slightly out of character: music reviews

I have gotten into the habit of taking energy pills when I really need to finish a paper — as if my upper/downer drug pattern weren’t bad enough! — and I can only blame that for tonight’s urge to make a post every time the bell strikes another hour. Here, on a whim, are a few three-sentence reviews of recent albums I have bought.

Armchair Apocrypha – Andrew Bird
Favourite songs: “Cataracts,” “Spare-Ohs”
I enjoy this album, but it’s almost too polished. I haven’t listened to it a lot, but it seems very even in quality — lots of pretty, overall nice and good, but with few standout songs. I love “Cataracts,” but it doesn’t come anywhere near the fabulousness of “Fake Palindromes.”

Neon Bible – Arcade Fire
Favourite songs: “Keep the Car Running,” “No Cars Go” (cheating — that’s actually an old song)
I was so disappointed by this album that I actually cried. Like everyone else in the world, I loved Funeral deeply, but unlike everyone else, I find none of the same magic in Arcade Fire’s second attempt. Where is the dreaminess, where are the slinky violins, where are the heartachingly beautiful moments, where is the charm?

Gling-glo – Bjork
Favourite songs: dunno — I listen to it on my ipod and never remember to look at songnames
I’ve been filling out my Bjork collection in preparation of the new album. I really like this one — I think it’s from when she was actually with the Sugarcubes. Jazzy icelandic — cute!

You Are Free – Cat Power
Favourite songs: “I Don’t Blame You,” “He-War”
I listen to this album all of the time when I am smoking in the stairwell feeling moody and depressed. I learned how to play “I Don’t Blame You” on the piano last week. This might be my favourite of Chan Marshall’s work (though The Greatest is also v good).

The Adventures of Ghosthorse & Stillborn – CocoRosie
Favourite song: “Werewolf”
I have not listened to this album much beyond “Werewolf,” but I like it, I think. They’re getting less pretentious as they go along. I am pleased with the many operatic trills.

Mr. Beast – Mogwai
Favourite songs: “Auto Rock,” “Friend of the Night”
This is my new favourite car CD ever. It’s the type of thing that can only be listened to very very loudly — top volume, so you can feel every chord build-up in your bones, so your heartbeat regulates itself to match the bass. It’s a little dangerous to listen to while driving, though: it’s easy to get lost in the music and forget about trivial things like stoplights and pedestrians.

Abattoir Blues – Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
Favourite songs: “Nature Boy,” “Let the Bells Ring”
I went on a buying spree at a used record store, obviously, buying lots of albums by artists that I already liked to fill the paucity of new artists in my life. I don’t like this one nearly as much as some of his others (I am fond of The Boatman’s Call and whichever album “The Weeping Song” is on), but it is certainly not bad. Mostly I just think Nick Cave is dead sexy in an odd way, which predetermines me to like anything he does.

Heart of Saturday Night – Tom Waits
Favourite song: “Fumblin’ With the Blues” (I could listen to this song endlessly)
Filling out my collection — I’ve had a big crush on Mr. Waits lately; he’s another stairwell companion. I adore his smoky barroom voice, and love the jazzybluesy piano-and-whiskey feel of these songs. My favourites are the ones with the sleazy horns — which is, like, all of them.

Some songs not mentioned above that I’ve been listening to more or less obsessively:
“The Boho Dance,” Bjork
This is a Joni Mitchell cover, and Bjork does it very well. Of course her voice is very NOT Joni, but it works wonderfully with this song. There’s a moment in the middle that delights me because she sings with such absolutely convincing heart.

“Summertime,” Janis Joplin
I must listen to this song at least once every day just to feel okay in my head. It’s been this way for months. Favourite part: when she holds the N in “honey nothing’s going to harm you now.”

“No Children,” The Mountain Goats
Overall I find The Mountain Goats’ to be kind of repetitive with their jangly folk shtick, but there are a few of their songs that I just love to pieces. This one is the most brutally horribly painful relationship-ending song I’ve ever heard. It’s almost hateful in its honesty, and I love it for that. I am fully convinced by the “I hope you die / I hope we both die” sentiment of the song. Favourite part: “Our friends say it’s darkest before the sun rises / we’re pretty sure they’re all wrong.”

“Ne Me Quitte Pas,” Nina Simone
I like to sit in my car at three in the morning, smoking and blaring this song at top volume. I love Nina Simone’s voice anytime, and it’s perfect here. Sometimes this song makes me cry, though, so I also kind of hate it.

“The Mistress Witch from McClure (Or, The Mind That Knows Itself),” Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan was my imaginary boyfriend this summer! I would go on long bikerides, listening to a few of his songs on repeat and having imaginary conversations with him in my head. I’d inevitably end up at a playground, where I would swing until my legs hurt while I imagined that he was with me, and that, when we got tired of swings, we would go buy ice cream sandwiches and lay in the grass watching birds and talking about poetry. I don’t actually like the larger body of his work, but I love some of the songs fiercely enough to make up for it. It took me a while to warm up to this song, but now I love it mostly because it has a story and I don’t know what it is! Dear cryptic Sufjan! Why are we not dating? I think I would be very good for his music. I would write love sonnets to him and he would write songs about me and I would amuse him by knowing the names of flowers and bones and he would convince me to believe in God! It would be so perfect!

“Losing my Religion,” Tori Amos
Tori was my imaginary best friend when I was fifteen, and because I have been feeling much the way I did then, I have been listening to her a lot. I love this cover: her voice is heartbreakingly beautiful.

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~ by Not Alice on April 23, 2007.

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