Some time ago, I vowed to start producing more posts about music, and have so far failed to do so. Well, today I correct that oversight.
After trading in some old CDs and splurging a little, I bought the following CDs this past weekend. Yes, I know the CD is practically obsolete and all, but I like the material experience of the CD: opening the package, leafing through liner notes, even enjoying the different looks of the CDs themselves. I do have an iPod, and I often use it when I want to have a stream of music that I don’t have to stop and change every 35-60 minutes (so wen I’m plowing through a stack of books for a class or project, for example). On the other hand, my iPod is stocked primarily with stuff ripped from my CD collection rather stuff I’ve bought from iTunes, eMusic or (illegally) downloaded.
So, here’s the list of recent acquisitions:
Sígur Rós, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust
I’ve dug SR before, especially the first album that had any considerable success Stateside, Agaetis Byrjun, but had traded in my other SR CDs sometime ago. As you may know, SR perform their songs in an invented tongue called Hopelandic. Why? I don’t know, they probably have some nutty reason–they are from Iceland, after all, which seems to breed these “eccentric pop stars” on a large commune outside Reykjavik.
Anyhoo . . . the new album departs somewhat from SR’s previous spacey, post-rock ambient sound, adding more propulsive beats and pop-derived song structures to the tracks here. This is not to say that anything on Med Sud is going to show up on the Top 40 anytime soon (maybe in Iceland); the songs still shine with a woozy, dreamlike feeling–but now SR dreams of naked escapades (as in the image above) rather than of returning to the womb or wandering through autumnal landscapes. I’m not sure the sun-dappled nostalgic vibe works for SR; the lead singer (whose name escapes me and I can’t be bothered to look up) is still committed to the keening, longing vocal style he developed on previous albums, and here it often seems at odds with the musical settings he’s paired with.
On the whole, then, kind of a mixed bag. The songs are enjoyable while listening, but I couldn’t hum one for you for the life of me. Nothing here has the immediate emotional impact of the best tracks from previous SR joints, but I think what is at issue here is less the quality of the album itself than my expectations for it; perhaps Med Sud demands a different listening style than previous SR albums?
Paul Simon, Songs from the Capeman
This is part of my continuing acquisition of Paul Simon albums . . . I was very happy to find it used at my local music emporium.
I’ve heard it once before, shortly after its release, and liked it then. This was before I’d really developed much interest in Simon, though. Now I own the album (I haven’t listened to it yet).
Elbow, Leaders of the Free World
Y’know how everyone says that Coldplay is like Radiohead, without balls or any sense of musical innovation? Well, I’ve always disagreed with that, in part because Coldplay’s sound is really only influenced by Radiohead’s first couple of albums (the okay Pablo Honey and the much-better, still great The Bends). I think the comparison is unfair largely because at this point in the game (barring perhaps the most recent Coldplay album) Radiohead and Coldplay have been doing completely different things. Why sack Coldplay for being a band they’re not? They do what they do much better than the innumerable Coldplay knock-off bands that sprang up in their wake (Snow Patrol, Keane, etc.); and Radiohead do their thing better than anyone else–and since noone else has tried to do Radiohead’s thing (maybe Wilco on Yankee Hotel Foxtrot and A Ghost in Born ), they’re pretty clear in their own field.
Anyway, I mention these two bands because Elbow is something like what I imagine folks must think Coldplay should have sounded like had they followed their early Radiohead influence further. (And on a sidenote, aren’t artists supposed to outgrow their early influences? Where would Dylan be today, for example, if he’d never got past Woody Guthrie covers and early blues pastiches?) Elbow combine some of the lyrical tropes of Coldplay–loneliness, redemption, love, etc.–with a stronger willingness to bend the rules of the typical pop song–harsh sounds sometime intrude over otherwise delicate ballads, songs ramble and meander rather than sticking to verse-chorus-verse structures, weird time signatures abound. I like the band, but we can be honest and say Guy Garvey and co. have never met an extraneous gospel chorus, string section, or mellotron breakdown they didn’t immediately put to use. Elbow: nothing succeeds like excess.
Still, I like excess sometimes. Excess is why my listening habits aren’t entirely based on Eno’s ambient albums, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich. This is Elbow’s third album, another which I’ve owned before, and although I haven’t listened to it yet this time around, I should note that the album does suffer from one considerable problem: its best track is the first, and its kind of downhill from there. Not that the rest of the album is bad, but it doesn’t live up to the greatness of “Station Approach.”
My Morning Jacket, Evil Urges
Dear Jim James and pals,
Wtf? Why does everyone like you so much? Jim, your voice kind of annoys me, the same way Isaac Brock’s voice does in Modest Mouse. When you sing, you sound like you constantly are fighting back the hiccups. And losing.
And your songs are kind of boring. I mean, at least that one Modest Mouse song was catchy, y’know–“And we all float on, alright” etc. This is the second of your discs I’ve bought, in part because I’m susceptible to the praise that the music mags keep piling on your music. I don’t get it though. I guess you deconstruct modern rock . . . or something. Maybe because I don’t have a degree in musicology? I like your lyrics a lot, but that doesn’t do me any good if the songs they’re used in are as unmemorable as this lot.
And can we have an embargo on “mysterious” album covers for a while please?
All the best,
More to come . . . .