Wednesday, May 26, 2010

New Column: By Popular Demand

Really pressed for time this week, so I'll just say that I've been asked for my opinion on the three albums I reviewed at this week about a dozen times each. I took a look at (well, a listen to, really) Brothers by the Black Keys, Infinite Arms by Band of Horses, and This is Happening by LCD Soundsystem, and liked them all, to varying degrees.

I've also given you a list of honorable mentions in the penultimate installment of my top 20 of the 2000s, and some very brief thoughts on the finale of Lost. I'm working up a longer essay on that, but as I said up top, I'm really pressed for time. Apologies.

Click on over to read the column, then head back here to leave me a comment.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Burning Like the Midnight Sun

That's the name of the Choir's new album, out June 29. For more info as it appears, check here. I'm pretty excited - what I've heard sounds like Chase the Kangaroo-era material, and you can't go wrong with that.

New Column: Happiness is the Road

I've been a Lost Dogs fan for a long, long time. There's a real sense of history to what they do now, and like any lengthy catalog, that history can seem like a wall. I feel like I may have focused on it a bit much in earlier reviews of Lost Dogs albums, and made people feel that if they hadn't been along for the 30-plus-year ride with Terry Taylor, Mike Roe and Derri Daugherty, they wouldn't get it. And that might have kept a few people away.

I want you all to hear Old Angel, the latest Lost Dogs album, so for the most part, I kept that history out of this week's review. Suffice it to say that the Dogs, now a foursome with drummer Steve Hindalong, took to the famous Route 66 in 2008, searching for God and America. And they wrote a bunch of songs, the best they've written in a long time. That's Old Angel, and I love it to bits.

I also love the new Hammock and Mark Eitzel albums, and don't like the new National so much. All those reviews, plus my #2 album of the 2000s, are in this week's column. Come on back here to leave me a comment when you're done.

If you want more info on the Lost Dogs and their respective members, go here, and here, and here, and also here.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

New Column: Just Give Me 30 Minutes

I know, I know. It's been another week without a word from me. I'm trying to keep my head above water at work while listening to as much new music as I can. I didn't get to the blog this week, but I did write another long (too long?) column with first impressions of new CDs.

This week, I checked out Keane's new EP Night Train, Richard Julian's sixth album Girls Need Attention, and the Dead Weather's sophomore effort Sea of Cowards. What do all of these have in common? Besides being varying shades of very good, they're all about half an hour long. Short records often annoy me, but in all three cases here, 30 minutes is just about right.

I also unveiled my choice for the third-best album of the 2000s. As usual, click on over to read the column, and head back here to leave a comment.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New Column: Music! Impress me!

Since I started this blog, I've been trying to save the considered reviews for the regular column and use this space for my quick first impressions. But this month, there's so much new music coming that I don't know how I'm going to keep my head above water. Hence, this week's column kicks off what I expect will be a series of first-blush takes on new albums.

This week I've reviewed new ones from the Hold Steady, the New Pornographers, Nada Surf and the Flaming Lips. Just to give you some idea of how much water I'm treading right now, I did a quick take on Justin Currie's album yesterday, and I still have new ones from Richard Julian, Minus the Bear, Deftones, Tonic, Roky Erickson with Okkervil River, and the Apples in Stereo to get through, before next week. I'm trying, I'm trying.

This week's column also includes my choice for the fourth-best album of the last decade. As always, click on over to read it, then head back here to leave a comment.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Listen: Justin Currie, The Great War

Justin Currie's old band, Del Amitri, once named an album Twisted. But for my money, his music didn't get truly twisted until he went solo.

Fans of Del Amitri know Currie's way with a melody, but it wasn't until What is Love For, his incredibly depressing solo debut, that the man's true talent for deliciously dark lyrics came out. I've rarely heard anything as bleak as the last few tracks on that album, on which Currie showed an equal penchant for hating himself ("Still in Love") and everything else ("No, Surrender").

The Great War isn't quite on the same level, musically or lyrically, but it's still a tough, black-hearted affair masquerading as a light pop album. The melodies are slight, but the words cut deep - Currie finds new ways to lash out on "As Long as You Don't Come Back" and "Anywhere I'm Away From You," a tendency which reaches its apex on the rumbling "Everyone I Love." But he saves his sharpest barbs, as on "Ready to Be," for himself.

The best thing here is the eight-minute "The Fight to Be Human," dark and hopeless even by Currie standards. Here, take a gander: "I used to believe in the goodness of man, but not anymore since I became one of them, I hoodwinked my woman and bought her a ring, like the fight to be human, it don't mean anything..." The repetitve music builds and builds, Currie digging in deeper and deeper as it goes.

If you're not paying attention to it, though, The Great War might even strike you as happy and bright. Pairing such jaunty music with lyrics this despairing may seem to some like a cruel joke. To me, it makes this an essential listen.

How to Destroy Angels

Trent Reznor's first music since ending Nine Inch Nails. It's much prettier, but still spooky stuff. Check it out at Pitchfork's site here.