Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2004

42. Sloan - Action Pact (2004)

On paper Sloan are a band that could be a prime candidate for obsessive attention. They're 4 slightly out-of-touch Canadians who make strongly melodic, immaculately performed pop music. Three members share both vocals and songwriting duties, and as a result they're fairly prolific. All of these factors create the perfect conditions for cult status.

Their 5th album, 1999's Between The Bridges, came and went from my CD collection. Despite that I bought their next one, Pretty Together, because of good reviews and because while visiting a friend I noticed they had Sloan stickers (full body photos of the band members) on their fridge. I decided that any band that could inspire such devotion (in both the creation and the display of those stickers) deserved a second chance.

Pretty Together certainly deserved the first word of its title, but the power in the power pop equation was seriously lacking. The tunes had more ponder than power.

Now comes their new album Action Pact, wh…

41. Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs (2004)

I love the Beastie Boys, but I have to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of their albums. I know that sounds strange, but aside from Paul's Boutique none of their records is a completely satisfying listening experience for me.

The monster debut, Licensed To Ill, has never been a favorite; it's too crass and bludgeoning. Check Your Head and Ill Communication are full of great songs, but are ultimately weighed down by the indulgent jazz and punk experiments. Hello Nasty stays strong for the entire first half, but the quality drops off drastically over the course of 22 tracks.

The good news about To The 5 Boroughs is that it avoids falling into the same category as these four. As an album it's a complete work, like Paul's Boutique. There are 15 tracks, and the vast majority of them are, to borrow Adrock's phrase, "terse and concise." No indulgence. Also like PB, the album is full of New York references, and both feature New York cover art. To The …

40. Delays - Faded Seaside Glamour (2004)

Lately I've had two trains of thought about music and right now they seem to be converging on to the same track.

They are whys and whats: 1) Why do we continue to seek out new artists and sounds, and 2) What is the purpose of writing about music?

On the latter I'm prompted simply by the existence of this Blog. I enjoy writing CD reviews, but sometimes find my musical vocabulary so limited as to be frustrating. I take comfort in the fact that I'm not alone. Just a glance through the latest issue of Spin reveals that the prevailing method of describing an artist is comparing them to another artist. You know: This songwriter has the lyrical dexterity of early Dylan combined with the gloomy soundscapes of the Cure, or that band takes the pomposity of Tattoo You-era Stones and adds the sensitivity of Dashboard Confessional. Or: It's like Trout Mask Replica as recorded by Sweetheart Of The Rodeo-era Byrds.

At some point descriptions like that just make me glaze over, espec…

Jellyfish - "I Wanna Stay Home"

Jellyfish, mentioned here several times but never fully explained, are a mostly obscure California band who made two wonderful albums in the early '90s and then broke up.

Their first album, 1990's Bellybutton, sounded like Cheap Trick with Beach Boys instrumentation. It was immaculately written, performed, and produced and even gained some MTV exposure for the songs That Is Why and The King Is Half-Undressed. In 1993 they put out a second album, Spilt Milk, and it was weirder and more complex. It was like making the jump from Rubber Soul to Magical Mystery Tour in one album. The band added more influences, specifically Queen, and it is a beautiful record.

This song, I Wanna Stay Home, is a reflective tune, with acoustic strumming, subdued trumpet, and soaring harmonies. Lyrically, the title says it. While listening in the car today, the song really struck a chord with me. It got me thinking: To be truly happy with your home (both actual structure and city) is no small thing. Peo…

I Love The '80s

Summer is nearly here - it already feels like it in fact - and that always reminds me of the music of the '80s. I guess it's because the summer day care I attended from ages 5 - 9 was where I was first exposed to so much pop music. They were formative times.

A couple of summers ago I started a project to collect and anthologize the '80s music I remembered fondly. It wasn't an easy task...it saw many drafts and revisions as I continued to come across more and more songs. I shudder to think how many hours were spent in front of the computer, phone line tied up, Kazaa or Napster burning brightly on the screen.

My reason for doing this was mostly the aforementioned nostalgia, but also because I was frustrated at how rare it was to find an '80s compilation that was listenable all the way through. I know this is a matter of opinion, but there always seemed to be at least three or four songs that just didn't hold up to multiple listens. I wanted to rectify that.…

39. Brian Wilson - Imagination (1998)

Though the Beach Boys are my very favorite group, I've consciously avoided Brian Wilson's solo records. There are various reasons for this, but the main one is a thoroughly depressing version of 'Til I Die that appears on the documentary soundtrack I Just Wasn't Made For These Times. It's croaking and raw and has always confirmed for me how hard it is to reclaim lost genius.

This weekend I came across both of Brian's solo studio albums at a garage sale and decided that low prices go well with low expectations. Given that, the first notes of this album this album shocked me. Your Imagination, the opener, has that classic feeling: insane melody, swooning harmony, and intricate arrangements. When Brian sings "I take a trip through the past / When summer's way out of reach" it might as well be a mission statement for the album. There's a conscious effort here to recreate the past, specifically Brian's musical past.

And though Your Imagination is…