Like a carnival without the carnies and all the empty calories.

Man Man – Rabbit Habits – Album Review

8/10

Rabbit Habits is Man Man’s third full length album. It was released in April of 2008 on Anti Records.  Reviews are mostly favorable across the board.

This is the first review, of many, which will focus on older albums.  Why?  Because I feel like it.  Also because I’ve been rediscovering a lot of my collection for one reason or another.  I’m teaching a very important lesson.  Music doesn’t have to be new to be good.  Now you know.

This album is first and foremost… fun.  The instrumentation is fun, the lyrics are fun, the vocals are fun, the song titles are fun, the album artwork is fun.  Everything about it is fun.  With that in mind, this album is mostly about hard times, blood-lust, and doomed relationships.  Some might say, “Hey Zak, how can an album, which is mostly about hardships and atrocities of humanity be fun?”.  To you I’d say, “Because.”

The music speaks for itself.  Even if you only took the vocals into consideration, and nothing else.  The crooning of the lead singer, who happens to call himself Honus Honus, is a gritty mess that ends up sounding more like the drunken growl of a maniacal hobo than anything.  When he belts out, “Whoa is me!, I’m a zombie!, you believe it.  Then you can put the music itself into perspective.  Xylophones, organs, killer percussion, and even fireworks play a part in this crazy collage of filthy brushstrokes that leave a strangely beautiful image on your brain’s canvas.

The first two thirds of the disc are wildly entertaining, even if a little bit immature.  The last third however, is soul crushing.  The final four consisting of the title track “Rabbit Habits”, “Top Drawer”, “Poor Jackie”, and “Whalebones” are just so completely emotional that they tear me apart every time I hear them.  They take the listener to such dark places in such clever ways.  On “Poor Jackie”, Honus Honus rings out, “Rescue me, is written on your bed/home is where the bullet lands as it travels through your head.”  Relationships are explored to perfection on “Whalebones” when he sings, “He thinks from the heart, instead of the head/his mouth and his words, they rarely connect/he looks to the past, and where his tongue’s tread/and he knows he’s meant the opposite/she holds him, like an infant/though it breaks her in half to know he’ll wake up a man/sold on cold indifference, when he reaches for her, she’s gone, she slips like the wind through blackened sails/but who are we to love at all?”  I mean COME ON!!  Listen to it.  It’s a kick in the pants, but it’s good for ya.

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Tom… boy that took forever.

Panda Bear – Tomboy

Album Review

9/10

Tomboy is the latest album from Panda Bear aka that guy from Animal Collective aka Noah Lennox.  It serves as the follow up to his much beloved 2007 album Person Pitch.  Both albums were released on Paw Tracks, a record label founded by the members of Animal Collective.

 

This one was a long time comin’.  At least it seemed like it.  From the release of its first single, “Tomboy”, to the album’s release it was almost a year.  To fans of Panda Bear and Animal Collective it made for a long one.  When fans got a taste of “Tomboy” and its opposing side, “Slow Motion”, floodgates were open, people were ready.  

Lennox kept the wait do-able by releasing a single every few months.  I’m not sure if I liked that strategy or not.  It was great because you got to hear new music every so often, but the magic of hearing the album for the first time was taken away.  That has always been half the fun for me.  I guess what I’m saying is that it took something away from the experience for me.  This, however, takes nothing away from the album itself.

Tomboy, from front to back, is a wonderful thing.  Lennox has stated that, for this album, he took cues from bands like Nirvana and The White Stripes.  Because of this, the album features a heavy dose of guitars.  As always, the music is very rhythmic in nature with heavy repetition.  This repetition is often times the “acquired taste” portion of Panda Bear/Animal Collective’s music.  Please don’t let that scare you away.  The taste, once acquired, is quite stunningly sweet.

The tracklist is masterfully sequenced.  The flow of the album feels natural.  It starts off with “You Can Count On Me”, a touching song about a father’s love for his son.  “Know you can count on me, I’ll be so up on it. Know at least I’ll try./Where are you if I’m not up on it.”  The song feels genuine, refreshingly so.  The next few songs, “Tomboy”, “Slow Motion”, and “Surfer’s Hymn” are fast paced foot tappers with an aggressive, up-tempo feel.  These lead into my favorite track, “Last Night at the Jetty”.  Probably my favorite song of the first half of 2010.  It seems to be a retrospective on a few years, or a month, or a week in someone’s life.  It’s playful and brings a smile to my face every time I hear it.  “I don’t want to describe something that I’m not. I don’t want to hide these hopes that I have./I want to enjoy what’s meant to enjoy, not look for slights and slurs to employ “.  A noble mission to even aim for, let alone complete.  “Jetty” leads into “Drone”, this one’s a bit aurally piercing, but serves as a good centerpiece.  The second half of the album is more haunting than the first half, which is more driving.  “Scheherazade” feels like it should have been on the Blade Runner soundtrack, like some kind of space lullaby.  “Friendship Bracelet” and “Afterburner” bring back the tempo a bit before the cool breeze of “Benefica” takes the disc home.

