So, it’s been a while since I last had some new music reviews (and you know that means more editions of Music that slipped through the cracks… are coming soon). This edition of NMR features one of the best debut albums of the year, the birth of a “supergroup”, and some disappointing albums from established artists.
Florence And The Machine
Released: July 6, 2009 (UK)
Love this album. Florence Welch, infamously discovered in a nightclub washroom singing Motown covers intoxicated, brings well-produced UK pop (in abundance these days) mixed with artistic independence and vivid lyricism (both in short supply) in a fantastic debut album. Whether it is the Gaelic-influenced “Cosmic Love”, the Euro-pop “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” or the soul/R&B cover “You’ve Got the Love” (which is better than the original), Welch’s versatility shines through without any forcing.
For a taste, check out the video for “Dog Days Are Over”
The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart
– Cosmic Love
The Dead Weather
Released: July 14, 2009 (USA)
Having had the pleasure of recently seeing the “supergroup” perform, the album was less of a surprise as it was an archive of the experience. The first band that I would go for to describe similar sounds would probably be The Black Keys (which is ironic because they are often compared to The White Stripes…). The Dead Weather is stripped down bluesy rock, without clear structure and flows mostly on attitude and grooves. An enjoyable listen, though likely not for everyone.
For a taste, check out the video for “Hang You From The Heavens”
I never knew how to treat you
You think I love you but it ain’t the truth
I’m walking away now, one step forward, back two
I like to grab you by the hair and hang you up from the heavens
– Hang You From The Heavens
I’m Going Away
The Fiery Furnaces
Released: July 21, 2009 (USA)
“Drive to Dallas” is a purely frustrating listen, and emblematic of I’m Going Away. So much potential, and just as I get into where they are going, the avant-garde experimental indie pop duo changes mid-song in a most unpleasing way. I can respect what they are trying to do and can appreciate that they have supreme talent, but to take it to the next level they need to have something that brings it all together.
For a taste, check out the video for “The End Is Near”, which makes use of public domain video from the 1920s.
Ray Bouvier made me shoot the shoe
He won the local lottery and took us out
We put a barricade down the middle of the bed
But that didn’t stop me from looking down the barrel
Well I thought I was thinking, but apparently not
– Ray Bouvier
Billy Talent III
Released: July 14, 2009 (Can)
No surprises here (much like the imaginative title) as Billy Talent do what Billy Talent does: angsty punk-pop rock. Some of the songs slightly veer from the predictable (very slightly), but there isn’t an overall cohesion to the album to make it work. Overall, a solid album that won’t excite, nor disappoint. If you’ve played NHL 2009, you’ll have already heard “Turn Your Back” about one million times since last fall.
For a taste, check out this live performance of “Rusted From The Rain”
And they hung my soul from the gallows fold
But the witch they never found
So to those who don’t fit society’s mold
Better swim or you will drown
– The Dead Can’t Testify
Our Lady Peace
Released: July 21, 2009 (Can)
If this was the only OLP album you had ever heard, you’d probably say it was a safe album, few risks, middle of the road pop-rock. That’s fine. If you are a thirteen year old girl at home and “All You Did Was Save My Life” is the theme song to your summer, have a good one. No issues. However, if you are a little longer in the tooth and can remember the bold albums that Our Lady Peace used to make you must be seething with indignation for having subjected yourself to listening to this (and having to write a review…). I mentioned it after seeing them live, that the songs that sounded best in concert were from Naveed and Spiritual Machines. Naveed was a bold, angry, cryptic alternative rock album in 1994 that many a great band would have loved to call their debut. Spiritual Machines is the artistic exploration “concept album” risk that bands with three other hit albums notched in their belt can afford to do. After that, beginning with Gravity, Our Lady Peace have made conscious and openly admitted changes to their sound and their direction to be more middle of the road (*gag*). This album’s saving grace, if there is any, is the sharp lyrics found in “Paper Moon”, making reference to “hipsters trapped in their own irony”. That’s brilliant….except when you are at the concert and you realize that the bass player is wearing Chuck Taylor sneakers and skin tight jean capris. Fucking hipsters.
For a taste, check out this live performance of “The End Is Where We Begin”
You’ll fight traffic jams and big TVs, and
Hipsters trapped in their own irony, but
You’ll finally think about settling down
Oh you quit your job and you sell your car
You’ll burn your clothes and pray to the stars, cause
You swore to God that you’d never end up this way
– Paper Moon
Leave This Town
Released: July 14, 2009 (USA)
I’m not a fan of creating rules about why and how to enjoy music, but generally speaking, when it comes to reviewing music, there is a subjective part of me that is pleased when I hear a) something completely new that is pleasing, or, b) something that reminds me of something old that was pleasing. Unfortunately for Daughtry, Leave This Town is neither. It is certainly nothing new, musically, lyrically, or otherwise. Furthermore, it reminds me of Nickelback and clones. Not surprising, of course, is that Chad Kroeger has his pen involved in several of the songs here, leaving his vapid mark all over.
Now, this isn’t to scorn Chris Daughtry, who I unknowingly enjoyed his first album (CD was left in car I borrowed once), but it is to issue an artistic warning: be yourself. The artists I enjoy most are the ones that aren’t afraid to create their own sound/voice, critics and fans be damned. The ones, like Nickelback, who are often given undeserving awards (*cough* Junos *cough*), are despised for finding a sound that is safe, radio-friendly, and sells albums at the expense of being creative (see: OLP review above). And what is art but something to create or destroy? When they discover a formula that works, these artists milk it until it goes dry. Lots of other artists see that it works and jump on board before the gold rush ends. Unfortunately, from an artistic standpoint, it means that progress is halted, and no new art is created, but is repeated, diluted, and eventually stagnates, before a new movement comes to fill the void (much like empires). Other artists exist, but often outside of mainstream popularity… Now I am on a tangent. Forget it, Chris. I need more time to ruminate on this.
For a taste, watch NASCAR on ESPN. Seriously. The first three songs on this album will be used on ESPN to promote auto racing. I’m not even going to bother providing a link.
It’s no surprise I won’t be here tomorrow
I can’t believe that I stayed till today
Yeah you and I will be a tough act to follow
But I know in time we’ll find this was no surprise
– No Surprise