Sunday, January 25, 2009

mp3 Albums, Part Two

As promised... Part two of two:
  • Editors - An End Has a Start (2007). Eric Lax contribution number two. On this one, I hear a poppier Joy Division, as opposed to Interpol, which was my other touchstone for this one: the distinction lies in that they hit the higher notes vocally and musically, so the music is a little more uplifting, much like JD. I found four tracks I'd call great, and the rest I'd call solid. Very nice stuff.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • The Frames - Here Comes the Night (2001). Eric Lax contribution number three. This live double album, recorded on New Year's Eve, 2001, at Ireland's TodayFM studios, is a low-key acoustic effort that has a lot of charm (and a lot of covers). It's also a great snapshot of The Frames after they "made it big" the first time (i.e., before Glen Hansard really "made it big" with the movie Once). It's a great show for Frames fans.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Klark Kent -Kollected Works (1995). Now, I'd happily buy this, but it's $50+ for this long out of print item... which is simply too much for any single album. So I'm stuck with a posted download instead. This is Stuart Copeland's one-man band side project while he was with The Police -- I still have the 1980 release Music Madness from the Kinetic Kid on green vinyl, with the album jacket cut into the letter "K." (It's truly unfortunate that the logo on the front is designed as "KlarK Kent" -- yup, KKK.) Despite what I will assume was a design "guffaw," I've always loved this album -- it sounds like an extension of the experimentation and wackiness from his songs on Regatta de Blanc. So I've been hunting this down, which is the CD version of the first album PLUS everything else he did as Klark Kent. I have to say, though, that something got lost in the translation from vinyl to CD. Think of this as a companion to work by The Police ("Police-lite," perhaps?), a piece of history that shows Copeland flexing his creative muscles at a very raw phase. This album is way too long, and not for everyone -- it fails when it teeters from quirky into self-indulgence. And it does, somewhat often. Also, I like his vocal style, which will not be everyone's cup of tea.
    Verdict: Recommended for Police completists. It will live in my CD Rack.

  • Radiohead - In Rainbows (2007). Eric Lax's final going-away gift. He did not know that I hate OK Computer, and pretty much everything I've heard from these guys since I fell in love with the song "Creep." I tried this first in the car... not a good start. I then played it on the small stereo in my office (JVC, decent fidelity) and I have to admit... it is pretty darn good. This will be my first successful entry into the Radiohead arena; is this the opening to the rest of their library or a one-off? Only time will tell.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • The Suffocation Keep - A Few Minor Modifications of the Stars (2004). A free download, but this one I would have happily paid for. The brainchild of Built to Spill's Brett Nelson, this is just a great album. The vocals are a bit off at times, but I'll forgive them for that. They wear their influences are on their sleeves: the keyboardist clearly listened to a lot of Rick Wakeman (Yes), the guitarist loved Billy Duffy (The Cult), the drummer emulated Stuart Copeland (The Police), the vocalist wished he had the range of Tony Lewis (The Outfield), and the bass player... well, what bass player wouldn't emulate Chris Squire (Yes) or John Entwistle (The Who)? It all sounds great together... I'll have to find their commercially available release as well. I've been wavering on the vocals (I have to bring that up again, because they are a major factor here) between "great" and "off-key"... it changes from day to day. I still think it's great stuff.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Go to their website and decide for yourself -- the link to the free album is available at their myspace page. Car CD Changer for me.
- Snilch

Sunday, January 18, 2009

mp3 Albums, Part One

I think I've made it clear I'm not a big fan of mp3's, as they encourage a further degradation of sound quality from CD's (which, to start with, are higher fidelity but still really samples themselves) and vinyl. These albums I am reviewing here are as high-quality as I could find; sometimes, downloads are all you have to work with.

