Day 40, Deftones - Around The Fur / Blog sign off

In case anyone was wondering...

On Sept. 17th, I had finished my job at the American Red Cross in Greater New York, thus ending my commute and in turn, this project. I had listened to 40 new albums and reviewed them all. Although only achieving 50%, I think a thoughtful and complete post every other day is still one hell of a feat. I had listened to Around the Fur on my way home from work the previous day and again the next morning and composed half the review during my lunch break. But I refused to ever finish it. I am not even going to finish it today. Something snapped when I pranced out of those revolving doors out onto West 49th street. All energy was redirected. I have since left Brooklyn, worked on farms in California, partied on a houseboat in Seattle, wore a costume to a rave, hit the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice, bought a dog and disfigured a rental car and got away with it. I may return to cyberspace, but for now, human-space is more enjoyable.


Stars: 3.25
Tracks: "Be Quiet and Drive" and "Lotion"
Show: 20$

Great energy and thoughtful composition. Wonderful sense of melody and song without sacrificing edge. Tasteful hard rock.

P.S. Thanks to everyone who may have been entertained by this blog enough to give it a read (Nat, Colin, Joel in particular), to all you who suggested albums, and to those who helped me obtain them (M Blockies and Miguel)! Much love.

Day 39, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bombs - Idiots

Stars: 3.5
Song: “10 Minutes,” “Post Apocalypse Blues,” “Photograph Waltz”
Show: 20$

TJ Kong and the Atomic Bombs have a miss-leading name. It has got indie-synth-pop written all over it. In reality, TJ Kong and the Atomic Bombs would probably never touch a drum machine. They’re too raw for that shit. And they play country. Sorta. They are more like damned city rats playing country-folk on steroids, actually. The beats pop like a hoe-down in hell, occasionally opening up to a more enthusiastic sing-along, and the songs are slightly illusive but always seem to surmount into snide indictments on something-or-other.

The vocalist sounds like a frog with a heart-ache: raspy and a little dark. It is surprising that he chose to use that instrument for this sort of high-powered honky-tonk. It would probably fit more naturally in a Smashing Pumpkins cover band, but that would be too obvious. It is his strange adaptation on country twang that gives this band character and worthy bite.

Humoring myself by continuing my solitary discussion I started during my Dr. Dog post about how context should not necessarily overwhelm your judgment on an album, I find myself torn whether of not I should bring up this next point. But I am going to anyway. These guys are a small-time band of a few Philly dudes, who happen to be friends of friends. But I did not mention this to discharge them of their imperfections or to tag on a disclaimer. I mentioned it because the amateurism is unfortunately pretty blatant. Luckily, this is not a result of poor song writing—far from it! It is the band’s crappy mix, lack of exploration, and resistance to come up with any counter melodies. The songs are simply comprised of a rhythm section cruising through the chords and the vocals. Not a lot else going on. There are two solos on the whole album, three or four noticeable hits where the rhythm is broken up, extenuated, etc., and maybe two melodies/counter melodies from any instrument other than the vocals. This makes things a little dry and empty. Luckily, they got some wild songwriting, intriguing vocalist, and a tight rhythm section which keeps them well above water.

Day 38, Nas and Damian Marley - Distant Relatives

Stars: 2.75
Song: “As We Enter” and “Dispear”
Show: 5$

Collaborations have some intrinsic pitfalls and Nas and Damian sometimes lose their footing near the edge. Most songs work. A few do not. And even fewer are really good. Although the collaboration idea is intriguing, and I’m sure it helped with album sales, it comes off as a clash of the titans.

You notice this most in the production. Although Damian and Stephen Marley produced the whole thing, it seems like there is an obvious divide between hip-hop and rock-raggae. For one, there is a lot of live instrumentation, such as distorted guitars reverberating out into epic battle songs, nylon string acoustic ditties, tribal chanting, etc. which is not the sort of style Nas typically vibes with. Naturally, Nas kills the tracks rooted in straight up, sample-heavy hip-hop such as “Patience,” and is awkward when featured on Damian’s positive, “push on through,” cheese-ball, inspirational tunes such as “In His Own Words.” Nas’s style is in your face, and although he is a rapper with insight and wisdom, he’s not afraid to drop flows about drugs and violence. So when you have Damien singing la-di-da lyrics like “Only the strong will continue, do you have it in you?” or “I got love and endurance, I got new health insurance, so I count my blessings,” and you put it up against Nasty Nas, there is a bit of a collision.

But there a few songs that really triumph. The first track “As We Enter” rips. It’s a little misleading because it’s the only one where these two distant relatives cut out all the bull and just flow. Throughout the rest of the album, Damian takes a verse, rhymes one simple melodic line over and over, then the hook, then Nas takes a verse. Here, they throw the mic back and forth in a beautifully musical way. Nas will get cooking, and then mid sentence cut out and for a shot of Damian’s funky reggae. And they’ll flip it every other line or couple of words. It’s wicked fluid, fast, and catchy. Sadly, though, this is the only track of it’s kind.

“Dispear” is the best example of the album achieving what it set out to do. It incorporates Nas’s intense rhyme style and Damian’s spiritual reggae into a worldly discussion of poverty and war in a manor that does not come off trite—which a lot of the album does. A lot of the tracks like “Tribes at War” and “Aftrica Must Wake Up” chase this dragon, but they didn’t sharpen their swords enough to take it down.

day 37, Dr. Dog - Easy Beat

Stars: 2.75
Song: “Oh No”
Show: 20$

The friend who suggested this one was talking to me the day before about how much he loved Shame, Shame Dr. Dog’s new release from this past April. Not putting it all together, I then assumed that Easy Beat was this beloved follow-up to 2007’s Fate, and I had just remembered the title incorrectly. I got through 5 listens and half of a review before I realized my mistake. Easy Beat came out in 2005. Typically before I get going on a review, I check the discography to put the album in context, but in order to keep the review fresh, I try to keep myself from gathering to much more about the band, its history, and what critics think. In this instance, that tiny bit of research flipped Easy Beat on its head.

Even though I made a false, idiotic assumption, it actually brought some interesting insight to the way I process music. Thinking that Easy Beat was the highly acclaimed, Brooklyn adored, new hip and hot shit, I thought that I must be an alien, unable to vibe with my age group and social peers. I considered giving up on being a music writer (again) resigning to the fact that I will just never get it. I thought: “How could a band that was so polished and intricate on the verge of becoming the next big indie super-group just throw it all down the drain with a half-assed, “couldda done it better myself,” short on time, un-produced, un-edited, un-cared for, piece of doo-doo?” In fact, here is some of what I had down before I opened up Wikipedia:
“Stars: 2.5 (tops)

Favorite Song: “On No,” (even though it is actually two mini-songs, randomly and harshly cut in the middle, they happen to both be my favorites)

Since Fate, released in 2007, Dr. Dog has been receiving public and critical acclaim that has awarded them more money and time in the studio. Clearly, they blew most of that studio money on beers and breakfast during the making of Easy Beat, which is barely demo quality.”

So I had to start over. My initial reaction was to apologize to them directly: “I am sorry, I had no idea you were so much younger. It was five years ago, and that’s a long time!” So I changed it to 3.25 stars, took out the snide parenthetical statements and wrote:
“Dr. Dog has come a long way since Easy Beat, but the album shows how they became the ‘modern-day Beatles.’ The layered harmonies over rock and roll rhythms that you, me, and critics have fallen in love with since 2007’s Fate is stripped down to it’s roots and bare essentials here. ”

But I stopped again. Not because I was enlightened once more with mind-blowing new information, but because I realized that what I was writing was a load of crap. Of course it is important to do your homework, but is context really enough to change my entire opinion of the album? It is the same music. Yes, it is true, Easy Beat does expose Dr. Dog’s roots, but does that make it a better album? It is still the same noise.

So I reached a conclusion, and in fact, a self assuring one. It is undeniable that everything affects the way we judge music, whether it be the person who suggested it to you, how you were feeling that day, the association you have with the group before you actually heard them, etc. So then, it is least corrupt to review music with as little knowledge associated to the album as possible. (However, this does not produce the most thorough, backed-up, and analytical review.) This is self affirming because that is primarily what I set out to do when I began this project: to write honestly, quickly and as uninformed as possible so that the only factors that influence the review are what I already know, what I am doing/feeling at the time, and most importantly, what I am hearing.

So what about Easy Beat? It has that stripped down, raw, played in a basement, rock and roll sound which is pretty endearing, but also a little unexciting. It’s got some good tracks, such as “The World May Never Know,” “Oh No (part I and II),” and “Wake Up,” but the majority of it sounds thin and thrown together. The wheels on this guy are wobbly, and it almost doesn’t make the trip, but luckily the album is an unbelievable short 37 minute ride. “Oh No,” has that early 60’s pop thing going on which is what has made Dr. Dog so famous, but most of the other tracks just come off garagey and undisciplined.

Ignore the stupid puppet, but the song should be the same:

day 36, Bill Withers - Still Bill

Stars: 4
Song: “Use Me,” but of the songs I didn’t know before “Another Day to Run”
Show: 38$

I was excited when I saw a Bill Withers studio album on my list because up until now I’ve only heard a couple live jams and a Best Of collection. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Still Bill practically is the Best Of. I knew six of the ten songs, which made for the first morning commute sing along I’ve had in a while. But following the rules of the blog, since I knew most of the songs I am not going to spend a full day on it or review it too carefully. I’ll just make it quick.

