Thursday, July 02, 2009
Music (the reviews)
Wilco (the album)
Wilco albums are always difficult to review; always full of so many moments of brilliance and so many points of frustration; much that can be seen as overindulgence or yet again also chances not taken. From Being There on Wilco's albums have challenged their listeners, usually purposefully, at least until Sky Blue Sky, which was a surprise in just how laid back and, well kinda lame it was; those VW commercials didn't help too much. This album, is leagues better. Tweedy and co. set out and succeeded in making an album which tied together their disparate sounds. That alone is a monumental task, so Tweedy, never quite the best lyricist, can be forgiven for placing some awkward lines too prominently. Though this isn't Tweedy trying to be too clever. It's not quite Johnathon Richman-like so purposefully uncool that it's punk lyrics, but in between there and the far too honest and brief lyrics from a sub-par Neil Young record.
You and I, a duet with Feist, recalls the great Natalie Merchant moments on Mermaid Avenue, which were some of the stronger points on that record. And this album has some of the prettiest and most emotionally engaging Wilco songs since that collaboration; County Dissapeared and I'll Fight are standouts.
What this album did for me was remind me of how unique at this point in music a band like Wilco is, and just how amazing they are. They've quietly built up a remarkable discography and in a perfect world they'd be much, much bigger. But, in any time period, Wilco has established themselves as one of the all-time great American Rock bands.
Also by Wilco:
Sky Blue Sky ***
A Ghost is Born ****
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot *****
Being There ****1/2
with Billy Bragg
Mermaid Ave Vol 2. ***
Mermaid Ave *****
Wait for Me
Ever since he hit the pop mainstream with "Play" ten years ago, Moby has been trying to reconcile his own celebrity with his music. From the attempts to be a straight ahead rock star, to disco king. Sure, before play he was an icon in electronic music and a critical darling, but seemed to relish being a marginal figure; a political and enigmatic force behind music; others sang for him, while he wrote the long essays on christian social responsibility and animal rights. After he became the focal point, his albums, which had been quite moody, began to feel empty. It didn't help that he also has outlasted the musical movement he's most readily associated with; electronica is nowhere to be found in America today.
Thankfully, and perhaps in large part because of these forces, Moby has finally made the follow-up, or at least what sounds like the proper follow-up to Play. Wait for me combines the sampled soul of Play with the brooding sadness of Everything is Wrong. Moby's voice is hardly present on the album, but when it is its done in its in a straightforward and stark contrast to his guest vocalists (notably on the early New Order-like Mistake, the best song on the album).This isn't the shattering comeback that Portishead's Third was; but it is a return to form, and is Moby at his most sublime and most depressing (so much so its less sad and more to the point of just surrendar to the inevitable).
He doesn't stray from his formula, which both keeps the feel of a Play part two, the early morning despair to Play's late-night explorations, but also makes it somewhat predictable; some of the instrumental filler songs I swear have been on other Moby albums.
Also recommended by Moby
Everything is Wrong ****
The Dark Night of the Soul
Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse
Danger Mouse's dispute with EMI has prevented this album from being released, though you can purchase an empty cd-r with a poster or the David Lynch created photo booklet (sold out) ,or hear it on NPR, or get it through various other channels (cough).
Featuring vocals by everyone from Iggy Pop to Vic Chesnutt to David Lynch, this feels more like a compilation than a self-contained album. The title, from St. John of the Cross' monumental work of mystic Catholicism, suggests the theme and each track keeps to a theme of pain and suffering, but sonically each track seems to be more decided by the guest vocalist, creating an interesting, but not consistent experience (Julian Casablancas' song sounds like a Strokes track, Wayne Coyne's sounds like a Flaming Lips, etc.).
The difficulty is that a song about pain from Frank Black sounds far different than one by James Mercer, and that discrepency really stands out. The best tracks on the albums are the last two, the first being Vic Chesnutt's Grain Augury, a haunting tour-de-force through a southern gothic nightmare. The second is David Lynch's performance of the title track. Lynch, show's his hypnotic contribution to the INLAND EMPIRE soundtrack, which was quite good, wasn't a fluke.
The album was meant to go along with photographs by Lynch in an instalation setting. Perhaps as a multi-media instalation work this would be a whole other experience. As an album, its a number of great tracks that seem to be lacking a cohesion to really feel like a total experience.
Also reccomended by Danger Mouse:
The Grey Album ***1/2
also reccomended by Sparklehorse
It's a Wonderful Life ****1/2
Matt and Kim
Daylight is one of the catchiest and fun songs I've heard in a while. So, while the rest of the album is instrumentally fun, it really has no depth, and perhaps the best decision was to include Daylight twice, in two versions. It's a fun album, but the rhythms get repetitive, and it freels a bit drawn out.