Monday, November 30, 2009

Frequent Spins (2009.8)

Built to Spill - There is No Enemy
Although just the third album released this decade by this indie rock band from Idaho, it just might be their best since 1999's Keep it Like a Secret, my personal BTS favorite. While still remaining true to their tendency towards sprawling, extended jams, there are also moments here that feel like a return to the carefree days of 1994's There's Nothing Wrong With Love. The subject matter of these songs is hardly carefree, though, particularly on one of the album's stronger tracks, "Things Fall Apart."

Fanfarlo - Reservoir
El-squared and I used to like to play this game where we'd describe a band by naming three bands that they reminded us of. Honestly, this was harder than you might think. It's pretty easy to say that "x" band reminds me of a cross between "y" band and "z" band, but coming up with the third reference point can often be difficult. Not for this English indie pop band, who bring to my mind a hybrid of Matt Pond PA, The Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Jay Farrar and Benjamin Gibbard - One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Music from Kerouac's Big Sur
This surprising combination of the indie wuss whose career is on the rise (Gibbard) and the rustic voice of the working class who's on the other side of his career apex (Farrar), turns out to be a good one. The album, of course, is a celebration of the prose of Jack Kerouac, the soundtrack to the documentary of the same name. Listening to the writings of Kerouac put to music by Farrar and Gibbard, it's not difficult to imagine Jack's influence on Jay's own lyrics. Case in point are the lines, "We used to dream together, but now I drink alone. From the bottle to the tumbler is the only journey left I know," on the excellent title track. I'm a bigger fan of Farrar, but it's Gibbard's star that shines brighter here.

Sufjan Stevens - The BQE
Sufjan Stevens' ode to the highway that traverses the two suburbs of New York City that are actually on Long Island is one of those albums that I listened to a couple of times and dismissed. Not because I thought it was bad, but because I just didn't have the patience. I was rewarded, however, when I picked it back up to give it another chance. This is an unusual project for an indie musician, in that Sufjan doesn't actually play on the album. Instead, he writes and the Brooklyn Academy of Music performs. Yes, this is a classical album, but with a little bit of electronica and a healthy dose of the woodwind sound that helped make 2005's Illinoise the second best record of that year. This is no Illinoise, but it's an enjoyable outing nonetheless.

This is the final Frequent Spins for 2009. The next time you hear from me about the year in music, it will be to begin the countdown of my top albums of the year. Stay tuned.

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