Just a quick update here before my Feeling review goes up this evening (probably) – this is now a bilingual review blog! All reviews will now be posted in English and French, either at the same time or with one swiftly following the other. So yeah. French!
Voila une mise a jour tout petite avant ma critique de The Feeling ce soir (probablement) – ce blog de critiques est maintenant bilingue! Tous les critiques seront écrites en anglais et en francais, soit au meme temps, soit l’un apres l’autre. Donc…Francais! (Désolé du manque d’accents sur cette mise a jour – c’est le dernier temps que je l’écris en WordPress soi-meme)
So here’s /another/ new approach to me choosing albums – from now on, I’m going to post five random albums here and on Facebook and Twitter every Monday, so you guys can vote on which one you want to see reviewed (I may do more than one if I have time, so this will be on their ranking as well)
So this week:
Twelve Stops and Home – The Feeling
Ocean Drive – The Lighthouse Family
The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager – Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly.
Elephant – The White Stripes
Little Creatures – Talking Heads
(oh, and there’s got to be a way to embed proper polls in WordPress – any hints?)
My standard apologies for not keeping this updated aside, here’s a new review. The album is Ben Folds Five, by Ben Folds Five (a misnomer, as there are only three of them, and, disappointingly, only one of them is Ben Folds), and frankly, it’s a good album to get back to writing with, because if there’s one thing these twelve tracks of rollicking piano rock have in spades, it’s energy. The album plays like the soundtrack to a particularly hip cocktail bar, with the swing and jazz sounds of the twenties married to modern rock sensibilities and a sharp eye for satire of today’s culture. Most of the songs are making some kind of satirical point, from Underground’s mocking indictment of subcultures to Uncle Walter’s scathing portrayal of older generations in the form of the eponymous armchair traveller. However, tracks like Best Imitation of Myself temper this taste for mockery with just enough self-deprecation that it all comes across as more of a good-natured ribbing, complete with jokes at their own expense, than simply criticism for its own sake. This doesn’t mean the album is entirely on one note though – the elegant melancholy of Alice Childress provides a break in the tempo midway through, and the crashing piano of The Last Polka brings the album to a roaring, high-energy climax, with the slow, reflective Boxing providing either the end credits or a pensive cigarette, depending on how you read ‘climax’ in that last phrase (for the record, I’m torn between them). The whole album is driven by Folds’ skilful piano work, which again tempers his jazz stylings and effortless improvisation with enough of a knowing wink that the album doesn’t seem to take itself too seriously – a trap it could easily have fallen into. However, this doesn’t always work – one of the album’s shortcomings (and i may be about to lose some friends) is when songs like Julianne or Sports & Wine aim to parody generic modern alt-rock, and instead fall right into that field themselves, without enough of a difference to elevate them above the things they’re supposed to be mocking.
Right, that’s one actually done for once – hopefully the next one will be within the week. I’ll be posting a choice of albums for the public vote here and on my Facebook/twitter, so watch this space!
Sans rien dire de mes excuses habituelles de ne pas avoir tenu mon blog mis à jour, voici une critique neuve. L’album en discussion est Ben Folds Five, du groupe Ben Folds Five (appellation impropre, car il n’yen a que trois, et, malheureusement, il n’y a qu’un Ben Folds (ce jeu de mots va mieux en anglais :P)) et franchement, c’est une bonne choix d’album pour recommencer à écrire, car, si ces douze chansons de rock piano exubérant n’ont que d’une chose à revendre, cette chose, c’est l’énergie. L’album a l’air du bande son d’un cocktail vraiment tendance, avec les sons du jazz et du swing conjointement avec l’atmosphère du musique rock modern et le sens de la satire sur la culture de nos jours. La plupart des chansons cherchent de transmettre un message satirique, de la condamnation moqueuse des sous-cultures dans Underground jusqu’au portrait cinglant de l’ancienne génération dans Uncle Walter, sous la forme du voyageur de salon du même nom. Cependant, des chansons comme Best Imitation of Myself mêlent ce goût de moquerie avec assez d’autodénigrement pour que ce ressemble plus à du taquinerie aimable, avec même des blagues à son propre dépens, qu’à de la critique pour le plaisir. Ceci ne veut pas dire qu’il n’y a qu’une seule ambiance sur l’album – la mélancolie élégante d’Alice Childress nous fournit une pause au milieu de l’album, et le piano tonitruant de The Last Polka donne à l’album de l’énergie pour son moment crucial, après quoi la musique lente et pensive de Boxing représente soit la générique à la fin, soit une cigarette tranquille, selon comment le moment à été crucial pour vous (pour mémoire, je suis partagée entre les deux). Le piano adroit de Folds actionne tout l’album, et, comme dit, tempère son don pour le jazz et son improvisation aisée d’assez d’un clin d’œil complice pour que l’album ne se prenne trop au sérieux – un piège dans lequel il a failli tomber. Cependant, ceci ne marche pas toujours – un des défauts de l’album (et peut-être ceci va me coûter des amis) est la propension des chansons comme Julianne ou Sports & Wine d’essayer de parodier le rock alternatif générique de nos jours, mais de se trouver elles-mêmes dans le même genre, sans assez de différence pour se différentier des choses qu’elles sont censées de moquer.
Bien, voilà une critique fini pour une fois – j’espère que la prochaine sera ici dans la semaine à venir. Je mettrai un choix d’albums pour le public ici, et aussi sur mon Facebook/Twitter, donc, gardez un œil !
