Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Review by request! (Continued)


Broken Bells (for those that may not know) is the collaborative effort of James Mercer from The Shins, and mega-ultra-super-wam-bam-thankya-mam producer Danger Mouse. This is a dream team of epic proportions. I mean The Shins are The Shins. Poptastic and friendly, easy to dance to. But I'm actually an even bigger fan of Danger Mouse. He's probably my very favorite producer right now. Everything the man touches turns to gold: Gorillaz (Demon Days), his Danger Doom project with MF Doom, Gnarls Barkley, Beck's Modern Guilt, The Black Keys' Attack and Release.... etc. etc. etc. This particular collab started with his recent Dark Night of the Soul project which featured two James Mercer tracks. The two thought it would be a good idea to do an album of their own. And why not?

The result is very pleasant indeed. Its fun that this should be released the same time as the new Gorillaz, as Danger Mouse was a huge part of why I loved Demon Days. I like how Mr. Mercer's beach-pop melodies meld with Danger Mouse's rock-hop production style. The Shins last album (Wincing the Night Away) was my favorite of theirs, and this album possesses a bit of the beat- driven pop that I liked about that one, as well. The immediate stand-out to me was "The Ghost Inside" with James in full falsetto goodness, and a total Backstreet Boys beat behind it (seriously...enjoy). The harmonies come out in full effect in final track "The Mall & Misery" and the beautifully spacey "Citizen," the end of which floats off into a hypnotizing hum of harmonious heaven. (You know you loved those "h's.")

To conclude, this is a very enjoyable listen. At times it can drag ever so slightly, but not enough to kill the mood. Its definitely one that'll get better with time and repeated listens. A variety of moods and grooves to suit anyone. Danger Mouse always brings his game, the end results just depend on who he's working with. So, if you are a fan of The Shins you'll love it, even more so depending on how much you loved their last album I think. Its a great companion album to the new Gorillaz to prep you for some warm weather. 
Pretend I gave numerical ratings again: 7.5/10 (with a little room to grow)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Review by request!

I don't post reviews of things whole lot these days. In fact, I don't post much of anything a whole lot these days... (school is almost over, school is almost over).

But, tomorrow (Tuesday) two highly anticipated and somewhat similar albums are released. One of them is an album I've been dreaming would appear for the past five years or so, and the audio (and visual) gods have finally blessed us. That fact, along with a couple requests that I review said albums, have prompted me to officially "POST" my obviously high-esteemed opinions once again. So, since time is scarce, I shall get to it.

First lets get to the (wordy) meat first shall we? (I'll get to the other one later) Drumroll...

Plastic Beach

Its been a few years since I've been this excited for any album.  I am still amazed at how Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett have managed to create such a brilliant audio-visual experience. Gorillaz is the perfect art-as-entertainment entity. Last album Demon Days is one of my favorites ever (#5 in my fav's of the 00's) and it was unclear until recently if a third album would even see the light of day. I mean, its just a goofy side project right? Well, in a decade of nothing but brilliant side projects, Mr. Albarn has proved to be one of modern music's most innovative renaissance men. I was wetting myself with anticipation seeing all the juicy video snippits they've been teasing us with...but is it actually any good?? 

Thankfully, Plastic Beach is flat out fabulous. I was half expecting it to be a let down. Not as much musically, but more so visually. I had read that Jamie Hewlett was "bored" of drawing these characters and worried he wouldn't get into it, but he must have found the right inspiration, because the visuals are just as astounding as the music (check this.) I think after completing the Monkey: Journey to the West project, it really invigorated them both with new ideas creatively. In fact, it is pretty obvious to see the influence of that project to both aspects of Gorillaz. 

While it lacks an instant radio hit like "Clint Eastwood" or "Feel Good, Inc.," it's full of great, smart pop tracks. What I appreciate about the album is it, like Demons Days, is a cohesive unit. The tracks flow from one to the next seamlessly, which is always refreshing in today's playlist world. Despite the abundance of glory, I find myself having a hard time choosing a favorite song. Its almost completely void of the darker reggae/dub undertones of the two previous albums, but instead focuses on shinier, electro-pop nuggets (much like the Monkey project in ways). But, the collaborative hip-hop/rock/dance genre mash we've come to expect is as epic and gloriously over-the-top as ever.