Bill Withers is, in my opinion, the 70’s soul/funk guy to listen to. I’ll vibe on him over Stevie or Curtis any day. Bill has a way of pocketing a groove, and still keep it edgy. This album showcases Mr. Withers’ ability to create a funky smooth, yet heavy groove, like nijas fighting underwater. Remember when recording was mostly live and we couldn’t putts around with computers to do touch ups? Well, you feel that on these tracks. They are raw, but the band is so tight, that little imperfections become like funky syncopations in texture and rhythm.

Still Bill is a sure bet to get your dirty funk-face in full effect. And it is true what Momma said; if you keep making that face it is going to get stuck like that, especially if you keep Billy Dubs in your stereo.

Day 35, Erykah Badu - New Amerykah Part II (Return of the Ankh)

Stars: 2
Favorite Song: “Out of My Mind, Just in Time,” “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)”
Show: 5$

New Amerykah Part II (Return of the Ankh) isn’t bad. Nor is it good. It is just…nice. The grooves are funky and steady, the samples are tight, and Erykah sings just fine, but there is an obvious lack of substance. Generally, I’m okay with that, but put into the context of this project where it is stacked up against some of the best albums of all time (according to my subjective friends) New Amerykah (Return of the Ankh) just gets trampled.

Take the single “Window Seat” about wishing to go away and hide, yet wanting to be missed. For starters, this is a very immature thought; something that a spoiled child struggles with when he/she runs away from home for twenty minutes. On top of that, there isn’t a single emotionally effective lyric in the whole song. It is mostly crap like this: “I need your attention, yes. I need you next me. I need someone to clap for me…I just wanna chance to fly, a chance to cry, and a long bye bye....” Real riveting stuff.

But this album isn’t trying to be thought provoking or important. It is supposed to groove and be fun, and flowery, and mindless. And the times when Mrs. Badu is aware this is when it is most successful. “Turn Me Away (Get MuNNY)” does exactly that. It is about trying to get that paper-paper money-money, and using people to get it: “I look like a model. I do what I gotta.” The reason I give this song more credit is because the song is aware that it is complete junk, and so Erykah is able to play with it more. It is awesome in the same way that Lil’ Mamma’s “Lip Gloss” is. In fact, “Turn Me Away” would score well behind the image of a giggling 19 year old gold-digger with her bimbo friends up in her bedroom smearing layers of polyurethane lip gloss on their faces, gearing up for a big night on the town.

But when it is all said and done, you have to make a choice. Are you going to let your pretentious, intellectually driven brain get in the way of New Amerykah Part II? I say let it go and just enjoy yourself. You may find that the sexy samples and funky bass-lines help you deal with the fact that you are a “recovering undercover over-lover recovering from a love a [you] can get over.”

Day 34, Tom Waits - Bone Machine

Stars: 3.5
Song: A Little Rain, Jesus Gonna Be Here.
Show: 25$

First off, I need to apologize for a few things. For one—and this may be more of an apology to myself—I am sorry I have been slacking off getting these things out on time lately. Yes, this is partly due to following my own theology which states, “Don’t work if it don’t pay,” but I don’t really consider this work. The main reasons I have been so slow is because I don’t have any of these albums and it is getting difficult to acquire them. I don’t have the money to buy them (or do much of anything in New York City, for that matter), and I have one of those nasty parasites people call a “conscious” which keeps me from pirating them all. I have been mostly relying on friends to send me their suggestions via a private, closed, completely legal, network. The last reason, and perhaps the most prohibiting, is that my Ipod and my computer are in a fight and are refusing to synch with each other. I thought I fixed this last night, but this brings me to my next apology.

I am sorry, Nicholas Mastors. This morning, as I do every morning, I connected my pod to my computer, went through my morning routine (you know, concocting protein shakes, lifting weights, running four miles, lathering myself in body oils, and trimming chest hairs), unplugged my “synched” Ipod, and headed for the train. By the time I got to the turnstiles, I had my cursor set Tom Waits Rain Dogs, and right when I walked through, past the point of no return, I hit play and nothing happened. Again, technology failed me, and each track, although listed, were duds. I was then left with an ugly dilemma: do I go back home, fuss with my computer for a half an hour and be late for work, or do I fudge it and do a different Waits album? I made the difficult judgment call to just go ahead and tackle Bone Machine instead, which at the time, I thought was from the same time period and in a similar style. As it turns out, Bone Machine came out almost 7 years after Rain Dogs, and I forgot one golden rule about Tom Waits, and mostly all good artists, “always give them something fresh.”

Now that we are sufficiently up-to-date with my goings-on, and you have entertained my self-justifying apologies, let’s talk about Bone Machine.

Like Bob Dylan, Waits is consistently genre bending and redefining himself throughout his incredibly prolific long, 36+ year career. It seems that everybody has at least heard of him, and although I have met only a few people who consider themselves Tom Waits fans, the ones who do are die-hard. And it is easy to understand why.

Mr. Waits is, put bluntly in terms everyone will understand, pretty f-in’ weird. Especially on Bone Machine. His vocals sound like what a haggard, three packs a day, New Orleans blues guy would sound like if he mutated with a bulldog. He voice has got more rasps then a cheese grater. It is booming and sounds like what the monsters from Where the Wild Things are should have sounded like. I apologize (there I go again) for this stack of similes, but his voice is so animated and unique, it forces the listener to put an image to it. But just when you think you have a clear picture, Waits manipulates his voice so intricately that he becomes a different monster on the next track. He can howl at the moon like in “A Little Rain,” or he can be swampy and evil like in “In The Coliseum,” and he even throws on a lisp for “Jesus Gunna be Here.”

I knew his album The Heart of Saturday Night quite well before hearing Bone Machine today. It is basically piano lounge music, like Randy Newman but on a good day. The melodies and chord changes are very romantic, but in the Jack Kerouac sort of way, not the love making kind. They strut along, pulling your heartstrings while making you swing. Bone Machine brings that piano man style back for “Whistle in the Wind,” “A little Rain” and aspects of a few others, but most of the album is off in the other direction Waits has been headed toward every since his 1983 release, Swordfishtrombones. This direction is hard to explain, unless “freakish circus-from-hell singer-songwriter music” does it any justice.

“Earth Died Screaming” exemplifies this. It opens with clinks and clops, like people drumming in the sewer, followed by some sparse guitar and then Waits’ talk/growl. You feel like you are marching with a band of goblins on their way to dinner. Then, there is a huge explosion when the chorus hits. This bomb is not fuled by much, just from Waits escalating to a deeper, scarier, louder chant and bass drum hits on the 1 and 3 beat. It doesn’t take a lot to get start this fire. Lyrics from this song can seem just plain devilish, but the last line of the chorus gives it a twist which instills wit and a taste of humanity: “And the great day of wrath has come, and here's mud in your big red eye. The poker is in the fire and the locusts take the sky. And the earth died screaming while I lay dreaming of you.”

At one point, Waits is almost normal. He scales back his demonic voice during “I Don’t Want to Grow Up,” a song from the prospective of a child, looking out to the world and seeing the ugliness and struggle, and wishing to stay in his room and avoid it. Not only are the lyrics accessible, it is even structured like a basic folk rock song. I still wouldn’t put it on for your grandmother, though.

I am so glad I took the time to settle into an album of his from this era. Although it sometimes scared me half to death, I feel in love with the album's ability to evoke so many images. And I loved that through all the madness, you can still find that beautiful songwriting talent lingering from his Heart of Satruday Night days. No question, I am going to try and get his entire catalogue and devourer it. Especially Rain Dogs.

Day 33, Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick

Stars: 3.75
Song: Well…it’s all one big song, so I’ll say Side A.
Money: 25$

For those of you who have only heard of Jethro Tull because of Anchorman, listen to Thick as a Brick. For those of you who only know Jethro Tull as “that band with a flute,” listen to Thick as a Brick. For those of you that think Juthro Tull is the name of a guy in the band, well you’re wrong, and you should really listen to Thick as a Brick.

This is Tull’s opus. It is the first full length, single song, concept album in rock and roll history, and it still stands as the most acclaimed. By me, at least. Jethro Tull, along with other British bands King Crimson and Yes pioneered the progressive rock movement out of the early 70’s. When Thick as a Brick came out in 1972, it caught prog’s wave which their previous, most popular, album Aqualung helped to create. Although Aqualung holds most of Tull’s greatest hits (as well as a mocking shout-out in one of the dumbest, yet most beloved movies of my generation), Thick as a Brick will remain their greatest achievement, even without any radio play; unless, of course, they ran the whole 46 minute piece.

It is possible to think of the album as a chain of rock songs, strung together by melodic and lyric themes, but it is easier to envision it as a classical piece that happens to rock really hard. The composition allows each movement to slowly blend instruments together, then settle into a melody, and eventually work their way into a repeated chord structure. Then, just how a classical piece rises and falls in and out of itself, we go through the process again in a completely new way. And just to remind you of where you are and what is perhaps 20 minutes behind you, Thick and a Brick quotes itself and revisits lyrics and melodies throughout.

The way Jethro Tull selectively uses certain instruments is also much like a symphony. Certain movements will have organ, some will have none; some movements will use flute, some won't; sometimes the guitar will be heavily distorted, and sometime it sound like an old acoustic in an Irish folk ensemble.

Day 32, Hot Chip - One Life Stand

Stars: 1.25
Favorite Track: I Feel Better
Show: 4$

The same person who recommended Mastodon’s Crack the Skye, which is without question the heaviest album encountered so far during this project, also suggested Hot Chip’s One Life Stand, the wussiest album I’ve ever heard—ever. For his safety, I’ll keep Colin’s name a secret. But honestly, Weird Al could whoop these guy’s asses.

