|Kelis, Food, on Ninja Tunes|
Thee Oh Sees, Drop, on Castle FaceAs with last week’s single, Paris, I’m scratching my head about the production on this track. There’s too damn much going on. But why? Singer Yakiimi Nagano’s voice is the greatest, it should not be competing for attention with a bunch of noodly synth noise. While this song is an improvement on Paris, it still pales in comparison to Little Dragon’s other work. I’m not excited for the full album to drop, sad to say.
Garage psych with faint hints of goth and shoe gaze, this crisply and cleanly produced album is still delightfully scummy on the inside. I had to mute the record for a second to determine if the high-pitched chirping among the sporadic guitar squelches was a bird outside my window or part of the music. Savage Victory sports some lovely, dreamy vocals and hypnotic synth motions, and the Morphine-esque baritone sax on Put Some Reverb on My Brother was a welcome surprise. The last track, The Lens, would be the perfect epilogue if the second-to-last track, Transparent World, was a full eight to twelve minutes; but at a brief three-and-a-half minutes, the full psych freakout stops many minutes short of satisfaction. That said, I’d much rather complain a song is too short than too long.
San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees have been around forever and I swear I’ve seen them before, but when I read reviews declaring Drop a departure from their earlier work, I couldn’t for the life of me remember their sound. I took a listen over earlier albums, and yeah, it’s different, but not radically. It’s natural band progress, and while Drop could, like earlier albums, be more lo-fi - could have been lower-fi? - I like this direction a lot; it’s the right move.
Eels, The Cautionary Tales of Mark Oliver Everett, on PIAS America
Insufferably tedious emotive white guy music. If you truly must listen to emotive white guy music, Beck’s Morning Phase is still fresh and new and awesome, go listen to that.
Kelis, Food, on Ninja Tune
I think I understand what TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, who produced this album, is going for here. I think it’s an attempt at a retro-motown Phil Spector Wall of Sound. I’m pretty sure that’s the goal. I love the Wall of Sound, but this album, for the most part, doesn’t hit it. Instead of a glorious wash of horns, strings, and voices, it comes off as a busy and uneven mess.
Well, ok, mess is too harsh a word; this record is good, especially the mellower second half, but would have been so much better with less. And the songs with less - Hooch, for example, and the superlative last track, Dreamers - are the successful stand-outs by a long shot. Kelis’ voice sounds great - adult, experienced, expressive - especially when it’s not fighting for attention with the instrumental arrangement. And it was a clever turn naming many of the songs after food - both as a nod to Kelis' status as a trained chef and a wink at her breakthrough hit, Milkshake. So yeah, an overstated and uneven but good record all around.
Bruce Springsteen, American Beauty, on Columbia
A four-song EP of Bruce’s home recordings, which of course nowadays means fully arranged and produced. I listened to this immediately after Kelis, and what a contrast - stylistically, sure, but more so because the first track nails the Wall of Sound in perfect Springsteenian manner. Here is a man who knows his way around both the epic anthem and the close, plaintive lament, and this nice little collection features a couple of each. I admit, I didn’t understand Springsteen for a long time, but now that I do, my life is the better for it. Dude’s a poet.
Mastodon, High Road, on Reprise
I palate-cleansed from the Eels with this. It starts off as the sludgy stoner metal one expects from Mastodon (no, this ain’t my first rodeo with this band), but then the chorus is a sudden, random 80s hair metal flashback. It’s charming the first time, jarring the second, then obnoxious from there out. Too bad, because the rest of the tune is droopy-head-down-head-bang great.
Little Dragon, Let Go, on Seven Four Entertainment/Republic
Overall Assessment: we got some good tracks today. Nothing blew my mind, but Thee Oh Sees will surly get another listen, and I feel inspired to revisit some earlier Kelis, Mastodon, and Springsteen.