It is, of course, a concept album. But, don't be afraid of that. Its not tree-hugger propaganda. They have made sure that the "message" doesn't get in the way of the form, but rather sets up a foundation to build outrageous tunes like "Superfast Jellyfish," a "jingle" for a futuristic frozen breakfast product. Damon also gets pretty intimate and personal on the 80's sounding dance balladry of tracks like "On Melancholy Hill" and "To Binge." The album has an overall upbeat mood and is the perfect soundtrack to chase winter right outta town. Finally.

So, in summary, this is already a high contender for one of the best albums of the year, in my opinion. If you appreciate what Mr. Albarn and Mr. Hewlett have been doing the last decade, it should fit your fancy. Its not quite as epic as Demon Days to me, but then again I tried to make sure I didn't expect it to be. Still, its a different enough creature that I'm sure there will be those that love it even more. Anyways, I've rambled on enough. If I had to give it an official "rating," I'd give it 9/10. But....whatever. 
P.S. - I do suggest getting the special edition; suh-weet pictures, bonus online content, and a "Making Of" DVD which is pretty fun to watch.

Next up...

Saturday, January 2, 2010


BACK TO 100-76
BACK TO 75-51
BACK TO 50-26
BACK TO 25-21
BACK TO 20-11

(written explanation to come soon)

Friday, January 1, 2010


Well, being at my parent's house, I forgot to bring the charger for my computer. Thus, the machine died, and I'm not able to post the written explanation of my Top 20. (UPDATE: Explanations posted below video)


That's ok, because I had planned to feature some audio/visual components as well! I figure it helps in appreciating it more than my words can anyway. So, for now, enjoy this short video, and I'll post a written response later.

BEHOLD! 20-11!

#20. Odyssey Number Five
by Powderfinger (2001)

This album helped soundtrack my life on multiple occasions this decade. From the hopelessness of "These Days" to the hopefulness of "My Kind of Scene." Reuniting with a far away loved one in "My Happiness," and losing love in "Whatever Makes You Happy." Its all in there, the ups and downs. I sort of decided this group is the Oasis of Australia. So, I guess this album held me over long enough until Oasis finally gave us Don't Believe the Truth. Still, I never did get another Powderfinger album. I guess part of that was the difficulty of finding them in the states. These days I don't have much excuse though, guess I better get on that.

#19. Citrus
by Asobi Seksu (2006)

Citrus has the grand title of being the first album I purchased as a married man. I bought it the first day of my honeymoon. Granted, I didn't get a lot of time to listen to it until we came back, know what I'm sayin (nudge nudge Hey-O!) It's also the highest album on this list without a single track in my top 100 songs. But that's not because they aren't good, in fact quite the contrary. Similar to Clap Your Hands (another album with no songs on that list), my love for this album stems from its completeness as a continuous, flawless unit. Every single song is good and flows smoothly into the next. Not any one profoundly affected me more, but each contributes perfectly to the overall gorgeous mood of this masterpiece.

#18. A Rush of Blood to the Head
by Coldplay (2002)

When I worked at the music store, occasionally we'd have some thugsters roll in and their first question was "Ya'll got hip-hop?" every single time. Every time, but one. One day, two thugz waltz in, and before I can point them to the hip-hop section, one says "Yo, ya'll got Coldplay?" Admittedly surprised, I led him to Coldplay where he grabbed Rush of Blood. "Yeah man I LOVE dis'n!" he exclaimed. That's basically what Coldplay did with this album. They went from quiet club act to stadium sized thug pleasing juggernauts. When you listen to it again, it makes total sense. This album is amazing. It's funny to realize they've only had two album since...seems like they've been conquering the world a lot longer.