One Life Stand is the British electro indie-pop band’s most recent release. It should be a straight dance album, but it is infected with feelings. Personally, when rubbing myself up against a sweaty stranger in a dark, dank European club, I don't like to be interrupted by someone' lamentations about their mother. One Life Stand is rooted in dance, but everything else seems to be pulling—yanking—away from that. In fact, the only things that make this a dance album at all are the beats and certain effects. Listen to “Feel Better.” Take away the techno beat, and trash the cheesy syths and auto-tune, and you have your self a great Annie Lenox song!

So it is clear, then, that this album is not meant to spin on repeat at London’s, 20 quid cover, dance clubs near Lester Square. It is supposed to be something you sit down to and reflect on after a receiving a disheartening text-message from your crush.

Lyrically these guys can’t cut it either. “My friend once told me something so right, he said to be careful of thieves in the night.” Very true! In fact, I just told my friend the same thing last week after finding out he doesn’t lock his front door. “Two people are alley cats. We have an unhappy cat…Monkey grooms, blossoms bloom. Do you dig germs? the germs.” No comment. “I can play 'Xbox' with my brother. It's not about who won or lost with my brother. We play to be free.” This is bad, but they try to save it and make it about the effect of new baby joining a family, but by the time we get to “when will we be three again, my brothers?” the damage is done. There are loads more gems like these, but I’ll leave them for you to find—like a scavenger hunt!

Well, here is one more: “Humuna, humuna, humuna, humuna (x1000000).”

In it's defense, One Life Stand can be catchy. The title track bumps and has a nice hook. The chorus slides up into a major key, leading it toward a climactic rejoice, but then it is mauled by a ferocious, dissonant synth line which is plopped right on top, the way a disgruntled lunch lady serves mac and cheese. Put this song, "Thieves in the Night," "Feel Better" or "We Have Love" in the background of a moderately energetic party and nobody will miss a beat, but try to avoid direct contact, especially with the "touchy-feely" tunes.

Day 31, Mastodon - Crack the Skye

Stars: 4
Song: The Last Baron
Show: 40$

Mastodon hooks what we know and love of metal, reels it in, and then casts back out again to find more. We get a taste of metal’s roots with Ozzy Osborn-style vocals, some Tool-ish expressive ambiance, some head banging force like Slayer, and they even polish a few heavy grooves like Rage Against the Machine. I’ll stop there, because I don’t want to overwhelm this review with comparisons. Mastodon deserves more than that. Every metal group I have tried so desperately to love (all groups named above, Megadeath, Iron Maiden, The Sword, Primus) satisfies at least one, but never all of these characteristics: energy, exploration, fantastic lyrics, technical mastery, deep understand of and ability to use theory, driving rhythm, and cohesive melodies. Mastodon has them all. Their guitars will melt your face, their tactful modulation in and out of time signatures and keys will test you, and yet they keep you involved by not breaking up the groove to harshly. And throughout all of this, they maintain an ear for melody.

This album has long, journeying songs, as well as tighter ones, and Crack the Skye benefits from both. The first track, “Oblivion,” although perhaps a minute too long for consistent radio play at 5:45, could definitely be a commercial hit. To be able to fill a six minute track with such a high level of musicianship, power, and creative exploration and still say that it is kind of catchy is a groundbreaking achievement. “Oblivion” still draws from the same stuff as it’s two 13+ minute brothers, “The Czar” and “The Last Baron.” That "stuff" is like a spaceship that packs enough energy to shoot itself through unknown territory, appearing to careen wildly, but actually carrying out an extremely well calculated route. The long tracks are not filled directionless jams or pointless ambiance; they have a course which is clear from the beginning. What is not clear, though, is what you will find along the way.

Day 30, Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma

Stars: I don’t know. There are moments on this album that actually hurt. Both the insides of my ears and my poor little brain trying to process some of the most abrasive foreign noises I have ever heard are throbbing right now. The mastering volume on Cosmogramma is incredibly high, which is impressive actually, but by no means comfortable. But he saves himself from becoming a musical guillotine by adding a sprinkling of tender moments like “Intro/a Cosmic Drama” and a few cohesive melodies in tracks such as “Do the Astral Plane.” These and a few other moments of clarity give me the strength to take a shot at the rest of the chaos, and now that I have done it, and have realized that it isn’t chaos at all. It is, in fact, quite beautiful. But it is beautiful in the way that the atom bomb is. A disastrous invention where it is clear that we are now smarter because of it, but it is unclear if we would have been better of with out it.

Also, I am so confused about the tracking. He’ll switch beats mid-song, or sometimes carry the groove from the previous track into the next. This makes it impossible to lineate the album. But on the other hand, it is interesting because it erases the idea that song titles are merely captions. Maybe they are used as a way to bridge gaps in musical thoughts. Or maybe he uses words simply as aesthetic choices which describe the abstractions in his music. But neither of these ideas fit consistently, which makes me think that maybe it’s all free associative and there is no real reason behind it, which seems like the most likely answer, but also the most pessimistic.

Cosmogramma has some of the most crafted, expansive soundscapes I’ve ever heard, but I am tempted to simply write it off as “too much.” So, for stars, I’ll go with either 2 or 4. You pick which one you agree with more.

Favorite Song: There are only a few “songs” on this album. A lot of Cosmogramma floats in and out of itself, begging and ending ideas mid-track. But if I had to choose: “Galaxy in Janaki” and the first half of “…and the World Laughs With You.” However, the aspect of this album I enjoy most is the way he incorporates jazz in the midst of his cosmic, techno-hip-hop freak-outs. For the literal, take “Arkestry” where he mashes together a number of samples from old jazz standards. But check the bass solo throughout “Pickled.” This is probably the jazziest thing on Cosmogramma, and it rips the pants off of anything else on this album. It sounds like Jaco Pastorius if he were to turn into an anime superhero. But this didn’t make it as my favorite track because the ground it stands on is a little bit like a treadmill that is turned up too fast. It flies underneath your feet and all you can do is hope to god you can keep up.

Show: I am sort of recovering from this album experience, so I am not sure if I am, or ever will be ready. I feel like I just worked a 20 hour bar tending shift and I am lying on my tile bathroom floor, swearing to never go back to that god awful place, yet grinning at that huge wad of cash in my pocket. My ears are tired and I don’t think it was worth going through, but I know that I have gained something from Cosmogramma. So the thought of adding any sort of light show to the mix just sounds like it would mess with my brain beyond recovery.

Day 29, Drive-By Truckers - Brighter than Creation's Dark

Stars: 2.5
Song: “Two Daughters and a Wife,” “Three Dimes Down,” “Self Destructive Zones”
Live: $18

I had heard one Drive-By Truckers song years ago,and I never forgot the band. Not because of the song - I can't remember a single thing about it - but because of the catchy band name. (Let that be a lesson to you. Band name does matter.) Since I remembered nothing about the music, I used my analytical skills and deciphered the name in order to make an assumption on how it was going to sound: “Truckers”—a truck driver is probably number two on Jeff Foxworthy’s list of redneck jobs, and it is common knowledge that there is nothing rednecks like more than country rock. But the “drive by” evoked an edginess and depth that goes beyond your average Garth Brooks. It suggests murder, recklessness, cowardice, and anger. So I tagged it as hard country rock. And I was 85% right.

The album title Brighter than Creations Dark should have told me right away that this wasn’t going to be a Dwight Yoakam sing along. And although I got that right, the album still took me by surprise. I was not expecting “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife” to be the first out of the gates. This is a tender song about dying and remembering how beautiful life was. One thing I have learned throughout this whole 80 Albums in 80 Days ordeal is the importance of the first track on an album. In this instance, this first song demanded that I take Drive-By Truckers more seriously than if they had started with “Three Dimes Down” which sings, “Totally screwed, while chicken wing puke eats the candy apple red off his Corvette.” Even though this is one of my favorite songs on the album, if it were first, I would take “The Man I Shot” as a joke, I would hardly even consider “Purgatory Line,” and I would toss “Bob” out the window faster that you could say “peanut butter sandwich.” But because I trusted so much in this first track, I took my time to try and trust songs like “Bob.” I thought to myself, is this line, “Bob will drink a beer or two every now and again, he always had more dogs than he ever had friends?” all that bad? Here’s the kicker: yes, it is.

All in all, the album falls a little short. For one, it is a little confused. They sound like a completely different band from song to song. You have Dolly Parton singing “Home Field Advantage,” Toby Keith doing “Lisa’s Birthday,” the Marlboro Man doing “Monument Valley,” the guy from Soul Asylum doing “The Man I Shot,” and Mick Jagger on “Three Dimes Down.” Typically, I love mixing it up, but this just feels a little longwinded, like a run-on sentence with too many different thoughts crammed in.

I do like their style, though. These guys would put on a hell of an outdoor concert: people tailgating behind their pickups, cooking meat and holding beer wrapped in coozies with the Alabama or South Carolina state flag stamped on it, and everyone is stomping their feet yelling "You're taking me dooooowwwn with that home feild advantage!" And when the sun goes down and the beer runs out, tracks like “Two Daughters…” and “Purgatory Line” sends everybody home sleeply and smiling.

Day 28, The Devil Makes Three - Longjohns, Boots, and a belt

I apologize for the delay...

Stars: 2.5
Song: "Man Tap"
Live: $4

I could write a bland review for the Devil Makes Three - Longjohns, Boots and a Belt. I could say that their country twang has the right attitude. I could say that they have a nice blend of tradition and contemporary; that they are stripped down to two guitars and a bass, but add a certain flare that keeps them from sounding like they are simply covering the old stuff. I could say that they are good at upholding the tradition of songs about drinking, troubles, and lost loves, and are working to find their own voice. I could talk about how their chops are a bit sloppy and the rhythm flutters off at times. And I could say that it is clear that these guys grew up playing along to Led Zeppelin and Nirvana, but really put in a good effort to scale it back.

