Monthly Archives: October 2008

Favorite edition 2008: Quarter fourth forecast

It’s practically November, the end of which is when I pretty much settle on my year-end favorite list. I’ve been looking at that list and checking it multiple times, and it seems pretty solid. But November is when labels ramp up the release schedule in time for the holiday season. As much as I’d like to put a lid on the year now, I don’t want to shut anything out prematurely.

So what between now and the start of December can affect the outcome of the Favorite Edition 2008 Final?

First, some releases that already have me juggling the last published list:

  • Samamidon, All Is Well Nico Muhly’s gorgeous and understated orchestration puts this album head and shoulders above Amidon’s first outing, But This Chicken Proved Falsehearted. His casual delivery would probably appeal to anyone who thought Sufjan Stevens’ Illinois was remotely impressive.
  • Spangle call Lilli line, ISOLATION I’m almost inclined not to pay much attention to the forthcoming PURPLE because this album has a surplus of beauty. I keep raving about the piano work, and I think the band made a terrific decision emphasizing that instrument on this album.
  • Girl Talk, Feed the Animals When MC Hammer commandeered Rick James for his own ends, it came across as crass and lazy. Nor did it do anything to forward the idea of sampling as a legitimate creative expression. Fast forward nearly 20 years, and Girl Talk rebukes that first impression. Feed the Animals is a breathtaking endeavor, the sheer volume of co-opted material impressive enough to overshadow the brilliance of how it’s all put together. The two words I’m looking for are "Holy fuck …"
  • Ivri Lider, Beketzev A’hid Batnu’ot Shell Haguf (The Steady Rhythm Of Body Movements) I think I made a mistake trying to take in all of Ivri Lider’s albums at one time, because now I can’t seem to pinpoint one from the other. This latest album, however, seems to rock harder than anything he’s done before. The opening track and single "Rak Tevakesh (Just Ask )" starts off sounding pop but by the end, Lider unleashes the guitars and a passionate roar. Nice.

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The backlog, or a new way of organizing

It took about two months, but I finally managed to get through this list. Only problem? More titles were added to the backlog in the interim.

I’ve done most of my listening on a single Winamp playlist, which tends to average about two days’ worth of music. But a growing number of titles on that playlist weren’t really being considered for review, and a few titles were obvious candidates for the Slush Pile. So I split the playlist into four parts.

I found making the previous backlog entry helpful in getting reviews (eventually) done, so I’m trying it again. Accountability is a bitch.

Albums about which I’ve been meaning to write in greater detail:

  • Girl Talk, Feed the Animals
  • Samamidon, All Is Well
  • Spangle call Lilli Line, ISOLATION
  • U2, War (Remastered)
  • U2, Under a Blood Red Sky (Remastered)

Albums I might mention in a round-up:

  • Hat Makes the Man, Searching for the Fertile Fields
  • Ivri Lider, Beketzev A’hid Batnu’ot Shell Haguf (The Steady Rhythm Of Body Movements)
  • Joan Jeanrenaud, Strange Toys
  • Mystery Crash, Mystery Crash
  • The Dead Betties, This Is My Brain on Drugs
  • The Squids, The Squids
  • The Wrong, Ethel Merman Jism Spoon
  • Tommy Keene, Crashing the Ether

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Composer hotties

"Looks don’t concern me, maestro," says the character Katerina Cavalieri in the film Amadeus. "Only talent interests a woman of taste."

Perhaps. But looks certainly put the proverbial foot in the door.

I never heard of Michael Hersch till I was browsing the Naxos website one day, and when I saw his photo, I thought, "Oh! Nerdy hot!" Huang Ruo was referred to me through a circuitous series of events when I explored this topic of classical music hotties previously. And Ned Rorem? The guy turned 85, and he’s still described as "boy-ish".

Yes, I’d listen to music of someone I think is hot, but I have different expectations from Hersch than I would, say, Nick Lachey. And ultimately, taste would trump looks and talent any day.

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Nico Muhly: Mothertongue

This album will probably be filed in the classical section, and it should not be.

Nico Muhly has written works for orchestras and chamber ensembles, and while his previous album, Speaks Volume, could be considered a classical album indie rock fans could love, Mothertongue is pretty much a full-blown indie rock album.

Of course, my definition of classical music is pretty narrow. Most classical recordings are recorded live, in a hall or in a studio. The recording process is not part of the composition or performance of a piece.

Mothertongue is a creation of the studio. Perhaps it can be performed live, but the multi-layered vocals, close-miked instruments and compressed synthetic effects are woven too deeply into the fabric of the music.

Sure, but Bang on the Can and Kronos Quartet do something similar. How is Mothertongue an indie album? In context of my current Winamp playlist, it shares more in common with Samamidon and Spangle call Lilli line than with Huang Ruo and Morton Feldman.

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U2: Boy (Deluxe Edition)

By the time I was introduced to U2, the band had become polished musicians and seasoned songwriters. The Joshua Tree left me with the wrong impression they were always thus. Boy demonstrated otherwise. The streamlined arrangements and simplistic riffs were a far cry from the atmospheric sophistication of The Joshua Tree.

My initial disappointment grew to glowing admiration, as the simpler songs allowed for more passionate performances. U2 of the Boy era exemplified the thematic youth of the album — enthusiastic, unbridled, open.

U2 cannot unlearn what it has learned, and the band’s latter-day works cannot help but be stadium efforts, super slick and ultra commercial. (They are the biggest band in the world, after all.) Retrospectives of the band’s work glosses over the early years in favor of the more widely popular. Must it be? It must not.

The deluxe edition of Boy reminds listeners of a time when U2 didn’t know what the fuck they were doing. It’s actually comforting to hear them actually, well, suck.

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Hajime Chitose: Cassini

As spellbinding as Hajime Chitose’s voice can be, the contribution of late-producer Ueda Gen cannot be overlooked. Hajime’s debut album, Hainumikaze, housed the singer’s traditionally-trained voice in a pop sound that referenced Japanese folk, dub and rock all at once.

Ueda’s presence was sorely missed on Hajime’s previous album, Hanadairo, and on her latest, Cassini, his work on the opening title track casts a long shadow over the rest of the album.

"Cassini", the song, has a rich arrangement, starting out with ethereal textures that are eventually grounded by a dub bass and reggae horns. Hajime’s voice soars at the end, and the entire performance poses a tough challenge for the rest of the album to follow.

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On the playlist, or need new discs

Between the end of July till now, I’ve bought only six CDs. I can usually buy that many in a single month. So the new additions to the playlist come mostly from eMusic downloads, which seems to be a first. The release schedule this past summer has been underwhelming, and when I look at my calendar for the fall, I’m not encouraged.

Maybe it’s for the best. My disposable income doesn’t stretch very far these days, and what I don’t buy in compact discs, I’ve used toward mundane things such as, oh, gas and groceries.

Is that not so practical of me?

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