Thursday, September 29

SINGLE-ARTIST THURSDAY
OH NO

OK GO

Chicago popsters OK Go released their sophomore album, Oh No, on August 30th. For me, the jury's still out on whether or not it's as inherently and insanely catchy as their debut (or, for that matter, if this second effort exhibits substantial advances in musical maturity). But then again, who the hell cares? I'll take my melodic pop wherever, whenever, and however I find it. And you can find some of it right here...

[MP3] [left-click] "Let It Rain" [from the LP Oh No, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Here It Goes Again" [from the LP Oh No, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "There's a Fire" [from their self-titled LP, 2002]

[MP3] [left-click] "1000 Miles Per Hour" [from their self-titled LP, 2002]

Tuesday, September 27

I'M AMERICAN...
... SO SCREW THE METRIC SYSTEM

METRIC

Metric's new LP, Live It Out, will be released September 27th (which, come to think of it, is today). A few of the tracks have already been circulating around cyberspace, but here are a couple that people may not have stumbled upon yet. Also, I am posting my two favorites from their last record.

[MP3] [left-click] "Too Little Too Late" [from the LP Live It Out, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Poster of a Girl" [from the LP Live It Out, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Combat Baby" [from the LP Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Succexy" [from the LP Old World Underground, Where Are You Now?, 2003]

Friday, September 23

WHEN THE LEVY BREAKS...

LEVY

The New York-based quartet Levy is another relatively recent Internet discovery for me. Actually, I've been loving the Joy Division-ish "Rotten Love" since March, but their self-titled debut LP was just released by One Little Indian on September 13th. "You Be Sweet" takes its cues from the Smiths. And the slow-churning "On the Dance Floor" plays the shoegazing game - and plays it rather well. These guys are definitely worth a listen.

[MP3] [left-click] "Rotten Love"

[MP3] [left-click] "You Be Sweet"

[MP3] [left-click] "On the Dance Floor"

Tuesday, September 20

NAIHF
UP
REVEAL
ATS

R.E.M.n.a.n.t.s.

So, the time has come to finish our journey through the R.E.M. catalogue. In the past ten years, the band has downsized by one member (after the retirement of drummer Bill Berry, who has since become a farmer and sous chef) and released four regular albums. Alas, with the possible exception of New Adventures in Hi-Fi, these records must be considered some of the worst they have produced in their 25-year career.

New Adventures was recorded primarily during the infamous Monster tour of 1995 - either live or at soundchecks. It's a bit of a hodge-podge, no doubt reflecting the persistent health problems that then plagued three of the four band members, as well as the strain and tedium that routinely accompany year-long world tours.
A year later, Berry made his unexpected exit and R.E.M. officially became, in Michael Stipe's words, a "three-legged dog." Their subsequent CD, Up, would thus prove exceedingly difficult to produce, with the more meticulous Stipe and bassist Mike Mills often overruling the more spontaneous, leave-it-as-it-lays Peter Buck. Perhaps as a result, Up doesn't sound like it was made by a guitar band. Instead, it indulges in loops, vintage keyboards, drum machines, and other bits of vague electronica. Over it all, Stipe's voice and lyrics remain as resonant and one-of-a-kind as ever, but the overall tone is sterile and cold.

2001's Reveal seemed to be an effort to remedy this issue, and it is, in fact, a far warmer record. Still, though, keyboards and electronics are layered prominently into the songs, effectively choking them of life. Not helping matters is the fact that the band suddenly seems incapable of recording anything faster than mid-tempo. Perhaps a listen to 1981's "Radio Free Europe" single might remind them of whence they came.

Regrettably, last year's Around the Sun may well be the worst of the lot. Again, the band sounds hermetically-sealed and lifeless. Again, the keyboards overwhelm the guitars. Again, Mike Mills' backing vocals, once such a huge factor in the R.E.M. magic, are all but non-existent. And Michael Stipe's lyrics, usually so enigmatic and unique, suddenly sound phoned-in, cliched, and commonplace. Oh, the horror, the horror....

Though not an optimist, I am still somehow hopeful that R.E.M. has another great album in them. After all, it's been 13 years since Automatic for the People. They're due.

