Review: Superchunk – Majesty Shredding

When I first received Majesty Shredding at the beginning of this week I figured that by the time I sat down to write this review there would be a lot of “this song sounds like Indoor Living and that song sounds like Come Pick Me Up“.  I then settled into the first listen of the full album and I live tweeted my initial thoughts on each song (see here).  No such comparisons came out of that first listen and after a week “living” with the album that is still not what I want to talk about.

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Review: Sleigh Bells – Treats

In the movie Sliding Doors the character played by Gwyneth Paltrow is running to catch a train.  The screen splits; on one screen she makes the train and on the other the sliding doors of the train close just before she gets there.  The rest of the movie shows her two different paths through life.

Now image if, instead of Gwyneth, it was the Yeah Yeah Yeahs circa Fever to Tell running towards the train of inspiration (ug).  The Yeah Yeah Yeahs made that train and got off at the It’s Blitz station.  But oh no, they left the fuzz and crunch and noise of Man and Cold Light on the train!  Oh well, they still have enough elements to make slick, polished, amazing music.

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Review: Superchunk – Digging for Something

I can’t really review the new Superchunk 7-inch Digging for Something b/w February Punk as I do not have it.  I don’t do vinyl.  Don’t lynch me.

I downloaded the free Digging for Something mp3, which means I have half of the musical contents of the album.  It is upbeat and poppy, in a similar vein as last year’s Leaves in the Gutter EP.  The standardly awesome guitar assault – fuzz + solo = yay.  Great use of oh-oh-oh’s.  Drums are crisp and tappy-tappy with lots of snare to bop along to.

Pre-order Majesty Shredding now.

Best Music of 2010: Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

Amid the retirement controversy (c’mon “journalists”, settle down with the rag-mag headlines) I guess it is time for a look at The Brutalist Bricks by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. (hey, is that enough links in one sentence to the same web site?  obviously I know I’m the only person on the Internet who knows how to find information!)

I like punk, but mostly the off-punk kind of punk.  What kind of punk is Ted Leo?

This may be TL/RX’s strongest album since Shake the Sheets.  The punk is strong with this one.  Right from the opening line of The Mighty Sparrow “When the cafe doors exploded I reacted to, I reacted to you” this album hits hard and fast through the intensity of the music and the intensity of the lyrics.

The punkiest of the punk can be found in songs The Stick (“Election time again, I wish that I was dead”), Mourning in America (“You summon ghosts we tried to bury in their white shrouds, With burning cross and bloody crescent in the White House”), Where Was My Brain (“Modern agriculture gave me a thrill, Until I saw the things it brutally killed”) and Everything Gets Interrupted which closes the album with a little wink.

As you can see, the political messages still reign strong in the TL/Rx lyrics.

TL/Rx are at their best, though, when they dial back a little on the punk and let some of their more modern rock influences shine through.  Highlights of The Brutalist Bricks include the aforementioned The Mighty SparrowBottle in Cork with its shifts in tempo (“Tell the bartender I think I’m falling in love”) and Even Heros Have to Die.

For me, the place where TL/Rx tends to fall down is with their punk rock epics.  Living with the Living suffered greatly from this with 4 songs clocking in at 6 minutes or more.  Nothing kills and interesting song or a great hook like dragging it out too long.  The world does not need a Punk Jam Band.  Thankfully this album does not suffer from jamitis, which makes it feel all the more solid and cohesive.

In the words of Tom Scharpling, I don’t like…..I love it!!!

Best Music of 2010 – She & Him

It is difficult for me to get past my schoolboy crush on Zooey Deschanel and review this album objectively, so I’m not going to even try.

But this is not just about Zooey, we must remember the Him in She & Him and give M. Ward his props as he is also an integral part of Volume Two.  His musical arrangements and backing are as solid as ever on this album and he even adds his voice, such as on Ridin’ in My Car.

As expected, Volume Two is another collection of songs that call back my days as a young child listening to music with my mother.  A throwback to 70’s radio pop,  Ridin’ in My Car encapsulates this feeling best.  The album is also chock-full of songs that make you want to skip through a sprinkler on a hot sunny day, such as In The Sun, Home and Don’t Look Back.  The songs just have such a yippie-skippie feel to them you can’t help but want to like them.

In the end, though, it is Zooey’s haunting voice that keeps me coming back.  With songs like Brand New Shoes and Me and You her voice is like an echo in my head that keeps getting louder instead of softer.  If Zooey ever does a duet with Neko Case I fear that my head will explode.

As always, much thanks to M. Ward for “discovering” this unknown talent.

Best Music of 2010 – Spoon

Always exciting to have a year with new albums from both Spoon and The New Pornographers (it happened in 2007 and2005).  Throw in the fact that there is a new Superchunk album due in the fall and this is the most exciting music year for me in ages.

So what do we get from Spoon’s Transference?

In short, a lot of Spoony goodness.  This album has the same strength of song writing/crafting as 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga but trends more towards the arty/indie side of Spoon and away from the overt poppyness found on Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.  The songs are all over the map and yet the album feels very cohesive.

  • Great “space jams” with Mystery Zone, Who Makes Your Money and Nobody Gets Me But You.
  • Trademark relentlessly driving “chugga-chugga” tunes that drive my wife crazy, like Is Love Forever?, Trouble Comes Running and Got Nuffin.
  • Calmly soft tracks like Goodnight Laura and Out Go The Lights.
  • My favourite is the crunchy, marching Written In Reverse which classically turns the piano into part of the percussion section.

If you like Spoon, you will find the usual greatness in Transference.  If you don’t, well I will just have to assume that you didn’t listen to it.  Spoon remains in top form and continue to make interesting and entertaining music.

Best Music of 2010 – The New Pornographers

Why wait to the end of the year to make a list.  I’ll just get started on it now.  I have a few albums to catch up on, so let’s start with my favourite so far.

The New Pornographers are definitely one of my favourite bands and they never fail to disappoint.  Together is a great album full of the usual collection of eclectic songs.

  • Your Hands (Together), the first “single”, wonderfully blends an arena rock hook into the mix such that I can’t decide if I should head-bang or silly-dance.
  • Daughters of Sorrow turns Dan Bejar into a big band soul singer (is that a thing?), contrasting his subdued singing with bombastic background vocals and horns.
  • Crash Years is a perfect pop gem and Neko‘s voice makes my heart melt.
  • Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk is a wonderful song that keeps adding layers to a wonderful crescendo.  I also love my initial excitement as misinterpreting a lyric, thinking it was “You are a Todd Glass“.  I still sing it that way.

And so it goes.  The entire album is lovely and amazing and I enjoy it more each time I listen to it.