But my good friend Colin told me the other day to be a little edgier, and since I do not yet have an editor to take advice from, I’ll have to take his.

I appreciate their attempt to be down and dirty southerners, but I could make just as good music drunk off my ass on Smirnoff Ice—wouldn’t even need soul warming bourbon to get this type of engine running--with a couple buddies around a campfire. I can picture these dudes all dolled up in cowboy rags playing an Arizona State frat bar, half wishing they were in Austin playing to a bunch of old cowboys, but gladly taking every Jager-bomb handed to them.

But maybe that’s too harsh. They are not complete hacks. Longjohns, Boots, and a Belt maintains a solid set of songs, with only one or two completely floundering out. “Never Learn,” Sweeping,” and “Tow,” for example, are completely decent songs and lyrically, they draw inside the lines of country rock music…

…like they were obedient 2nd graders whose teacher is Bradley Nowell of Sublime and the day’s subject is Johnny Cash.

In truth, The Devil Makes Three seems like an attempt at recreating instead of playing what naturally comes.

Day 27, Tin Hat Trio - The Rodeo Eroded

Stars: 3.5
Favorite Track: Bill, Night of the Skeptic
Show: 25$

I look up to my good friend Peter for a lot of things: his incessant energy to do things (as long as it is before 11:30pm), his taste for good beer, his skill and passion for art, his tolerance for spicy foods, his hash browns and tomatillo salsa, his skateboard skills, his handy-man and trade skills, his documentary on NGO's in Sierra Leon, and his knowledge of world music. Tin Hat Trio The Rodeo Eroded and Tinariwen Aman Iman were both his suggestions, and both of which have taught me something about music. Tinariwen showed me what music can sound like when done with confidence, and Tin Hat Trio has taught me the power of being well cross-cultured. Before I go any further, I need to humble my dear friend first and say that he also suggested Cat Power You are Free which I remorselessly bashed earlier in the week.

But I do truly thank him for suggesting this album not only because it is great, but also because it was exactly what I needed at this stage in the game. I have gotten almost a third of the way through this silly little mission and, just how all routines cycle through different stages of agreeability, I have begun to dread putting those two plastic cups over my ears and absorb god-knows-what while I trudge through the dungeons of New York City. It sometimes feels like a battle deciphering lyric-heavy, self or socio-analytical albums against the grind of metal train tracks, then sitting down to write judgments on each album after two to four listens—like setting myself upon a soap-box that I don’t think can hold my weight.

That was yesterday, though. Today, I was given a break and a chance to smile listening to primarily instrumental The Rodeo Eroded. The Tin Hat Trio has a core of three musicians: There is a duke of keys, a king of strings, and queen of bow. Each brings their own separate talents and influences. The “king” plays an accoustic six string, a steel guitar, a dobro, and more, and the “duke” handles his accordion and piano quite well. They occasionally invite other musicians to subtly flavor their stew, including Willie Nelson, Billy Martin of MMW, and Jon Fishman of Phish. The Rodeo Eroded covers jazz, avant-garde jazz, eastern European jazz, eastern European folk, bluegrass, blues, country and American folk.


The Rodeo Eroded is dressed in 1920’s blue-collar garb, and it hangs out in a jazz club filled with smoke and sullen people in the basement of New York City building. It talks to itself, sometimes snarls at the slow bar tender, but then smiles and makes it all better. Once it gets its cup of luke-warm vodka, it sets itself on stage under dim lights, plays, and never looks at the audience.

The Rodeo Eroded wishes it was in Paris or on a bus to see its grandmother. It fidgets around uneasily between songs, then drinks, coughs, and picks up again. It wishes it had never come to New York and refuses to remember the good reason which convinced it to. It loves a girl, and she loves it, and they meet twice a month in Connecticut, which is the best they can do. She thinks it’s smart, but it doesn’t know why because it’s drunk most of the time they are together. Still, they have a good time staying in and watching movies together and kissing. She drifts in and out of its head while it plays.

The Rodeo Eroded can have fun, but not nearly as much as it used to. It is, in fact, tired from all the fun it had “back in the day,” but these are positive memories, mostly. It remembers its family fondly, though circumstance has moved them apart. Once it’s set it over, it thinks about calling them, but orders another drink instead and laughs to itself.

Follow this link to listen:

Day 26, OutKast - ATLiens

Stars: 2.75
Favorite Song: ATLiens, E.T. -> 13th floor Getting Old
Show: 33$

ATLiens is not the freakiest in OutKast’s discography, but it may be deepest. ATLiens was still too young to have their signature eclecticism and playfulness found on Aquemini through The Love Below/Speakerboxxx, but it is a launch pad for that style which has made them so famous. Knowing Aquemini and Stankonia so well, I must say I was a little underwhelmed with ATLiens, but I at least appreciated the OutKast history lesson.

I will argue that this is a much deeper album that any else I have heard by them. Lyrically, you can see Big Boi and Andre beggining to steer away from pimps and ganstas, and falling into discussions on life. This isn’t to say that these two guys from Atlanta didn’t don’t talk about that lifestyle anymore, because that would be a lie; they just approach it with a sense of maturity and retrospect here. Here are two lines from “E.T.”: “We was little nappy headed niggas in the projects, but now they carjacks and wait on income tax and unsafe sex. They get the tecs to flex… no no, not this time. Niggas around my way can rhyme so fuck that country shit.” “Holding on to memories like roller coaster handle bars…I may appear to be your average Joe, but little do you know that even Joe got problems that he gots to joust with.” The production on this track is also uniquely reserved. For one, there are no drums. The beat is inferred from the spoken-word raps and light background melodies.

But let’s be real. ATLiens has still got that Dirty-South mentality. The title track, “ATLiens,” seriously bumps—and it’s got a funny hook, too: “Now throw your hands in the air and wave 'em like you just don't care. And if you like fish and grits and all that pimp shit, then everybody say ‘Oh Yeah-er.’” And their flow is incredible. Andre and Big Boi can fly through syllables and rhymes without anyone blinking an eye. They still have their own distinctive styles, though. Big Boi is faster and a little dirtier, and Andre is a touch more graceful and he can mix his style up.

This album charges out of the gates funky and stylish and then sort of cools off in the middle until it slows down completely with the last two tracks. I like the variety, but the order seems a little top-heavy.

25.5 Rating Old Albums

I thought I would go back and rate all of the old albums. A few notes on this before I start, though. I am finding that because I am so broke, the “how much would I pay to see them live” category is almost pointless. It is completely un-relatable unless you too live below the poverty line. What is interesting about it, though, is that there are certain bands where I didn't like the album, but would rather see live over a band whose album I did like. For example, I would WAY rather see Rhapsody than Bright Eyes.

Also, so we’re clear on the star grading: 0 is unlistenable, 1 is bad, 2 is "meh", 2.5 okay, 3 is good, 4 is amazing, 5 is a perfect album.

Rhapsody – Live in Canada
Stars: 2.5
Favorite Song: The Village of Dwarves
Show: 25$

Robert Glasper - Double Booked
Stars: 2.5
Favorite Song: Yes I’m Country (and That's Okay)
Show: 7$

Jay-Z Reasonable Doubt
Stars: 4
Favorite Song: Brooklyn’s Finest
Show: 35$

Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago
Stars: 3.5
Favorite Song: re: stacks
Show: 8$ (Good album, but I can’t see how this would be a good show.)

Deer Tick – War Elephant
Stars: 2
Favorite Song: These Old Shoes
Show: 8$

Dawes – North Hills
Stars: 4.25 (These guys are my favorite right now.)
Favorite Song: That Western Skyline
Show: 40$

Antlers – Hospice
Stars: 2.5
Favorite Song: Epilogue
Show: 15$

Beck – Mutations
Stars: 3
Favorite Song: Canceled Check
Show: 15$

Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
Stars: 3.5
Favorite Song: Four Winds
Show: 10$

Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
Stars: 4
Favorite Song: Stylo, Rhinestone Eyes
Show: 30$

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Up From Below
Stars: 3.75
Favorite Song: Home, 40 Day Dream
Live: 15$

Polaris – Music from the Adventure of Pete and Pete
Stars: 3
Favorite Song: Hey Sandy, Saturnine
Show: 3$

Fanfarlo – Resevoir
Stars: 1
Favorite Song: Harold T Wilkins, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time
Show: 1$

Gangstarr – Moment of Truth
Stars: 3.5
Favorite Song: You Know My Steeze, Work
Show: 12$

The National – Boxer
Stars: 2
Favorite Song: Fake Empire
Show: 10$

Beruit – Gulag Orkestar
Stars: 2.75
Favorite Song: Postcards from Italy
Show: 5$

The Raincoats – Self Titled
Stars: 3.25
Favorite Song: You’re A Million
Show: 7$

LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening
Stars: 3
Favorite Song: Home
Show: 13$

Day 24 + 25, Cocorosie - La Maison de Mon Reve, Cat Power - You are Free

Stars: Cocorosie – 2.25 Cat Power - 1
Favorite Track: Cocorosie – I like the melody to “Tahiti Rain Song,” but I don't like like the way it's put together, nor do I think it is really a complete track, so I will have to go with “By Your Side.” Cat Power - Good Woman
Show: 0$ for either.

