Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Modest Mouse

Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

Like the rest of the world, I started listening to Modest Mouse when their last CD "Good News For People Who Love Bad News" started being played all the time (I seem to remember that they had a TV commercial hawking their CD at Target). I listened to some of their older stuff after that, and I've come to the conclusion that this is one of those bands where I either LOOOOOVE a song or hate it with everything in me.

Thing is, while I'm sure that there are some really good tunes on this album (along with some shitty ones) I just haven't gotten around to listening to it yet. I think it's mostly because Isaac Brock's yelpy-bark of a voice isn't something you can listen to for extended periods of time without your brain melting out of your ears. Also, sometimes you're just not in the mood to listen to something, and that applies here.

Recommended songs:

Monday, December 24, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Blackfield

Blackfield II

It's highly possible that you've never heard of these people, because it's a side project of Porcupine Tree's lead singer Steven Wilson and some Israeli guy named Aviv Geffen. He's supposed to be big over there. Anyway, before the new album came out I would have said wow, you need to listen to these guys because they're really fucking good.

And then they released "Blackfield II".

Wow, is their new CD is a total and utter pile of steaming monkey boogers. Blackfield's first CD "Blackfield" is a favorite of mine, so I was super disappointed in how totally craptacular this one was. I should have known it would be awful just from the incredibly clever and creative title of the new CD.

For this release they tried to do more storytelling with their songs and... well, not everyone has mastered the art of telling a story in song without sounding like a bunch of morons. Ryan Adams? Colin Meloy? Bruce Springsteen? Billy Joel? They can. Blackfield guys? Puking guinea pigs could have done a better job. The songs are - Flying Spaghetti Monster help us - full of rhyming lyrics that are completely forced and clunky. And nothing kills a song for me faster than lyrics that rhyme for the sake of rhyming, or angsty songs that sound like they're straight from a 14-year-old's diary. Usually such a big change in music is a result of something like a change in labels or producers or rampant sobriety, but honestly this album sucked so hard that I don't even care to look it up online.

Recommended songs:
Their other album. For the love of everything that's good and holy.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Easy Tiger

Oh, Ryan Adams, how I want to jump your crazy-ass bones and then dump you just so you'd write a song about it the next day.

So it came as a surprise to... well, no one that Ryan Adams had been doing heroin and coke and drinking heavily for a long time, and that he went through rehab or some shit and was now sober. I know this is going to sound awful, but I always cringe a little on the inside when I hear that a favorite musician of mine has decided to get married/have a baby/clean up because generally their music always changes for the worst. I don't want you to be happy, damn it! I want you to be strung out and writing songs about that one girl who broke your heart!

One of the reasons I like Ryan Adams, besides the fact he's a nutty, bratty larger-than-life genius, is that he's not afraid to wallow around in his own misery and produce some incredibly dark work, such as my favorites "The Shadowlands", "Blue Sky Blues", "Elizabeth, You Were Born To Play That Part", "La Cienega Just Smiled" or "Peaceful Valley", which has these cheerful lyrics:

All my life I've loved for forgiveness
But I can never seem to get enough
All my life I've been rocked into the darkness
With a gun to my head
Trying to find a peaceful song
Trying to find a peaceful song
To sing when everything goes wrong
Till the peaceful valley calls me home

But Ryan Adams' new album isn't full of the funeral-dirge ballads that I like the best, but it's not a bad album either. He's certainly put the 'country' back in 'alt-country' for this one, and though it's mostly good I'm just not a huge fan of the twangy stuff. But his vocals are very silky and pretty, his lyrics are always good, and the production quality of the album is fucking amazing.

The first single that was released off of this was "Two" which I think had Sheryl Crow doing background vocals. Why do people like her so much? She's an average singer and songwriter at best. Yeah, I know she just had breast cancer but my sympathy does not make her any more talented to my ears. Anyway, it's an OK song, it does smack of someone trying to garner playtime on an adult contemporary listening station though. There's much better stuff on the album, and if you dig country music I think you'd like this one a lot.

Recommended songs:
"Oh My God, Whatever, Etc."
"Off Broadway"
"Everybody Knows"

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : The Decemberists

The Decemberists
The Crane Wife

Yes, I know it came out in 2006 but The Decemberists are THE! BEST! BAND! EVER! so I'm totally going to whore them out right now. Plus I saw them two times on tour this year so that should count for something, right? Anyway, 'The Crane Wife' is an incredible album and I am particularly in love with the title track, which is actually a 3-part song that takes on a Japanese folk tale. One reason I love The Decemberists so much is that they can do shit like this or do an 18-minute homage to Irish folk hero Cuchulain or songs about pirates and whores and it doesn't sound like they're trying overly hard to be cute or smart or gain some sort of nerdy indie-cred. They do what they do because that's what they like, and even though this is their first release on a major label they haven't lost any of their Decemberists-ness, which is a feat in and of itself. LOVE THEM!!!! LOVE!!!!

Recommended songs:
"The Crane Wife 1-3"
"Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)"
"Sons and Daughters"
"The Island"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Tori Amos

Tori Amos
American Girl Posse

I should probably put a disclaimer here that Tori Amos will always be one of my favorite musicians even when she releases such huge gorilla turds as "The Beekeeper" or "Strange Little Girls". "American Girl Posse" isn't as bad as some of her previous albums but it's still lacking something that her earlier work just hummed with.

Tori Amos released her first album "Little Earthquakes" over 15 years ago, and she filled it with songs about the anger, sadness and disillusionment that came with leaving your childhood behind and entering a world your parents didn't (and couldn't) prepare you for; a place where you were no longer protected by your father's love but were victim to men's cruel hearts and your own unintentionally hurtful whims and relationships. So you just can imagine the effect an album such as this had on me when I was 19 years old and heard it for the first time. It was more than an album, it was my anthem and my religion then (and in a way, it still is). So is it fair to hold up Tori Amos' later works (or anyone else's, for that matter) to one that set an impossible standard? Of course not. To do so would be to experience suicidal disappointment in every single song you'll ever hear for the rest of your life.