So I'll clear off the hard drive and go through these albums. Part one of two:
  • Faunts - Faunts (2007). This is actually an mp3-only album, so this forced me into a corner; a true full mix would be interesting to hear. High Expectations, Low Results went over like a lead balloon; this one features "M4," the soundtrack to the Mass Effect videogame. This is very relaxing... and I'm not sure if that's good or not. Pet peeve: track one is "M4 (Part II)"; track three is "M4 (Part I)." Either put them back to back (which I think would work in this case) or spread them out, but put them IN ORDER please. Annoying. I also wish this had more vocals. The songs don't go anywhere, which (I think) is more of a problem with the genre than these guys.
    Verdict: listen to "M4 (Part II)"; the rest I'm on the fence on. CD Rack for now.
  • Al Hotchkiss - From the Dark and Bloody Ground (2007). This was a free download. In this case, however, "free" did not mean that there was not "a cost," which would equate to "a portion of my life I will never get back."
    Verdict: Don't eat yellow snow. Pile of Death.
  • Keith Lubrant - Searching for Signal (2007). Thanks to Pandora for this one. Lubrant kind of reminds me of the John Faye Power Trip (which I loved and Denis hated) as very pleasant pop. The album goes on forever -- and not in a good way. "Disconnected" and "Too Late" are standouts.
    Verdict: Lightly recommended. CD Rack.
  • Really Red - New Strings for Old Puppets (1982). Believe it or not, this actually finally wraps up one of my first posts from two years ago. For melodic hardcore, this was surprisingly not great in the car, but I still heard what I needed to. I really love this. I would love to hear more stuff by them... but everything else is long out of print. "I Was a Teenage F@$#up" is not for the kids, but is a great song.
    Verdict: Recommended to download for free here. Portable CD Case for me.
  • Sleater-Kinney - BBC Sessions (1998, 1999, 2000). This is a compilation of three BBC sessions, and surprisingly good for live recordings. It's a good set list and a great snapshot of one of my all-time favorite bands.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild soundtrack (2007). On his way out the door from Mrs. Snilch Report's place of employment, faithful reader Eric Lax (not to be confused with Eric Salt), dropped a few albums on The Snilch Report's doorstep. He may or may not know that I'm not really a Pearl Jam fan; I respect them but simply don't listen to them all that much. I did not have high expectations for Eddie, and I generally don't like soundtracks, so this was a big surprise. Think Eddie Vedder reigned in (which is a good thing) -- it's a controlled burn. It's listenable in a non-self-indulgent way, which was the opposite of what I WAS expecting. I'm honestly surprised at how good this is (did I say that already?). This will get some more spins for sure.
    Verdict: Surprisingly recommended. Portable CD Case.
- Snilch

Monday, January 05, 2009

Just the Stats, Ma'am

We've reached the end of year two. I figured it's about time to quantify and tabulate this sucker.

So I did some research; if you are interested, here are a lot of numbers:

In 2007, there were 19
posts, 17 of which were posts that included album reviews.
In 2008, there were 28 posts, 20 of which were posts that included album reviews.

In 2007, I reviewed 40 albums. They broke down like this:

8 (20%) Car Changer
10 (25%) Portable
4 (10%) CD Rack
9 (22.5%) Sell-back 1
9 (22.5%) Pile of Death

In 2008, I reviewed 148 (!) albums, which is insane - that's a
370% increase in production! (I think I need to talk to the auto makers.) They broke down like this:

23 (16%) Car Changer
55 (37%) Portable
36 (24%) CD Rack
23 (16%) Sell-back 1
11 (7%) Pile of Death

In terms of the ratings:
  • Both years, most albums (35% overall) went into the Portable CD Case. Now, if I were reviewing all albums and albums "cold" (i.e., with no reviews or recommendations), I'd expect that number to shift downward towards the CD Rack or Sell-back 1; because I'm selective to begin with, the CD Rack or Portable CD Case would be what I expected in terms of landing spots. Conclusion: I like good music. (This is a self-fulfilling prophesy.)

  • The percentage of "bad" albums (Sell-back 1 & The Peaches Pile/Pile of Death) dropped almost exactly in half between 2007 and 2008 -- from 45 to 23%. The primary beneficiary was the CD Rack, which jumped from 10% to 24% of albums reviewed. Conclusion: I listened to Pitchfork less this year.

  • I've reviewed 96 albums I'd call very good to great in the last two years. That is WAY too much. Conclusion: I listen to WAY too much music.
Prior to this post, I had never actually posted in either January or April, for whatever reason.

And that's The Snilch Report, by the numbers. Good night, and good luck.

- Snilch