Monthly Archives: February 2013

Album Review – PEDESTRIAN VERSE – Frightened Rabbit

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Dear Music Appreciators,

It always feels so good to find another great album to listen to. Suddenly life is less lame again and there is something new to look forward to. Especially when it’s the kind of album that I can put on repeat and listen to over and over again and each time it starts over, rather than thinking “hmm, what should I listen to next?” I find myself wondering “how soon I can get to the record store to pick up the CD?” As a music junkie with too many songs on his iTunes, this has become the ultimate tribute that my music-pickled mind pays to an album – when the digital copy just doesn’t do it and I feel like I’ve got to take the relationship to the next level. If digital is just friends at school, then a trip to the record store means we’re gonna stay up all night and freakin’ braid each other’s hair.

With PEDESTRIAN VERSES, Scotland’s Frightened Rabbit has made the kind of album I want to invite to my slumber party.

It’s pop, it’s rock, it’s indie, it’s top 40, it’s lyrical Scotch on musical rocks, and because it’s that rare combination of an entire collection of songs that holds my attention from start to finish, I’ll skip the part where I might prattle on about influences or comparisons, quote and analyze lyrics, or use terms like “reverb-drenched” or “radio-friendly” – I’ll skip that part and simply say: buy this album, and see if it can hold your attention too.

Sincerely

Constant Listener

Album Review – WE THE COMMON – Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

we the common - thao and the get down stay down

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Dear Music Appreciators,

Right when the music started I knew it was going to be a good album, but when I heard that opening track bust open a minute later…I knew it was going to be a great album. Notice the stinging synth-string flourishes and listen for that big falsetto chorus with banjo pickin’ on one side and fuzzy guitar rock on the other. Thao and company don’t play regular ol’ folk rock songs, they have a distinctive sound, and on WE THE COMMON every song finds a way to be interesting. Guitars get in your face on “City” but there’s still room for stuff like vibraphones and a cappella singing. “We Don’t Call” features honking saxophones. A hillbilly unison singer brings the twang on “Kindness Be Conceived,” followed by “The Day Long,” with it’s noir tone and bouncing bass and snare combo, which is then followed by needling, high register guitar work and Thao singing about not getting “naked enough” on “Every Body.” You get the picture. WE THE COMMON is a patchwork quilt of interesting folk rock and-singer songwriter choices bound together by a unifying theme of simply making creative, personal, and passionate music. With so much variety and so many points of interest in this collection of songs, the album and even the band itself (with its unique and memorable band name) exude a sort of collaborative, joy-of-music persona that’s contagious and that makes WE THE COMMON less like a formal “album” and more like a very cool party with some very musical friends.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY – Emmy Rossum

Sentimental_Journey_(Emmy_Rossum_album)

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Dear Music Appreciators,

The first time I heard Emmy Rossum sing was in a little movie called SONGCATCHER back in the year 2000. She was cute as a button and every time she sang I got goosebumps. I still think of that movie every time I cross paths with her work.

This is an album of good old fashioned classic songs.  The drama kids and the choir kids will eat this up.  Many artists have recorded similar albums, but only a select few get it right. With SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY Emmy Rossum gets it right and her album deserves to reach a wide audience

But what it is about these recordings that works so well?

Here’s my guess:

High-quality classical training + God-given talent + love and respect for the material + energy and enthusiasm.

There is also a refreshing absence of what Holden Caulfield might call phoneyness.  Even though Emmy is playing dress-up in a bygone era, something about the music feels refreshingly authentic.

Throw in what I imagine was a top-notch production team and twelve straight cases of picking the right song for the right singer and you get a thoroughly enjoyable album that made me sit up and listen.

Eighty-six years after it was written, when the right singer gets a hold of a song like “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover,” it can still make a person perk up and feel a little better about life, and I’ll be darned if I didn’t absently-mindedly press down on that gas pedal just a little too much as I was driving down the street listening to Emmy sing that song. I’m sorry officer, I was listening to Emmy Rossum singing “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover” and I guess I got a little carried away…

But I’m afraid if I did get pulled over like that, the cop might not know who Emmy Rossum is, which might mean I’m not getting out of a ticket, which might mean Emmy Rossum isn’t getting the kind of universal adoration she deserves for her remarkable singing ability.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener

Album Review – PASSIONE – Andrea Bocelli

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Dear Music Appreciators,

I have to keep reminding myself that Amazon customer review star ratings are meant to express how much the customer reviewer LIKED something, not how good it may or may not be from an objective, critical point of view.  Regardless, it is often easy to get objective and subjective opinions about the arts confused – and is there really any such thing as a truly subjective opinion about art anyway?  Whatever…

That being said although the system considers a three star review from me a “negative” review, I consider it a mildly positive review.  Three stars is supposed to mean “it’s okay” and if it’s “okay” then it’s not bad…it’s just not as good as it could be, which might be both a subjectively and objectively accurate statement about this album.  This album is not as good as it could be.

Despite all the ways in which I could discuss this music, the fact is when I heard “Perfidia,” “Era già tutto previsto,” and especially “La Vie en Rose,” I felt something in my bones, and when I heard the rest of the songs on Passione I did not.  That’s not to say the other songs are bad, they just didn’t move me.

The problem for me is this all feels very posed and generic.  Most of the music, the album cover, and even the album title remind me of a CD one might find on one of those listening stations in a Target or in a mom and pop gift shop that sells ceramic figurines.  You know, those listening stations without headphones where you press a button to hear Spanish guitar music, rainforest sounds, or something by Jim Brickman.

Nothing wrong with Jennifer Lopez, but she’s not the greatest singer to be singing with a great singer.  Nothing wrong with Neil Diamond, but his song “September Morn” just doesn’t belong here.  Nothing wrong with Passione, but it’s not the greatest album – unless maybe you’re eating at The Olive Garden –  but otherwise it’s just ok.

Sincerely,

Constant Listener