September 04, 2006

The Obligatory End-Of-Summer Music Post

It's Labor Day! I've got the day off and I'm trying to get breakfast ready for Mia and I. Now, this weekend I did a little thinking about some end-of-summer music and I figured this would be a good time to share. For those of you with days off, enjoy them!

butch.rise.jpgButch Walker: Rise & Fall of Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites
Unlike some people, I've never been totally sold on the genius of Butch Walker. Maybe that's because he's difficult to pin down. He's done the hard rock thing, done the alternative thing, and even tackled the singer-songwriter thing. And he's done all these things well but none of his approaches to music have ever completely blown me out of the water. Until Rise & Fall of Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites. It's glam-rock in the best sense of the term. Take the best of 70's Bowie, add a little Mott The Hoople and T-Rex and transport them into the 21st century and you might end up this...which wasn't what I was expecting but what I'm now very happy I got. This is a fun, trippy, sleazy (in the best sense of the word) and brilliantly constructed album. The writing and the music are insanely good and wonderfully addictive. Since picking it up, I've gone back into my collection and spun some glam albums. Butch might have actually beaten these legends at their own game.

dyan.modern.jpgBob Dylan: Modern Times
Unlike Butch, I've always been sold on Dylan's genius. He is one of the most eloquent, important songwriters in history. It's odd, then, that I've never really cared for his stuff. I mean, I like the words just fine but I'm not a folk guy. Folk albums are boring to me. Yeah, I really like Nick Drake but he wrote three songs I can distinguish from his others. Gary Jules came up with one of the best folk albums a couple years back (Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets) and I love his writing but musically, it's boring. Alexi Murdoch is the only folkster in a long time who actually created what I think of as an interesting folk album (Time Without Consequence). I don't know - I guess I need more drama, more complexity. I couldn't, however, ignore the hype around Dylan's latest release. Oddly enough, the hype is well-deserved. The album vacilates between slow, bluesy numbers and only slightly more upbeat songs that sound as if they could have been recorded in the 30's. The writing is, unsurprisingly, brilliant. Despite the slow pace of the album, Dylan sounds good...and happy. I don't think Modern Times is a masterpiece but it is damn fine. Format: Dog Problems
The Format represent all that's right about indie alt-rock. All the elements of a great band combine to form the perfect storm. Their musicianship is solid. They've got a penchant for writing rock songs laden with catchy hooks, saturated in intelligence and cleverness. And they do this without sounding like every other band out there. They're not trying to be The Killers, Fall Out Boy or Coldplay, which seem to be the three buckets into which most bands fall this year. Nope, The Format just write some damn fine, catchy rock songs and sound like they're having fun doing it.

snowpatrol.eyespoenjpg.jpgSnow Patrol: Eyes Open
Based on the strength of Final Straw, the band's last effort, I picked up Eyes Open immediately. Man, was I disappointed. On first listen, these rather capable musicians weren't doing anything unique, anything any other band couldn't do. It struck me as an album of ordinary, four-minute, rock songs devoid of hooks or emotion. Since that first listen, I've warmed up to Eyes Open just a bit. It's good...not earth-shattering, but good. I even used Set Fire to the Third Bar, a duet with Rufus Wainwright's sister Martha, on a recent mixed CD compilation I sent out to quite a few of you. You won't get me to say its a brilliant or terribly unique album. But it is solid and it doesn't suck.

muse.revelations.jpgMuse: Black Holes and Revelations
You know, I bought their first album Showbiz when it was released. I listened to it, liked it, then promptly forgot about the band entirely. New albums came out, I ignored them. I finally got my head in the game and, after hearing all the good press, picked up this, their latest. What the hell was I thinking, staying away from these guys for so long? Last Monday or Tuesday, I was working in the office, practically alone, and I ended up listening to their entire catalog. They're brilliant. These guys are what Radiohead could have been had they not wandered off the deep end and made a couple albums of experimental and largely unlistenable crap (Kid A and Amnesiac - the jury's still out on Hail To The Thief). Black Holes and Revelations continually shifts between alternative and progressive rock. Simple ballads punctuate pounding anthems which are followed by complex progressive suites. And it somehow works, most likely because Muse, while musically schizophrenic, consists of guys who know how to play. The music they make is beautiful, angry and haunting. I think I might prefer their Origin of Symmetry just a bit, but this album is a must.

Posted by Chris at September 4, 2006 07:25 AM

I totally agree about Muse. And Radiohead. To this day OK Computer remains in heavy rotation. The others? Sorry, do not compute. heh.

When I heard the first new Muse song on the radio a few months ago, I thought it WAS Radiohead. Haven't downloaded/bought it yet, now that I know its good I am all over it!

Posted by: Amy at September 4, 2006 10:14 AM

P.S. Re; Radiohead again--I've really TRIED to like Kid A and Amnesiac. I really wanted to like them. I just don't. Seems like self indulgent "we are smarter than you" crap.

Posted by: Amy at September 4, 2006 10:15 AM

I think the Snow Patrol seemed pretty Ok, although I haven't heard all the album just yet. And as for the compilation CD, I wouldn't know a thing about it. ha (and yes, feeling very snarky today).

Posted by: VirgoJen at September 4, 2006 10:19 AM

I actually like Eyes Open quite a bit. But you're right about it growing on a person. It definitely deserves a few listens before final judgment. As for your other suggestions, the only other one I've heard of is Bob Dylan. I'll have to do some exploring on iTunes to see about the others. Thanks!

Posted by: Jen at September 4, 2006 10:43 AM

You finally wrote about someone I've heard of. I love the "folk" music of that generation (mine) and I've told my sons that I want one of Dylan's songs, "Lay Down Your Weary Tune", done at my memorial (if I have one).

I'm really much weirder than you; I just conceal it better.

Posted by: ann adams at September 4, 2006 11:00 AM

I'll load up my iPod with Muse for the week and take a listen.

Posted by: ku nkiko at September 4, 2006 01:22 PM

Hum...I don't believe I have ever heard any glam rock that can beat MY Bowie or T-Rex...raised eye brow...I will have to listed to this Butch Walker humf Rise & Fall wanna be David!

Posted by: Gypsy at September 4, 2006 10:29 PM

hey, i'm liking that butch walker, the format, and snow patrol albums, too. good pics. ;)

Posted by: Sarcomical at September 5, 2006 11:41 AM

Hmm... Now I'm not so sure that you'll be into the CD I sent... Hope it arrived safe and sound, and I'll have to check out some of the ones you've reviewed.

Posted by: Karen at September 5, 2006 11:48 AM

Thanks, you just helped me make my decision on which Snow Patrol album to get. :)

Posted by: Brad at September 5, 2006 12:28 PM

Muse (as well as Radiohead) puts on a good live show. i love Kid A, i think it's one of Radiohead's best... despite what many people think it's very listenable.

okay, now i need to read the rest of what you wrote! (yes, thanks to your heads up i skimmed til i saw radiohead)

Posted by: monique at September 5, 2006 01:02 PM

been on vacation the last couple days, so Im a little behind. But wanted to comment on your shout out to Muse. Glad you are diggin it - its in heavy rotation on my iPod. I will have to agree with you on the Radiohead experimentation phase, I need them to take it back to The Bends / Ok Computer era. Luckily Muse is holding me over in the meantime...

Posted by: E at September 6, 2006 09:27 AM

I am a little late to comment on this post too but I am in love with that Snow Patrol album. I haven't heard any of Final Straw (except for Run).

Posted by: ::c:: at September 8, 2006 04:48 PM