So yeah, my first album of this new era of actually doing stuff is, thanks to popular (or at least repeated) request, Muse’s The Resistance.
Imagine there is a crazy old man living on your street. He constantly tells you to protect yourself from the encroaching psychic fingers of the thought police, and has decided his dog is god-king of the universe. However, in response to this, he has crafted himself a full suit of tinfoil plate armour using recycled aviation plates and hand-carved a ten-foot statue of his dog out of marble. The Resistance is that crazy guy. Sure, he might be paranoid and ranty, but you can’t help but be impressed and respect what he’s done with it.
Stupid analogies aside, when was the last time a major rock band put out an album containing a national anthem for a future civilisation, a swing number with a clarinet break, several classical piano interludes, and an original twelve-minute orchestral symphony? This album just has a bit of everything, and is all the better for it. If they had spent the entire album on one particular style, it would have just ended up being either generic or pretentious, but instead Muse have near-seamlessly meshed them into a single outstanding album. From the crowd-pumping rhythm of Uprising and the Queen-like (I know the comparison’s been made before, but it bears repeating) anthem of United States of Eurasia to the almost self-parodying swing of I Belong To You and the sheer orchestral beauty of Exogenesis: Symphony, no track on this album is entirely the same, and it just keeps surprising you to the end. Sure, the album sags a little in the middle – Guiding Light is just a lazily standard Muse number that wouldn’t have been out of place at all on their previous album, and Unnatural Selection really doesn’t need to be nearly seven minutes long – but they pull it back with the amazing guitar opening to MK Ultra, bringing us inspirationally into the closing songs of the album. Touches like the incongruous jazz clarinet in I Belong To You and the shrill, almost camp chanting of “Eura-SIA!” remind us that, even if Matt Bellamy is serious about his crazy apocalyptic paranoia, the album certainly isn’t, and bring a level of fun into what could otherwise have been a turgid, overstuffed monument to his own ideas.
And just as a footnote, I would happily pay Bellamy money never to try and sing in French ever again. While the aria in the middle of I Belong To You is a nice idea, it would be far more effective if sung by someone who could actually pronounce the language properly. *shudder*
Anyway, that’s all for this update, and the next review will be…a surprise, because I feel like not giving you previews and committing myself to stuff early any more. 366 to go.
About that bit where I was starting reviews again.
Yeah, that didn’t happen. But it will! Honest!
Basically, an offer of a possible spot reviewing music for Cherwell has galvanised me into getting back into this business we call show (or possibly the internet), so I have updated the list with 74 new albums, and will hopefuilly be doing fairly regular reviews again. But I said hopefully – don’t hold me to it, I’ve got a twelve-essay term going here
Thus, 367 albums to go, and the first hopefully to be done tonight.
Those of you who regularly look at this site will probably have noticed that it hasn’t done anything for months. You’ve also probably noticed that you don’t exist. To all those of you who grudgingly look at this site when I post a link to it on Facebook…hi. The blog’s been kind of dead for a while, but now it’s being relaunched in a dramatic fashion (penthouse gala and limited-edition champagne pending). The full list of albums that I have yet to do is now up on the List page, and I am taking requests, cos the random thing was getting a bit dull. First review of the awesome new era will be going up tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon/evening, and it’ll be the first request I get, or a random one if I haven’t got any requests by noon.
Just to apologise to start with, I haven’t slept in over thirty hours, so if anything in this review makes no sense at all, it’ll probably get swiftly edited out tomorrow. Anyway, on to the album, and my patent album generatron has produced the perfect album to listen to while sleep-deprived, Goldfrapp’s Supernature.
Immediately obvious when this album kicks off is just how much of a departure it is from the band’s usual fare. While their previous albums relied more on ethereal ambient music, this one kicks off right in your face with the thumping backbeat of Ooh La La, about as un-ethereal a dance track as you’re ever likely to get, and it is pulled off beautifully. The remainder of the first half of the album gives us a slow, luxurious comedown into the languid ambience of Let It Take You and Fly Me Away, two of the album’s best tracks, as each song strips away some of the pushy party atmosphere of the opening track until all that’s left is some beautifully managed synthesisers and background strings, combined with Alison Goldfrapp’s beautiful vocals, used equally well in the dance party of Lovely 2 C U as in the almost lullaby-like Fly Me Away.
The album dips a bit after this, with Slide In and Koko being more or less filler that seem to be almost trying too hard to be ‘wacky’, ‘different’ Goldfrapp songs. Satin Chic is a wonderful return to form, though, comprising mostly just a vocal track and a punchy backbeat, producing a great, minimalist, almost 2Tone-meets-electronica kind of sound. Time Out For The World plunges us back into the syrupy torpor of Let It Take You (I nearly fell asleep at least twice during it), and while it does it well, with a pervasive yet not immediately obvious string section backing up the soporific synth line, it seems strangely out of place, and would probably have fitted better nearer the middle of the album.
The album then finishes on Number 1, another particular high point, with its clean synthesisers and relatively unenhanced vocal providing a refreshing contrast to the high studio orchestration of much of the rest of the album. All in all, a great album, especially when you want something ambient to listen to when you’re so tired you can barely see straight, but I did get tired of nearly all the songs abruptly cutting off in the middle of a riff rather than coming to any kind of real ending. A minor complaint, but it gets old.
Anyway, up next it’s Altan’s Harvest Storm. Should be interesting to see how I review an album of Celtic instrumentals I grew up with. Stick around to find out.