Babybird – The Greatest Hits

28 07 2010

Listened: Wednesday July 14

Unlike a lot of albums that are coming up, I was not looking forward to reviewing Babybird’s Greatest Hits. This is another album I bought very cheaply (it may have even been free) because it’s a relatively obscure British band I had heard of at some point or another. But I’ve never been able to get past the first song, which starts out normal-sounding enough, but soon you hear “Fuck you, Father Christmas”. Which intrigued me, but it wasn’t a sentiment I could ever seem to get behind enough to continue listening to the rest of the songs.

The rest of the early songs are hit and miss. They sound purposely “difficult” which usually is irritating, since it’s too self-conscious and immature a pose to affect well. The sound could be described as Badly Drawn Boy or Super Furry Animals with a confrontational, darker, dirtier edge. I had to do a lot of research before I could come up with an appropriate comparison – they didn’t make it easy for me.

Then, all of a sudden, the clouds part and the last 5 songs on the album creep out – catchy, relaxed, pure Britpop songs with 60s and electronic flavors. Sha Na Na and Aluminum Beach are particularly good. Maybe they grew up a bit after a couple of albums.

Ben Lee – Grandpaw Would

28 07 2010

Listened: Tuesday July 13

Grandpaw Would is an oldie but goodie. The main point of note is that Ben was only 16 when he recorded this, but he had been making music for years by that point. I’m nearly the same age as Ben, so when I discovered his music, it was shocking to realize how much someone of my age was accomplishing already.

I think these are the kind of simple songs only really young people could write; it reminds me of the Everly Brothers or songs Simon & Garfunkel wrote as Tom and Jerry before they were folkies. Especially impressive is Ben’s versatility; he can rock out, tell stories, and sing ballads authentically.

Listeners let you get away with a lot when you’re young too – singing off-key, the occasional weird lyric, etc. All those things make this album that much more endearing. However, while Ben has matured a bit, it’s clear he can’t get away with as much these days. Like much of life, sometimes one’s ideal ruling time at certain activities comes and goes, and I’m sorry to say it, but I think his best time in music has passed. But maybe he will drastically reinvent himself when he’s 50 or something.

Jeff Buckley – Grace

28 07 2010

Listened: Tuesday July 13

Being somewhat clued in to “hip” music for so long, I have noticed that mention of Grace comes up a lot. But until recently I had never heard it. Thanks to Woody, I am now a fan.

Jeff’s version of Hallelujah is timeless and transcendent. Jeff’s version, as well as seeing this performance on PBS made me want to explore Leonard Cohen more.

Like Geneva, “choirboy” comes to mind when describing Jeff’s voice (see Corpus Christi Carol), though he can rock it out quite well too (Eternal Life). I can also hear exactly where Fran Healy got his singing style – the influence is obvious.

This is another frustrating case of someone dying way too young and not fully reaching the potential he so obviously had.

Brassy – Got it Made

27 07 2010

Listened: Tuesday July 13

Brassy is one of the few bands I’ve been introduced to at a show and was intrigued enough to buy their album later. Which I kind of feel bad about since I’ve been to so many shows – am I just super picky? Though to be fair a lot of the time I’ve heard of the opening bands before going to the show, so it’s not apples to apples.

In Brassy’s case, Muffin Spencer (yes, I think that is her real name) had such great charisma and powerful attitude that she immediately got my attention. It also helped their cause that they followed one of the worst opening bands I have ever seen – Pancake Circus. Brassy coming on was a breath of fresh air.

As I  noted earlier, Brassy is well-described as twisted cheerleader rap. I can’t put my finger on why I like Brassy when I usually am annoyed by groups of a similar style. Maybe Brassy tread the sassy/annoyingly-in-your-face line just right for me. They also know how to be catchy without being incredibly repetitive. Unsurprisingly, with all those attributes, this album is great for work-listening.

Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Gorky 5

27 07 2010

Listened: Monday July 12

By the Gorky 5 period, GZM was starting to put together really great albums instead of just having a bunch of (admittedly good) songs thrown together.

Gorky 5 has fewer songs in Welsh (which is neither good nor bad) and fewer instrumentals. Considering how good their older instrumentals are, this is a bit of a bummer, though several of the songs have long instrumental intros (the beginning half of the song has no lyrics) so that sort of makes up for it. But the album as a whole is tighter and leans a bit less goofy than the prior releases.

Gorillaz – Gorillaz

27 07 2010

Listened: Friday July 9

I remember when Gorillaz came out how fresh it sounded. Clint Eastwood is a great song, mixing up rock, rapping, dub, and electronic music into a tasty stew for your ears. The radio remix of 19-2000 was another splendid soundtrack to my time in Wales, along with Desmond Dekker, as it was in constant play on Radio 1 at the time. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since this came out; it still rocks the house. I’m not as much of a fan of later Gorillaz records, but this is a classic.

Their first tour might have been the weirdest show I have ever been to. The whole time we were staring at a screen with cartoons projected on it, behind which you could occasionally see silhouettes of the actual people playing the music. Needless to say, it wasn’t actually that interesting. Their music isn’t really a live-show thing.

I can’t seem to find it online, but I read a music editorial after 9/11 that said Clint Eastwood (which was still in heavy rotation on the radio) was the theme song for youngsters at the time, as in “I’m useless, but not for long, my future is coming on”. I remember hoping they were right, since I had just graduated from college and my future was coming on, in the middle of a gun-shy market, and at times I felt totally useless. However, for me it’s not Clint Eastwood but Sound Check (Gravity) that takes me back to the freaky post-9/11 time; it never fails to creep me out.

China Drum – Goosefair

27 07 2010

Listened: Friday July 9

I much prefer Goosefair to the Barrier EP; the singer’s voice sounds less Creed-y. I forgot I’d already referred to their resembling Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – again that was my first thought upon hearing this album.

The hidden track is a cover of Wuthering Heights (Kate Bush). Which is actually really great, despite being very different than the original.

The Good, The Bad & The Queen – The Good, The Bad & The Queen

27 07 2010

Listened: Thursday July 8

I checked out The Good, The Bad & The Queen because of its incredible pedigree (Damon Albarn, Paul Simonon, Simon Tong and Tony Allen) and because they would be playing at Coachella 2007.

I wasn’t disappointed – this another album that I knew was modern the second I put it on. It just has the “sound of the now” to it. I can hear hints of Radiohead‘s influence on the music side. It’s also achingly British (shocker) and Damon’s voice sounds great.

When I saw them at Coachella, there were several moments with rather creepy ethereal wind – right as they stopped playing a song, a huge gust would come and flutter the Buddhist-like flags decorating the stage, almost like their set was haunted. It worked well.

Will update again soon

26 07 2010

Hello readers, I’ve been moving house and vacationing so not a lot of updates have been happening recently. Will get back in the groove this week. Thanks!

Embrace – The Good Will Out

15 07 2010

Listened: Thursday July 8

The Good Will Out is Embrace’s first album, which in 1998 was a little late to the Britpop party at least in America. This album was big in the UK, but I would bet few Americans know anything about them.

Embrace have a very Wall of Sound like production – there’s a lot going on underneath each song. The songs are very anthemic and singable and I think this is a stronger album than Drawn From Memory, mostly because the strings are not as heavily used as on Drawn.

I also love the cover photo – brilliant.