We're kicking off 22 Positions with a quarterly review, where we run down the biggest/smallest/best/worst records from the first few months of 2007. If we actually stay on schedule. we should be bringing you six or so albums a day until Thursday, when Thomas Hanks will take over. That dude's got big plans. Let's get to it.
(Excuse the shoddy design work. We wanted to get the blog up ASAP, which meant we didn't have a lot of time to work on the look. Don't worry though, we'll clean this place up as soon as we can.)
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
Matty G: I don't really care about Modest Mouse. Good News for People Who Love Bad News is the only record that I can actually sit through, and if I'm in a good mood I might even say it's a decent album. When "Dashboard" hit the intercool, I was pretty jazzed at the prospect of another Modest Mouse album that's not a colossal waste of time. The song recalls the best moments of Good News... and the horns and strings hinted that the band might branch our and try on some new digs.
Unfortunately, I was pretty nonplussed with We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank. I don't really think it's a bad record, I just can't imagine the next time I'm going to listen to it. And that pretty much sums up my relationship with Modest Mouse: they make decent music that I never listen to. I'll just file them away under "Things People Care About But I Don't" (See Also: Forrest Gump, Global warming).
Shilzzz: Meh. If you are in Seattle, or at a show, could you please give Isaac Brock a large amount of LSD? There are no less than two amusing rumors about the writing of their albums previous to Good News...: 1) there is a homeless man MM has never met that mails lyrics to the band 2) Brock wrote all of the albums in facemelt mode. And even Good News (which, in my opinion is vastly underrated by people who get mad whenever a band goes on MTV - you punks need to stop that shit, it doesn't make you cooler if you stop listening to a band, follow your heart, bitches) was supposedly written while Brock was on suicide watch. So let's see... the band gets rich, employs Mercer to do some production and the much paraded Marr on guitar, and put out a shit album. "Dashboard" is, more or less, a very catchy, four on the floor, Franz Ferdinand shit stain of a single. "Parting of the Sensory" is decent, but is not nearly on the level of anything close to Moon & Antarctica. Brock moans on and on about boats, and frankly, the metaphor gets tired very quickly. Little shelf life, you will forget it exists after the first few listens.
Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future
Shilzzz: This was something I picked up on a whim, knowing nothing about who they were or what they were about, on the same day I purchased the Besnard Lakes CD. The album cover reminded me of Bitches Brew for some reason (probably the odd montage/ use of blue), and it was cheap, making it worth the risk. Well, the Klaxons took over my iPod, car, between class walk, getting ready for a night out, and any other occasion I could make an excuse to play this. People make too much about the rave stuff here... don't get me wrong, it's noticeable for sure, just not as prominent as other reviews suggested. Think of it this way: if you meshed Bloc Party's first album, Karen O's raucous, maybe a dash of Wolf Parade, and the lead singer was Aleister Crowley, you end up with this. Highly recommended. My second favorite album thus far in 2007. Favorite tracks are "Magick," "Two Receivers," and "Atlantis to Interzone" (though there isn't much to skip).
Matty G: Myths... is a good album, and I've played the shit out of it since it came out, but I can easily see everyone forgetting about Klaxons before the year is over. They just have that feel of a band that is going to be completely irrelevant in six months. Which is kind of a shame, considering they're actually kind of good. I don't totally get the whole "new rave" tag though, but that might be because I have no idea what "old rave" is.
There really isn't a bad song on here, just some that aren't as good as "Golden Skans" and "Gravity's Rainbow." If the band can prove they're not a fluke, they may actually be able to stick around for a little while. At least until their second album sucks.
LCD Soundsystem - Sound of Silver
Matty G: I'm about as big a DFA fanboy as they come. I've got almost every record the label has put out and I'm of the opinion that Murphy & Goldsworthy haven't had their names attatched to a bad project yet. Not even Automato. Having established my very biased opinion, you can probably guess that I'm going to say that Sound of Silver is easily one of my favorite albums of the year so far.
Instead of just putting out another DFA-standard dance record, Murphy did something no one expected: he grew up. LCD Soundsystem's first record, as well as the early singles, were great, but they reeked of irony, self-reference and allusions to James Murphy's record collection. (Which was kind of the whole point.) But on Sound of Silver, Murphy created a record that alludes to past greats without outright acknowledging them and crafted his best work in the process. "New York, I Love You" does sound a lot like Lou Reed, but other than that the songs are almost all Murphy; from the weird post-breakup haze of "Someone Great" and the desire for old company in "All My Friends" to a sneering critique of our complacent lifestyle in "North American Scum." Murphy can still can bring the jams, too: "Get Innocuous!" and "Us v Them" are as booty-ready as anything the DFA has done. I could keep gushing about this record, but I'll just stop myself here.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Some Loud Thunder
Shilzzz: Alec Ounsworth's voice sweeps wistfully, like a mad hatter on a chain link swing in spring, halting mid-air to add emphasis, then threatening to swing all the way around the iron pole the swing is suspended from. On their second album, Some Loud Thunder, CYHSY paired with producer Dave Fridmann, of both brilliant Soft Bulletin and Yoshimi from The Flaming Lips, as well as Mercury Rev and Sleater-Kinney, among others... it is interesting because, knowing what CYHSY did on their mega-hyped self-titled album without Fridmann, and with what Fridmann had done with other groups, one is able to see where the styles clash on the canvas of Some Loud Thunder. I jumped on their bandwagon after their debut, which I liked enough, but for whatever reason was not super enamored with this release, even knowing Dave was on board (no pun intended). Thunder starts on an odd note. At first listen I thought my earbuds had blown, all the static, and not even swirling, 5.1 surround sound static like you might expect from Fridmann. Thankfully the first track is the only one like this and the album quickly steps up to mediocrity, where it stays, for the most part, throughout. It is good to hear that Fridmann produced trademark symbol use here. Standout tracks are: "Love Song No. 9" (where Ounsworth really explores his vocal range beautifully), "Yankee Go Home," and, outside of the out of place synths, "Satan Said Dance."
The Postmarks - The Postmarks
Matty G: The Postmarks are good for the same reason they might not be: they're an indie-pop band. While they sound exactly how you'd think an "indie-pop" band would sound, they put almost everyone else in the genre to shame just by the sheer perfection of their songs. Instead of trying to breathe life into a genre that's been boring for a long time, the Postmarks went in the other direction and decided to just be the absolute best pop band they can.
It's the band's attention to detail that makes their music so enjoyable. I've listened to this record five times or more and I'm still picking up on the minute touches that I didn't even realize the songs needed. I almost feel guilty after listening to the record. The songs sound like they were recorded under a staircase and were never meant for anyone to hear. The feeling I get from them is like reading someone's diary: I know I'm not supposed to, but I love every second of it.
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away
Shilzzz: Forget Garden State ever happened; Lord knows the kid from Scrubs did when he made that other movie. Forget The Shins first two albums had been released, and forget every pretense you have about how a Shins record should sound, and Wincing will steal your heart. I can do this. I never listened to James Mercer and his crew before this to be honest, and I couldn't be happier. While others complained (see: Pitchfork) about their use of drums on tracks like "Sea Legs" and "Split Needles," those two actually became a couple of my more memorable tracks here. The album is pure indie pop, but is floaty and light through an eerie juxtaposition of voice and instrumentation -- a though line to toe, yet one that Mercer and his co-horts pull off to much praise. One of my top three albums so far this year.
That's it for today. Come back tomorrow for round two.