#17. Room On Fire
by The Strokes (2003)

The Strokes came out just before my mission, but I didn't know much about them until I got home. Since I didn't really see the hype machine that had paraded with Is This It, I think I was able to take Room On Fire from a completely non-biased stance. I hadn't glorified their debut yet. All I did was listen to the two and end up wondering why everyone thought Is This It was so great. Its good, but cultural impact aside, I truly thought... "Is this really it?" I found Room On Fire to have more groove, more emotion, more Nintendo-guitars, more fun. It magnified what they started to perfection. I think if it came first, more would agree.

#16. Amnesiac
by Radiohead (2001)

This was the first full album I tried to download before its release. I had just been blown away by Kid A and figured, "I'm leaving on a mission soon, and I HAVE to memorize this before I leave!" I listened to it a ton, and thought it was... just ok. As release date drew closer, I started hearing clips elsewhere and realized the "album" I had downloaded was a fake! To my surprise (and relief) Amnesiac ended up being completely different. I can remember going to a midnight release, and then listening to it all at once on the couch and once again being amazed by Radiohead. "Packt Like Sardines In A Crushd Tin Box" says it all: "You realized you were looking in the wrong place." Indeed I was.

#15. The Greatest Hits
by Love Psychedelico (2001)

I was visiting a neighboring area on my mission one evening, riding in a car with some church member I didn't know, and listening to some groovy tunes. It sounded to me like maybe Sheryl Crow kicked it up a notch, but when I asked, the dude informed me it was "Rabu Saikederico." I told him I thought it was awesome, and right there he took the tape out and gave it to me. (That's Japan for ya!) I gave 'er a lil' listen and decided I needed to buy this group's albums. So I did. What an amazing band. An aggressive and impressive retro-electro-country-rock n' roll epic, with swagger to boot. Why else would you name your first album "The Greatest Hits?"

#14. Parachutes
by Coldplay (2000)

The reason I like this first album so much is because it really is the only one of their albums I can just sit and listen to start to finish without wanting to skip around. All their albums have amazing songs. But this first, simple, humble effort left the biggest impression on me. When I put them all together this is the only one that doesn't sound like "Coldplay" as we know them now. It matches in intimacy what they've produced in grandiosity on albums since. They aren't trying to be the biggest band in the world here, they're just sharing a few tunes.

#13. Hail to the Thief
by Radiohead (2003)

I bought this album the day it came out. In Japan. I went back to the apartment with the same Elder Fuji who had introduced me to some other good stuff (see #47 and #49) and we listened to it start to finish. We both sat there, a Nihonjin and an American, enjoying the same glorious band from England. As it ended, our companions (whom had switched for the day) came home and we quickly shoved in some MoTab or something. I sent the CD home knowing if I kept it there I'd never get anything done. But for the rest of my tenure in Japan, songs like "2+2=5," "Backdrifters," and "There, There" replayed through my mind as if I had recorded them in my head. One the band's darkest, strangest, and most amazing albums.

#12. Come on feel the Illinoise
by Sufjan Stevens (2005)

I bought this because every blog on the internet said it was the best thing since processed sandwich meat. So, I wanted to see what the big deal was. My eyes popped right out of my head as it graced my ears on the way home. Its rare that an artist you know nothing about can have such an overwhelming first impression the instant you hear them, but when it happens it is magical. Part of what amazed me was reading in the notes that Suf himself played like half the instruments. And when you can hear just about every instrument under the sun, it really tends to impress a guy. Still waiting for the official follow up...I'll wait as long as I have to.

#11. In Rainbows
by Radiohead (2007)

As a Radiohead fanatic, I about had an aneurysm when they announced this baby was to be released a week after anyone knew it existed. I think we all know that story; pay-what-you-want download, etc. etc. (I think I payed a couple bux, then got me the special box set for Christmas). In Rainbows was such a breath of fresh air. Smooth and relaxed, jazzy and groovy. It's the first Radiohead album where the band feels like they're truly just going with the flow and letting it happen. Since they're so friggin' amazing, they can do that and still make a classic. This really is a Top Ten album...but the line has to be drawn somewhere and I don't want ties. I expect as time goes, it'll shove its way up.