Jul 2, 2012

2011 in Music: Part 2

2011 had a ton of great music, so I had to divide my best of 2011 music in a couple of parts. Hope you find something you like. Cheers.

Do you like Fleet Foxes? Then you’re gonna like this album. Does it break new ground from their debut? Not really. True the tracks may be a little more intricate and I really like this album, though I find myself somehow listening to it less than their debut. Maybe it’s missing something, or maybe I’m just trying to say that although Helplessness blues is a really good album with some stellar tracks, Bedouin Dress and Sim Sala Bin come to mind, something keeps it from becoming a great album, and it could honestly just be my mood at the moment. To get a different and more enthusiastic review from me, click here. Choice Tracks: Sim Sala Bin, Montezuma, Belodouin Dress, Grown ocean

Although I could go in depth to describe this album, let’s be honest, this is not a proper Bush album because this is not the original Bush lineup. This means that this album is closer to Institute and Gavin Rossdale’s lukewarm vanilla solo album than a real Bush album. Sounds harsh right? Maybe, but I just want to clear up a few things. Mainly, is this a good album? By Bush standards, it’s their weakest although it might end up selling better than Golden State, which was a good album and didn’t get the attention it deserved. Ok, so can I compare it to something else? Of course, and the best comparison I can make is to Stone Temple Pilots last album. Is that album bad? By no means. Are there good songs? Yes. Is it their weakest album? Absolutely. The same thing happens with the Sea of Memories. It is a good album, but nothing stellar. It’s got some decent songs but nothing that really hooks you and begs repeat listens. It’s good filler music and maybe it has to do with it not being a proper Bush album… the same as Smashing Pumpkins in Zeitgeist and the mishmash bullshit Billy Corgan has been pumping out with his Teargarden project. This isn’t revolutionary and there’s a reason why Bush went from headliners to opening to Nickelback. That being said, it can’t hurt to listen to a Sea of Memories. I just wish the album had something as interesting as its title to listen to.

Some albums take some getting used to, others are like those magical shoes that fit seamlessly and you wonder why it took so long to find them. That’s how I feel about Codes and Keys. It’s a logical step for a great band, it’s enjoyable from start to finish, it’s extremely well thought out and it feels as if it just came about. Nothing feels forced, everything flows and as Deathcab is wont to do, it brings a smile to your face without being overly joyous or bombastic. Codes and Keys is just a great album, from the Postal Service-ish opening track Home is a Fire, through the bouncy Some Boys, past the super Catchy Underneath the Sycamore up until the unraveling crescendo of St. Peter’s Cathedral and the happy-go-lucky-ness of the appropriately titled Stay Young, Go Dancing. Hell of an effort you should definitely check out. Choice Tracks: Home is a Fire, Some Boys, You are a tourist, Doors unlocked and open, Underneath the sycamore, St. Peter’s Cathedral,

I’ve listened to this album about 3 times and though I like it, something keeps me from loving it. Maybe it’s that the arrangements are not as fresh sounding as it was for me when I listened to Lungs. It’s not so much that the album is not as good, maybe it’s just that I see a little more polish where maybe I wanted a bit more grit from Florence Welch and company. Whereas the Dog Days are Over had me clicking repeat countless times, Shake it out, a very worthy song in her repertoire had me enjoying the track once through, without giving it a second thought. I don’t know, maybe it was too U2ish for my taste (as was Never Let Me Go), or maybe I’m being a momentary prick. Don’t get me wrong, Ceremonials is a solid album, the thing is that the surprise I received when I heard Lungs is absent here, and it’s something that happens most times on sophomore efforts. Something of the original essence is polished straight off the second effort and although you end up with a better album, the highlights for me aren’t as bright as before. That being said, her deep voice and the lush arrangements invite repeated listens and will definitely resonate with people into her sound. Choice tracks: Shake it Out, What the Water Gave Me, Never Let Me Go,

Jane’s got a lot of flak for their previous album Strays. People said it was overproduced and that it didn’t hold a candle to previous work. That being said, I enjoyed Strays though obviously not to the level of Nothing’s Shocking or Ritual de lo Habitual. Then again, those two other albums are considered in some circles as landmark albums and at the very least they have some kickass tracks. The main thing is that Strays in part did what its title implied by straying from their original sound enough to get crap from their own fans. The same is probably going to happen with The Great Escape Artist since it feels more like a hybrid of all Perry Farrel’s projects than a return to form for Jane’s Addiction. Along the way, a couple of things happened, Dave Navarro decided to go for a minimalist style, Eric Avery said he was done with Jane’s and Perry Farrel visited Neptune to have an orgy with thirteen breasted aliens (and probably a Philipino kid or two). So if you want a descriptive for this album, the word spacey is quite appropriate. It sounds like they were tripping balls when they wrote most songs and I don’t mind it at all. I know I’m in a minority after reading a couple of reviews, then again, that’s the great part about having an opinion. To me the album is well sequenced, has some really good tracks and flows with a vibe different from what I’m used to by Jane’s. Does that mean I prefer this album to Ritual de lo Habitual? No, it just means it’s different. Choice Tracks: Undergound, Irresistible Force (Met the Immovable object), Splash a little water on it, Words Right out of my mouth (which sounds like something Guns N’ Roses didn’t record).

Before going in depth with this review, let’s say what has to be said up front. If you’ve never liked Primus, this won’t change now, and they could care less. Now that we’ve cleared that up, wow is Naugahyde good. You see, when it comes to a bass guitar, few people can basically make an instrument bend to their will. Les Claypool absolutely destroys his bass, finger plucking, slapping and sliding the CRAP out it while spitting forth classic lines of irreverent nonsense that only he can think of. Seriously, it’s like Dr. Seuss and Willy Wonka met up to trip balls off the Magical Mystery Tour and your tour guide is Frank Zappa. From the epic fourth installment of the Fisherman’s Chronicles, to the super dark Jilly’s on Smack, Green Naugahyde is a hell of a ride that rewards the faithful handsomely. Choice Tracks: The Last Salmon Man, Eternal Consumption Engine, Eyes on the Squirrel, Jilly’s on Smack, Lee Van Cleef, Moron TV, HOINFODAMAN.

Unlike Florence + the Machine’s sophomore effort, St. Vincent’s new album caught my attention big time and it has to do in large part with seeing live clips of Annie Clark and realizing she’s the one playing guitar. The thing is that I thought she was just doing vocals… when I saw that clip and saw that she’s the crazy one bringing up the melodies, doing a hybrid pop/industrial mix, I was blown away and I listened to Strange Mercy with fresh ears and put attention to all the details I thought had come from another mind. Then I listened to the lyrics and was equally interested, since they’re honest and offbeat to say the least. “Best Finest surgeon, Come cut me Open” – “I’ve had good times with bad guys, I’ve told whole lies with a half smile” – “Oh America, Can I owe you one.” In short, Annie Clark has a knack for making hooks with elements that you wouldn’t think could make a hook. She’s also managed to do something only Ani Difranco has managed to do with me; she’s made me want to emulate how a woman plays guitar. Strange Mercy is an album that begs deep listens and to be seen live, because while other people follow trends, St. Vincent pisses on them with a smile on their face, sparklers in their hands and a meerkat backpack on. There’s fuzzy guitars, pop tendencies, 80’s synths, subwoofer exploding riffs, clever lyrics and a groove all her own. Click ‘repeat all’ and enjoy. Choice Tracks: Chloe in the Afternoon, Cruel, Surgeon, Strange Mercy, Year of the Tiger.


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