982 words on Music
There’s been so much more music around recently that I fear I’ll never get around to commenting on any of it, if I go for long comments. So I’ll just sum everything up here.
If Adam Green was the music press’ darling in January then Conor Oberst took that position in February. While the photos in the articles told you that he’s quite young and a bit undernourished, reading the texts revealed that he has quite an impressive back-log of albums already – with iTMS doing quite a good job here. Of those the previous album, Lifted, is said to be the first one that’s tolerably good.
And both the new albums I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, which have been published at the same time (and all the vinyl records of which in Germany or Europe were apparently mis-pressed) are said to be even better. And while I’m not particularly impressed by the music, in part because of the consistently whiney singing, they’re not bad either.
Generally, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning is said to be the better album of the two because it’s less experimental. And I think this is true – technically at least. Personally I don’t really like it too much because of the rather annoying and unnatural talking right at the beginning and because quite few songs had slight (which for me means too strong) country music feel to them. And of course there’s the title which carries a by far too positive view of mornings for my taste. Yet, there are lovely songs like the slightly depressive Lua or First Day of my Life which reminds me of Johnny Cash (and a re-recording by him or a duet might have been cool).
And if you promise to stay conscious
I’ll try and do the same.
Well I may die from medication
but I sure killed all the pain.
What was normal in the evening,
by the morning seems insane.
Bright Eyes, Lua
Digital Ash in a Digital Urn, on the other hand has – as the name hints – been run through a bit of digital machinery and while not sounding entirely different and preserving the general whineyness, adds more modern sounds, most notably more percussion, to the music. Generally I like this kind of sound better than what can be heard on I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. But, as many of the reviews point out correctly (for a change), it’s not particularly well- but rather over-done in places (crying babies in Ship in a Bottle, WTF?!) and would be much better if it were generally more subtle. Still, songs like I Believe in Sympathy with the mathematician teasing line
So I raise my hand to symmetry or the dangerously addictive Hit the Switch are worth listening to.
The list of music magazine darlings continues with Bloc Party for March. They’ve had an EP out for a while which was fine. [This is another place to see how ‘well done’ iTMS is… there are two versions of the same EP with different cover art, differently spelled song titles and different prices.] and Well a bit better than that really. Opening with the fantastic song Banquet and closing with a slightly more agressive/electronic (and arguably better) and rather long edit of it just over twenty minutes later. That was very promising, so it was interesting to hear their first full album, Silent Alarm, recently.
Its cover is mostly white with a snowed in landscape. Which I find quite appropriate for the album and the music. It’s quite cool and light. Yet it rocks. And that’s not a singular statement but one that applies to the whole records. You can play it front to back and every single song will be full of power and energy.
So I like the album, but strangely I am not particularly enthusiastic about it and I find none of the songs (apart from the aforementioned Banquet) too remarkable at this stage. Perhaps it takes more time for that. Perhaps it just doesn’t matter.
And now for something completely different!
Bienvenue au monde fantastique en plastique!
A long time ago I discovered some songs by Fantastic Plastic Machine on someones computer. It’s electronic, poppy, light, cheerful, cool stuff. So I really shouldn’t like it. I do enjoy it though, listening to the late 1990s albums The Fantastic Plastic Machine and Luxury. In Germany their records are published by bungalow records, which do a lot of electronic stuff but also publish the records of Stereo Total who in fact just had a new record but I’ll have to listen to it a few more times before writing about it.
There’s a newly published record Government Commissions by Mogwai. If you like Mogwai’s wordless beauty but lack many of their old albums and if you like the idea of having a record that is dedicated to John Peel and opens with him saying
Ladies and Gentlemen – Mogwai, then this is definitely for you. It does the trick for me anyway… Nice double-LP in a plain white cover.
For laughs, remember Mogwai’s previous album Happy Songs for Happy People and how it’s all shiny and silver. Then enjoy the carelessly scanned and fingerprinted version of it they dare to offer you at iTMS.
As recommended by Dave last year I tried Erlend Øye’s album in the DJ Kicks series. And it’s quite good. What sucks, though, is that the LP and CD versions are quite different despite having the same cover. And I ended up buying the vinyl which was a bad choice because there are less actual songs on the vinyl version. So I had to sit down and download the missing ones again, thus ruining the whole convenience of buying and playing a record.