Archive for January, 2008
In a music scene filled to the brim with singer/songwriters who experiment with new sounds, Andrew Bird stands out for his straightforward style. Some critics placed Bird’s 2007 release Armchair Apocrypha on their top ten lists, a good reason to give it a listen.
Armchair Apocrypha begins with “Fiery Crash,” an up-tempo number with energetic, slightly-distorted guitars, and Bird’s subtle voice. “Imitosis” follows, but shifts into a European mix of strings and classical instruments, surrounded by slow Latin beats. Andrew Bird refuses to be categorized as he pushes into the deep middle part of the album. “Heretics” through “Armchairs” sound like a conglomeration of The Shins, Coldplay, and Wilco, but Bird still adds a component that is entirely original.
Radiohead-esque rhythms and falsetto vocals appear on “Simple X.” The last part of the record is heralded by “The Supine,” a baroque mix of violin plucking, cellos, and acoustic guitar. “Cataracts” follows and maintains an incredibly stripped down sound. The album ends on an instrumental note with “Yawny At The Apocalypse,” a mix of recordings of wild birds, along with a constant background of cello, ending on a natural tone.
As far as lyrical content is concerned, Bird focuses on traditional folk concepts. Many of the songs sound like conversations tempered with poetry. There are no overly catchy choruses on this CD, however this can be seen as a plus. This is not the type of music you would expect to hear on a top 40 pop radio station. Taken all together, the disc has a timeless quality, heard through Bird’s lyrics and choice of instrumentation. This album is a refreshing listen for fans of more traditional modern folk-indie because Bird remains true to using natural sounds while avoiding too much experimentation.
2007 was a fantastic year for music, but unfortunately the first part of January is not a popular time for musicians to release new material. This week some digging was done to find an album suitable for review and a disc from 2006 made the cut.
Atlanta may be a city known for its hip-hop scene, but amidst the grills and spinners resides a rock band that has been gaining momentum. Manchester Orchestra came from mere obscurity and landed an opening position on a spring tour in 2007 with punk-emo heavyweights Brand New. Since then, Manchester Orchestra has ceaselessly continued touring and promoting their album, I’m Like A Virgin Losing A Child.
The album itself has been described, by the band, as the story of one man’s life. Old photos grace the cover and liner notes of the disc, following the man until his wedding night (featured on the cover). Though the story is rather vague, reflecting back on relationships and the idea of “home” are hot topics for lyrical content.
Although they are not actually an orchestra, Manchester Orchestra starts the album off with a multi-layered mix of instruments on “Wolves At Night.” The song’s high energy continues into “Now That You’re Home” until “The Neighborhood Is Bleeding,” where the album begins to take on a sort of nostalgic melancholy sound. Lead man Andy Hull grapples with issues of faith, death, and commitment through the middle part of the album. The haunting “Sleeper 1972″ maintains a simple style mixed with powerfully emotional lyrics. The protagonist of Virgin arrives at the climax with the realization that he can never return to his old lifestyle on “Golden Ticket.” The album picks up from there as Hull’s lyrics become more thoughtful and less emotional, ending with “Colly Strings,” the denouement of the story and a loud instrumental anthem.
Manchester Orchestra may have received a boost in fame from opening for the likes of Brand New, Kings of Leon, and mewithoutYou, but their album is the primary reason they’ve gained the attention they deserve. Musically it is a treat to hear musicians doing what they enjoy, while lyrically, the words sung are timeless. A person could easily listen to this album 10 or even 20 years from now and still find some sort of meaning.
1. Feist – The Reminder: Leslie Feist’s laid back vocals and dance-beat driven folk style gained notoriety in ’07 through several outlets. A mixture of classic sounds and catchy melodies boosted Feist’s album to the top of the list. Her unique style set her apart during an excellent year for music. Listen to “So Sorry” and “My Moon My Man.”
2. Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight: Two words: Jenny Lewis. The album is a great mix of dance and harmony. The rest of the band deserves equally as much praise for their effort to redesign their sound. Highlights of this album are “Under The Blacklight” and “Dreamworld.”
3. The National – Boxer: Deep, smooth, and haunting, Boxer beckons back to simple instrumentation and thought provoking lyrics, aspects of music that are often overlooked today. The album has a distinctly dark tone, tempered with sometimes cheery guitar parts. Suggested tracks: “Fake Empire” and “Ada.”
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows: Even though Radiohead’s seventh album is distinctly modern, it depends heavily on songs written during the last 10 years. This record was innovative in both delivery method and sound. “15 Step” and “Nude” are the most enjoyable tracks.
5. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga: 2007 saw a number of concept albums, and Cassadaga was one of the best. Conor Oberst’s melancholy lyrics work well with the classic folk-country sounds heard on the album. “Make A Plan To Love Me” and “Coat Check Dream Song” stretch the boundaries of the genre.
6. Against Me! – New Wave: By far the best punk album heard in recent years. A combination of politically charged lyrics and guitar driven anthems earned Against Me! a place in the top ten. Tracks “Stop” and “Thrash Unreal” should energize any situation.
7. Once Soundtrack: Simply put, independent films this past year had excellent soundtracks. “Falling Slowly” and “When Your Mind’s Made Up” are simply beautiful.
8. Band of Horses – Cease To Begin: Catchy lyrics, ambient guitar sounds and just the right amount of reverb make this album an interesting listen. The opening two tracks “Is There A Ghost?” and “Ode To LRC” are an excellent introduction to the disc.
9. Minus The Bear – Planet of Ice: Seattle is no longer a grunge town, the experimental scene has taken over and this disc shows why. The classic Minus The Bear sound can be heard on “Knights” and Dr. L’ling.”
10. Thrice – The Alchemy Index Vol. I & II: An interesting experiment in hardcore music: explore the original four elements through song. Volumes I & II cover fire and water incredibly well. “The Arsonist” and “Digital Sea” offer a unique comparison.
TOP 25 Albums
1. Feist – The Reminder
2. Rilo Kiley – Under The Blacklight
3. The National – Boxer
4. Radiohead – In Rainbows
5. Bright Eyes – Cassadaga
6. Against Me! – New Wave
7. Once Soundtrack
8. Band Of Horses – Cease To Begin
9. Minus The Bear – Planet of Ice
10. Thrice – The Alchemy Index Vol. I & II
11. The Shins – Wincing The Night Away
12. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
13. The Snake The Cross The Crown – Cotton Teeth
14. Circa Survive – On Letting Go
15. The Frames – The Cost
16. Motion City Soundtrack – Even If It Kills Me
17. Kanye West – Graduation
18. Interpol – Our Love To Admire
19. I’m Not There Soundtrack
20. Anberlin – Cities
21. Eisley – Combinations
22. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank
23. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
24. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
25. John Ralston – Sorry Vampire