Monday, May 20, 2013

pleasantly surprised

So, I really didn't like Vampire Weekend before this album, and I'm sure there are a lot of other people who feel that way. It's unfair, as I never gave their other two albums full distraction-free listens as I did this one (multiple times). Something about their "overly intelligent" lyrics and overall preppy sound kind of made me hate them, but it's probably just jealousy because they are a good band, as this album proves. There are a couple of songs on this album that I don't love - Diane Young exemplifies what I don't really love about the band, namely the way Ezra sings the opening of the song just rubs me the wrong way. Finger Back sounds a little more like their older stuff to me and it just doesn't do much for me. But for the songs I don't love, there are some really really good ones. Step, Worship You, Ya Hey - they are well written songs that seem a little more real than previous VW. I also think that Young Lion is a really weird, cool way to end the album.

This is a good record. It's not my favorite album and it never will be, nor is this band - I don't love Ezra's voice at times, the drum parts aren't that awesome, and there are some other reasons why VW is not my perfect band. But they made a pretty damn good album and I'll give them that.


Friday, May 17, 2013

Vampire Weekend - "Modern Vampire in the City"

So, I've decided that I've been affected enough by their new album to write my own review for Modern Vampire in the City. Say what you will about Vampire Weekend. I personally think that they're great for a few reasons. Let me preface with something.

Generally speaking, I feel like the connection that I made with music when I was younger was one that most people had when they were younger - it's pleasant noise that your parents listen to created by god-knows-who in whatever decade it was that you weren't even fucking alive. I liken the effect to something Ken Levine (creative director of Irrational Games coincidentally enough, as I can't get enough of the company and am basically focusing all of my creative energy at getting their company's attention, but that's another story altogether ha anyway...) said about the way he perceived early video games (bear with me) he simply consumed when he was a kid, that they were just kind of there. He didn't give much thought to someone actually making them, that there was some kind of creative production behind them much in the same way that neither he nor any of us ever really truly considered the person making Oreos when we would eat them as kids. True? Maybe. Huh?

Anyway, the point that I was getting at is that there was certainly an age at which I started making a larger, substantial connection to the musicians creating the music that I enjoyed, simply by realizing that there were, in fact, actually people making the music. Am I describing that right? Long gone became the days that I would listen to music as a spontaneous, mysterious thing. It became much more about actually relating to what the musicians creating the music had to say, write, infer, sing, whatever, and I feel like this is an important point to make starting out, because those really cool kinds of connections, for me, at least, arrived probably around the time that I was old enough to be the same age as the people creating the music. The connection became so much more real when thinking about musicians as peers, contemporaries.

It's this, basically: with this album, it's been fun for me to think that there is a group of dudes in New York roughly my age making music about things like life and death and writing soupy, gobbledeegook lyrics that really kind of affect me somehow. Also, I think of the music that my parents really love, and it all seems to be the music they were listening to in their late twenties. So, there's that. Go figure.

Specifically, the listening was fun. The release date for the album happened to coincide with my and my roommate Sean's time frame for looking for the music we want to carry with us into our summer adventures. This is very important: around this time, we sit out on our back porch, theorize about ways to quit smoking cigarettes before we're 30, have the occasional beer, and trade iPod listens for stuff that we can agree will just be great in the summer months. It's kind of the thing to do in Brighton in April and May...

Obvious Bicycle - this song really kind of set the tone for the album for me - obviously, as it's the first track, but, still, I went into the album like many others did, expecting some kind of quick, young, summery sounding thing or some quirky weirdo song about a bike, and it was something different. It had this sound to it, as if it was actually meant to be an introductory song. And I feel like that's different than the songs that ended up on their self-titled and Contra. Plus, Rostam is all over the place in this one, which is different.

Unbelievers - this song also helped set the tone. Here I was, again, thinking that the album would be light and not really committed to any kind of clear agenda, and then ideas about faith and modern religion bubble up in the mix. The beginning is also striking in that it sounds more like Van Morrison's Moondance than any other comparison that could be made, I think.

Step & Diane Young - I'll group these two, as I had first heard them before the album dropped. I may have even heard Step months before as a demo. These songs are just crazy and kind of point to some of the pacing that happens later in the album - slow songs endings into abrupt song beginnings, exaggerated song styles (Diane Young, for example, reminds me of Eddie Cochran or Carl Perkins mixed, absurdly, with Huey Lewis and a dash of Springsteen thrown in. Christ.) that jump around weirdly. One thing I should also mention is that the pacing of this album is such that it's hard to consider any one song independent of others. For example, it's hard for me to even consider Diane Young without thinking about how Step leads into it.

