Monday, February 19, 2007

CD Reviews

Hey all...

It's been a really long while, and I'm sorry for not posting more often. Now, let's see... since my last post, the Colts were crowned NFL Champions, Tiger won his first tournament, Chelsea has played alright and are still within a reasonable distance from a 3rd English Premiership title in a row, the Montreal Canadiens have fallen from grace and are now on the outside looking in in regards to the playoffs, and finally, a couple of really good rock records have started the year in a pretty good way.

Check back with me on Thursday for my 'State of the Montreal Canadiens Address'. Tomorrow, Chelsea faces off against Porto in the Champions League, so next week I will discuss Chelsea's chances in both the Premiership and the Champions League in 2007. Also, the 27th at 4pm (next Tuesday) marks the NHL Trade Deadline. I will have a full outlook on the rumors (good and bad) that surround what should be now known as 'Canada Day 2'. But first, let's take a quick look at 2 very, very good music albums that came out in the last couple of weeks.

The Shins - Wincing the night away
With their first 2 releases, 'The Shins' established themselves as one of the best indie-rock outfits with excellent, albeit somewhat unsual, melodies and lyrics. Just as important, if not more, was the inclusion of 2 of their songs, 'New Slang' and 'Caring is Creepy', on the award-winning Soundtrack to the movie 'Garden State'. As was the case with 'Death Cab for Cutie' and 'The Decemberists' latest releases, most indie-rock pundits were a little worried, thinking 'The Shins' might "sellout". But, as is usual with bands of a certain integrity, it is not the case at all here.

Instead of "selling out", the band expands on its sound. Where 'Oh, Inverted World' and 'Chutes Too Narrow' sounded like they were pulled straight out of the sixties, 'Wincing the Night Away' features a wider palette of sounds, some still pulled out of the sixties, others from the eighties and some even sounding somewhat current. This is perhaps due to a lusher production. Indeed, while the band's 2 previous efforts were minimaly produced, a lot more effects are introduced here: the sound is a lot more textured. Also, the songwriting is better and a lot more constant. While there is nothing as good and catchy as 'New Slang' here, 'Sleeping Lessons', 'Phantom Limb' (the first single), 'Turn on Me', 'Black Wave', 'Spilt Needles' and 'A Comet Appears' are all excellent compositions. These 6 cuts constitute the meat of the album, and it makes for a very solid core. 'Black Wave', in particular, is a haunting and beautiful ballad. On 'A Comet Appears', the band sounds as direct and naked as they ever have. That being said, 'Turn on Me' just might be the best track here, with its Echo & The Bunnymen-like guitars and extremely addictive harmonies.

All in all, this is a very solid outing by one of the bands rock music has to offer today. While I have yet to hear them put out a great album, they continuously write great songs. And if this album has a bit of filler, it also features six awesome songs, all listed above. As far as I'm concerned, that's quite good.

Rating: 8/10

Bloc Party - A Weekend in the City
Bloc Party is, in my opinion, one of the best bands to come out of London in the last few years. Their first record, 'Silent Alarm', was an excellent mix of furious beats, crunchy guitars, punk-infused lyrics and The Cure-ish or U2-ish ballads. On 'A Weekend in the City', Bloc Party deliver the logical next step in their musical journey, and it works to near perfection.

After a intro lasting a little more than a minute, 'Song for Clay (Disappear Here)' starts the album off with a bang. The song is fast-paced, giving it an immediacy few bands are capable of getting to. In a way, it reminds us a little bit of 'Banquet' (the lead-off single of 'Silent Alarm'), but the melody is stronger here, as is the lyrical content. 'Hunting for Witches' starts with an interesting collage of voices that set the tone for the song, just before the amazing and very original main riff kicks in. The whole song is centered on this guitar riff, which is worth many, many, many listens. With pounding beats and Kele Okereke's soothing voice supporting the guitars, the song is a pure pleasure.

Then, the band turns the volume down a notch, but they keep the intensity level high. On 'Waiting for the 7.18', Okereke's voice is at its best, and the guitars sound as rich and as Cure-ish as ever, painting a beautiful sonic landscape that is beaten and battered by Matt Tong's ferocious drumming. On 'The Prayer', a song that deals with the coldness and emptiness than exists on club dance floors, Tong introduces a very unusual drumming pattern that fuels the verses, while keyboards and beautiful melodies dominate the chorus. 'I Still Remember' sounds like a cross between U2 (circa 'War') and a 'Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me, Kiss me'-era The Cure. The guitars are all U2, but the song is joyous and infected with poppy hooks. It's very simply a very fun song. Then, the London group follows with one of the bst songs I have heard in years. 'Sunday' is again driven by an inventive and original drum pattern, but here Okereke's voice is as soothing and relaxing as ever. Somehow, it floats over beautiful melody delivered by Russell Lissack's gentle guitar. And through this, the song builds towards a huge climax that features multiple guitar and vocal overdubs and, of course, Tong's great drumming. Love songs can sometimes be very cheesy, but when Okereke sings "You see giant proclaimations are all very well/But our love is louder than words", you somehow believe him.

While these 6 songs are the best of the bunch, 'On', 'Kreuzberg' and the album-closing 'SRXT' are all very good. It is a shame that 'Bloc Party' are not better known outside of the UK, but this might be their breakthrough album in the US. Even this early in the year, I know this one will be in my Top Ten 2007 in December. Pick it up. It's well worth it.

Rating: 9/10

See you Thursday!

Dwarf out.


At 10:17 AM, Blogger Veillotron said...

Happy Birthday Dwarfooouun!!
En passant, tout le monde, allez vite a - ca, monsieur, ca va etre le film de l'annee!!!


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