Thursday, July 03, 2008


A short list this time. Enjoy!

1. WAR "All Day Music"--Honestly, I'm a noob when it comes to War, but "Music" is a good place to start. This disc has flavors of hip-hop, jazz, funk and dare I say, gospel. "There Must Be a Reason Why" is especially enchanting. Here the lead vocalist chants one-liners: "Jesus!" "Lost My Soul!" "Reason!" A choir responds to each of his cries, ("Jesus gave his life to give/Not for you;" "Lost my soul in '68/Where were you?;" "There must be a reason why/I don't know") while the music builds and eventually collapses around a broken black man screaming in agony. In a later song the shattered man finds himself "Slippin' into Darkness," searching for redemption. The title track is a mellow soundtrack for any scene featuring a group of brothers throwing down dominoes, talking trash and taking in the fragrance of the potent marijuana leaf in a city park. Classic.

2. The Beatles "Let It Be"--So it goes like this: "Sgt Peppers" is great for its shock value screaming "We take drugs!!!" "Magical Mystery Tour" echoess that sentiment with a twist; "You should too!!!" The "White Album" is.... And a few albums later we get to "Let It Be," the one that says, "Fuck how it started, this is how it ends, you boys take it from here." My earliest memory of hearing the title track finds me watching Sesame Street, learning all about the "Letter 'B'." Stylistically, the album is everywhere. "Two of Us" fits right in with today's college radio. "The Long and Winding Road" is reminiscent of the soft rock heard on B98.5. I can picture any jam band extending "I've Got a Feeling" to the 20 minute mark. Such a great album, such a shame it had to end, boys. jai guru deva om.

3. Belle and Sebastian "Tigermilk"--No! I did not go out and buy this album after hearing "Expectations" in Juno. I have not seen Juno, and I have no idea what all this Juno crap is about. But apparently it has a kick-ass soundtrack! I am not sure how I fell in with Belle and Sebastian, but here is a bit of irony Alanis Morissette style. During my teenage years I would stay up at night watching 120 Minutes and Alternative Nation. I must have watched at least 2000 videos but I never saw a B&S video. Here is the glitch. I have a distinct impression of a Bettie Serveert video from those sessions, but two years ago I'm shopping at Wax 'n Facts when I pull out a record that reads "Belle and Sebastian--Tigermilk." I think about the Bettie Serveert video, try to connect the two and eventually I buy the record. Was I disappointed? No. The songs are situational. "She's Losing It" breaks the silence of a maladjusted young girl confronting homosexuality. In "We Rule the School" a milquetoast boy has visions of using graffiti to assert his aggression. "I Don't Love Anyone" gives voice to a teenager's frustration with relationships. It's all good. Then there is Juno...? I'll have to watch the movie, I guess.

4. Boards of Canada "In A Beautiful Place Out in the Country" (4 track ep)--The title is a reference to the Waco compound of the Branch Davidians. The track "Amo Bishop Roden" gives it away; if not by the title, then perhaps you recognize Amo Bishop Roden's voice in the loop. Boards of Canada are known for incorporating number theory within their music and from what I have discovered there is a group of BoC fans actively working to decode the music. But there are no complex equations involved with "In A Beautiful Place...." Moreover, I am guessing that back masking the ep has revealed nothing. What we are left with is straightforward ambient music inspired by BoC's research of the infamous cult. So there are no tricks on this one, right? Not quite. BoC uses samples of chattering children to entice the listener to "Come out and join a religious community in a beautiful place out in the country." They almost had me, too. Darn kids. But I aint doing it. I won't move to Waco. Nope. Nice try, guys.

5. Stereolab "Margerine Eclipse"--I had a difficult time beginning the review for this album. But after cueing it up in my disc player, the brainstorming began immediately. The reason for the mental block is this: Laetitia Sadier's vocals are in French, English or both within the same song. I've read the lyric sheets and have a firm understanding of the message, but when I listen to the music I don't always think back to the translations. Instead, I reach for my polyester bellbottoms! "Margerine Eclipse" was released in 2004 making it the youngest of the albums reviewed in this list. It's also the first album by the 'groop' released in the wake of Mary Hansen's (backing vocalist) premature death ("Feel and Triple" is attribute to Mary and the album is dedicated to her). Stereolab have not faltered creatively since Mary's passing, and I'm not bold enough to say they have improved. However ... "The Man With 100 Cells" maintains Laetitia's petitions for social reform; "Refusing what you are given/You want things to be the old way/Resisting the revolutions/Changes are coming anyway." "Margerine Melodie" provides a perspicuous examination of the monotony of capitalism. "Dear Marge" blames religious bureaucracies for social distress and chaos. These songs and others among the groop's canon represent the norm. But there are a few songs that leave me baffled, and it's not because I'm lost in translation. "...Sudden stars" may as well be a pop song expressing heartache over a lost love, and "Cosmic Country Noir" goes as far as third-eye magic. This seems like a new creative direction for the band. Perhaps I would have saw it coming if only I knew French. Maybe I lost something along the way. Must learn French!

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