Neither of these two albums interested me. I fell asleep three out of four times through You Are Free, and one out of three for La Maison de Mon Reve. I am grouping these two together because I don’t feel I can write a legitimate review on them. So, instead of writing two unproductive bashings, I thought I’d condense it down to one.

I don’t believe that Cat Power’s or Cocorosie’s song writing chops are strong enough to warrant a 12 or 15 track album of virtually nothing but vocals. For example, in “Names,” Cat Power's lyrics and melody are so terribly mismatched that she has to force extra syllables into the lullaby-like melody. Cat Power’s melodies are either uninspired or kitschy, as if she was selling pain medication or Japanese bubblegum. Here is a quick run through of her lyrical triumphs: “Take a chance on true romance when you dance…FREE!” “His name was Charlie. He said he was in love with me. We were only 14. I had to move away. Then he started to smoke crack.” “We do the best we can, so we can do one more thing. We can all be free.” “You were swinging your guitar around because they wanted to hear that sound." “When I see that moon movin' through the clouds in the sky, I get a crazy feelin' an' I wonder why. Oh the werewolf, Oh the werewolf, comes travelin' along. He don't even break the branches where he's been goin’.” Okay, yes, those are taken out of context, and yes, if Bob Dylan wrote those lyrics, I wouldn’t blink an eye. But there is a reason they stick out so much. Cat Power writes these melodramatic, three chord, slow-as-molasses, solo piano or guitar pieces that sound like they should be so goddamn important. But they’re not.

Lyrically, Cocorosie is a little more self-aware and toungue-and-cheek: “And for a diamond ring, I'll do these kinds of things: I'll scrub your floor, never be a bore. I'll tuck you in, I do not snore.” “Skittles are the rainbow. And every color's popular though red gets the most invitations to the Jr. High celebrations.” In their defense, both Coco and Cat always have a message hidden within these seemingly sophomoric lyrics, or a least a moment that makes you go “huh…” but I’m still not sold.

Most of You Are Free is solo guitar/piano and vocal peices, which makes it feel super empty. Actually! You know how it is common for the last song on a pop album to be that quiet, sentimental, heart-to-heart solo performance? Well, that is the best way to describe 3/4s of You are Free. It makes you want the album to end.

Coco and Cat are two female, rock/pop, singer-songwriter groups, and although very different in nature—La Maison... is full of worthless effects and weird production with world music influences and You are Free has punk and pop influences—they also have this in common: their albums aren’t finished. Every song is a taste of what it could be. And I don't mean unfinished in that rugged and raw way; they just don’t seem to be complete musical thoughts. Coco flirts with the use of effects and samples, but never truly runs with it all the way, and Cat doesn’t have enough chords/movements in her songs to warrant being so slow and sentimental—they just come off spiritless. Also, Cat doesn’t have enough juice to really push the albums high-points. “Speak for Me,” one of four attempts at “rocking out” on the album, still seems thin and unfinished, as if she were just cutting a demo to prove to her A&R man that she can write a hit.

Day 23, Galactic - Ya-Ka-May

Stars: 4.25
Favorite Track: You Don’t Know
Live: $30

I remember grooving out to Galactic at jam festivals, like Bonnaroo back when it was a hippy-fest and Metallica would have been booed off the stage—or more likely ignored passive-aggressively by everyone sitting and braiding flower stems. As an aspiring jazz musician, I would make a point to stop and gawk at the incredibly talented keys player, Richard Vogel, and vibe to the gritty tone of guitarist Jeff Raines, but then leave in a hurry so to not miss Moe. or The String Cheese Incident or something.

Now that the bulk of my jam days are behind me, groups like Medeski, Martin and Wood, Soulive and Galactic are no longer my main source of motivation to become a better musician. My love for funky grooves, rippin’ 10 minute solos, and virtuosos has not completely subsided—I mean, I did just get back from a four-show run with Phish—but Galactic didn’t have that edge to make it last with me.

But that was the old Galactic; this is Ya-Ka-May. This is a completely different animal. In fact, if I hadn’t done a little research, I would have accredited Ya-Ka-May to a young producer who happened to go by the same name as the jazz-jam group. These guys went Mrs. Doubtfire on us and donned a magnificent costume that could fool anyone. But just how Natalie knew deep down that Mrs. Doubtfire was really her father all along, it is clear that Ya-Ka-May has grown up from Galactic’s roots.

Ya-Ka-May features a different local New Orleans artist on every track. It is almost like a pub-crawl through the city’s best venues. You have brass bands, hip-hop, rock, soul, blues, jazz and funk spread across 13 tracks. It is pretty forceful, too. There aren’t any slow numbers or any huge breaks in intensity, so make sure to have your dancing shoes laced.

Galactic made a choice to start off the album with a short track with a sample about a scientist and his students. The scientist talks about an invention that he made which has the ability to harness brain channels that represent talent, and then transfer the talent to someone else. On first listen, this seems like an arbitrary choice, but it is actually quite clever in that it foreshadows what Ya-Ka-May is all about. Galactic, a New Orleans style jazz-jam band whose previous albums all sound pretty much the same, harnesses the talents of other New Orleans musicians and develop an ability to perform hip-hop, soul, dance and other levels of music.

The album’s got party tracks like “Double It,” “Katey Vs. Knoby,” and “Do it Again,’ which sound like a mix of Lil’ John hootenannies, MIA bangers, and James Brown sex machinery. Some grooves get dirty and deep like “Dark Water,” “Liquor Pang,” and “Speaks His Mind.” The rest of the tracks fall somewhere in the middle, sitting on tight grooves with soulful melodies. This is where Galactic is most successful. My favorite track, “You Don’t Know,” is a beast that will shake your ass and the ground. Glen David Andrews and The Rebirth Brass band get on this one and blow the house down with popping horn lines and growling, blues vocals that sound like they came up from the grave for revenge.

And this album is tried and tested. I had a party last night up on my roof and we almost caved it in once this album dropped.

day 22, Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele

Stars: 2.5
Song: Nutmeg (He drops rhymes with John McEnroe, Repunzel, and Shrimp Scampi… c’mon, that’s dope.), Wu Banga
Show: $0, already had the opportunity and passed it up.

Ghostface Killah is one of my favorite members of Wu Tang Clan, but on his own, he overwhelms me. He is by far the most intense guy of the Clan, not necessarily lyrically, but definitely his in your face, relentless, high-flying style is. It’s dope, for sure, but it will wear you out to get through the full one hour, 21 track album, Supreme Clientele.

From the get-go you know this guy means business. Nutmeg throws a rhyme every three words in the first verse, and at a fast tempo, too. And he’ll spit just about anything. He’ll drop pop culture knowledge, like “Waiting for the vulture, like Caster Troy laying for Travolta,” but he keeps it raw and doesn’t hesitate to rip “He smiling with his teeth missing, begging for mercy.”

No question this is an extraordinary display of talent, with rapid fire rhymes and enough raw energy to spark a gang war at the Special Olympics, but as a whole album, it leaves hardly any room to breathe. Even the skits are brutal. “Crackhead Shit” may be the wildest drug ramble ever recorded, unless the other incoherent tirade, “Clyde Skit,” takes the cake.

Pop on “Buck 50” any day and I’ll get down to the old-school, simple, sample-heavy beats and the dirty verses traded between Ghost, Method Man, Redman, and Cappadonna. “We Made It” will get things crackin’, too. But put ‘em all together and you’re going to need a cold shower afterward. But I have to ask you…”The fuck you wanna do? Crack a brew, smoke an L or two.”

day 21, The Flaming Lips and Stardeath and White Dwarfs - Dark Side of The Moon

Stars: 3
Favorite Track: Breathe, On the Run
Show: 25$, but that’s just because I’ve seen them before.

I love The Flaming Lips, and I love most of what they have done to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. They have taken one of the best rock and roll albums of all time and made it Lips-like: funky, weird, flooded with effects and electronics, and driven by bass riffs. If this album was an original, no doubt it would be a hit and earn a Selby 5 star (or 4.5, because I don’t really ever give 5s), but since this is a remake, it is held to a higher standard.

The ultimate question is: Does it enhance, recreate, and revitalize the album? A big “yes” to only one: recreate. A “maybe” and an “eh” to the other two. Other than vital melodies and chord changes and the album’s general structure, The Lips have completely given Pink Floyd’s 1973 release a makeover. Tracks like “Breathe” and “Money” balance on a completely different groove, and showcase different features. For one, there isn’t a guitar solo on the entire album. For Pink Floyd devotees, this is blasphemy. I myself missed the epic moments in “Money” or “Time” where David Gilmore soloed his way into rock and roll history, but in truth, the fact that The Lips didn’t attempt to match this keeps them from turning into a bad cover band you might catch at a community lobster bake in Bumblefuk, Maine, or at a wedding in a Milwaukee tavern.

The most interesting thing for me was that my favorite moments from the Floyd version are my least favorites on the Lips version, and visa-versa. Take “On the Run.” On the original, it is simply a noise and effect, spaced-out, album-filler that was probably put in place when the acid kicked in, also right around the time they decided to synch it up with The Wizard of Oz, I'm sure. It is not really a song and I usually skip it. The Lips took this as an opportunity to do what they do best: be The Flaming Lips. So they just jammed something completely unrelated to Pink Floyd's version, except making sure to maintain the flight attendant nonsense in the background. Also unlike the 1973 version, the jam has a lot of bite. It sits on a heavy bass groove that is pieced together by a high energy dance beat. All in all, it may be the most rockin’ track on the album.