Don't Lie - For some inexplicable reason, I always forget how Don't Lie sounds. The only thing I ever really remember about it is the fact that it's one of the least listened to songs on, which is bizarre, because I think it's great. Whenever I remind myself of the song by listening to it, I'm kind of overjoyed. The stupid stompy drums and bizarro organ are fun as hell and work really well with the way that Ezra becomes pretty intense with the hook. Pretty cool. Should be more memorable, but isn't. Whatever.

Hannah Hunt - My history with this song: appreciated it for how subdued it remained for a few minutes, really appreciated it for showcasing whatever-the-fuck it is that Ezra did at 2:58, cringed briefly when I realized that it was unabashedly written about a girl, decided to embrace it for what it was, totally love it now. A great implementation of Rostam's piano work, too, and it leads in to the next song extremely well. Lovely.

Everlasting Arms - A refreshing return to some of the sounds that made these guys big in the first place, but, as some reviewer who I have since forgotten the name said, this song (and, by extension, the entire album) is Paul Simon-y, but derived from a Paul Simon album that doesn't really exist yet. Take that as you will, I guess. This one - as well as pretty much all of the songs on the album - has a sneaky hook that will burrow pretty deep in your head. ALSO, one more thing about it as I'm listening to it at the moment, this is the first song that this really weird voice modulation that either Rostam or that Ariel whateverhisname is throws in the mix to make Rostam's voice sound like an oboe - too cool and really kind of hard to pick out in the first listen...

Finger Back - Like Diane Young, this song just really reminds me of a lot of the '50's Rock 'n' Roll dudes that weren't Elvis. It also reminds me of The Shins. By the end, it starts sounding like a mashup of all of that with something that Brian Wilson would throw together, which is fuckin' great. There's also the first of two examples of, like, spoken word interludes on the album, which I loved immediately. What a stupid/great thing to do. Draw your own conclusions there.

Worship You - I've become used to the song at this point, but when I heard this song for the first time, it sounded like it was from fucking Mars. It's impressive that Ezra was able to train his voice up to be able to do that. At least, it's impressive to me. It's a relentless, energetic song that capitalizes on this admirably cheesy, big sound that the album kind of wraps up with - a sound, I should mention, that I love.

Ya Hey - ??????? At this point, I should mention that I still have yet to really decide if I can choose a favorite song from this album. Again, it's hard for me to think of any one song standing on its own. If I had to guess, though, I'd say that Ya Hey affects me in a deeper way than the rest of the music. The lyrics are the kind of vague bullshit that I loved on Contra. The piano is fantastic. The way Ezra jumps around with the notes is playful and great. The fucking HOOK is out of control, fed dutifully by this kind stomping drum and bass work. In our conversations about it, too, my roommate and I decided that this song fits the bill as one of those songs that has a really catchy hook, feeds it to you around four times gladly, and then gives you the summit of everything with a mega-hook at the end. This song also has a chorus section and chip tune, yet sounds like the catchiest number from a World Music collection. I could probably go on about this one forever. I don't even really want to end the paragraph, but I guess I have to.

Hudson - Though I have a hard time considering which of the songs is my favorite, I have no hard time understanding that Hudson is probably my least favorite. Better to say would be that I just don't really know what I make of it. It's very different from the rest of the album, tonally. It's a little bit too obscured for my tastes. Most of the time, I just find myself working through it to get to the last song on the album. All of that said, it still creeps its way into my head. So, your guess with this one is really as good - if not, better than mine. Oh, and this song has that zany Rostam-oboe. Rostamboe...

Young Lion - This song affected me much in the same way MGMT's Congratulations did when I first heard it - a curious little outro song that left me feeling really satisfied with the weird roller coaster I had just listened to. The song ends quicker than I'd like and promotes another listen of the full album. Plus, lyrically speaking, I really like how hopeful the song's message is. It appeals to my personal naivete, perhaps dangerously.

Give this album a listen, even if you feel like you've already come to a final decision about VW. For me, I've obviously given it a leg up with my predisposition of liking Vampire Weekend - not to mention, I think I was just waiting for a no-horseshit album like this for a long time. And that is to say that I feel like a lot of music nowadays is horseshit, even some of the stuff I really end up enjoying. This is the first album in a long time where I've done my part of listening and am rewarded for it by listening to lyrics that are pretty relevant to where I'm at in life, the kinds of things I think about when I go to think about them, and, basically, the hopes and doubts that are important to being nearly 30ish. Woof.

It's remarkably different than their self-titled, somewhat similar to Contra, but totally more realized than the both of them. More than that, it's caused me, personally, to go back to revisit the other two albums to enjoy things that I may have otherwise missed. Sure enough, I missed a lot.

Check it out.

Personal Rating

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Andrew Marathas, you're up. No pressure, it's not like it's been 2+ years since the last post or anything.


Scottpops and Andrew Marathas, whaddya say?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Lets start this shit back up. Who's with me?

