Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Headphones: LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver

James Murphy has been dubbed the critic's chosen one. He will never want for kowtowing nerdy hipster boys with unwashed hair and tight jeans. James Murphy is the lucky one - a slightly chubby, unshaven everyman in another thrift store blazer, dancing like an epileptic (or Ian Curtis), who made one song ("Losing My Edge") and became the dancefloor god to people who don't really go to dance clubs. We are all jealous of him...Listing my favorite bands over a disco beat? Why didn't I think of that? How much is that cowbell in the window? ...OK, so, does that cover it? No. The problem is that my theory is pretty much true, and so it's extremely easy to forget that Murphy is in fact that good, if not better. He is The Meek that will inherit the Earth of music in a lot of ways; the critics of the world love him so much because they think, with one twist of their life - if they spent their tuition on records & started DJing instead of on their Lit major textbooks - they could be him. Well, they can't. James Murphy is much more special than he was letting on, and now he's dropped his biggest hint in our laps with Sound Of Silver.

While his self-titled 2005 debut stuck close to the formula of his early singles, it was still a remarkably solid album that will continue to spin at apartment parties for decades. But Murphy is no dummy; he's honed his approach through years of production, DJing, and listening very very closely to all those bands. For instance, he knows that he really isn't that great a vocalist, and while most of his fans probably find that to be a plus, it probably doesn't help in the projected longevity department. On the new album, he builds songs around the fact that he's trying to sing; he may be greatly indebted to the baroque vocal style of late-70's Bowie/Eno/Iggy, but he uses it sparingly and for proper effect. He has to know that the beautiful "Someone Great" would be lost if he didn't find a more tender direction than to blurt out the lyrics like he does normally. In other places, his usual wavering, gravelly yelp isn't far off from either latter-day George Clinton or The B-52's Fred Schneider, two of the greatest frontmen ever who knew that what they paused to say was just as important as what they crooned. In that too, is another major point of Sound Of Silver: Murphy's lyrics have grown exponentially. The first single, "North American Scum" is caked in biting sarcasm, not far from the sentiment of Ted Leo's "Ballad of Sin Eater", while closer "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" marries that sarcasm with the winking vitriol of Prince's "All The Critics Love U In New York" and the hollow sense of loss of, say, The Smiths' "I Know It's Over", then wraps it up in the glam-showstopper feather boa of David Bowie's "Rock & Roll Suicide".

And yet, even better is the core of the album. The aforementioned "Someone Great", "All My Friends", and "Us V Them" are all instant classics, epics that blast past the six-minute mark. The bum rush effect actually reminds me of the similar trio of "Let's Pretend We're Married", "D.M.S.R.", and "Automatic" from Prince's 1999 (making that two 1999 references in one review, therefore making this the most Prince-like album of the year that doesn't actually sound like Prince). The way Murphy spins his prose in the eulogy of "Someone Great" and the lament of distance in "All My Friends" point towards the euphoric highs of early Patti Smith; he's not there yet, but he's moving in that direction. He follows those twin towers of danceable sorrow with "Us V Them", an eight-and-a-half minute monster groove in the vein of "Losing My Edge" and "Yeah", as he makes it very clear that, "All the little people wanna dance! It's true!" And with that assertion, James Murphy cements his reason for sticking around for years to come.

Raz's Ratings
MUSIC: LCD Soundsystem's Sound Of Silver

-LCD Soundsystem website

Monday, April 9, 2007

Heads Up: QOTSA's Era Vulgaris

Every music writer should be honest about his favorite acts & songs & albums, because I think then it makes you valid; you're brave enough to take a stand in front of the world, and in some cases fight for something most people might reject. Queens of the Stone Age are the band for me; they're my favorite current band, and one of my top few ever. I haven't loved everything they've ever done (I could level some harsh criticisms towards Lullabies to Paralyze), but I've loved most of it, and I've always supported why they do it. So, my point is, really, that you'll be seeing a lot of QOTSA-related stuff on here surrounding the release of their new album, Era Vulgaris.

The band has now set a release date, June 12th, and released the tracklist. The album will pack 10 brand new punches, plus the obligatory Desert Sessions track - this time it's the great "I Wanna Make It Wit Chu", which in my opinion, is one of Josh Homme's best songs to date.

Era Vulgaris tracklist:
01. Turning On The Screw
02. Sick, Sick, Sick
03. I'm Designer
04. Into The Hollow
05. Misfit Love
06. Battery Acid
07. Make It Wit Chu
08. 3's & 7's
09. Suture Up Your Future
10. River In The Road
11. Run Pig Run

The second in-studio album teaser that's been floating around:

-Queens of the Stone Age official site
(featuring a vicious loop from "Sick, Sick, Sick")

Ian says 'Kill'

Ian is my younger brother, and apparently good taste in music runs in the family. He called me yesterday, breathless with excitement; hit me with this...

Artist: Dan Le Sac vs. Scroobius Pip
Song: "Thou Shalt Always Kill"

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Heads Up: Björk's Volta

Björk has, for almost a decade, been lost in the pretentious forest. I love her, I really do, but I think it speaks volumes that I listened to 2004's Medulla once or twice ever, and I might pull out 2001's Vespertine once a year. The former is a dizzying mess of beatboxing and choral arrangements, the latter a brittle and delicate collection that, while excellent, is more cloudy & unsettling than sunny & welcoming. Björk always explored electronic sound and texture, but to me, she soared when she put her microscope on how those sounds were chained forever to the dancefloor. The wild abandon of her otherworldly voice is an exact parallel to the unbridled passion of losing oneself to booming rhythms. Maybe it's just a basic human response; I'd rather be upbeat than down. And, after hearing this new song from her new album, Volta, I think Björk decided she might need to be a little upbeat too. And she is quick to recognize the connection between rhythm and pagan history, telling Pitchfork that the album is about women and their ancient bond to nature; there's no coincidence that there are 13 cycles of the full moon and a woman's menstruation in a year...

Dig the "Earth Intruders"; Volta is out on May 8th.