Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Frequent Spins (2008.5)

It could very well be said that I spend a little too much time obsessing over new music. In fact, I have actually begun years saying that I won't listen to anything this year other than new releases. Fortunately, I've overcome this ridiculousness, and, after listening to approximately 400 new releases in each of 2005 and 2006, I fell short of 250 last year, and may only reach 200 this year. Still a lot of new music, right? It's just that I'm tired of listening three or four times to the new Windsor for the Derby, for example, because it's pretty good, and has the potential to grow on me, and because it got good reviews. I'd rather spend that time listening to The Very Best of Rainbow, or something from the King Crimson discography.

Still, Frequent Spins will continue to be devoted to albums released in the current year. But, I'm going to also try to introduce something new, which I'm calling "Current Oldies". Yes, I recognize the oxymoron in that title. "Current Oldies" will appear in my right-side navigation and will be a rotating list of the non-current year music that I've been listening to.

But, without further ado, on to the latest edition of Frequent Spins:

Death Cab for Cutie - Narrow Stairs
I realize I put this one in the spin-worthy category in my last installment, but it has elevated itself since. It's still hard to believe that this reached #1 on the Billboard charts. Quite the accomplishment for such a wussy indie band, that I'm sure was aided by teenage exposure via some lame show like "One Tree Hill", or whatever they're watching these days. Regardless, they may have upset some of their loyalists by moving in a more commercial direction, but this is still a very enjoyable album.

Alejandro Escovedo - Real Animal
I recently saw Alejandro live for the first time since his recovery from a bout with hepatitis a few years ago. His live shows were always a memorable experience, including seeing my boss at one show that I left work early to attend. Despite that incident, it was mostly the music and Alejandro's stage presence that made his performances great. This time was no different, with one particular highlight being his explanation for the lifting of his self-imposed ban on the song "Castanets" due the publicity it received for appearing on George W. Bush's iPod playlist. He also lamented the fact that, although Dubya will soon be leaving Washington, he'll be returning to Texas, the state that both men call home. Real Animal rocks harder than anything Escovedo has come out with since I've been a fan of his, with the possible exception of the Buick MacKane side project, but it certainly lives up to the quality of his previous output.

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges
I have to admit that the first time I listened to this one, I almost dismissed it immediately. There are some pretty daring moments, and it almost sounds like they're trying to go the way of The Flaming Lips' At War With the Mystics. It's that all over the place. If you're more interested in what My Morning Jacket used to sound like, check out the Fleet Foxes' self-titled debut. If not, you can cautiously take my advice that this is a good album...nothing more, nothing less.

Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust
Most everything about Sigur Rós straddles the fine line between absolutely beautiful and total cheesy. Take their name, for instance. Sigur Rós is icelandic for Victory Rose. But, that's nothing compared to the fact that their lyrics are in a made-up language called "Hopelandic". However, when you hear the orchestral majesty of the music, complemented by the singer's falsetto voice that essentially represents another instrument, it's the beauty that wins out. I've only been a fan since 2005's Takk..., which was a fantastic album that landed in my top ten that year, but they may have actually outdone themselves here.

Willard Grant Conspiracy - Pilgrim Road
I've been a fan of this band for about a decade now, at one time considering them my second favorite Boston band. According to myspace, the band is now located in Los Angeles, which means frontman Robert Fisher is living there, as Willard Grant Conspiracy is basically him backed by a rotating musical collective. They've never strayed too far from their somber Americana/folk-rock persona, but they continue to churn out quality music. The hymn-like "The Great Deceiver", which is not a King Crimson cover, has to be one of my favorite songs of the year so far.

Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
I've already heard someone call At Mount Zoomer the B-sides to Apologies to Queen Mary. I think the reference was more that it sounds like the same album rather than simply a bunch of leftovers. Regardless, when a band's debut is as great an indie-rock album as Apologies, in my opinion, they should have carte blanche to make a very similar follow up. After the second, it may be time to mix things up a little. Most importantly, though, this is as good as, if not better than, their magnificent debut.

Also spin-worthy
Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
The M's - Real Close Ones
Colin Meloy - Sings Live!
Mark Kozelek - Nights LP

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