But Tori Amos continued to release wonderful things after "Little Earthquakes" for several years, and she experimented and tried new things musically and continued to put this incredible emotional edge to everything she did. Her lyrics have always been odd and cryptic, but they could create a feeling that would be otherwise impossible to get if you analyzed them literally. But her last few albums have really lacked that raw anger and cynicism that made her earlier stuff so damn good. What little outrage she has now isn't directed towards her own little world but out at the world at large, and there's where it falls in to the Boring Protest Songs Category which I despise. The other songs she's done have been just way too boring and lame. Here's what I mean:

This is from her song "Silent All These Years" from "Little Earthquakes":
So you found a girl who thinks really deep thoughts-
What's so amazing about really deep thoughts?
Boy, you'd best pray that I bleed real soon
How's that thought for you?

This is from "Precious Things", also from "Little Earthquakes":
So you can make me come
That doesn't make you Jesus.

See what I mean? Coy, flip, hurt, confused and angry angry angry.

And now here's some lyrics from "Yo George" on "American Doll Posse":
I salute to you Commander
and I sneeze.
'Cause I have, now,
An allergy
To your policies, it seems.
Where have we gone wrong, America?

And this is from "Original Sinsuality" on "The Beekeeper":
Original sin?
No, I don't think so
Original sinsuality
Original sin?
No, it should be
Original sinsuality
Original sin?
No, I don't think so
Original sinsuality

... yeah.

Music critics love to throw around the word 'accessible' when describing some albums, as in 'it was their most accessible album to date'. Most of the time I think they just like saying that because they're being pretentious asshats, but with Tori Amos her albums have stopped being accessible to me. I imagine that after years and years of songwriting that exposed her most vulnerable, personal thoughts it might have gotten exhausting for her, or maybe she's done with that time in her life now and wants to sing about other things. Maybe it's because she's married and a mother now, and she's singing about a place in her life that I can't relate to because I haven't experienced it yet and maybe never will. I don't know. But when I hear her new stuff I don't get the sense that's she's singing about things that come from her deep well of personal experience anymore. It all seems like she's one step removed now, like she's singing about something she saw on TV.

But I can tell you that "American Doll Posse" is supposed to be yet another conceptual album in which she sings songs as one of five alter personalities (she did something similar in "Strange Little Girls", her all-covers album, where every song was reworked and sung as a different 'character', and "Scarlet's Walk" where she took on the persona of Scarlet) but of course it all is just vaguely different shades of Tori Amos, and I'm not sure exactly why she continues to feel the need to try on other costumes when her own personality is so much more interesting.
But I will still keep buying her albums.

Recommended songs:
"Beauty Of Speed"
... you know what? Just buy "Little Earthquakes". Seriously.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review: Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire
Neon Bible

I've got to admit, it took me a few good listens to get into their first album "Funeral" but it's become a favorite of mine. So, of course, when they released their sophomore album "Neon Bible" I wondered if, since they set the bar so high on their previous album, would I be disappointed in the new one?

The answer is... yes and no. Certainly 'Neon Bible' is a much more darker and moody album. The good news is that they're retained their old epic sound, with lots of instruments and background vocals. The bad news is... in the words of a post on : "they sure like to bitch, don't they?" Their last album was very introspective, dealing with personal loss. This album is all about complaining that the government and TV and religion suck, which puts in squarely into the Boring Protest Songs category.

Just what is the Boring Protest Songs category, darling Sea Hag? That's a good question! The Boring Protest Songs Category are those songs that speak out about any of the following: government entities, government policies, political leaders, war, societal norms, 'the man', or the media AND the people who sing these songs have not experienced first-had how awful any or all of these are. For one thing, yeah, we all know those things are evil. Seriously. But thanks for the reminder. Another thing is that all of these songs kind of sound the same after a while, kind of like Christian rock or Christmas music. When you limit yourself to sing about one topic there's only so much you can say about it before it becomes repetitive and dull. And then, I'm pretty sure that most of your experience in any of these things you're singing about come from you watching 'The Daily Show', so it's missing any sort of emotional connection because you haven't been personally affected by it. (Or is it effective? I'm sure Noochie will enlighten me on this.)

This isn't a bad album, but I didn't like it all that much, mainly because I hate Boring Protest Songs. They're just not my thing. But maybe you'd like it. I won't try to judge you too harshly.

Recommended songs:
"No Cars Go"
Keep the Car Running"

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sea Hag's Ultra Fabulous 2007 Music Review : Mobius Band

This was one of those years where all the were planets were aligned in such a way that it caused pretty much all of my favorite musicians to release an album, so it was a pretty busy year for Sea Hag's iPod. This year included several sophomore efforts, new bands, and stuff from old favorites. Was any of it good? Did any of it suck? Can Sea Hag actually not sound like a pretentious music critic?

Mobius Band

I wanted to love this album. God, how I wanted to love it like its predecessors 'The Loving Sounds of Static' and the practically flawless 'City Vs. Country' EP. But for some reason someone shitcanned all the guitars in favor of complete synthy boop-boops and brought lead singer Ben Sterling's voice to the forefront instead of letting it melt in with all the other instruments. The result is kinda... blah. There also seems to be more of an emphasis on the lyrics on this album, which really isn't their strong suit. Their last album and EP were great because they had this wonderful shoegazer vibe going on, with lush instruments and pushed-back vocals. The lyrics were abstract and dreamy and they really complimented the sound they created. But this new album, not so much.

Recommended songs: