something this fun, relaxing, and light. That does not mean they can't play, or that the songs don't have depth (they do); it just sounds like... well, like "summer." In the end, more poppy than I was prepared for (in a good way), and there are a few duds, but overall it's a great listen and well worth my time. And yours.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Shelby Lynne - I Am Shelby Lynne (2000). Another Andrew suggestion, who clearly feels I need some country music "cultcha." Very vocally aggressive -- it surprised me from the start -- and more soulful than I expected. It's pretty eclectic and it's very, very good. I'm glad I did not go in with any preconceptions; it was a much nicer surprise that way. Definitely worth a listen; I'd compare her voice to Bonnie Raitt, with a much wider range and more effortless delivery. If you're like me, you'll be hooked by the time you hit "Why Can't You Be?" And by the time you hit "Dreamsome," you'll realize why: it's her world, and you're just listening to it.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (2007). This one was not requested by Andrew, but he instigated the process by sending me a video for the single "Time to Pretend," which is a spectacular throwback track that vaguely reminds me of The Stone Roses (in vibe more so than music). I took a shot that the album would follow suit.; unfortunately, the rest of the album is pretty boring and a little full of itself. At times, it's an unfortunate mishmash of what sounds like spectacularly talented musicians all playing against each other. I'm not sure I can declare a winner of that battle, but I can declare the loser: me, for having bought the album.
    Verdict: Find an mp3 of "Time to Pretend". Pass on the album. Sell-back pile 1.

  • Motörhead - Overkill (1979). Yes, yet another Motörhead post. This one was suggested by Dirt Mall's Johnny Anguish. I had decided going in I only needed one Motörhead album; and at first, it did sound too much like Ace of Spades for me, so it looked like I was off the hook. But by the time I hit the end of the album I couldn't rightfully put it in Sell-back pile 1; the b-sides (included on the re-mastered version, along with two (!) versions of their cover of "Louie, Louie") hooked me. I am a sucker. This one is a keeper.
    Verdict: Recommended after Ace of Spades. CD Rack.

  • The Screaming Blue Messiahs - Bikini Red (1987), Totally Religious (1989). Liz lent me some tapes from the late '70's and early '80's, and thought I'd be into these guys. She was right. My much more clever comments on the band are here; these albums are both very good. The Messiahs are a UK band obsessed with America... so think of them as a rockabilly, remarkably less successful U2. And without the longevity of the Irish boys. These are fun albums that a niche audience will love.
    Verdict: Recommended, but these are long out of print; Bikini Red is better but tougher to find. I wouldn't go overboard to pay for either unless you've heard/love the band - hopefully the albums will be re-released someday. Both go into the Portable CD Case.

  • Dusty Springfield - Dusty in Memphis (1969). Well, Andrew certainly has a lot of suggestions, now doesn't he? Of course, he has excellent musical taste, so it's tough to go wrong with them. Sadly, going in I knew the name Dusty Springfield (born Mary Isabel Catherine Bernadette O'Brien), but couldn't tell you a thing she ever did. This album is not my cup of tea; that should not necessarily discourage you. Clearly she has a great voice and the songs are well put together... I'm just not into it. I didn't realize she sang "Son of a Preacher Man," which is a great song. If you liked the original, you'll probably be interested in the Rhino re-release, which includes 14 additional tracks, 10 of which were "previously unissued."
    Verdict: I can't recommend it, but you may love it. For me, Sell-back pile 1.

  • Prinzhorn Dance School - Prinzhorn Dance School (2007). The only reason I'm writing this blog is Yves' challenge to me at his going-away party, and thus when he makes a request I am honor-bound to respect it. Plus he introduced me to Love of Diagrams, who I love. The liner notes state: "This record is meant to be played loud." When you hear the album, you understand why. It's minimalist in the tradition of Young Marble Giants, which would be the only minimalist album I own. Well, before listening to this album at least. I am not a minimalist fan, but this is truly, truly outstanding. IMHO, they are the best pretenders to the YMG throne in the 30 years since Collossal Youth came out. This is not for everyone, but don't be scared by the minimalist tag: it's a great album.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Car CD Changer album.

  • Wilco - Sky Blue Sky (2007). BFF Becky told me to check this one out. She does not know I am not a Wilco fan at all, despite a) numerous attempts to get into them, b) prodding by Sean, AND 3) liking both Uncle Tupelo and Gob Iron. Well, this is an interesting album - I have to admit that I did enjoy it. There still is something here I just can't come to grips with and totally embrace, but it's my first "in" with this band; we'll have to see if repeated listens opens that up even further. Good call, Becky!
    Verdict: Recommended, and I'd like to hear what Wilco fans think. CD Rack.
- Snilch