Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's Fall, right?

I'm still getting used to California. Today it was gray and rainy, which made me feel like I was back in Chicago or Wheaton... until I stepped outside and it was in the high 60s/low 70s. So yeah, it's a different world out here.

Fortunately, my prediction for the autumn seemed somewhat accurate - and I didn't even know about In Rainbows at the time!

The new Dashboard Confessional and Jimmy Eat World albums have both proved to be enjoyable and reliable, if not devastatingly revolutionary (I think we're past the point of expecting that from either outfit, though).

The new Foo Fighters album, on the other hand, single-handedly revived a band that's been aimless since the fourth track of One By One. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace not only rocks and rolls, the songwriting is the best "pure rock" writing since Queens of the Stone Age's Songs for the Deaf. Before this album, Foo shows consisted largely of songs from the first three albums, with 2 or 3 from each of the last two albums thrown in for good measure. Now they have an entire new album's worth of material that works as well in the studio as it does on the stage. On top of that, they throw a number of actual rock guitar solos in, that sound nothing like Rush or anything remotely prog! Like Wilco, they found success in harkening back to 70s rock albums while still maintaining their own sense of self as a band. Easier said than done; just ask Jet.

The Spill Canvas also released a capable followup, but one not nearly as solid or endearing as their breakthrough, One Fell Swoop. Though it starts strong, "Saved" sounds like they were bored playing it, and rush through it without much thought. This starts a downward slide that is only slightly slowed by moments in "Appreciation and the Bomb" and "Lullaby." Where Swoop was endearing because of its over-the-top lyrics and deft musicianship, No Really, I'm Fine only rarely succeeds in spite of these.

Coheed & Cambria were poised to make the most outrageous, bombastic record of their (and perhaps their listeners') lives - instead, they finish their epic story with a whimper: a collection of mostly forgettable songs that delve deeply into the lore they have crafted, but forget to make it relatable or at least interesting.

Albums That I Want To Like More Than I Actually Do:
Motion City Soundtrack, Even If It Kills Me. Some really strong tracks on here, but lines like "She's the pizza of my eye" just leave too bad a taste in my earmouth (?) to be ignored.
New Found Glory, From the Screen to Your Stereo, Pt. II. The first half of this album is solid and provides for some sing-alongs, while the last half stinks up the joint. Proof that cover albums work best as EPs (Hello, On the Cover).

Release That's Making Me The Happiest:
Days Away, Ear Candy for the Headphone Trippers. How can this not inspire smiles all around? Days Away prove that the reason they're no longer on Fueled By Ramen is that no other band on the roster could compare to them. I was going to say it's the best label-free release recently, but that whole In Rainbows deal might have a leg up on them. But Days Away wins the concise and melodic awards.

Release I Wish I'd Started Listening To When It Was Released:
Matchbook Romance, Voices. If I have any friends who listened to this album and didn't think of me... well, apparently we don't know each other very well, after all. It has some troubles down the stretch, but for the most part comes across as Muse's snotty, younger brother, willing to sometimes forego intricacy so they can just rock out.

Release I'm Most Happily Surprised By:
The Most Serene Republic, Population. They're a Canadian ensemble and you probably won't be seeing them on late night TV anytime soon. Writing and performing "soundscapes" instead of songs, all I know is that its closest comparison is The Mars Volta. Songs are broken by dissonance and textures, but they never forget where they're going. Meanwhile, they're also less abrasive than TMV, with melodic cousins like Broken Social Scene, Sufjan Stevens, and even Margot and the Nuclear So & So's making a better comparison in that arena. Abram tried to get me to listen to their first two releases, and I didn't like them. I listened again after enjoying Population so much... and I still don't like them. Sometimes we just need to be grateful for what we have, though.

Release My Fingers Are Still Crossed On:
Saves the Day, Under the Boards. I'm just hoping and praying.


travis said...

days away, agreed. its great.

also, i'm a little upset with NFG for stealing my idea to cover kiss me. i think CBN could have done an equally good job if not better (i hate that they drum parts double time...)but they do a nice job with iris. its a little bit how i envisioned a rocked-up version of the mandolin song would sound.

spill canvas, i really like. even if it does sound a little like they don't care that much about a few songs. 'all over you' sells me on the album. best dancy-pop-rock song since interventions and lullabies.

and without sounding like a heretic, i don't understand what all the in rainbows hype is about. yes, its free and thats a cool concept. and yes, its a new radiohead album, which always means good stuff. but really? is it that great? i mean, its really good. but compared to kid a or ok computer?

also, gave dashboard one more listen. i like it a little better the second time around. but still not that big a fan.

eric said...

