We are the pirates who don’t do anything

March 23, 2010 Leave a comment

For those who don’t know, Coheed and Cambria has a new album coming out soon.  I’m really excited about it, even though I’m dubious about the singles they’ve released thus far.  Take a listen for yourself:

http://www.coheedandcambria.com/

Normally, the phrase “I just can’t wait” would pop up about now; not this time, though.  Yesterday a friend gave me a leaked copy of the album.  As I sit here and stare at it, I realize that I can wait.  I have no interest in listening to a leaked version and would rather wait three weeks until the official release date.

Why?  I wish I knew.  Chalk it up to a lot of things.  Mostly, I love the anticipation of a new album.  It’s fun to see how bands build things up, which songs they release as singles, etc.  In the end, I’ll probably listen to the leak after 04/13 and see if there were any last minute changes.  Until then, I’m content to let it build.

More about this on 04/14.  See you then!

Categories: Uncategorized

It’s Coming Up

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday I picked up End Times, the new Eels album.  Before the full review, I’m taking time to review their discography as a whole so I can gather my impressions.  The history of a band is important, especially when it comes to critically examining an album.

Bands have to walk a fine line at all times.  One one hand, if they sound radically different from their last album they risk alienating their fans.  On the other, they risk boring their followers if they sound too much the same.  More of a good thing is generally more of a good thing but after 3 or 4 albums it moves into being too much of a good thing.  Take Cake, for example.  After five studio albums and a b-sides release they still sound almost exactly like they did on Motorcade of Generosity way back in 1994.  True, they’ve put a bit more polish on their crazy hybrid style over the years, but they’re still riding the same horse.  In the end, you buy the new CD just because it’s Cake, not because you’re looking for something new and different.

On the flip side, bands like Kings of Leon are constantly changing. Youth and Young Manhood was straight swamp boogie, but by the time they reached 2008’s Only By the Night they were more like U2 in a wind tunnel.  They certainly won a lot of attention with the change, but they also lost a lot of fans who liked the original pre-70s feel.

Personally, I’m fine with bands that fall too far on either side of the razor edge.  I’ve enjoyed watching Kings of Leon grow and change, reveling in their discovery of new ways to express themselves.  As for Cake, they’re like and old pair of jeans; they may have the odd new patch or wrinkle, but I know exactly what I’m getting when I pull them out of the drawer.

Categories: General

Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Today I’ll be taking a look at the Gorillaz new album, Plastic Beach.  This is either the third or the fifth album by the band, depending on if you count their ‘b-sides’ releases as full albums.  Regardless, the Gorillaz have done nothing but evolve since their self-titled debut album was released in 2001.  Each album is a little more coherent and has a little more to say.  In that light, Plastic Beach doesn’t disappoint.  On 2005’s Demon Days, the Gorillaz seemed like they had an itch to make a statement about the condition of the world around them.  Five years later they finally got to make it.  Plastic Beach picks up on Demon Days’ environmental worries and makes them more hard-hitting.  Tracks like “Superfast Jellyfish”, “Rhinestone Eyes” and “On Melancholy Hill” point a troubling finger at our generation’s disposable attitude.  Amazingly, they even manage to do it without coming off as preachy; “Superfast Jellyfish” makes its point with tongue firmly in cheek and an eye on the crowd, waiting for a laugh.  The other tracks offer moving music and subtle veiling to mitigate the audience’s discomfort.  Not everything on the album is accusatory; “White Flag” and “Stylo” (the album’s first single), are fun romps through disco soul and hip-hop, respectively.  Other tracks like “Empire Ants” and “Some Kind of Nature” offer a touching counterpoint.

With the Gorillaz, it’s understandably hard to separate the music from the framework built around it.  Their existence as a “virtual band” means everything they release is steeped in layers of show and pomp, which results in difficulty evaluating just their music.  It’s worth a try, though, to let the music stand and testify for itself without all the hoopla that comes with.  Musically, Plastic Beach is the poppiest Gorillaz album yet, featuring a lot of synthetic sounds and dance beats.  In truth, the entire album is reminiscent of the single “Dare” from Demon Days.  Gone are the funky, punky guitars of their self title and the hip-swinging bass of Demon Days.  Everything on Plastic Beach sounds artificial and created.  They’ve even given up the drum kit in favor of programmed beat lines.  Now, I realize that this style fits with the mentality of the album; after all, how better than to sing about an artificial world than with artificial rhythms?  Unfortunately, for fans of the meatier sounds of the first two albums, Plastic Beach will be jarringly sweet and brittle.  The sound of the album took a lot of getting used to, so much that I found myself not liking it on the first listen through.  On repetition it grew on me, but the first blush was rough.

On the plus side, the Gorillaz manage to keep the grand, sweeping feel they established on Demon Days.  Everything fits together, melding sometimes radically divergent styles into a coherent album, though a tracks feel like they could have been trimmed out or tightened up.  This small snag is where the other problem with the album comes up.  Almost from the beginning, the Gorillaz have depended on a lineup of guests to help them finish off their work.  In the past they’ve worked with everyone from Del the Funkee Homosapien to De La Soul to Ike Turner.  Plastic Beach keeps the tradition alive, but sometimes feels a little over-guested.  While the lineup of cameos is impressive, some of them don’t seem to really add anything to the album in general.  The appearance of Snoop Dogg on “Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach” feels tag-on, like the track was included just to get him on the album.  Bobby Womack weighs in on “Cloud of Unknowing” to great effect, but didn’t seem necessary on “Stylo”.  Likewise, Mos Def is perfect for “Stylo”, but feels extraneous on “Sweepstakes”.  Other guests like Lou Reed and Little Dragon come to the rescue, filling in the gaps like a hand in a glove.  As much as it’s enjoyable to watch the names drop, indiscriminate inclusion seems t have hampered Plastic Beach a bit.

Overall, Plastic Beach is a fairly strong album.  It will most likely win accalim from those who enjoyed “Dare” and “Rockit” from Demon Days while keeping everyone else interested enough for a second listen.  Albarn and Co play to their strengths enough to smooth over a change in style and a few weak choices.

Categories: Reviews

Take my hand, we’re off to Never-never Land.

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Hello, and welcome to Sound Connections.  This blog is meant to run concurrent with a radio show on 91.1 WDBX in Carbondale, Illinois.  Don’t worry if you’re not in range, the show is still up in the air.  The blog, however, rolls on!  Over the days and weeks I’ll be reviewing new albums and making connections between bands.

“Connections?” I hear you ask.  “What connections?”  Simple; in today’s music industry bands form, go on hiatus, break up, and swap members like gum in a high school make-out session.  I intend to follow members from band to band and show who goes where.  It’s amazing how often that drummer you love shows up as a guest or that favorite guitar player moves on to front his own group.  Walk with me as I trace the connections and attach the links.

Feel free to comment, and I’ll see you around!

Categories: General