The way Roger Waters sings “Time” is no doubt one of the most awesome performances on the album, but The Lips somehow manage to completely subdue the vocals, smothering it under a layer of reverb and sleepy instrumentation. I ask myself “why?” And why did they decide to dull down the explosive chorus of “Us and Them” to a high pitched croon? Why no climactic jam on "Money?" Did The Flaming Lips purposefully restrain themselves from over-indulging in the epic moments that Pink Floyd had already created in order to make their own by focusing on Floyd’s low points? I can see the hesitation to simply copy an album note for note and work hard to make something fresh, but this self-awareness may be going slightly overboard.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the new twist they put on the songs like “Great Gig in the Sky,” but perhaps I would have liked it more if they just used these tools to do their own album. The style they conquer here in this remake is unmistakably groundbreaking, but it may have a greater impact if it was done with original material.

day 20, Tinariwen - Aman Iman

Stars: 3.25
Favorite Track: Cler Achel
Show: $35

Tinariwen is a band of gypsies (literally) from the deserts of Algeria. I’ll save the biography for the professionals and keep it plain and simple: Aman Iman is Algerian rhythm and blues that features guitar, repeating one or two chord structures, and a vocalist that trades off with a chorus and/or guitar solos.

Aman Iman was actually one of the four albums which was suggested more than once. (Beach House Teen Dream, Jonathan Richmond's Rockin' and Romance and Flying Lotus Cosmogramma were the other three.) By the brief description given to me by one of the suggesters, I was immediately intrigued. I went online and checked out a few tracks and read a few articles. I suggest you do the same. Their story is very unique—maybe not for Algerians growing up in wartime, but at least for popular musicians.

Most of the tracks groove in one or two chords, but Aman Iman stays interesting. The guitar playing can get heavy at times in tracks like “Soixante Trios” which is a deep and dark, funky, blues groove where the electric guitar and vocals trade verses, as is done in traditional American blues. The guitar cries along with the singer in the same rough and ready tone, also just like the blues.

My favorite track, “Cler Achel,” is an outstanding display of confidence and energy. Of course I have no idea what they are talking about, but the attack of the guitar and blunt volume of the chorus and vocalist proves a self-assured attitude. Tinariwen are not trying to be anything; the music is simply an extension of who they are. Later tracks on Aman Iman are not quite as strong, but they still leave a lasting impression.

day 19, Brian Eno - Here Come The Warm Jets

Stars: 3.75
Favorite Song: Baby’s on Fire
Live: $31

Here Come the Warm Jets was the first rock-and-roll Brian Eno album I’ve heard. I’ve kicked around a couple “atmospheric” albums of his as well as the David Byrne collaboration that came out a few years ago, but he never struck me as a guitar solo kinda guy. As it turns out, Brian Eno (or at least the guitarists he rolls with) rips it with the best of them.

Here Come the Warm Jets
is, no question, a rock-and-roll album. It does, however, cover many bases. It is part nerdy freak-out with tracks like “Dead Finks Don’t Talk,” part Eric Clapton with “Needles in the Camel’s Eye,” part Primus with “Baby’s on Fire,” and part atmospheric rock with “Here Come the Warm Jets.” Put it together and you have an exciting album with a lot of idiosyncrasies to keep you on your toes.

My two favorite tracks on Here Come the Warm Jets have nothing to do with each other musically. “Cindy Tells Me” may be a huge hit on your classic pop/rock station, while it would be a stretch for “Baby’s on Fire” to even make it on your hard rock/alternative station. “Cindy Tells Me” trots along with clinky pianos, tight guitars and light drums like an early Beatles song. “Baby’s on Fire” is on a completely different page—more like a different book. Vocally, it is much harsher, with a raspy whining that is almost frightening. Lyrically, too, it is intense. “Baby’s on fire, better throw her in the water. Look at her laughing, like a heifer to the slaughter.” But most intense of all is the four minute guitar solo played by Robert Fripp of King Crimson. It pounces all over the simple two chord demonic oscillation and kicks dirt it its face. Note for note, it fights dirty, but the tone is so well soaked in overdrive, reverb and other effects that you notice how obviously well crafted it is.

The only reason this album didn’t get four or five stars is because I can’t seem to pin Here Come the Warm Jets down. Being so all over the place with styles, effects and whatnot, I would sometimes get lost. Listening back, I find myself skipping a lot of tracks then going back to them later. Also, I find “Blank Frank” and “Dead Finks Don’t Talk” virtually unlistenable, but the beautiful tag-team holding up the rear, “Some of Them are Old” and “Here Come the Warm Jets” are enough to force me to get through them.

day 18, The Shop Assistants - Will Anything Happen

Stars: 2.25
Favorite Track: Nature Lover, because it rocks the hardest.
Concert: 15$

The shop assistants are a Scottish punky, pop group from the 80’s. They have two very distinguishing features: a talk/sing female vocalist and a lot of guitar. Every song is drenched in overdriven, full-chord, strumming that creates a really thick mattress for the rest of the music to bounce on. The issue, though, is that they are on two sides of one fence. Will Anything Happen has the attitude, rhythm and sometimes lyrics of a lively punk group, but the chords and harmony (not necessarily vocal harmony) and energy is much like pop-rock, leaving it feeling kind of soft.

The first track shows what I’m talking about. It is powered by guitars and a driving beat, and it has snide lyrics to boot. But the vocals and the chord changes are simple and almost pleasant, which puts it in a strange middle-ground. “I don’t Want to be Friends With You,” talks about a guy trying to tell a girl they’d be better off as friends instead of lovers after some history, but the girl is not pleased: “If you leave me I’ll scratch your eyes out.” In the classic punk-rock tradition, you get simple feelings expressed plainly here, but it comes out like a lullaby.

Day 17, Sigur Ros - Takk

I thought it may be fun to implement a grading system to the blog. There will be three categories: Stars, which will be a number one through five; favorite track; and would I see them live, and if so, for how much. The last one will be fun and little more personal in that it will openly reflect my financial misery.

So let’s start it up here with Sigur Ros – Takk
Stars: 4
Best Track: Gong -> Gong Endir
See them live: 65$. I’ve actually heard that seeing this band live leads to spiritual enlightenment…which I dig.

I’ve owned Takk for years. A friend of mine in college gave it to me and demanded I get stoned and listen to it in the dark in bed—which I still have not done, to this day. I put it on in the background once and didn’t vibe on it, most likely due to circumstance, and then abandoned it with a promise to return. Throughout college, more conversations about music and god and peace and truth and passion and excitement and energies and sadness and rock and roll went down than I can even bare to remember, and somehow Sigur Ros found its way into enough of them that I felt like I was constantly reminded that I was due for a revisit. It never happened until today, though.

The album is a cinematic, dramatic, epic, triumphant piece of work that conquers you. If you are caught in the right mindset, it could swallow you up, but in the wrong one, it may just sound pretty, and quiet, and then suddenly big, but always pretty. I listened to it once while driving into the heart of East New York, Brooklyn and it didn’t sit right. I was all on edge from the drive and the fact that I was in one of the ugliest places in the nation, and I was actively ignoring it. But later, I listened to it on my headphones, exhausted after a long day, and it washed me clean. Since the lyrics are Icelandic, I had no idea what they were talking about, so I developed my own narrative, like you would with any good instrumental music. My narrative was about the battle you have to fight to find peacefulness.

Every moment is well tailored to a very specific sound. There are strings—real and synthetic—gobs of reverb, massive guitars when necessary, piano, etc. It is well shaped, to say the least, as no song outlays the rest of the album. It is one complete body of work, which is unusual these days. This entity will seep out of the speakers and tickle you with quiet, emotional noises, and then build to a steady rhythm and melody, and then finally explode like fireworks. They create this wave very naturally, too. There are no abrupt peaks—in fact you usually have to wait through a couple tracks to get one—and the valleys are slowly climbed down into.

But if you aren’t ready for it, Takk may be a little hard to take. It is much better balanced than, say, The National’s Boxer, but there are still some subdued moments that might turn off the over-eager beaver. There is a lot of empty space in between songs that leaves things sounding…well…empty. You may also find the male squeaky falsetto singer off-putting, like a eunuch with a nosebleed.

But Takk is not going to be one of those albums you really have to work at to love. There isn’t a lot up it’s sleeve. This isn’t to say that it is dry or uninteresting, though. Just think of listening to a Charlie Parker recording: it is infinitely complex, intricate and interesting, but you know what you’re getting into after the first listen.

Day 16, LCD Soundsystem - This is Happening

LCD Soundsystem has been accredited by Rolling Stone for bringing the hipsters back to life. They feel that This is Happening is a masterpiece (or something like that, I don’t have the article with me so I can’t put it in quotes) because it has brought dance music back into the “cool” scenes. This is one hell of a feat, considering this generation of concert-goers is notably one of most led-footed. No moshing. No hippy dancing. No skank. No break dancing. No mashed potato. Just a lot of cool noise without any good way for us to express our love for it, so we just stand around and say we’re having fun. Personally, I am remedying myself of this deficiency by seeing Phish a bunch this summer, and I suggest you do the same to get some swing back into your step.

Although I feel moderate-to-positive about This is Happening, I am not sure that it is all that danceable after-all, and even if it is, if that fact alone warrants a resounding applause. No doubt this album is hinged on heavy beats, but I don’t think LCD is starting the next big craze. No macarana here, although I bet everyone is fine with that.

I cannot picture myself dancing to a lot of these tracks, though. Am I going to cut loose to “One Touch,” with it’s marching, techno-style, four-to-the-floor rhythm and the singer who sounds like a German porn star? Probably not. “Drunk Girls,” Somebody’s Calling,” and “All I Want” definitely aren’t making it onto Club Dry-Hump’s mega-mix, either. The club-bangers here are “I Can Change,” “You Wanted a Hit,” and “Pow Pow.”