Overall, fans are happy, new listeners are happy, everyone’s happy.  That is always a good thing.  Maybe next time everyone can be happy a bit sooner.  Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even the TV on the Radio is in re-runs.

TV on the Radio – Nine Types Of Light – Album Review

6/10

Nine Types of Light marks TV on the Radio’s 5th album, if you count their self-released demo, which I do.  It was released on April 11th, 2011 on Interscope.  It is the last album to include long-time bassist, Gerard Smith, who passed away just over a week after its release.

I’ve noticed something both interesting and disappointing over my span as a TV on the Radio fan.  The effect of the aforementioned “thing” I’ve noticed gets exponentially worse with every disc.  Guess I’ll get right to it, every album sounds more and more like the album before it.  TV on the Radio has been covering hardly any new ground in my ears.  It’s so blatant, so noticeable to me that it’s a damn shame.  The music is good, but I just can’t get past the familiarity of it all.  If 2008’s Dear Science was a step in the right direction, which it was, then this album is a small step backwards.  Listen to the two albums and tell me that Nine Types of Light doesn’t sound strikingly similar to Dear Science.  I dare you.  You can’t do it, because you’re not a liar.  (I assume the best of my readers.)

Maybe I’m out of line here, and if you think so, please feel free to comment.  However, I don’t think that I am.  I can’t really even pick out any outstanding tracks on this one.  Possibly “Killer Crane”?  Possibly.  It’s no surprise that I picked it.  I always enjoy their slow burns, I think that’s where TV on the Radio truly shines.  These songs are like buried treasures lodged in the middle of each album.  See “Family Tree” on Dear Science, “Ambulance” on Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, and “A Method” on Return to Cookie Mountain.  That being said, I also enjoy “Second Song”, the opening track in this instance.

To me, their music is like a drop of water dangling from the tip of a beautiful, two foot long icicle hanging from your garage.  You stand there and stare in stark anticipation, waiting for the damn water to fall triumphantly to the ground like it is obviously destined to do, but it just sits there.  It just fuckin’ sits there, all bulbous and still.  Nine Types of Light is good music.  Let that be written here.  Good music, nothing fantastic, and fantastic is what potential demands from these guys.  I remain a fan, if only a fan who is left wanting more.

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Santa be damned, Fleet Foxes moved Christmas to May this year.

Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues – Album Review

9/10

This is Fleet Foxes’ second full-length disc.  It was released on May 3rd by Sub-Pop.  Its 12 tracks clock in at just under 50 minutes, almost every second of which bone-chilling.

I apologize for the lengthy unintentional hiatus between posts.  It’s just been one of those months, but enough of that.  There are more important things to “blog” about.  ‘Tis an ugly word… “blog”, hmm?  Sounds like something your biology teacher might tell you to discard during a dissection.  “Empty your blog troughs for the next class please.” Couldn’t they have just stuck with Web Log?  I digress.  Forgive me.  I’ll start over.

Relatability.  Not sure that’s a word.  I don’t care.  It’s the one word that makes this album so damn good.  Fleet Foxes’ first LP, which happens to be named Fleet Foxes, was an exceptionally beautiful piece of music.  Coupled with their Sun Giant EP which was released around the same time, it was a musically positive experience to say the least.  However, it didn’t exactly throw my soul under the proverbial bus like most critics claimed it to do.  This leads me to my point about relatability.

Where Helplessness Blues is concerned, this disc is a damn Greyhound headed for Soultown, population: Me.  The band has exceeded every expectation. They’ve taken everything they have done before and trumped it vigorously.  From Montezuma to Grown Ocean, there’s unyielding, relentless, driving folk perfection and lyrics that put you in the song… really right in the middle.  Track 4, “Battery Kinzie”: “I went to your window, threw a stone and waited/At your door a stranger stood, the stranger’s voice said nothing good/I turn to walk the frozen ground, alone, all the way home.”  Guy steals girl from other guy.  Who, the hell, hasn’t been in a similar situation?  Who?  Yeah, no one.  If you’re not the one guy, then you’re the other guy, and if you’re not one of those two, then you’re the girl.  It’s relatable, that’s my point.  Beautiful music can only be made more beautiful by being relatable.  Fleet Foxes have done it well on this one.  Much more so than on their self-titled debut.

