First, I have to say that this is a big pile of delicious tracks. I’m trying uber-hard not to give terrific reviews for everything I listen to.
Secondly, a small note on a change of style. I know it’s not Tuesday, but that’s alright, because the weekend is much better for enjoying music. I’m going to try and embrace the random unscheduledness of bloggerdom from now on. Also, I’ve decided to get rid of the boxed New Music Review images in favour of more text, to allow for hyperlinks, and the sort. I’ve decided to keep the old score boxes, though, for some consistency. My Music that slipped through the cracks (Part 1) (Part 2) have also been updated with review scores for consistency.
All this will help for the end of the year countdown, when I rank my fave 25 albums. I’m going to put their initial review score, and then their year-end score, to demonstrate either lasting power, or the ability to grow on my ears. In addition to that, I’ve decided to place my favourite 25 tracks in a countdown at the end of the year as well. But it’s still May, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Onto the music:
May 26, 2009 (US)
Alright, I’m going to jump on the Grizzly Bear bandwagon. It’s become fashionable to say that GB’s latest release, the nearly unpronounceable Veckatimest, is the best thing since sliced bread (I think you can spread veckatimest on toast) and will challenge Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillon for best album of the year. I wanted so badly to be a contrarian, but it’s so friggin’ good. I tip my hat to you, Grizzlies. If you have two ears and a heart, you need to listen to this.
For a taste, check out the music video (in high definition, no less) for “Two Weeks”
“while you wait on the answers
that i’ll pretend to find
keeping up with emotions
still occupies our time
you could hope for substance
as long as you like
or just wait out the evening
and always ask me why
yes you’ll always ask me why
i’ll ask you kindly to make your way”
-While You Wait for the Others
Journal for Plague Lovers
Manic Street Preachers
May 18, 2009 (UK)
Full disclosure: the Manics are my favourite band.
Now that we’ve got my personal bias out there in the open, let me say that Journal for Plague Lovers is a great album. If you don’t know the folklore behind Richey James Edwards, I’ll bring you up to speed with the Coles’ notes version.
Richey was the primary lyricist and outspoken frontman for the Manics in their early years (despite marginal ability with any instruments and despite the fact that he wasn’t the singer, either), gaining notoriety for carving “4 REAL” into his arm with a razor when a radio host questioned the sincerity of the band. In 1994, the Manics put out The Holy Bible, which at the time, and to this day, is considered one of the best albums to come from the UK. Because of this, the band finally began to gain attention outside of the UK and were set to go on their first big US tour in early 1995 when Richey disappeared into thin air on February 1. His car was found two weeks later at the foot of the Severn bridge, but no body was ever found. To this day there are unsubstantiated claims of his appearance at various locations around the world.
The Manics decided to continue as a trio, and put out 1996’s Everything Must Go, which was the first step in a new direction for the group, producing a more accessible, though still smart rock, rather than the grungey abstract political punk rock they had produced in the early 90s.
Journal for Plague Lovers is a step back in time and style. The lyrics for the album come from what Richey James Edwards left behind fourteen years ago. It can be seen as the album the Manics might have made had he not disappeared, and a pretty good one, at that.
For a taste, check out a live performance of “Jackie Collins Existential Question Time” / ”Peeled Apples”
“the more i see the less i scream
the figure 8 inside out is infinity
the naked lightbulb is always wrong
they make your break complete
then they blow it to kingdom come”
The Lightning Seeds
May 25, 2009 (UK)
After ten years, the Lightning Seeds (aka Ian Broudie and supporting cast) return with a new album, and it is a beauty. It’s the sort of dark-horse candidate that could go from being on the outside, to in the mix of my favourites of the year. There isn’t one particular song that captures my imagination (“Ghosts” is getting there), but as an album it is a pleasure to listen to from beginning to end, with the sort of eclectic harmonies you’d find on Pet Sounds (not a bad comparison to make). If you’re digging on Grizzly Bear, or even Fleet Foxes, you ought to give Four Winds a go.
For a taste, check out this ridiculous stop-motion music video for “Ghosts”
“the world turns round
sun goes down
and all the ghosts inside my room
are laughing in the evening gloom”
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
May 25, 2009 (EU)
Thomas Mars and the boys are back with some ankle-twistingly fun music that makes you want to get up and dance alone. If you want something that just puts a smile on your face and can bounce your head to it, no strings attached, without any fear of it becoming annoying, this is the album.
For a taste, I highly recommend this fan made video that takes classic 1980s John Hughes movie clips and mashes them up with “Lisztomania”
think less but see it grow
like a ride, like a riot, oh!
not easily offended
know how to let it go
from a mess to the masses”
21st Century Breakdown
May 15, 2009 (US)
They’re baaaaaaack! Imagine American Idiot, add five years, and you’ve got 21st Century Breakdown. It’s not a bad thing, as Billie Joe Armstrong is continuing to show there’s more going on under his mascara than most punkers have going for them. It’s just, well, if you’ve heard American Idiot, you won’t be surprised. Still a solid contribution to Green Day’s discography.
For a taste, check out a live performance (which is Green Day’s strength) of “21st Century Breakdown”
“dream, america dream,
i can’t even sleep
from the lights early dawn
scream, america scream
believe what you see
from heroes and cons?”
– 21st Century Breakdown
May 18, 2009 (UK)
What do you do when you’ve already done everything as the lead singer of Pulp? You make a disappointing solo album. What do you do when you’ve made a disappointing solo album? You make a better solo album. Jarvis Cocker’s second go at solodom is a solid, sexual(!) attempt by a dissatisfied middle-aged man to seduce young college girls. Imagine that creepy professor, and that’s Jarvis.
For a taste, check out this bizarre live door-step performance of “Leftovers”. Seriously, it just confirms my creepy professor assessment of Jarvis Cocker.
“well, i told you once, ‘i want to be your lover’
this is my c.v. and i’ve got no-one else to blame
yes, i will state it again
come and help yourself to
got a little surplus love and affection
i’m getting cuddly, so won’t you cuddle me?
i could be your teddy bear
i know i ain’t no eligible bachelor
this is no ‘mouth-watering proposition’
make no mistake, you’re in big trouble little lady
if we start a-huggin’ and a-kissin’ and a-kissin’
are you listening?”