The Shins – Oh Inverted World

22 11 2010

Listened: Tuesday October 12

The Shins are of the Minus the Bear school of song titling – ridiculous and having nothing to do with the content of the song. I give you Know Your Onion! and Caring Is Creepy. When bands do that I either get a painfully artsy and over-serious vibe, or the opposite: immature and unable to deal with scrutiny. Either way, not so great. I know what not to do in my next life when I start a band.

I have to admit I’m a fair-weather Shins fan; this is the only album that I own. I bought it because it was hip (though I did like the songs). Upon listing to earlier and later works, I don’t like them as much, and therefore didn’t buy them. This is truly a great album though; it’s fun to sing along to and it’s over before I know it.

Jens Lekman – Oh You’re So Silent Jens

16 11 2010

Listened: Tuesday October 12

You’re So Silent is the perfect expression of being an introverted, dramatic young person. Simultaneously it’s very creative and witty. Jens makes wry statements at the exact moment he’s pouring his heart out with his voice. I just realized he’s like the Bizarro World Bright Eyes – he deals beautifully with the same subjects Conor does, but with a smirk and a sense of humor about himself. Not to mention a much more beautiful voice. Some examples:

“She said we were just make-believe, but I thought she said ‘maple leaves’. And when she talked about a Fall, I thought she talked about Mark E Smith. I never understood at all.” Unexpected and slightly obscure references – irresistible.

“I’ve got my pockets full of money, I’m gonna spend it all tonight. A whole months salary, gonna set it to flames, on some girl. We just met recently. I barely know her name.” Make it plain, Jens!

“It’s like someone spilled a beer, all over the atmosphere.” Again, with the unexpected and painterly references!

“And I’ve heard all the stories ’bout the black cabs and the way they drive. But if you take a ride with them, you may not come back alive. They might be psycho killers, but tonight I really don’t care. So I say turn up the music, take me home or take me anywhere!” I’ve blasted Black Cab repeatedly in my car, singing at the top of my lungs each and every time. It’s one of my favorite songs ever.

“When I was sixteen, I hung out with the kids who lacked it. And the punks who were born with leather jackets. The kind of punks that place themselves in brackets.” Who didn’t hang out with those guys once in a while, even if only in their imagination?

“F-Word, F-Word, pardon my French, but it’s BS, BS.” A beautifully composed homage to the F-word – without actually using it. Points!

I appreciate the further maturity of Jens’ music, but the well-expressed and unabashed immaturity on this album is entirely endearing.


The Zombies – Odessey & Oracle

12 11 2010

Listened: Monday October 11

The Zombies are a bit fetishized by music geeks and obscure vinyl bin divers. I’ve always loved Time Of The Season (I even own a 45 of it, from a very brief period when I thought I might collect 45s).

So when I saw Odessey & Oracle for sale on Amazon, I pounced. It’s certainly high-quality 60s psychedelic Brit-pop (lots of harmonies and stylized songs), plus they have a melancholy song called “A Rose For Emily”. Bonus points – not many songs are written for me!

One thing bugged me though – what’s with the misspelled title? According to Wikipedia, it was a design mistake by the guy who made the cover, and the band tried to cover that up by saying it was on purpose. It’s memorable to spelling nerds, I’ll give you that.

Beck – Odelay

12 11 2010

Listened: Monday October 11

Odelay made people come to my office and ask me what the hell I was  listening to (specifically the synthy noodling at the end of Novacane).

I enjoy this album a lot more than I used to. I acquired it sometime after its time in the sun, because, like Nevermind, I thought I should own it, as a piece of the soundtrack of my teenage years. Until the project, though, I didn’t listen to it much.

I guess I do have to give it props – it doesn’t sound like anything else. Mr Hansen might have known what he was doing.

Travis – Ode To J. Smith

12 11 2010

Listened: Monday October 11

As I’ve noted before, I have a love-hate relationship with Travis’ later works. The spark just isn’t the same. However, with J. Smith I think they’ve recovered at bit, or at least found how well they can excel without the spark. The songs are pretty (Song to Self and Before You Were Young are standouts) and Andy Dunlop is still kicking arse on the guitar.

I really dislike the album cover though – it just doesn’t seem Travissy.

U2 – October

11 11 2010

Listened: Monday October 11

I’ve heard October referred to as U2’s weakest album, the inevitable sophomore slump.  Bono’s notebooks full of lyrics were stolen right before recording, but I really think they made lemonade out of those lemons.

Gloria is a very underrated song in the U2 canon. According to Wikipedia, neither the song nor the video is included on any of their compilations. I don’t really understand why; it’s probably their first really anthemic song, if a little odd, given the Latin lyrics.

This album seems to be the most piano-heavy of all U2 albums. I actually kind of like the simple piano tones juxtaposed with The Edge’s signature guitar sound.

I guess I have to agree that if I was forced to rank U2 albums from top to bottom this one would be in the bottom half. But the competition is so fierce, I’m not sure that’s fair! Any run of the mill band would be thrilled to have an album this good.

Underworld – Oblivion With Bells

11 11 2010

Listened: Monday October 11

Underworld have mellowed in their old age, and it suits them just fine. This album isn’t anthemic, but each song bubbles with life and makes me think of driving fast down a straight road at night.

I’m normally not a big fan of robo-voices in songs, but I love it when Underworld does it as a backing vocal to a lyric like “People are squinting to block out the sun, complaining or soaking it up, praying for rain the next minute for a scorched earth. What’s it worth, enough is never enough, let’s have a little moan. Put the world to right, sit back and watch it all slide by, it’s a view from a train…”