On “Someone You’d Admire”, a 2 minute and change long tour de force, finds the subject coping with who he is and who might turn out to be.  “I walk with others in me yearning to get out/Claw at my skin and gnash their teeth and shout/One of them wants only to be someone you’d admire/the other would as soon just throw you on the fire/after all is said, and after all is done/God only knows which of them I’ll become.”  My money says there will not be a more moving set of lyrics written this year.  Helplessness Blues is riddled with moments like these.

I must say that Robin Pecknold and crew, even on the earlier efforts, really come out above the rest when it comes to vocal arrangements.  Not many other bands really put together anything quite like these guys do.  Spectacular.  If you like to sing, Fleet Foxes are good for a challenging sing-along experience.  There’s really a lot going on vocally.  So that’s fun.

Really, it’s no wonder critics are lauding this album.  Pitchfork even gave it an 8.8.  That’s almost unheard of, especially for the genre.  Take their word for it, along with my own.

 

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Uptight weirdos, clueless DJs, and neon sweatbands. – A musical memory.

I just remembered something comical I heard on the radio when I was about 12 years old.  It’s stuck with me this long because it was just that rediculous to me.  The memory pops into my head every now and then, so I figured this time I’ll share it here on the world-wide interweb space that i’ve laid claim to.

I was riding in the car and the local rock station just finished playing Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing”.  Feeling the need to make with the “witty” banter, as DJs are wont to do, he decided to recall a relevant story from his past, much like I am doing right now.  He proceeded to tell a story about a crazy lady who, after hearing “Money For Nothing” on their station, called in and started berating the DJ and his station for putting such filthy drivel on the air.

I thought to myself, “Hmmm… I’m sure he’ll explain.”

The DJ explained… The clearly up-tight woman felt that the chorus was underplaying the evils of the worlds’ oldest profession.  She thought the line “money for nothin’ and your chicks for free.” was condoning prostitution and demeaning women.  She thought that the song had no business being played in a decent person’s home, let alone on the radio.

I thought to myself, “What an asshole.  If you don’t like it, don’t listen.”

As astonishing as that was, it wasn’t until the DJ revealed his response to the woman that he proved himself to be more of an asshole than the enraged listener.  By default it is the most humorous part of the story.

The DJ told the woman that she was direly mistaken. (see what I did there?)  Sorry… that was lame.  In all of his professional DJ wisdom, he told her that the lyrics weren’t about prostitution and that she had merely misheard Mark Knopfler.  He told her that the lyric was “money for nothin’ and your checks for free.”

I thought to myself, “What?”

The woman, according to the DJ’s story, had colored herself embarrassed, and shamefully apologized for wasting his time.

I thought to myself, “These people are both alarmingly dim.”

Your checks for free?  Even at 12 I knew that didn’t make any sense.  The lyric is most certainly “chicks for free”.  The lyric was most certainly about prostitution.  It always had been and always will be.  Why would you have to pay for a check?  This dude gets paid to know about music and he doesn’t even know the chorus to one of the most popular songs of the 80’s.  I remember being as pissed as I was amused.  I wanted to go to the station and slap him around a bit.  A 12 year old was more knowledgable about music than he was.

I then thought to myself, “Wait a minute…”.

That lady was angry about the chorus?  Did she take the time to listen to the rest of the song?  To quote an earlier verse, “see the little faggot with the earring and the makeup, yeah buddy that’s his own hair, that little faggot got his own jet airplane, that little faggot is a millionaire.”.  One would think that this lyric would be quicker to offend than the chorus.  That’s not to say I’m offended by any of it.  Of course I’m not.  Everything about the DJ’s story was so stupid.  I couldn’t stop laughing.

I’ll never forget it.  On a side note, my mother was driving the car.  When I was doubled over with laughter she asked me why I was laughing.  She wasn’t much for music, my mom.  She couldn’t put it into context.  Keep in mind that I was 12.  I couldn’t answer her.  There was no way to explain why it was so funny without repeating the word faggot over and over again.  To this day, whenever I hear the song, I am reminded of that broadcast.  It makes me laugh every time.  For that I am thankful.

I’m also thankful for this terrible 3D animation from the famous “Money For Nothing” video.  Gets me every time.

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Random beauty with the perfect touch of humor.