Travis, no offense, but neither I disagree with both your CBN-related statements: the first because I think they did it better than we could have, and the second because Mandolin song was way better than that version of Iris. Plus Alex is less nasal.

I understand your In Rainbows hesitation, and that's cool. It's obviously not their best work, but despite all the hype surrounding it I find it to be a stunningly subtle album. Not only was the way it was released different from every album these days, but the way it was made also stands apart: they didn't just write an album, they crafted it. Which is why some songs have been sitting around for so long, because they've been reworking and editing themselves constantly, which is something most bands don't do - they just go into a studio, cut a dozen songs, and call it quits. Honestly, I think THAT is their biggest contribution to music, reminding people that it's worth practically slaving over, and not saying "It's done" until you're personally satisfied with it.

Ek said...

I really, really hope your wrong about Coheed. I cannot handle them releasing a St. Anger/Dusk and Summer-calibur letdown. Good to hear about some of those other ones though; I'll have an opinion once I listen to them a few times (other than the FF one which was terrific).

Ek said...

Ok, so the new Coheed is definitely not as good as 3 or IV, and maybe not even SSTB, but I still really like it. And honestly, there hasn't been a band I can think of that released two albums like 3 and IV and then followed it up with something equally awesome since the Rush space trilogy in the 70s, so I don't really know why it would have been expected. It's also kind of their "There is Nothing Left to Lose" in that it's way more pop-friendly than anything else they've done.

Lewis said...

Are you going to review Under the Boards anytime soon?

Ek said...

I'm thinking another Village Tavern Jukebox article is in the near future with all the new releases from the last few months or so, but it won't happen until I give them all at least 2-3 listens and, as always, get around to it. The quick version of my take on it is that it has multiple memorable songs and works in more different styles than any previous STD album, but I probably won't listen to it nearly as much as Stay What You Are or Sound the Alarm because parts of it are just too dang depressing.

Noah said...

I still think In Keeping Secrets of the Silent Earth: 3 was the best Coheed. The only one that really blew me away and still does.

Abram & Sarah said...

I am so glad my name made its way onto your blog! Props to you for liking the new TMSR. I am seeing them in concert (for the first time ever) very soon. I can't wait.

I know you and I disagree a lot on music, but Queens of the Stone Age? Do ANY good musicians with taste actually even like them? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt, but....that's a stretch.

I love you anyway, though.

Ek said...

Come on, at least admit Songs for the Deaf was a great album, even if QotSA hasn't done anything all that impressive before or since then. Although you might have to use both "good musician" and "with taste" kind of loosely in my case.

Lars said...

Speaking of developing a certain idea about a band or album and filtering everything else you hear through that idea (in reference to my essay-length comment from the previous post).... I think your multiple references to the "pizza of my eye" lyric (both here and in a chat with me) are an example of this. Yes, it is a bad lyric. Most everyone I've talked to agrees on that. BUT, you cite it as exemplary of a whole album's worth of similar "lyrical missteps," and with this I disagree. I think it is the only serious misstep on the album. I challenge you to name one other lyric that is truly of the same caliber. MCS has always had quirky lyrics, and usually they're more endearing than annoying; I think this is one (and only one) case where the opposite was true. Overall I really like the album, and for your two sentence summary to revolve almost completely around that single line is an injustice to it.

Lars said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lars said...

I've really been getting into Days Away lately though, both "Mapping an Invisible World" and the new EP. They are a great band.

As for Matchbook Romance, all I can say is, "Really, Eric?". I guess maybe I don't know you as well as I thought because I listened to that album when it first came out and I never would have thought you would have liked it. There are a couple songs that I thought were kind of cool ("Surrender," "You Can Run," and maybe "Monsters"), but overall, man, it's pretty bad. Notice it's inclusion on my "biggest disappointments" list from last year. Muse's younger brother? Maybe Muse's mentally handicapped younger brother....