Monday, July 5, 2010

Writer’s Jukebox – Late-Night Two-fer

jukebox silver crest I just got back from a brief Fourth of July sojourn to a relative’s house where my cousins’ kids educated me in the music of Dora the Explorer and something called Wubbzy.  Suffice to say I was super excited to come home and find passages written about “grown-up” music.

We’ve only got two entries for you this week due to the holiday, but I’m sure you’re too busy nursing a patriotic hangover to get outraged.

Before picking up the new Roots album, Chris took Rob’s advice and went digging through The National’s back catalog.  Andrew rings in the birth of America with an act from New Zealand you may have heard of.

ChrisEndless National Driving

Enough ink has probably been spilt on our site about The National, but let me publicly declare myself as yet another fan. I'd enjoyed their album Boxer ever since I picked it up on a whim from the public library last fall. I picked up High Violet as soon as it came out, and I've been enjoying in immensely. On my dear friend Rob Kunzig's suggestion, I also picked up Alligator in order to fill myself in with their back catalog, which is just as fun as their new stuff, even if it's a little rawer. 

I've been doing a fair bit of traveling in the last couple of weeks, and The National is one of those perfect bands to put on during an endless drive through the rural South in the middle of the night. Cuing up "Fake Empire" as I speed down the freeway, the lights of civilization blurred in the distance through the dense Floridian fog, is an almost transcendent experience. And listening to High Violet's "Runaway" while driving through the Georgian countryside is enough to make me forget how much I hate driving through that state.

When I went to Best Buy to purchase a copy of Alligator (yes, I still buy physical CDs. Yes, I'm old-fashioned. I know.), I also happened to be there on the release date of the Roots' new album, How I Got Over. My past week with the Roots left me a little ambivalent, but the album was on sale for something like six bucks, and I couldn't resist. I'm glad I had that moment of weakness - How I Got Over excises the bloat and pretentious sound collages of some of their previous works. Each track is lean and to the point, which makes it that much more effective. If the anger of their previous albums seems to have subsided somewhat, their cool, jazzy demeanor speaks of maturity and artistic growth. It's hard to believe that they're also the house band for Jimmy Fallon.

AndrewFlying with the Conchords

About a week ago, I hopped in my time machine and took a trip back to 2007 so I could listen to Flight of the Conchords.

New Zealand's fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo has two full-length albums to its name, both showcasing the lyrical and musical adroitness which earned a landslide of accolades for their HBO TV series of the same name.

Their first, the eponymous Flight of the Conchords, is the stronger of the two efforts. It's composed mostly of songs that Bret McKenzie and Jermaine Clement honed in their years on the road as a musical stand-up act - there are performances of the pitch-perfect Bowie spoof "Bowie's In Space" dating clear back to the actual year 2000 (not to be confused with the post-apocalyptic year 2000 mentioned in "Robots"). "Business Time" is equal parts clever lyrics and Barry White send-up. "Foux du Fafa" is catchy, and also taps into the universally held notion that the French language is ridiculous.

Their second album, I Told You I Was Freaky, is less enjoyable, at least in part because its songs were speed-written for the TV show's second season. That's not to say there's nothing enjoyable here - "Hurt Feelings" is about hard-assed rappers whose everyday problems really get them down, and "We're Both In Love With a Sexy Lady" is another great example of the Conchords' back-and-forth wordplay.

Now I'm going to get back in my time machine and go back to before the Internet was invented so that I can prevent this from happening.