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Showing posts from March, 2008

12 by The Promise Ring

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).
Week 13
The Promise Ring were nearly as precious as their name, with short songs, clever lyrics and the lisp of singer Davey von Bohlen, and a proclivity for pop melodies.

To me they'll forever be one side of the Trinity Of Emo along with Jimmy Eat World and The Get-Up Kids. They broke up, unsurprisingly considering a sometimes fractious band dynamic and a health scare for von Boheln, in 2002.

1. A Picture Postcard (from 30 Degrees Everywhere, 1996)
A groovy, swooning track that, had it come along 10 years later, could have graced any Old Navy, J.C.Penney or Apple commercial. Davey's vocal is vulnerable and delicate, and the band even gets to rock out in the middle.

2. Perfect Lines (from Nothing Feels Good, 1997)
Melodic bass highlights this little rocker. Favorite line: "...from Bell South to a southern belle."

3. Red & Blue Jeans (from Nothing Feels Good, 1997)

167. The Beatles: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

Do you remember that awful 1978 movie starring Peter Frampton and the Bee Gees? Well, it turns out that was based on an album by a little-known rock group called The Beatles! Who knew? I'm in the process of reviewing all of their albums, so here's we go...
For an obscure band with only a modicum of success, The Beatles were kind of full of themselves. Just look at the company they're keeping on the cover of their 8th album: Peter Lorre, Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields, Robert Zimmerman, etc. Obviously they had an inflated view of their own significance. The music on Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band suits that sense of grandeur.

Even the evolution of sound that was evident on Revolver cannot prepare the listener for the kitchen sink approach of this record. It's there right from the start, on the title track, which features an orchestra tuning up, horns, canned laughter, a searing lead guitar from George Harrison and a raspy Paul McCartney vocal. What's mo…

12 by Alanis Morissette

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 12

I can never remember how to spell Alanis' last name correctly. Is it two r's and one s, or one t? Someone needs to come up for a mnemonic device for this. Note: I've opted to ignore her first two Canadian teen pop albums, including the hit Let's Go To The Mall. Oh, wait, that was Robin Sparkles.

1. Hand In My Pocket (from Jagged Little Pill, 1995)
One might generalize and say that early Alanis was tortured and angry, but Hand In My Pocket is proof otherwise. It's a song of cautious optimism, half-serious and half-funny.

2. You Outta Know (from Jagged Little Pill, 1995)
My favorite line is "Does she know how you told me you'd hold me until you died / Well you're still alive." She could have just called him a liar.

3. Head Over Feet (fromJagged Little Pill, 1995)
Anyone who gets as angry as Alanis does in You Outta Know also has the ability …

166. The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

Do you remember Ringo Starr, that one-hit wonder who won our hearts (and creeped us out) in 1973 with You're Sixteen (You're Beautiful and You're Mine)? Well, he had a band in the '60s! I'm right in the thick of reviewing every single one of their albums. Check it out:

I dropped hints and foreshadowed that it was coming. And here it is is. Revolver is the album where The Beatles grew up sonically and lyrically.

There's clear evidence of that from the very first song, Taxman. For one, it's the band's cleverest song to that point, and for another George Harrison proves capable of, gasp, bettering Paul McCartney and John Lennon, if only temporarily.

McCartney's Eleanor Rigby quickly ups the stakes again, with its staccato strings and mysterious lyrical detail. However, Lennon's I'm Only Sleeping is not quite at the same level, though the backwards guitar is a sign of things to come.

Harrison's growing fascination with Eastern sounds and t…

12 by Jimmy Eat World

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 11

I'll always be proud of Jimmy Eat World, because "I knew them when...". Unlike Promise Ring, Get-Up Kids and blink-182 they have managed to not self-destruct. And though they are probably loathe to admit it, they remain truer to the spirit of emo than any the make-up laden followers who have claimed the genre for themselves. Also, as I've said before, I play their records so loud that if I go deaf someday, they'll be at least partially to blame.

1. Call It In The Air (from Static Prevails, 1996)
Dueling lead vocals, start-stop, quiet-loud dynamics, raging guitars and a swooning outro? This is emo.

2. Opener (from Singles, 2000)
My college roommate Nick and I originally heard this song on an obscure 1997 compilation called The Emo Diaries-Chapter 1-What's Mine Is Yours and loved it, especially the false ending with the final hurrah.

3. Lucky Denver Min…

165. Kathleen Edwards: Asking For Flowers (2008)

The personal is political, right? Kathleen Edwards illustrates that perfectly on her third album, Asking For Flowers. Sharp lyrical storytelling has always been Edwards' calling card, and her skills are in full bloom here. Intertwined in her tales of angry, abused, underappreciated and lonely women is commentary on war, pollution, race, and death. Small details are the key to Edwards' writing, allowing her to avoid preachiness and make every tale feel like she's lived it.

This balance is most evident on Oil Man's War, a tale of two young lovers. The anti-war message is subtle and tangential, with the focus instead falling squarely on character detail. The chorus is one of the best she's ever written: "I won't change my mind / keep your hand on my thigh tonight / When we get up north we'll buy us a store / Live upstairs after the kids are born."

Alicia Ross takes a similar approach. The song is a first-person narrative from the perspective of th…

12 by Semisonic

Here's the drill: 12 songs to summarize an artist's career, in chronological order (of course).

Week 10

Do you like thoughtful power pop? Look no further...

1. F.N.T. (from Great Divide, 1996)
The titular initials stand for fascinating new thing, though lead singer Dan Wilson is quick to point out, "you're perfect, even when you are not new" and kind of undoes his whole point!

2. If I Run (from Great Divide, 1996)
Features not one but two great guitar solos! The lyrics put forth a universal (I think) sentiment of wanting to flee to freedom. Favorite line: "Keep thinkin' of the day I die when I lose my heavy load / but I wouldn't want to leave you behind."

3. Delicious (from Great Divide, 1996)
A groove-based sexy track. The chorus features infectious "ooh-ohs" which are always performed by the audience in concerts.

4. Across The Great Divide (from Great Divide, 1996)
An slower song, and an early indicator of Dan Wilson's solo sound.

5. I…

164. The Beatles: Rubber Soul (1965)

Did you know Paul McCartney was in a band before Wings?! It's true. I've recently unearthed all of this early band's work and have undertaken reviewing each of their albums.

The haircuts on that album cover say it all, really. Just as the photo finds all four band members in an awkward state between their "Beatle haircuts" and the hippieish longer hair that was to come, so too does the music on this album represent the group's transition into hairier musical territory.

That is to say, Rubber Soul is mostly full of the pop perfection the group had become known for, but it also shows signs of the band stretching out. Once just content to be structurally innovative, now The Beatles' songs were becoming lyrically, instrumentally and vocally experimental as well.

Lyrically, John Lennon and Paul McCartney were pushing the boundries of theme, if not in the greater pop music world, at least by their own standards. First is twist-ending opener Drive My Car, McC…