Initial Forays Into 2011
Since the penning of these blurbs last Sunday, March 13, I’ve moved on to newer, larger vistas… or really just the same vista, with a slightly different arrangement of objects on its horizon (the tepid spring sun, for one, The Joy Formidable‘s big, roaring Big Roar, a.k.a. BBBIIIGGG RRROOOAAARRR—euphoria to The Twilight Sad‘s dysphoria, but arriving from the same infinite realm of feeling—for another). Consider this as having been posted last weekend, when I was one week less far along in life… [with the editorial revisions of my older, present self —GS, 3/20/11]
R.E.M. – Collapse Into Now
Six-twelfths super-charged, and that half of the album is definitely up to Accelerate’s example, but I’ll remember Collapse Into Now for its other half: the ballads, tone poems, and moments of tempered uplift. A new juncture: they’re young enough to be learning things, old enough to impart modest wisdom. Are they the last Big Rock Band aging with any sense of proportion, along with this next band…?
Radiohead – The King Of Limbs
These songs have sunk into my head unusually quickly—somehow so familiar, like an alternate history of the late 90s. I’m glad Radiohead decided to keep making albums; “These Are My Twisted Words” might even sound great in the esteemed company of these eight songs.
Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring For My Halo
I could insist that Vile’s immutable halls of strums and sluggish morning blues caged in a rich sonic plane betray a lack of versatility, but no one else writes songs quite like this, and so well, so that this is a place to go if you want to glimpse a particular dream of life.
Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
All of its ghostly vapors, suddenly impelled by a near-subsonic bass melody, coalesce in a remarkable way on “Prizewinning,” the moment of epiphany, if an album of such open-eyed calm can even be said to require one. Barwick takes me back to my late teens, when I loved Aphex Twin’s Selected Ambient Works Vol. II, Plastikman’s Consumed, and other music of the quietest effects.
Cut Copy – Zonoscope
I’m still just hung up on how delightfully Andy McCluskey the vocal of “Need You Now” is, the sort of breathless homage that generates enough momentum to last an album. Also: the miraculous thing that happens at 4:43; most epic dance songs don’t save their big moment (albeit subtle, sewn into the fabric of the music) for so close to the end, but Cut Copy is a band that can’t ever stop building. But, anyway, Zonoscope (scaled ever-so-much larger than In Ghost Colours, to the perfect degree of embiggening) doesn’t really need any more momentum than it’s already got, every-and-elsewhere. This is the dance band with a presumably vast record collection that interests me most.
PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
Do I detect a strong Siouxsie & The Banshees influence? Either way, the weird, agitated bounce and rattle that permeates this album, especially in its first half, is almost unbearably great. This is a moral outrage album pitched at about the same level as Midnight Oil‘s Diesel and Dust, plainspoken and thorny, the music not just a vessel but an end in itself (or, I should say, I always have to let myself be first seduced by music as pleasurable as this before I can recognize it might serve a greater purpose; I’d be suspicious of my intentions if I didn’t). On beautiful album closer “The Colour of the Earth,” Billy Bragg-ian earthbound throatlump storytelling meets the vast vaulted heavens of the music, and it’s amazing, spooky even, how much at peace this album seems to become with its ghosts.
Tennis – Cape Dory
I think I’ve said before that Alaina Moore’s voice sounds like an otherworldly desert wind, and I love this album best as a melodic convergence of rarefied breezes.
Yuck – Yuck
Oh, debut albums, teach us how to love our favorite bands anew! (And to love this band for the first time…)
Wild Nothing with Abe Vigoda and Claps – Turf Club (St. Paul, MN) – Tuesday, February 22, 2011
[a.] My two minor yet persistent misgivings about the otherwise lovely Wild Nothing—that their songs are a bit on the languid side, and that the vocals are a tad too non-present—were both corrected throughout the night, most spectacularly on “Live In Dreams,” which was recast in solid bronze, so physically real, the way a timeless pop song should be, and which found Jack Tatum jumping up an octave during the chorus and absolutely nailing the song’s morbid, beautiful titular sentiment.
[b.] The members of Abe Vigoda are the sorts of wiry, serious men who always seem to make the most intricate and muscular post-punk. Going back to The Chameleons, I can never figure out how such juggernaut bands build such elaborate structure into their songs, but the tradition continues. Abe Vigoda are a force.
[c.] Claps might be the greatest band of bedroom synth-pop wallflowers I’ve ever seen, which I mean as a sincere, albeit backhanded, compliment. They’re the kind of bar (mitzvah) band you might encounter in a Todd Solondz or Terry Zwigoff movie (two-handed-microphone-holding Patrick, so Moz-earnest in his soggy white workshirt, sleeves rolled up past the elbow, and his two synthesizing bandmates Jed and Sara, making themselves invisible but still totally there for him), but even under one of those directors’ critical gaze, it would still be evident how great Claps are, how they make music for all the most honest and timeless reasons.
The Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra
My troubled relationship with classical music continues, but I am as weak to the charms and excitement of its most kinetic moments as anyone. Hooray for the almost reckless momentum of the MPO’s launch into (and their subsiding into a kind of sunny sentimental parade during the third movement of) Malcolm Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances last weekend at Hamline University’s Sundin Music Hall in St. Paul. And hooray for their generally being the kind of arts organization that makes me proud to live in these twin cities.