But there is an issue: these are three of the worst tracks on the album. “I Can Change” has an off-putting 80’s synth line that sounds as if a kid wanted to make a noise to represent Dracula in his 5th grade play. In its defense, this song does have one of the best vocal performances on the album. But that isn’t too hard, given what else he’s doing. Both “Pow Pow” and “You Wanted a Hit” feature an awkward, half singing/half talking technique which is just uncomfortable.

Quick antidote: I put This is Happening on while my girlfriend and I were sitting down to dinner. I popped the album on, starting where I had left off at “You Wanted a Hit.” Holly cringed at first, but I ignored her initial response and kept chatting. Then “Pow Pow” came on and conversation ceased and we both stared at the Ipod as if was asking us a stupid question. When the fake-yelling, “POW!POW!POW!POW!POW!POW!POW!POW!” started up, she said to the speakers with as much sarcasm as possible, “Wow. Real cool, man.” So I skipped to the next track. Then to me with as little sarcasm as possible, “Can you please make that stop?”

Sure, discussing my girlfriend’s bashing isn’t a real effective way to credibly describe This is Happening, but it shows something that I thought was worth mentioning: the album is sort of awkward. When listening on my headphones, I rather enjoyed myself. It was walking me along through my day, head bobbing from side-to-side, quite contently. But right when I heard it on speakers when other people were listening too, I felt real uneasy. It was just like that feeling you get when you show someone a piece of writing, or song, or painting or whatever, of yours that you originally felt really proud of until that moment when someone else is looking at it with you and everything falls apart.

There are a few songs on here that still hold themselves up, though. “Home” is great. It talks, rather candidly too, about old friends and advice. “You might forget the sound of my voice, but you should not forget, yeah don’t forget, the things we laughed about.” Also, “Drunk Girls” is a nice departure from the rest of the album. It is much more punk-rock, lyrically as well as musically, and the energy is there to back it up.

Day 15, The Raincoats - Self Titled

So far, today’s self titled album by the Raincoats is the oldest I’ve listened to. Which got me thinking. Looking at the list, there are only a handful of albums from past generations. There was nothing in my original e-mail that I sent out to all of my friends when asking for suggestions about “new” or “fresh.” I simply asked for two, must hear albums. Nobody mentioned Dylan, the Beatles, or even Michael Jackson, and there were no antiquities, like a Bach or Beethoven. Had my friends completely turned their back on history?

Since the average age of the people I asked for recommendations was around 25, it could be that everyone is just sick of being force-fed canonical works of art, like we were all through college. The most optimistic answer to this is that everyone is in the stage of their lives where they are beginning to clear their own paths in life and finding new ways to satisfy themselves. Maybe this has an influence over their music tastes?

Or maybe my friends just know me too well. Although I never mentioned it in the original e-mail, it was my intention to only spend a whole day on an album I had never heard before. Maybe they had the sense to guess. Also, if you know me well at all, you may know I had almost given up on “new music” years ago, so perhaps they were trying to enlighten me to regain faith. Or maybe it is all coincidence.

Regardless, the Raincoats’ self titled debut released in 1979 came out 17 years before anything else I’ve listened to so far (Jay-Z’s reasonable Doubt in 1996). It felt great to get out of hipsterdom and revisit the origins of a style and sound often mimicked today. The Raincoats are an all girl post-punk band from London. Their album is clunky, thin and awkward, but not because they did a half-assed job recording it. They are simply hell-bent on sounding like they way stick-figures look: thin, simple, overtly expressive (slanted eyebrows, smiley-face, etc.) and when used correctly, it’s all you need.

The Raincoats have bass, drum and guitar like any other punk band, but this album features a violin—and there is nothing honky-tonk about it. In fact, I didn’t even know that it was a violin until I got halfway through the album, and then I still had to double-check online. The violin is often wrapped in serious fuzz, and she turns it into a shrieking cow. It is also the only sound-modified instrument on the album. The rest of the instruments sound like they were mic-ed once for the demo and then plopped right into the final cut. The guitar twangs along with little-to-no overdrive, the drums are clinky, and the bass sort of plods along like C3PO in serious need of oil.

But this almost amateurish sound is not indicative of the maturity of the band. The arrangements are actually very interesting and well thought-out. The harmonies and interactive vocals on “No Side to Fall In,” and “Black and White” disserve more credit than their tin-can sound would grant on its own. My favorite track, “You’re a Million,” rises with a dramatic, open and drawn-out section and then falls into a hectic, speedy dance-beat, like a tidal wave slowly approaching and then crashing.

The lyrics, too, prove that the band isn’t just playing around. They can get pretty heavy when the time is right: “Rolling in pain/discovered what hurts/and tasted hell/infatuated by madness/I danced in flames/and drunk in the depth of love.” But the Raincoats can be fun, too. They do a cover of The Kinks’ “Lola,” which they strip down and bang out extraordinarily well. This version may even be little more believable, too, as if Lola is singing the song about the guy she picked up.

Day 14, Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

I was happy to mix things up today with Beirut’s Gulag Orkestar. It was great to get some “world” music into this project, even though this album was recorded by an American grad student in a New Mexico University dorm room. Songwriter Zach Condon writes Balkan/Eastern European influenced music. The songs are very simple and very catchy. They repeat two—maybe four if you’re lucky—chords over and over again while the singer and trumpets trade verses. The songs stand on their own quite well, so if you put “Postcards from Italy,” or “Gulag Orkestar” on, your friends will not only be mighty impressed, but enjoy themselves. But a whole album of two or four chord oscillations is a little redundant, and leaves me waiting for a “real” song. But it never comes. Although I am a little disappointed that there are not any huge movements within each song, thinking back, a more complex song structure would blow the whole vibe of the album, and probably ruin the Balkan authenticity.

The best thing about this album are the trumpets—especially the harmonization. Their melodies take center stage here-even over the vocals-mostly because they are so extravagant. He gets up to five part harmony at one point! They are really well blended, probably because they are played by the same guy, but the sound is still really raw. It sounds like you bumped into this band on the streets of some random Baltic city…or Santa Fe.

Day 13, The National - Boxer

This project is intrinsically flawed. It is not conducive to writing reviews. Even though I go through an album twice at bare minimum, the fact that I am shoving gobs of new music into my ears every day on a crowded, loud, and miserable city subway doesn’t give certain albums a chance. First and foremost, it is simply hard to hear some lyrics. Second, after spending an entire day listening to and writing about an album, I am thrust into a new one with barely any time to enjoy what I had been hearing or decompress and ready myself for what’s next.

But it still holds water. When hearing a song or album for the first time in the real-world, it comes to you quickly and unexpectedly, like when a buddy pulls you aside at a party, throws a pair of headphones on you and plays 30 seconds of his new favorite track. We are expected to make a judgment, even here. The initial reaction to this new-music-bum rush will decide whether or not you listen to the album again, whether you like the artist, whether you think your friend has whack taste, etc.

I have a friend who hits up all the hot music blogs every day to see what is what. He’ll have two windows open on his computer: Itunes music store and whatever blog he is taking advice from. He’ll read a music blurb on the blog, then find the album on Itunes, click on the second song, listen to the 20 second sample, then the seventh song sample, and then decide if it sucks or if he should get the album. And honestly, he is not a complete moron for this. There is a lot of music out there, and how can anyone really decide for themselves what is going to get us off? Although this guy tries, nobody truly ever does. In fact, when review writing used to be an art and an authority, people trusted their critics. And best of all, we had all the guess-work done for us. Now, with instant access on the internet and armies of cranky, pretentious, know-it-all bloggers (I am very much included in this), then who do we trust? We pretend to trust ourselves, but what will a 20 second clip really teach us about the music? But I am not saying that our generation’s music listeners are lazy. I think the opposite. We have become over-active in our search for new pleasures. We don’t have to take a critics word for it anymore, because we can easily go online and find some obscure band to fall in love with/hate on our own.

Last week, my girlfriend, Holly, brought up an interested point. She is a fiend for NPR’s science/sociology program Radio Lab and recently listened to a program on how we process music. Apparently, there is an entire area of our brain dedicated to processing new sounds. This area is extremely active in some people, and less so in others. So off the bat, there are certain people who are more likely to enjoy new music. The conclusion of the study proved that no matter what, people are more likely to enjoy music after they become familiar with it and learn to process the new sounds. So, is twice or three times through an album really enough to grant a review? Probably not, but since nobody these days really takes the time to sit with an album for weeks on end, this is the most true-to-life way to write a review, albeit not the most accurate.

But the real question is whether it is our duty to give every album its due time and listen to it until we can claim we are comfortable enough with it to make a “worthy” judgment. My answer: no. You don’t sit in front of a painting for 6 hours a day for two weeks before you make a judgment; you walk into the gallery, look up and say “hmm, yeah, I don’t dig that,” maybe you come up with a few good reasons why, and then you move on. You don’t watch a movie 15 times before you say whether or not you like it. But unless you’re writing a 50 page thesis on the thing, art shouldn’t be that academic anyway. It should be beautiful.

There was a reason that I opened today’s entry with this discussion. On the subway home to Brooklyn from hanging in Central Park outside the Simon and Garfunkel tribute concert, I was telling a buddy my thoughts on the album of the day: Boxer. He loved the album and the rest of the band's catalog, and hoped I felt the same. I said I was felt luke-warm on it, and found it kind of subdued. His response was, “You just gatta give like, at least 10 more listens. I didn’t like it at first, either.” This is a very common response when trying to prove your favorite band to a skeptic. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to convince someone that Joanna Newsom’s voice “grows on you.”) But is it really my fault if I don’t want to give it 10 more times? If this is an album that you have to learn to love, then is my twice-through criticism worth a dime?

