Archive for April, 2009

Cursive – Mama, I’m Swollen (2009)

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First of all, kudos to me for reviewing an album that actually came out this year (in the last two months, even). See, I’m not that out of touch, after all.

So I really love this album. It’s dark and disaffected without being depressing. Like pretty much all Cursive’s other stuff, Mama, I’m Swollen is a concept album – the theme, hell. It’s really theatrical inĀ  a way way way off broadway way, and I don’t know if it’s theatrical because it’s a concept album or if they do concept albums because they’re theatrical. It doesn’t matter. Mama, I’m Swollen employs horns for a number of songs, in a completely subtle and acceptable way (take notice, ska), as well as cellos, flutes, and even what sounds like a child’s toy piano. The overall effect is a lush, but somewhat scary sound. Love it.

The album single is From the Hips and I can see why it’s a single, but as is usually the case it’s pretty much my least favorite tune on the cd – too obvious, maybe. I really love track 3, I Couldn’t Love You – it’s probably the happiest sounding song they’ve ever recorded and it sounds really sweet even if it’s not the intended meaning. I can’t help but belt out the “I couldn’t love you anymore” lyrics when I’m listening alone in the car. Donkeys returns to the pinocchio* theme first visited by Driftwood on The Ugly Organ, but is less sad. Dark, still, but less sad. And very clever lyrics. We’re going to hell is the best song on the album and maybe the best of ’09 (so far, at least). Using the aforementioned toy piano and a toe-tappable tempo with sickly sweet vocals singing sinister lyrics, Cursive achieves a really sexy sound. This is one of very few songs that I like to listen to twice – or more – in a row. Mama, I’m Satan is intense – especially the chanty lyrics at the end. The title track is good, but not amazing. And the closing song, What Have I Done? is reflective, sad, and the perfect cool-down for the album.

The whole album is worth a listen, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be listened to all the way through. It’s not exactly what I’d consider a springtime album – probably would have been better to drop in winter – but regardless I can’t take it out of my cd-player. It’s great for solitary deep-thought listening – a quiet time album.

*Correction – When originally posted, this blog entry incorrectly referred to the theme of Donkeys as a peter pan one, when it fact it is a pinocchio one. I regret the error.

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Metric – Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? (2003)

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A few years ago I met a girl at a concert who lived another state away. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, we were able to keep in touch for awhile – mostly raving about our favorite bands. I dubbed her my identical music twin. And she was the one who recommend that I check out Metric.

Old World Underground… is a really nice everyday kind of album. It’s definitely indie rock, but it’s got just enough electronica to be different. And obviously I love the lady vocals – especially how sweet and earnest her voice is. At times it flirts with being pop, but there’s an underlying sadness that makes it unpalatable to most pop fans. But something I can really enjoy.

IOU is a good opener and shares it’s words with the album title and Hustle Rose is also fine. But Succexy is the first really fun song. There’s a lovely synth melody and it’s fun to dance to. Combat Baby is the most rocky-y song on the album and the best to sing along to. And I think it’s awesome that the vocals are somewhat out of tune – it’s a much more unique sound, especially with a girl singer. Calculation Theme is the prettiest song and stirs up really sweet imagery – “tonight your ghost will ask my ghost”. The next few tracks kind of scoot by without much notice but then Dead Disco kicks in with another great dancy beat. And then Love is a Place is a soft sad ballad to close it all out.

This album is good for two things – it’s great for fun spring windows down driving music, but also for background party-type music. It’s not an album that I feel passionately about the way I do with a lot of others, but that’s sometimes a really great thing because it’s “easy listening” but doesn’t suck like actual easy listening.

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Deftones – White Pony (2000)

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We join the ‘tones in medias res for this album, having already built a style and fan-base with Adrenaline and Around the Fur but before exploring a new(ish) sound with their self-titled and Saturday Night Wrist. And again, I’m sure many die-hard fans would slam me for raving about an album that is not widely considered “the best” but this cd is amazing. It’s mature, layered, and extremely emotional while still being hard, crunchy, and metal enough to count.

It opens with Feiticeira, two distinct guitars playing similar riffs, crisp steady drums, and then Chino comes in with an almost crooning voice – occasionally reaching to a shout (not scream). A truly strong opening. Digital Bath slows it down a little bit with a haunting background melody, I would call it a kind-of ballad but I love it for the screechy feedback-y guitars about 3/4 of the way through. It’s short moments like that that will actually make me fall in love with a song. Elite is probably the most truly metal song on the album and is much faster than the rest – a good rage-out song. Rx Queen is fine; Street Carp, too – if only a little annoying with the “here’s my new address” lyrics, and Teenager is pretty. But the most incredible song on the album is Knife Party. It’s got a rhythm that’s almost anticipatory – the whole time it feels like it’s building to something. And the vocals are almost imperceptibly a quarter beat off but it has a really powerful effect. About mid-way through a female voice comes in with screaming/chanting/moaning and it is unbelievably cathartic to sing along – even if I can’t hit those really high notes. And it’s romantic as hell. Korea is a good song to catch your breath before the next truly great tune, Passenger, hits in. Now Passenger features Maynard James Keenan as a guest vocalist and he and Chino were meant for this duet. The lyrics are really detailed and poetic and the music is gorgeous. In fact, my first copy of this album scratched at right about this song and I had to immediately go out and buy a new copy because I couldn’t bear to have a blemish on such a beautiful song. Change (in the House of Flies) is the single and probably to this date the most popular song of theirs, but I really can’t stand it (at least the version on this album – an acoustic version on a different album is really much better). And Pink Maggit closes (most versions of) the album. It too is breathtaking – with a steady heartbeat throughout the entire slow, quiet, thoughtful tune. It can sometimes make me cry.

The thing that really bothers me about this album is that there are about a dozen (ok, four) official versions that Maverick released – all pretty much at the same time and all with different bonus songs or lack-thereof. Kinda makes it hard for obsessive fans to collect all their music – or at least expensive. For that reason, I choose not to comment on the bonus songs.

This is one of very few items that I have taken (or will take) the time to review literally on a song-by-song basis and part of that is probably because I pretty much fell in love to it and it all means a lot to me, but love or no love, it would still be a favorite album. I find myself constantly impressed with Deftones’ ability to sound special and unique among a genre that has a lot of soundalikes, and I credit that they refuse to really apply a genre to themselves. For example, when Chino refers to the band as punk, the rest of the guys ask him what the hell he’s talking about. And their entire catalog is fantastic, but White Pony is a standout achievement that is still a major player in my regular rotation. Good for all activities from car to work to gym to party. Crank that business.

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Clay Aiken – The Very Best of Clay Aiken (2009)

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The greatest artist in the history of American Idol – nay – 2000-era pop music would have to be Clay Aiken. And this representative sample of his finest work is a treasure trove of listening bliss. His “Bridge Over Troubled Water” actually puts me at the scene of that lonely bridge, with the churning river below and I feel just so much that it hurts. It hurts.

Ok – I give up. April Fools Day, bitches.

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