Friday, November 20, 2009

a study in space-rock depression

Last week I had a couple difficult sessions with kids. There’s something so affective about depression that just pulls at me, sometimes feeling like a separate entity all together that feeds of the energy I pour into the sessions with the people I work with. Efforts to assuage the terrible thoughts and feelings that a kid may be feeling do more harm than good, and sometimes I feel at a loss. Driving home one night, listening to “Dirty Blue Balloons,” Failure really got to me. “Nothing helps and no one else/can make it feel alright float me through the night/I cannot let them go.” “Solaris” didn’t help much, and haunted me so much that I couldn’t listen to it anymore that night.

But that’s what’s so good about music, its malleable ability to adapt to fit individual moods and passing feelings. The album seemed to me about depression, and I got the feeling throughout that Andrews was taking on the persona of someone going through some unknown but debilitating ordeal. The long fade-out on “Pitiful” kind of freaked me out; it was taking so long to end and kept drawing out and felt like an editing mistake, but clearly, to me, was a deliberate attempt to strain the listener along with the fading instruments. The transition from “Leo” to the subsequent segue felt cavernous and heartfelt yet somehow empty, dripping with the sadness and hopelessness that permeated the aforementioned lyrics.

The two highlights for me on the album were “The Nurse Who Loved Me” and “Daylight.” The former I had only heard in Maynard James Keenan’s cover version with A Perfect Circle, and I reveled in the smooth and eerie progression of this version, which I obviously prefer. “Daylight” just scared the hell out of me. I really don’t know how else to put it. It affected me in an “Exit Music” kind of way. The songs leading up to it seemed even spacier and losing control, but Daylight is a whole other beast entirely.

I love the segues. The way in which Failure explodes into the first one from Sergeant Politeness reminds of one of the things I love the most about hard rock: the sheer power of the music. To me the guitars could have been turned up a little bit in parts, but their tone (I looove tone) is superb. After my first listen through I spent about 40 minutes with “Smoking Umbrellas” on a loop, trying to recreate the guitar’s sound with an EQ and my glorious Metal Zone pedal. I never quite got it, but that’s something I rarely do, since the majority of my tonal-tinkering usually focuses on getting one distinct (and much heavier) sound. I also love the mixing of the acoustic guitars, when they’re used. They seem to fall on the physical extremes of the presentation, and the strum strum stummm of the guitars cuts right across the whole spectrum from the extremes of each channel. Stuck on You is a great example of this: during the acoustic bits, it feels like the guitars are coming at you from the periphery. I kept moving the speakers further away from center to enhance the effect.

Some of the entries sound more derivative than others ("Pillowhead," for example, sounds like 12 bands from my youth, including (but not limited to) Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, and STP), and for much of the album I felt right at home with their 90s grungy rock sound that I loved so much in my adolescence. Perhaps that’s why I felt so comfortable and familiar with the music despite never having heard them before, their sound just put me at ease. I’ve been listening to so much indie rock lately that its sometimes a shock to go back to stuff like this, a sound so familiar and replicated yet unique to a specific period of my life. So, I really liked Fantastic Planet. A lot. Even though it kind of freaked me out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Potwashers Perspective

Well first I'll put some thangs I jotted down while listening...

-Lots of cool weird sounds, which is totally awesome
-For some reason I was reminded of Alice in Chains + Pavement + Auolux (obv)
-Saturday Saviour = Supernova (KC QUILTY)
-Pillowhead = my favorite song, verse is a Nirvana rip-off

Right, so anyway, Sarah (sadie?) had played me this album before, but I hadn't really paid too much attention since we were at Bucks Rock and all I could think about was those motherfucking pots. She was real adamant about it's good-ness so I was glad that this album club gave me an excuse to download it off a random blog and listen.

Since I feel it necessary to quickly compare Failure to Autolux, I must say I like Ken Andrew's awesome 90's voice better than Eugene Goreshter's 'light moan.' (/expects to be murdered by Sadie)

I really loved the songs on the album with the "epic" drum beats and awesome sounding guitar solos. Sounds like the new Muse album on paper but they found a way to make them just be fucking awesome and not extremely extremely annoying.

The lyrics are kinda depressing (and maybe a little cheesy), I think...
I'm never gonna make you feel
That you're satisfied
I'm never gonna feel your pain
Like you wish I would

-Saturday Savior

I'm so ashamed to love no one
My ego's bent and my prides undone


Stuck on you 'til the end of time
I'm too tired to fight your rhyme
Stuck on you 'til the end of time
You've got me paralyzed

-Stuck On You

So to sum it up, I liked pretty much everything about it. If I had to come up with two complaints, the first would be that some of the songs don't feel too different from each other. But that's okay because it's a long album, so if some of the songs mesh, it's probably a good thing. Also, the lyrics are fairly emo and (I think) lame at some parts. But other than that, it's really good. Good pick, Sarah.