I agree that Boxer is a georgous album with lush rock-and-roll textures behind a mysterious and melancholy singer. But the lyrics, which are well written and relatable, get lost in the singers lack-luster expressions. I have a hard time believing in a vocalist who sings about his emotions as if he were giving a 10th grade algebra lecture. The melodies box themselves in a short range of notes, which limits their diversity. The album is very sleepy, even though most of the songs have a driving rhythm. The drums save the album from falling into a coma. They kick the band into a higher-gear than the music achieves on it’s on. Just listen to “Squalor Victoria” and you will know exactly what I mean.

The album is very well produced, too. There is a lot of ambient noise which fills up space to make their sound come off much larger than it actually is. Listen to my favorite song on the album, “Start a War,” and try to count the instruments. I can really only hear drums and few guitars, but there are about 20 other sounds going on in the background which I cannot identify. It’s a little bit of a cop-out for a band to make up all these sounds in the studio, but this tactic has been around for years, so there is no point arguing now. But regardless how you feel about the way the sound was made, there is no arguing that it is a beautiful, ear-gasms inspiring, effect.

So no, I do not love The National’s Boxer, but perhaps that’s just because my “new sounds brain-area” is undeveloped and I need to give Boxer more time, right?

Day 12, Gang Starr - Moment of Truth

Gang Starr is made up of MC Guru and DJ Premier. They hold a high place in the New York hip-hop “underground” scene of the mid 90s (but I was glad to hear Guru hails from Boston, my home town). They are raw, funky, jazzy, even playful at times, but they do not go too far from their roots. They sound a lot more old-school than they really are, too. Even though Moment of Truth was released in 1998, it sounds a lot closer to A Tribe Called Quest’s 1993 release Low End Theory than Jay-Z’s 1998 release Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life.

But Premier and Guru both have very distinct styles which doubly sets them apart from other artists of their era. First off, Premier is a sampling god. But he is not over-the-top, overactive, or showy. Unlike some of the modern sampling masters like MadLib or DJ Shadow, he doesn't overdo it with flair and rarely deviates from the beat. Some of the songs off of Moment of Truth don’t have a real hook or chorus, so the song relies on Premier’s cuts from other hip-hop songs or from old Motown samples to fill in the space. Check out “You Know My Steeze” to see what I'm talking about. It is sample-heavy, but straightforward enough to keep a strong foundation. This sets a wonderful landscape for Guru to run around in.

But Guru does very little running, and a lot more lounging. His flow is real slow, especially compared to other powerhouse songs of 1998: “Still Not a Player,” by Big Pun, or Jay-Z’s “Nigga What, Nigga Who.” Guru is unique in that he takes the time to enunciate every syllable of every word, without a lot of filler or fudging to make rhymes fit. This vocal approach was a lot more common back with groups like Tribe, or even NWA. However, since Guru’s lines are often complete sentences, and with his precise diction, he can sometimes get a little jumbled. But I think that is what makes Guru so great. His flow seems slightly vulnerable, like you are not sure how is going to take it, or if he is really going to make it work. There are examples all over the album where he will be rapping a line, get half way through the phrase and realize that he doesn’t have enough syllables left to fill up the bar, so he just rests and picks it back up a beat and a half later. Super funky.

Gang Starr is a great to listen to when you want some solid, funky, stripped down hip-hop, and not something too abrasive with arbitrary gun blasts thrown around.

Day 11, Fanfarlo - Reservoir

I listened to Fanfarlo’s Reservoir today and I don’t like it. It seriously does nothing for me. (Just to remind you that this is a blog and not a real source of literature or journalism.) Fanfarlo has all the right parts, but not the right attitude. They come off over-sentimental, trite, forced, trendy, too perfect, calculated, and heartless. I feel like these guys hired a couple of professional musicians who could make nice sounds with their instruments, put them up in a baller recording studio and went off to make some money. Skip Fanfarlo and listen to Arcade Fire, or the Talking Heads, or Calexico even if you really need some horns.

It isn’t all bad. Reservoir is beautifully mixed, and it produces a pleasantly strong wave. The horn lines are very fluid, the pianos and acoustic guitars blend well, they nail the harmonies, and they have a super driving bass and drum section. But they seem to culminate every trend in music right now: mysterious vocalist, token female back-up singer, random instrumentation like trumpets and synthesizers, sadness, and that thumping downbeat drumming. It is funny that this bothers me, because this could be the exact reason somebody else would like it: it has everything that is good! I guess I’m too rock-and-roll for that sentiment. (HA!)

Just listen to the “hey!”s (or “say!”s?) on the track “Harld T. Wilkens, or How to Wait for a Very Long Time.” They start at 3:09. Such a poor attempt at showing energy. And not to mention that its a huge Arcade Fire rip. Which, if you listen to “No Cars Go,” (0:36, 1:11, etc.) you can tell the difference. But if I had my way, the “hey!”s would be left in punk music all together. But let’s face it; musically there is nothing bad about this album. It’s got a nice sound and a good beat. Everything comes together like how a scoop of ice cream falls on top of a piece of warm apple pie. mmmMMMmmMMMmmmMMMmmmMMMmmm...

But this is sad because I know of at least two of my good friends who really like Reservoir. Just remember, you two, I love you, and it is Friday and I had a shitty day at work so what I’m saying right now doesn’t really count.


Hope this doesn’t blow my cred. I mean…if anyone reads this anyway.

Day 10, Polaris - Music from the Adventure of Pete and Pete

Polaris came to me on a bad day. Music from the Adventure of Pete and Pete should put a smile on my face, but I was suffering from a brutal allergy attack. I’ve never gotten serious allergies before, so I was convinced I had been poisoned. Turns out Clariton fixes poisonings. This actually happened on Wednesday, but I couldn’t half ass this one, so I put off writing the review and revisiting it until today.

It may simply be because of my nostalgic love for this album’s correlated television show, but I felt determined to really enjoy it. I had “Hey Sandy,” the first track on this album and coincidentally the song featured in the Pete and Pete opening credits, on my Ipod for years and it often found its way onto my playlists. Though I found that this album is much more than one hit, it didn’t quite live up to be the gem I had hoped it to be.

Polaris, and more notably their real band called Miracle Legion, and other bands like R.E.M. defined the “low-fi” movement out of the early nineties. Music from the Adventures of Pete and Pete is no exception. It is all basic rock songs with bass, drums and two guitars that sound thin and coated with a light layer of that classic 1990’s chorus effect. The album seems to sound like it was recorded in somebody’s basement with a 6 track. The parts are tastelessly washed with reverb, but this is what it’s all about. It is so rock-and-roll, even though there is not a single heavy drum fill, no blazin’ guitar solos, and no fat distortion. This raw-ness carries the album because it makes you forgive the out of tune vocals and poorly mixed guitars.

And the songs are pretty good, too. Lyrically, you’re not going to be blown away by anything here—we’re not hanging out with Bright Eyes anymore. And to be honest, it is very refreshing. “She is Staggering” and “Everywhere” are both honest, relatable love songs—as if you were having a conversation with your buddy. Literally. The first lines from “She is Staggering” are “Are you crazy, man? You didn’t notice her?”

But I get the most pleasure from their up-tempo songs. “The Monster’s Loose,” “Waiting for October,” “Saturnine,” and of course “Hey Sandy” bring that child-like playfulness that is not only inherent in their image, but in their garage-band sound and their honest-to-god lyrics. But when it is all said and done, the nostalgia I have for “Hey Sandy” and the TV show sets it up for failure. Nothing is ever as good as you remember it.

Day 9, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros - Up From Below

Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zero’s put out an album this year called Up From Below . I know nothing about these guys, as has been the case for most of these bands so far, which has been a massive detriment to my credibility during all of these reviews. But isn’t that sort of the reason this is exciting?

This group is interesting, perhaps not because they are innovators, but maybe because the way they play with musical familiarities: traditional instrumentation but made to sound distant and archaic at times, vocals with many back-up singers that can sometimes sound like an entire chorus of college students, retro sounding recordings but still deeply layered. You know they are talented musicians (sick little piano fill between track one and two) but they don’t use their technique for anything other than to promote the melody and over-all sound. They very song-driven, with very few out-standing noises, blips, trickles, or spazes.

Nine out of twelve songs (I have the Bonus Track version—don’t know what the difference is) have a seriously emphasized 2 and 4 down beat. The other three are a waltz and two folky tunes, and they don’t stress any beat that hard at all. And you notice this change. “Black Water,” “Simplest Love” and “Brother” are good songs and have their purpose on the album, but the whole machine sort of skips gears and jerks when they come on. But this is only a testament to Up From Below’s awesome power throughout. And this is not the sort of drive you get from fast drums or heavy guitars, but from this emphatic down beat and catchy melodies.

For the most part, Up From Below is an absolute pleasure. In fact, I got a little upset when my Bay Ridge bound R train pulled up to my stop at Prospect Ave. Take, “Home” for example. The song is so goddamn endearing. Four chord verse and chorus, another four chords for the instrumental bridge, powerful horns, repeating chorus about love and contentment, girl and boy trading love stories about each other. You will be stomping your foot and hugging your neighbor in no time. And it has this chorus that you never want to stop repeating.

Generally, I think they are most successful with their joyous songs, such as “Home,” or “Carries On,” but their only groovy song “Come in Please” is actually pretty hot, although there is nothing else on the album like it. But don't get me wrong, this is not all sunshine and rainbows, just check out "Babylon Kisses."