AC June: Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

On virtually every music blog (including, now, this one), Grizzly Bear’s new album is mentioned in conjunction to Animal Colective’s Merriwhether Post Pavilion.  But the two albums are nothing alike.  The reason, then, that these albums are mentioned together is that there has arisen a feud between different factions within indie-rock community; the defining difference separating these two factions being their preference of Grizzly Bear over Animal Collective or vice versa.  You see, both these records were anticipated to an almost ridiculous degree and have enjoyed remarkable critical acclaim, which means thatat this point it appears like virtually all upcoming “best of 2009” lists will boil down to a two-way contest between these two amazing albums.  Accordingly,  the comment sections of many music blogs are filled with fans penning inspiring comparisons, such as “Grizzly Bear > MPP”  or “AC >> GB”.  In fact, although these albums are about as different as you can get within the sphere of indie rock, disputes over the comparative qualities of them has inundated the Internet’s indie music forums to an almost unbearable degree, and has even made its way into the Miller household (Theresa prefers Grizzly Bear, and I – at least at this point – am an Animal Collective man).

But lets let the music do the talking.  We have already featured Merriwheather Post Pavilion.  Now, lets listen to Veckatimest and decide which each of us prefers.

PS – it has come to my attention that our LaLa account doesn’t work in Canada.  Therefore, until I can find a new way to allow you to listen to this album for free, you could listen to the songs the band has posted on MySpace, or on their website.  Sorry for the inconvenience.  

Download the track, Cheerleader.

Dark Days / Light Years: Analysis

Dark Days/Light Years is a very interesting album for me, in that I sincerely like the music, yet don’t ever really feel inclined to listen too it.  I guess that is what they made iPod playlists for.

First of all.  In his introductory post for DD/LY, Peter talked a little about how it was the cover art that first attracted him to this album; he said something along the lines of “you can judge a book by its cover.”  Well, I think this record makes a strong argument that you really can.  So, if you have net had the pleasure of listening to Super Furry Animals, just look at the album cover and image what the audio representation of that art would be.  That image conveys the essence of DD/LY much better than I ever could ever. 

That being said, lets get into the music.  To me, it seems like DD/LY is and album out of its time.  When most contemporary indie rock is attempting to be hip, innovative and meaningful, SFA puts out a bouncy, psychedelic romp of an album full of catchy, playful songs that seem to me completely devoid of any deeper significance.  But that is what makes SFA so fun: they certainly seem like a band who is just out to enjoy themselves and craft bouncy, uplifting and enjoyable pop-rock.  Their ethos seems to conform more with the 1960 than the 2000s, which is probably why this quality album has been all-but ignored (I mean, even my own opening sentence admitted that I haven’t given it the attention it deserves).

Another thing that makes SFA so fun is their lyrics.  Most of their songs are completely ridiculous.  One song is about crazy naked girls, another sings about wearing white socks with flip flops, and that hilarious German voice-over in Inaugural Trams – Hilarious.  To me, SFA is one small step away from being a comedic band (a la Flight of the Conchords).  The only thing saving them is the musicianship – most comedic performers don’t own a style as well as SFA or write and play such great music.

So bottem line: DD/LY is a fun album.  The melodies are well crafted and catchy and the lyrics are funny, which makes for a delightful listen.  SFA has made an entertaining album that is not trying to be anything other than that.  So, if you are in the mood for some lighthearted music, DD/LY is for you.  Unfortunately, I think I may be more serious that I would like to be, since, as I mentioned, I have not gravitated much to Dark Days/Light Years.

Dark Mean

It seems as though my music genre of choice this years is folk.  I recently bough Devendra Banhart‘s breakout album, Rejoining in the Hands, I’m loving Bon Iver, and I’m really looking forward to Rock Plaza Central‘s new album.

And just recently I’ve come across a great new band: Dark Mean.  They may not be folk per se, but they are certainly folky, with a banjo featured prominently.  But their music also includes a hint of techno-beeps.  You should check them out – especially because they are giving away their 4-song EP for free on their website.

Dear Science: Analysis

For the first two months of the Album Club, I have absolutely loved the featured albums.  And when I read on Peter’s blog that although he liked the albums, he didn’t love them, I was always a little disappointed.  I wonder if Peter will feel the same way when he reads this review.

So yeah, in case my last paragraph was not clear enough, I liked TV on the Radio’s Dear Science, but I didn’t love it.  The interesting thing about this, though, is that I have had a devil of a time trying to figure out what exactly it is that I don’t love about Dear Science.  I mean, on paper, it seems like the kind of album that I would love: its intelligent, its songs are all good, it uses a wide range of instruments, one of the lead singers sounds exactly like David Bowie, and it has received rave reviews.  Sure, I know that I really shouldn’t be swayed by reviews, but lets face it: I read music reviews and they do affect my perception of the albums they discuss.  But I guess not entirely, since I am not as much in love with Dear Science as so many music critics seem to be.

But getting back to the album: I actually really like pretty much every song on the disc, but every time I tried to listen to the entire album in succession, I tend to get board half-way through, and start to wish it was still March so that I could listen to Bruce Peninsula instead.  But yeah, I can’t really figure out what is turning me off.  Um, maybe the horns (although I like other bands with horns).  Maybe its a little to jazzy for me.  Maybe its too slick and over-produced.