[Once again, I have chosen to skip over the singles and more obvious choices from these CDs in order to shine a little light on some undiscovered gems. Hope you enjoy them.]

[MP3] [left-click] "So Fast, So Numb" [from the LP New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996]

[MP3] [left-click] "Leave" [from the LP New Adventures in Hi-Fi, 1996]

[MP3] [left-click] "Walk Unafraid" [from the LP Up, 1998]

[MP3] [left-click] "I've Been High" [from the LP Reveal, 2001]

[MP3] [left-click] "Final Straw" [from the LP Around the Sun, 2004]

Sunday, September 18

SOUNDS LIKE A GOLF COURSE... OR A CEMETERY

IDLEWILD

Idlewild's latest CD, Warnings/Promises, has been available in Europe for months now, but September 6th finally saw it land on U.S. shores. Overall, it pretty much follows their last effort in the further de-noisification of these once rocking Scots. This led me, upon early listens, to think that these guys may have become a bit too subdued for their own good, but now I'm not so sure. The thing has grown on me. And in listening to the band's back-catalogue to extract a few extra tunes for uploading, I was surprised at how much the older stuff made them sound like an American emo-pop band. Not that there's anything wrong with American emo-pop bands, but, well, you know....

So here are some favorites of mine from the band over the past half-decade...

[MP3] [left-click] "El Capitan" [from the LP Warnings/Promises, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "As If I Hadn't Slept" [from the LP Warnings/Promises, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Tell Me Ten Words" [from the LP The Remote Part, 2002]

[MP3] [left-click] "Mistake Pageant" [from the LP 100 Broken Windows, 2000]

[MP3] [left-click] "There's Glory in Your Story" [100 Broken Windows b-side, 2000]

Friday, September 16

YOU COULD HAVE IT SO MUCH WITH

FRANZ FERDINAND

Well, everyone and his uncle seems to be leaking tunes from the new Franz Ferdinand CD, so who am I to fight the tide? What follows are my two favorites from the new one, plus my favorite from the last one...

[MP3] [left-click] "You're the Reason I'm Leaving"

[MP3] [left-click] "Walk Away"

[MP3] [left-click] "Jacqueline"

Tuesday, September 13

AUGUST EVERAFTER

A FISTFUL OF AUGUST

And here again I highlight a handful of tracks that pleased me most mucho in the month most recently retired. I list the Stellastarr* track first because I spent some real high-quality time two Saturdays ago hitting the repeat button on that particular song until the cows came home. Granted, at that time, I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour (as Morrissey might say), but so be it. I love the damn thing. It takes me back to the '80s in all the right ways - dumping the Cult, Dead or Alive, and the B-52's in a blender and punching "puree." Instant ecstasy. And with or without the assistance of alcohol.

Also, I resisted posting the Death Cab for Cutie song earlier because it had already permeated the MP3 blogs to such a degree. But so be it with that as well. It remains my favorite song on that album by far, and perhaps it's that R.E.M./New Order vibe that it has going that yet again transports me to my '80s teens. Ah, nostalgia. It's a dangerous, painful thing. And thus I drink....

[MP3] [left-click] Stellastarr*/"Sweet Troubled Soul"

[MP3] [left-click] Death Cab for Cutie/"Soul Meets Body"

[MP3] [left-click] JJ72/"Take from Me"

[MP3] [left-click] The Magic Numbers/"Love Me Like You"

[MP3] [left-click] The High Dials/"Sick with the Old Fire"

Sunday, September 11

THE ROALD NOT TAKEN

DE NOVO DAHL

Every now and again, my semi-relentless scouring of cyberspace nets me more than just one or two jump-out tunes - it introduces me to a band that I'd never heard of before that ultimately becomes a long-running favorite. Now, at this point, it's far too early to say that this will prove the case with the Nashville-based band De Novo Dahl - a six-person collective that's been around since 2001 but only recently cracked my consciousness.

