Sunday, May 16, 2010

on sleigh bells' treats

i really do like music that makes me have to think about whether i like it or not - really, most of my favorite music does. but with progressively more acclaimed things in the last couple years that leave me with a stalemate at best, i really appreciate sharing something so boneheaded - the sort of thing i play for pleasure and ease between trying to decide if i like other records - with a big mass of other critics and people for once. and it's also kind of neat to watch other people struggle with this and pour their visceral do-i-don't-i reactions the way i do with say, joanna newsom. i would've liked to to see people's reactions firsthand to the tea-kettle whistle in "terminator x to the edge of panic" too.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

entering the second third of 2010

i'm just gonna do this in odds of getting on my pazz ballot rather than any actual logic to what i'm feeling about music in 2010 right now, which i just haven't had the aptitude to notice much on my own other than the most obvious, labor-free stuff: against me, kate nash

joanna newsom - have one on me

it would take a hell of an outsider to make me wander through this again. christgau of course but i'd settle for alfred soto. what i can recall of this pleasant bore really represents the worst trend in poptimism infiltrating indie criteria, that because she is trying to meet me halfway, and because it was so darn nice of her to tone down that racket, i should be so patient. the racket was why i should take exception in the first place, lady. odds: 100-1

the hold steady - heaven is wherever

i haven't given it a fair shake, but separation sunday and stay positive each missed my top 10 by a couple - what chance does this have? lyrics i haven't read yet notwithstanding, i got the general idea the guys who impressed us playing old and wise didn't exactly turn out both. odds: 90-1

beach house - teen dream

my weakness for odd guitar took me to “norway” a couple times, but not since i've tried pitching paid reviews for it. and i don't expect it to open up melodically like yo la tengo's summer sun or anything, but if i could fit it into my sleep routine i'd be willing to declare “stereolab” and walk away clean. odds: 90-1

the national - high violet

i like to mock them but maybe i shouldn't. still, their variety and attack peaked with alligator and i feel like i'm in a game of dare-to-dismiss-the-grower ever since. a lot of growers get dismissed, i think i'll live. odds: 90-1

gogol bordello - trans-continental hustle

on first listen this didn't rock and wasn't funny. this band isn't supposed to be a grower. dick rubin strikes again. odds: 80-1

robyn - body talk vol. 1

because they're still new to pop, i'm okay with critics who haven't yet figured out that not every pop album they actually want to root for is the shit. i have “fembot,” others have “dancing on my own,” and like all pop stars, robyn's best shot at a great album someday remains her willingness to try anything. odds: 80-1

drive-by truckers - the big to-do

good, rocking first listen. haven't returned; waiting for someone to tell me i should. worked with the last one. odds: 70-1

four tet - there is love in you

by stapling his drum-freakout impulses to a frenetically motorik beat, dan snaith reigned in his foldout dioramas of suns and mirrors and glares and sand. but kieran hebden was getting along fine. worse, his beat is several bpm below snaith's. i ought to punch whoever slipped him an adderall. odds: 70-1

yeasayer - odd blood

when i reviewed it, dug “o.n.e.,” et cetera, my pathological obsession with unseating animal collective took over. but i played “my girls” this week and it sounded like a standard. that hasn't taken place with “ambling alp” yet. odds: 60-1

titus andronicus - the monitor

there is a fallacy here: punk bands don't make you earn it. that's the province of the emerson, the lake and the palmer. their most tuneful setups, in the franz nicolay middle rundown of “a pot in which to piss in,” in the most normal section of “fear and loathing in mahwah, nj,” and the minor chord in “titus andronicus,” all repeat one or zero times, so i don't trust them. fun live. but anyone who passed over conor oberst or cassadaga for these lyrics should double-check. odds: 50-1

hot chip - one life stand

they need the tension and humor to set them apart. because unlike most of their peers, their loveliest melodies aren't their best ones. like most of their peers, their most respected feelings are their most trite. odds: 50-1

spoon - transference

finally britt daniel's minimalism is as perverse as he wants it. the one-chord songs set up two-chord surprises and so on because you can't not notice when the second chord drops in, or when the song cuts out entirely. finally he's seeing the joy in sneaking up behind our expectations - so much for “most consistent band of the decade,” eh? he's still lacking in sweet spots and the best notes are the missed ones. odds: 30-1

the apples in stereo - travellers in space and time

people won't talk about it so i actually worry i'll forget: annoying pop on the surface that always ends up surprising me at year's end with their indispensability. not counting anything out in these times. odds: 30-1

surfer blood - astro coast

i feel stupid. it's not that i didn't remember to remember “swim,” it's that i forgot to remember “take it easy,” “fast jabroni,” “floating vibes” and (vampire weekend fans take note) “catholic pagans,” to name a few. even though i knew every damn song live, and when's the last time i let my weariness with a production trend cloud my judgment? still doesn't feel like a great album, but more than anything else on here except yup, vampire weekend, i feel like i can actually get comfortable with this one, and not in a conceding way. play it for me now and i'll try my best to sing it to you next year. odds: 30-1

caribou - swim
sam amidon - i see the sign

the best and most obvious parts of these albums are good bets for me. i play “how come that blood” and “you better mind” and “odessa” and “bowls” a lot and the modestly odd sounds i notice ticking and hammering have continually convinced me to not dismiss the parts that make me fidget in my seat when i listen up. both still fall about a third short of the feeling i get from a great record. but they have my undivided attention, and as a folkie and psych-laptopper that took some doing. odds: 25-1

kate nash - my best friend is you

i don't trust my impulses with this one. either the tunes fell too easy or for once i'm succumbing to guilt. i'll be hounding this one til i figure it out. odds: 20-1

lcd soundsystem - this is happening

i love “drunk girls,” “i can change,” “home” and the first third of “dance yrself clean,” in that order. “all i want” is good, “you wanted a hit” finishes well. like sound of silver, it all comes down to the rest. sound of silver didn't make it. but while that mixed bag was top-heavy and gave me little incentive to finish my plays, this has the good stuff more sprinkled through. still, i see a plea bargain for the singles shot. hard to remember the last time an album where the two best ones were by far the shortest made my top 10. odds: 15-1

sleigh bells - treats

new song is the best one yet, and it's the opener to boot. going back to their myspace demos, the other four achieved hypno-interlock that sustained the vibe instead of annoying it. if the remaining seven are as tuneful as “tell 'em,” classically rock and roll hype can live to tell another day. it's all i've got. i'm betting the farm. odds: 10-1

against me! - white crosses

the be your own pet principle: not only is this band doing everything right and making it sound butt-easy, but there's an added urgency because right now simply no one else is doing it. how could i turn my back on the only thing i ever carp about? great singing, great lyrics, great concerns even--i'm sure some tea party boor will turn “what god doesn't give to you/ you've got to go get for yourself” into some tax-panic bullshit theme, but they can't take away those harmonies. still, i'm finally at the age where i worry if simplicity alone will do the trick - released today, new wave would still make my shortlist, no age's nouns would not. odds: 2-1

vampire weekend - contra

a beautiful listen that (like spoon) often feels too slight for me even though every song - even “horchata” - makes sense to me now, but (unlike spoon) continues to offer obstacles and red herrings and offbeats that confuse me in the best way. like prime dismemberment plan, the highest compliment i could give. odds: even