All this is not to say I didn’t like the album – I did, but I just didn’t love it.  In conclusion, Dear Science is a great addition to my iPod playlist, but its not enough to hold my attention for its entire length.  My favourite songs of the collection (besides Golden Age, which is a given) are Dancing Choose and Red Dress: I love the way TOTR tackle serious social and political issues through songs about dancing (and, of course, I like dancing to them). 

Sorry for the somewhat shorter album club  post, but I’m in the middle of studying for final exams – my last ever! – and I don’t have too much free time.

AC April: TV on the Radio – Dear Science

[The following was taken from our Album Club’s sister blog, P is for Peter]

TV on the Radio’s website bio begins with a quotation from band member David Sitek, “A lot of bands have something to say, we have something to ask.” Well, I have something to ask, too! How did TVOTR’s album Dear Science become the 2nd best album of 2008 according to The Hype Machine, the third best reviewed album of 2008 on Metacritic.com, the 6th best album of 2008 according to Pitchfork and much more [including being named the #1 best album of 2008 by Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, EW, The LA Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, The A.V. Club, and the Stereogum Reader’s Poll]? Well, this month we’re going to answer that question. We’re going to find out how TVOTR has topped so many lists and received such rave reviews. My own interest has been piqued by the few tracks I’ve heard on the radio and the brief research I’ve done on the band. It promises to be a rewarding experience. So album clubbers, let’s get excited for this month’s album, Dear Science! And perhaps, as we listen to TVOTR’s latest, we’ll be able to figure out what they’re asking us, too.

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And for those of you for whom buying the album is a less than ideal option, my album club partner, Randal, has found a solution [It was actually Theresa’s Idea]. As a club, we are all going to share a membership at LaLa.com where club members will be able to stream all the album club music for free! Once you’ve decided to participate, email albumclub@yahoo.com, or otherwise get in touch with Randal or me to get the login information for LaLa.com. Once you’ve logged in, go to the “All songs” link under “My Collection” and there you will find the album club music, past and present!

We would ask that all those who choose to use LaLa please do not abuse the account! LaLa.com allows users to browse music and download music and other stuff. For the purposes of the club we won’t need any of that stuff, so DON’T do it. Randal and I will have the album club music ready for you in the “My Collection” section. Anyone who abuses their account privileges will be denied access to the account in the future. Please also note that LaLa.com will mainly be used for music that cannot be streamed elsewhere without an account of some sort. For example, this month’s album Dear Science can be streamed in its entirety on the Hype Machine’s website (just scroll down to the number two album).

Watch the video for “Golden Age” here (embedding has been disabled).

Album Club is Now Streaming for Free

I hope that many of you are considering participating in  our growing album club.  One reason why you may not, though, is that you may not have or wish to spend the money to buy an album a month.  Well, I have now taken this excuse away from you.  Theresa came up with a great idea to provide a free streaming copy of every album club album to our members.  I will debut this program with our April pick, but in the meantime, you can listen to our current album, Bruce Peninsula’s A Mountain is a Mouth, for free over at CBC Radio Three.

Thanks to Brittney for pointing out this option – and for reminding me of how awesome is CBC Radio 3.  For you Americans, think of it as NPR, but focused entirely on Canadian Independent Music of all types.

Flora and Fauna

The stars and planets must have all aligned last night, casting a spell on Charlottesville that made everyone here think that good music is bad and horrible music is good.  You see, Theresa and I spent the evening at our town’s newest music venue, is venue, for the eagerly-awaited (by me anyways) Plants and Animals concert.  But it was one of the wierdest concert experiences I have yet had.

P&A had two opening acts.  The first, These United States, who put on a nice laid back acustic folk set.  The band played great, and it was everything you would want for a warm-up act.  The crowd, however, was sparce and disinterested.

The next band on the bill was called “Straight Punch to the Crotch,” which is not only the band’s name, but also a description of what I would choose over listening to them.  As you might expect from a band with such a stupid moniker, they we horrible.  Ridiculously horrible.  One of the worst opening acts I have ever seen.  But the crowd – they LOVED it.  For one, the audience grew substantially, and for another, a large number (I’m thinking between 10 and 20) girls got up and started dancing in front of the stage.  And I mean real dancing – eyes closed, arms and legs awkwardly flailing.  It was really quite entertaining for us, watching from a carefully selected chesterfield, but also very baffling.  I mean – the band was really, really bad, but they were a hit.

The expectation to see the headlining bad kept me from  leaving.  And when Plants and Animals came on, I wasn’t disappointed.  The Montreal trio played with force and skill.  I thought their set was amazing.  But did everyone else agree?  NO!  People left!  They LEFT!  After grooving to a ridiculously awful band, they walked out on a ridiculously awesome band.  The crowd was so thin by the time P&A’s set ended, we couldn’t even coax them out for an encore.  I’ve never seen that before, but I really don’t blame P&A, since there were so few of us left.  It must have been insulting, having a smaller crowd that *ahem* Straight Punch to the Crotch (I can’t even type that name without cringing).

Despite these bizarre happenings, I really enjoyed myself.  Plants and Animals lived up to their live reputation.  Check out this great video.  Of course, it is not of last nights show, but I’d rather post a high quality vid of a dissimilar performance than a bad clip of the concert taken on someone’s cell phone.  In order to understand the concert experience, imagine that song twice as long, and with 5 times the energy.  To see the rest of the set, go here.

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