At the very least, I like what I've been able to hear so far. The song "All Over Town," from their first full-length effort, has a Roxy Music/glam element to it that I find beguiling, while the slightly older "Waiting for My Friends" plays out as somewhat more straightforward pop (Fountains of Wayne by way of Supergrass, perhaps). "Memphis," by contrast, is a strummy, slightly countrified ode to the late, great Jeff Buckley. Not a bad muse to choose.

So, by the looks of it, this may be one of those bands that proves promising enough for me to pony up some plastic for.

[MP3] [left-click] "All Over Town" [from the LP Cats & Kittens, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Waiting for My Friends" [from their self-titled EP, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Memphis" [from their self-titled EP, 2003]

Thursday, September 8

SINGLE-ARTIST THURSDAY

DAVID GRAY

David Gray (he of "Babylon" semi-fame some half-decade ago) releases his new album, Life in Slow Motion, on September 13th. To my ears, it sounds right in line with the rest of what he's done. Still, middle-of-the-road/ adult-contemporary as it may be, it remains quite likeable. And, seeing as I'm now just some half-decade from the big 4-0, I'd better start developing more of a jones for this sort of stuff.

My two favorite songs from the new record are the opener, "Alibi," with it's slow, dramatic intro and '70s-era Hollies climax, and "Nos de Caraid," which features a more insistent piano-line (reminiscent of Don Henley's "New York Minute") and high harmony vocals on the chorus. Neither song quite attains transcendence, but both would no doubt fit just fine on a mix CD sandwiched between tracks by, say, Dido and Annie Lennox. And there are certainly worse things in this world than that.

[MP3] [left-click] "Alibi" [from the LP Life in Slow Motion, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Nos de Caraid" [from the LP Life in Slow Motion, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "Caroline" [from the LP A New Day at Midnight, 2002]

[MP3] [left-click] "This Year's Love" [from the LP White Ladder, 2000]

[MP3] [left-click] "Please Forgive Me" [from the LP White Ladder, 2000]

Wednesday, September 7

NOT JUST ABBA & SAABS

SWEDISH SMORGASBORD

Today's post was inspired by an otherwise unrelated message I received from P the Swede, a fellow mixer/archiver at The Art of the Mix. That served to remind me yet again of the many Swedish artists and songs I've been enjoying since becoming addicted to other peoples' MP3 blogs over this past 6-8 months or so. I really don't know why it is that the Swedish people seem to be genetically superior to the rest of the world when it comes to producing songs just dripping with hooks and melody. But they do. And they are. And I am thankful.

[The Divine Comedy, by the way, is not a Swedish band - but the song "Sweden" offers a deliciously over-the-top, tongue-in-cheek rundown of all the things that make that nation great. A must-hear. And other, non-Swedish-related Divine Comedy tracks are still available here.]

[Also "by the way": Swedesplease is still the place to go for all things musically Swede. You will also find many additional links there, so go explore.]

[MP3] [left-click] Shout Out Louds/"Very Loud" [from the LP Howl Howl Gaff Gaff, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] Sambassadeur/"New Moon" [from their self-titled LP]

[MP3] [left-click] The Legends/"There and Back Again" [from the LP Up Against the Legends, 2004]

[MP3] [left-click] The Charade/"Monday Morning" [from the LP The Best is Yet to Come, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] David Fridlund/"April & May" [from the LP Amaterasu, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] The Divine Comedy/"Sweden" [from the LP Fin de Siecle, 1998]

Tuesday, September 6

LIFE ON MARS?

THE DANDY WARHOLS

The Dandy Warhols' new album, Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, is due out in the U.S. on September 13th. I've only heard one song from it thus far, and I can't say I was especially impressed by it on first listen. Still, I stuck it on a mix CD and subsequently came to like it while cranking it through the car speakers. So, here it is... with a few older siblings in tow...

[MP3] [left-click] "Everyone is Totally Insane" [from the LP Odditorium or Warlords of Mars, 2005]

[MP3] [left-click] "You Were the Last High" [from the LP Welcome to the Monkey House, 2003]

[MP3] [left-click] "Get Off" [from the LP Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, 2000]

[MP3] [left-click] "Bohemian Like You" [from the LP Thirteen Tales from Urban Bohemia, 2000]

[MP3] [left-click] "Ohio" [Crosby, Stills, Nash cover]
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