Monday, August 18, 2008

Remarks Regarding 6 CDs I Bought Yesterday

... not really reviews because I've only had these for a day, and who in their right mind would write a strict review after only a day of absorption? (Food for thought.) Here I have impressions, but no final judgments.

Six CDs, some old, some new, so let's roll:

The Joshua Tree
U2 (1987)

I've already known many of these songs, but it's nice to finally add this to my U2 collection.

"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" is a powerful song; in fact, I would call it the prequel to the song "Walking on Broken Glass" by Annie Lennox. Why? Well, many a man has attempted feebly to sing along with Bono to this song in the car, causing many a car window to break.

Best song of the album for me: "One Tree Hill," written in memory of Bono's friend Greg Carroll, who died in an accident while delivering Bono's motorcycle in the rain. I believe Bono has talked about this song extensively since '87, but the lyrics are abstract enough ("it runs like a river/runs to the sea" ... foreshadowing a similar visual 5 years later by another band) that I think the only two people who know exactly what Bono is referring to are Bono and Greg. Underneath somber (/hopeful?) lyrics are an intense, and almost upbeat, instrumentation that further drives the ambiguity of this masterpiece of a song.

Recently, some drunk woman started singing "With or Without You" to me at a bar on Seattle's Alki Beach, and so unfortunately I'll forever associate the song with drunk ladies.

Volume 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails
The Baseball Project (2008)

Who here loves baseball? Raise your hands, please.

OK, whether or not you raised your hand, you will like this album. It's pure rock and roll, centered on baseball themes, and it makes statements about the game, its heroes, and even its controversial aspects.

"The Yankee Flipper" is noteworthy because it actually does some interesting name-dropping. As the song states, Jack McDowell (former pitcher of the Yankees) flipped an audience of 50,000 people off after a bad performance; and the song claims that this was due to a night on the town with Scott and Mike Mills of R.E.M. (not to mention, one of the members of the Baseball Project is R.E.M.'s very own Peter Buck). Just as well. McDowell was the one who gave up The Double in Seattle, perhaps the most famous sports play in Seattle history (so far) that was the crushing blow that allowed Seattle to upset the Yankees in 1995. Thanks, Jack, for drinking with R.E.M.

I could have downloaded this online, but I opted to get it at the store - why? Because of the amazing liner notes - not only are there lyrics for each song (which I believe will one day be seen as a true baseball classic), but some great prose introduction for the context of each song.

Fleet Foxes (s/t)
Fleet Foxes (2008)

I first heard of Fleet Foxes when I emerged on their live performance at Sasquatch Festival a few months ago - they were on a few bands prior to Modest Mouse and R.E.M.

My first impression was that they all looked like disciples of Jesus. I was half-expecting to see some bread and fish being distributed around the audience, but all I saw were beachballs and some weird looking green plants. I was about ready to turn and walk around, but then something clicked and I realized that their music was... stunning.

I couldn't quite pin what I was hearing. It was quote-unquote alternative rock, yes. But it was also folk. And also baroque. And also chant from the 1600s. And the harmonies were glorious and - for a band that is now signed to Sub Pop in Seattle - very anti-Nirvana. Kurt would have loved them.

A few days later, their album was released to glorious reviews in Rolling Stone (4 stars) and a #1 showing on the College Music Journal chart. Fleet Foxes are on their way.

So yes, I have the album, and I concur that the album is amazing. It takes you to another place. There is not a dull moment in the album; every single second offers a miracle of sound. First single "White Winter Hymnal" is just the tip of the white winter iceberg; other gems include "Your Protector" and "He Doesn't Know Why" - for these and many other songs, you will be singing along with them in your head because they just kind of linger.

Well maybe you don't want to listen to this song in the middle of a long drive, if you're sleepy, because if you do you'll want to hit yourself over your head a few times to stay awake. (But do listen if you have a white chocolate mocha handy.) Like I said, there is not a dull moment; but the album stays away from adrenaline, and rightfully (and refreshingly) so.

This album is a moment in time, plus a few more.

Good News for People who Like Bad News
Modest Mouse (2004)

I must admit, despite the fact I'm a Seattle man, I'm not as in tune with Seattle bands as I'd like to be. So here's another: Modest Mouse (of Issaquah, WA, actually).

"Float On," I know this like the back of my kneecap - one of those songs that was outplayed in 2004. Great song, but nothing new for me.

The good stuff is elsewhere on the album. "Satin In a Coffin," a dark picturesque track with a laugher of a lyric is almost reminiscent of "Run For Your Life" by the Beatles, and the tongue-and-cheekiness apparent here is charming enough for me to consider this my favorite on the album.

Blue Scholars (s/t)
Blue Scholars (2004)

Blue Scholars is a hip-hop duo based in Seattle: Sabzi (the DJ) and Geologic (the MC). The name itself is a play on the phrase "blue collar."

They are the premier up-and-coming Seattle hip-hop act at this time, and nothing else really comes close (as far as I can see). These guys are pioneers, and their lyrics and beats are not like anything that has been heard near an eardrum at any time in history.


Sabzi brings a new flair to the art of instrumentation in hip-hop, and probably not least because he himself is a full-fledged musician in his own right. He's a jazz pianist, and has played in punk and ska bands; and this crosses over into his turntablation, as no song on the album is strictly a beat looped, nor just a hook looped, actually they throw loops out of the ghetto windows. (Hear "Motion Movement" in particular.) Each track is a living and breathing entity, that shifts shapes and bruises legs with lyrics that talk about Seattle, its problems, society and its problems, the U.S. and its problems, and a few other things.

The world is a problem, but Blue Scholars aren't.

DJ-Kicks: Four Tet
Four Tet (2006)

OK, now we go back to 2006 and cross the Atlantic to beautiful London to hear the DJ mix tape by Four Tet.

Great song here is the remix of Stereolabs "Les yper sound," with a melody and beat that will sound good in a jazzy Thai restaurant with good Kaidow, lights dim, records scratching, people buzzing, heads bobbing.

You get the picture.

Four Tet keeps the senses enlightened and stimulated in this album, with each track swirling into the next with vicious electronica and acoustica. Worth the discounted $6 I paid? Yes indeed.

1 comment:

Jemstone123 said...

A cool review of the baseball project . I told you, you would like it.
Jems x