The Books – The Way Out

Album Review

8.5/10

The Way Out is The Books’ 4th full length effort released July 20th 2010 on Temporary Residence Limited.  It is their first release on said label.  The album’s title is derived from the lyrics of the 11th track, “We Bought The Flood”.  The cover comes in several different styles, each with a new set of designs filling in the letters in the title.  The Way Out holds generally high acclaim among critics.

I first heard of The Books back in February of 2009 when their cover of Nick Drake’s classic, “Cello Song” on the fantastic (and highly recommended by yours truly) Red Hot compilation album, Dark Was The Night.  The track also featured Jose Gonzalez.  It struck me immediately as an excellent cover of a well chosen song, blending the original with a unique electronic flare.

About a year later I bought The Books’ 2005 album Lost and Safe.  I wasn’t too far into that disc that I realized they were the real deal.  Their brand of vintage and often times humorous conversational samples mixed with gorgeous original material is reminiscent of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, the brilliant 1981 collaboration between music gods Brian Eno and David Byrne.  This was impressive.  Up until I discovered The Books, I had heard nothing that sounded anything like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, not by a long shot.

Brian Eno + David Byrne - My Life in the Bush of Ghosts

My point: The Books are a unique and talented band who take their cues from some of the most unique and talented people in the business.  As for the album itself…

The Way Out starts with a track called “Group Autogenics I” which plays out like a motivational tape with a beautiful quiet musical background filled with bass riffs and stifled guitars.  It sets the tone for the album as a whole.  Its counterpart, “Group Autogenics II”, which is similar, yet quite different than the first, serves as the final track on the album.  The bookend arrangement of these two songs really set the album apart and give it a unique voice, even among their own previous albums.  Tracks 2 and 3, or “IDKT” and “I Didn’t Know That” respectively, compliment each other well.  The first of the two being a short, striking tonal piece which leads into the second of the two which is a funky bass driven number that sounds like a few spoken sentences shattered into tiny pieces and rearranged as an indecipherable, entertaining dance inducing beast.

As if that weren’t interesting enough, here’s where the album crosses into genius.  “A Cold Freezin’ Night” is a fascinating, fast paced piece of music consisting mostly of percussion and small children saying some of the most violent things I’ve ever heard.  A small girl, in a recording that sounds quite old and frightfully honest, is heard saying “I can kill you with a shotgun… or a rifle, any way I want to.”.  Then she continues, “probably by cutting your toes off… and working my way… towards your brain.”.  I would love to find out where they got this stuff, it’s priceless.  Somehow The Books took this creepy, funny dialog and molded it into a fantastic song.

As great as the faster, more rhythmic songs are, the real shining stars on this disc are the slow burns, such as “Beautiful People” which sounds like a church hymn about math.  It’s 2 minutes and change of gorgeous vocals going on about convex figures and tangents.  Really fascinating.  My favorite track is “We Bought The Flood”.  There’s something majestic about every second of it.  The lyrics especially.  “Let’s notice everything, I mean every grain of salt, Let’s be thorough to a fault, Next time we’ll build it twice as strong.”  It sounds like a repair manual for a broken generation.

Song after song, beautiful guitar riff after beautiful guitar riff, this album owns top to bottom.  It’s an audible Picasso, a beautiful garbled mess.  It’s above all… different than pretty much anything else in my collection.


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New Animal Collective? Not so fast, you gotta buy ugly shoes first.

It would seem the popular thing to do as a band is design hideous sneakers.  Recently, Animal Collective did just that.  More importantly, the lucky shoe recipients who pre-ordered these fashionable “kicks” as the kids are calling them, received a cassette tape containing four new songs, one from each member of the band.

Geologist’s “Jailhouse” is a short, drony piece that,quite honestly, puts me to sleep a bit.  Therefore, that’s about all I have to say about that.

Avey Tare’s “Call Home (Buy Grapes) is lined with great background vocal arrangements glued together with an acoustic guitar riff that feels a lot like something off of AC’s Sun Tongs.

Deakin’s “Country Report”, my personal favorite on the tape, is beautifully haunting.  The fast paced piano keeps time while those ghostly vocals we know and love so much fill your head and make you smile.

Panda Bear’s “The Preakness” named after an equestrian event in the band’s hometown of Baltimore, is on par with anything you might hear off of his upcoming release Tomboy.  Dancing synthesizers are the backdrop for this playful tune that kind of makes you want to go party at a horse race… I guess.

Anyway, hear it Via Stereogum with the link below.  Hopefully they’ll release a digital version in the future, but don’t hold your breath.

via Stream Animal Collective Keep Mixtape – Stereogum.

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