Sunday, December 6, 2009

Writer’s Jukebox – Back from Turkey Day

My jukebox No longer busy stuffing ourselves with tryptophan and StoveTop, we’re back for this week’s Writer’s Jukebox.

Of all the things people buy on Black Friday, music never seems to rank high on the list.  Not for me at least.  Generally, I see people buying electronics or furniture.  Perhaps the comparatively lower cost of music ($10 for your average CD, or free if you’re an Internet pirate) means that deals aren’t as prevalent.  That said, Andrew managed to find an actual Black Friday music deal…with middling results.

Rounding out the week with a little less buyer’s remorse are myself and Rob.  Each of us ended up dusting off music from a few years back and reveling in the revisiting.

Craig – Antony and the Greek Demigods

I find it hard to listen to music on public transportation, simply because it doesn’t make the trip go fast enough.  Podcasts are great for that, whether it be NPR or A Life Well Wasted.  Something about people actually talking keeps things moving forward, instead of allowing me to settle into one song’s particular mood.

As I’ve been taking a lot of public transit to and from a hectic week of work, I haven’t had much time to experiment with new music.  For the car rides to and from the train station, however, I’ve slipped back into habit of just throwing Hercules and Love Affair on random.  The self-titled 2008 album is the brainchild of DJ Andy Butler, who also worked with Kim Ann Foxman and producer Tim Goldsworthy to create a stunning reinvention of classic disco and house music.  The cherry on top is Antony Hegarty of Antony & The Johnsons, whose voice shimmers all over the record.

The album’s biggest and best track is the single “Blind,” which succinctly demonstrates what the rest of the album’s trying to accomplish.  It’s bouncy, syncopated bass is driving and rich in funk.  Antony’s voice is on the dance floor, swaying its hips and taking charge of the room.  The trumpets show up only when necessary, punctuating the instrumental breaks nicely in the higher register.  That the song also packs a substantial amount of pathos is a testament to the beautiful synergy of Antony and the dancehall atmosphere.

You would do well to just throw this on at a party and see what happens.  The free-spirits should start dancing immediately, even to the more subdued opener “Time Will.”  The wallflowers should have plenty to appreciate, whether it be the sliding female vocals in “Athene” or the melancholic mood of “You Belong.”  People will probably take a break from dancing to grab a drink and listen to the slower, spacious “Iris” and “Easy” (tracks I generally skip just because I’m more attracted to the potential energy in the other tracks).  But no one should be able to resist moving to the infectious “Hercules’ Theme” or the smooth “Raise Me Up.” 

Sometimes it’s hard to find new music when stuff this good is sitting on your iPod.

Rob – Reading Far Too Deeply Into Autumn

Another autumn, another relistening of Matt Pond PA’s Emblems.

If you’re like me – a chronic nostalgic, misty for history as recent as yesterday – albums have a way of cementing themselves to moments in time, or seasons. Emblems is glued to fall, late fall, when the trees are mostly bare and first frost puts a note of ice in the air (Gene’s fault; we listened to the album while driving back to Jersey for Thanksgiving break).

I’d like to believe Emblems has some aesthetic affinity for the season, though. The gusting strings in “The Butcher” evoke a classic blustery day; “New Hampshire” has a sort of introversion I associate with late-season, post-first frost. I’m beginning to believe I read far too deeply into autumn.

Interpretations regardless, Emblems is full of brisk, lovely songs. “Lily Two” is a lighthearted ode with a sauntering pace, given ballast by the carpe diem urgency of “Grave’s Disease.” Those looking for gossamer love songs will be satisfied with “Summer (Butcher Two)” and “East Coast E.”

Several Arrows Later, the Philly trio’s follow-up to Emblems, is mostly fluff, sitting snugly beside Keane’s Beneath the Iron Sea in the “marginally sophisticated pop for bored soccer moms” category. Browsing through the snoozers the band coughed up for The O.C.soundtracks, it would seem Matt Pond PA is most at home in this brainless stratosphere. If Emblems is a fluke, it’s a good one, full of satisfying tracks that pull me back once a year, when the leaves really get crunchy.

Andrew – If You’re Wondering If I Want You To, I Don’t

Listening to the Them Crooked Vultures album (see our review) put it in my head to revisit the Foo Fighters' discography, which is by no means a bad thing. In his primary band, Dave Grohl (NOT Ghrol, Robert) is behind the mic instead of the drum kit, and while his presence on the skins is missed he makes a pretty damn good frontman.

In particular, I find myself attracted to their latest long player, 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace. Though individual songs have been stronger on past efforts, as an album this is one of their most cohesive. I always like it when albums are sequenced well - this one definitely is, from the punch in the face that is "The Pretender" to the gentle closer "Home". The album isn't front-loaded, it changes speed and sound effortlessly and fluidly, and it gets the rocker/ballad ratio just about right. The slow build to the explosive ending of "But, Honestly" is enough to earn this one a recommendation by itself.

Also (and please don't judge me too harshly), I bought Weezer's latest, Raditude, because it was a $5 digital download from Amazon on Black Friday. I spent at least $5 too much - 2005's Make Believe is no longer Weezer's worst album. There is exactly one okay song, the opening track "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To", and the rest is all crappy music that has no excuse for existing.

There is one other song, "Can't Stop Partying", that is a good listen if you dig around a little. It's a re-recorded version of an old Rivers Cuomo demo - the album cut, with the sheen of its production and guest rapping by Lil Wayne (vomit noise), makes it sound like an ode to partying, while the vastly superior original demo version is more obviously a weary snapshot of the rock lifestyle. Re-recording fail.

Don't buy Raditude. In fact, let's just pretend that Weezer stopped recording after the Blue Album, and then (ironically) died in a plane crash.