Sunday, January 24, 2010

Writer’s Jukebox – Rock. Indie. Indie-Rock.

It’s Sunday, you’ve listened to our podcast, watched Brett Favre blow it while eating your leftover National Pie Day pie, and now your night’s free.  What to do?  How about check out some music recommended by the Charge Shot!!! staff?

Rob’s trying to combat the February doldrums with exercise, and he’s using some hardcore tunes to get him through his routine.  Andrew’s buying music over the Internet, but not from where you’d expect.  And me?  I’m trying to figure out why everyone’s hipster friends can’t stop yapping about Animal Collective.

Rob kicks it off after the jump.

Rob – Running to Reznor, This is Normal, Right?

All work, little play (manifold meanings, here) and cold weather make Robby a dull boy. So Robby buys a gym membership, and rediscovers the joys of angry, militant music.

Nine Inch Nails’ dystopian concept album Year Zero features prominently on my running mix, titled “LET’S FUCKING DO THIS.” The album’s opener, “Hyperpower,” starts with a chugging crashing drum line and only gets louder. “The Beginning of the End” preserves that momentum, stomping along at a pace perfectly synched to a 7.5 setting on the treadmill. Reznor’s guitar fills me with visions of kicking down doors, tear-gassing civilians and beating protesters with riot sticks. This is normal, right?

It gets sunnier. Phoenix’s “Lasso” puts a little bounce in my stride – in addition, of course, to being a seamless rock gem. By the time my oxygen/adrenaline ratio is roughly 1:5, I’m primed for Jimmy Eats World’s “Chase This Light;” while chocking on its own blue-light special carpe diem, it’s the perfect tempo for the terminal end of my run.

I wrap up the final two minutes with Pilot to Gunner’s “Hey Carrier,” which has enough rock for at least three songs. The mix of endorphins, sweat and good music feel great, and remind me of some other, similarly satiated feeling. Can’t quite remember. Oh well.

Andrew – Cheap, High-Quality Spoons Over The Internet

I'm going to take this opportunity to gush a bit about Amazon MP3. This past week I've bought no fewer than three albums for $20, the same price that you used to have to pay for one album in a music store. They're high-bitrate, they've got no silly DRM, and can be moved to any computer and played on any device. iTunes store? What's the iTunes store?

Of the three, the one I've spent most time with is Spoon's just-released Transference. I was introduced to Spoon by a friend of the blog a couple years ago, and I've since spent a good bit of time with their catalog. So many bands I've enjoyed over the years have lost their ability to craft good music with age, each subsequent release proving more underwhelming than the one before. In this respect Spoon is more than consistent, releasing solid album after solid album with no change in quality or musicianship, only in approach.

Approach is what differentiates Transference from its immediate predecessor, 2007's slickly produced Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga - where that album shone dully, the songs on Transference have an almost demo-like roughness around the edges. Songs like "Trouble Comes Running" and "Before Destruction" exhibit this quality the most obviously, but even tighter material like "The Mystery Zone" is less polished underneath its characteristic Spoon groove. It's a great new album, a great introduction to Spoon to people who've never listened, and a great start to 2010.

Craig – I Think I Can Like Animal Collective

A few weeks ago, Rob mentioned Animal Collective as one of those bands he hadn’t gotten around to but people won’t shut up about.  I sympathize completely.  My general take on indie music is “Good for you.  I’m going to go listen to Journey.”  But that doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the occasional indie breakthrough.  And the Collective seem poised for just such an assault on popular radio.

Admittedly, I’ve only five Animal Collective songs on my iPod.  After ingesting its Pitchfork review with the requisite seventeen grains of salt, I nabbed a copy of their Fall Be Kind EP.  I kept it arm’s length initially, as the opening track “Graze” failed to grab me.  It’s a spacy, dreamy way to open a record (even a short one), and whatever my preconceived notion of Animal Collective was, it certainly wasn’t this.

What Would I Want? Sky” dispelled my skepticism.  Not being a Dead Head, I didn’t realize that it marks the first licensed sample of a Grateful Dead song (“Unbroken Chain,” by the way), but that’s irrelevant to my appreciation of the song.  The looping, rushed delivery of the main hook is both joyful and yearning.  I’ve relished having it stuck in my ears for the past few weeks.

Of the EP’s five songs, however, only one has double digits in the Times Played column in iTunes.  “I Think I Can,” with its dense vocal harmonies and resounding drums, feels unlike anything else on the record.  The first half lopes heavily under the weight of its questions, “What’s in the way?” and “What’s nice about staying on the same pace?”  There’s a glacial stasis to the first five minutes, which melts into a bouncy, descending scale of affirmation with the repeated “I think I can.”  If only I enjoyed all of their music this much.