01 August 2007

Review: Capsule 2007 CD's Vol. 5

Good week to clear up some more CD reviews. As always, these are initial impressions and opinions are subject to change without notice. What should I be listening to? What's on your radar?

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4

The National -- The Boxer
I dunno. After really deeply digging Alligator and especially the Cherry Tree EP, the National's newest isn't doing it for me. Can't put my finger on it, but it's not that the songs aren't catching me or anything... it's that the music is downright irritating at times. Not without it's charms, "The Apartment" is a good one, for starters. Not ready to give up on it yet, but the vocals are in that chalkboard territory right now. I'd skip it... Ned-O-Matic: 3.0

Ryan Adams -- Easy Tiger
Ryan Adams just belches good songs, doesn't he? Ups and downs, but mostly ups, I'd say. A certain comfort level has enveloped Adams with a settling down on a band -- The Cardinals -- that suits his present moods perfectly. This album screams "comfort zone" but there's nothing wrong with that. The wheel doesn't need to be reinvented every time around. I'd put this as a direct successor to (and, in my opinion, best since) "Cold Roses" with Ryan finally settling in on a sound equilibrated between the alt-country sound and the Garcia/Hunter songwriting urges. Under Adam's guidance, it's a sound that's as cozy as a well-worn couch. Easy tiger, indeed. Ned-O-Matic: 7.0

The Polyphonic Spree -- The Fragile Army
The problem with the Polyphonic Spree is that there's nowhere else to go. I mean you either continue making the same music you've been making or you change course and effectively cease being the Polyphonic Spree, right? Well, sort of. Here DeLaughter Inc. attempt to carve out some new ground, a little less "Hair" and a little more rock-and-sway. When I first listened to this disc, I couldn't quite get into it, but the joys seem to be layered in there... a few listens later and I'm coming around. Still, their best work may be behind them. Ned-O-Matic: 5.0

Marc Ribot -- Asmodeus: The Book of Angels, Vol. 7
This is the recording that makes you go "whoa!" Not always in a good way, but if you're looking for something completely in your face for the entirety, this is it. There is nothing subtle about Ribot's playing here, nor his triomates Calvin Weston & Trevor Dunn. It's loud, frenetic, free-form and occasionally breathtaking. It's a little too roughshod at times, even for me, but when these 3 are clicking, it's an upside-down roller coaster. There are stretches where it becomes more relevant to listen to Weston and Dunn bounce back and forth than worry too much about Ribot's wayward shredding. Not exactly what I was hoping for, but, hell, it's Marc Ribot! Ned-O-Matic: 5.5

Tony Trischka & Friends -- Double Banjo Bluegrass Spectacular
With friends like these things really are spectacular. They include every relevant banjo picker alive (e.g. Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, and Steve freakin' Martin) as well as bluegrass heavyweights like Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush & Chris Thile. Trischka is the best banjo player you've never heard of, unless you've heard of him, in which case you should already own this. Great mix of styles, songs; instrumentals and traditionals... you won't hear a better bluegrass album this year. Of course, with Tony, the notion of "bluegrass" gets stretched a bit, and we're all the better for it. Ned-O-Matic: 7.0

The White Stripes -- Icky Thump
Rock and roll continues to live on in the form of the unlikely duo of
Jack & Meg White. Things are getting a little more subtle this time around, they're not just relying on Jack's wailing guitars and vocal chords this time around. There's still plenty of that brute force meta-shredding going on, but some other stuff too. Can't say I love all of it, but really who doesn't like the White Stripes? Ned-O-Matic: 6

St. Vincent -- Marry Me
Would it be possible for me to be any more in love with (the music of) St. Vincent? Keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, but this album ain't it. In fact, this may be the best damn thing since, well, seeing Annie Clark live. With a full band in tow and some brilliant production, the sound translates perfectly in the studio. Clark does it all here. The first half of the album is a masterpiece of songwriting and arrangement. It's not perfect, there's a lull in the middle -- it's all relative -- but the best track ain't even til near the end (Human Racing) and after listening to it about 20 times in a row, it's only getting better. Ned-O-Matic: 8.5

The Clientele -- God Save the Clientele
Another take on the sweet harmonic pop of the Beatles and the Beach Boys... kind of like Dr. Dog, except this doesn't sound anything like Dr. Dog. Which I guess is a testament to the grand masters. Not a sound is wasted here, and the result is pretty damn good. Occasionally ripping and rocking and more often a little sweeter... and every so often bordering on a modern-day Monkees sound, for better or worse. Some timeless songs scattered in between some other average fare. (I'm partial to "From Brighton Beach to Santa Monica" amongst others) The predominance of background pedal steel and the surprising instrumental foray midway through seals the deal. Ned-O-Matic: 6

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