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Showing posts from May, 2006

Fun-Sized Reviews

109. Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere (2006)

I can't believe that it has taken me this long to reveal my ultimate criteria for a good song: It should sound awesome playing over the loudspeakers in a store. This collaboration between Danger Mouse (he's the D.J.) and Cee-Lo (he's the soul singer) contains a goodly number of songs that fulfill that criteria. Both the songs and the CD make their point quickly, while managing to be both innovative and accessible.

Grade: B+
Fave Song: Storm Coming

110. Glen Phillips - Mr. Lemons (2006)

Ack! The artist behind my favorite album of 2005 returns, but all is not well. He's left the big-name collaborators behind, along with his electric guitar and the hooks. The songs are mostly quiet, and have a tendency to meander. A disappointment, but at least the title is accurate.

Grade: C-
Fave Song: Everything But You


111. Paul Simon - Surprise (2006)

Paul Simon has never made a bad album, and it doesn't seem he's about to start. On…

108. Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium (2006)

It takes audacity to put out a double album of original material. Let's face it, single albums are often overlong and inconsistent. In the age of single track downloads, putting out two full CDs just seems like shooting yourself in the foot.

Music critics even have a patented cliche to dust off whenever a double album arrives. It goes like this: "With a little editing, it would have made a superb single album." Not only do critics have a limited attention span, many of them like to fancy themselves better decision-makers than self-indulgent rock stars.

As a result, very few double albums manage to become hits commercially, critically and artistically. And thus there have been very few classic double albums released in the CD era. A short list: Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, Prince's Sign O' The Times, Wilco's Being There and Outkast's Speakerboxx/The Love Below. And even with these albums, you'd be hard-pressed to …

107. Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops (2006)

In All You Get From Love Is A Love Song, Karen Carpenter tells us that "the best love songs were written with a broken heart." And that's pretty true. Songs about heartbreak are nearly always more genuine and interesting than your average love song.

This is good news for Secret Machines. Apparently before the recording of their second album, all three band members went through break-ups. And while their happiness was temporarily sacrificed, Ten Silver Drops is the beneficiary. It's my favorite kind of record, a break-up album.

There are a couple of rules to making a good break-up album. First, it can't be too depressing (Beck, I'm looking at you here). Second, it has to cover a variety of moods and emotions. I don't care to listen to an all angry album, nor am I especially fond of sad sack self-pity albums (Beck, I'm looking at you here).

Ten Silver Drops meets both criteria. The music is cold but the melodies are warm, served on a bed of Beatlesque ha…

106. Teddy Thompson - Separate Ways (2006)

Teddy Thompson is the son of Richard and Linda Thompson, and this begs the question, what would it be like to be the scion of the couple that made one of the best break-up albums of all time (Shoot Out The Lights)? Strange, I'd guess.

Children of rock stars who try to make a go of it on their own have approached it in a multitude of ways. In Jakob Dylan's case, he purposefully distanced himself from his father as he tried to make his own name. At the other extreme there's Ben Taylor, who just flat out imitates James.

Teddy doesn't sound like Richard, nor does he run away from the relation. In fact, it seems life can be good when you have a widely respected guitarist / songwriter for a dad. The impressive list of guest players on this album includes Garth Hudson (The Band), Dave Mattacks (Fairport Convention, XTC) and, on five songs, Richard himself. What's more impressive is that Teddy still manages to show he has the chops to make it on his own.

As an album, Separat…