Infinite Shuffle

August 2, 2010

Dispatches from Niger

Filed under: Sean — assman41 @ 4:01 am

With tickets to a Wilco concert this past Friday and a pervading lack of knowledge regarding the band, I ended up spending the past couple weeks listening to pretty much nothing but Wilco’s entire catalogue.

Because of that, I don’t have a new review this week. But, as luck would have it, something even better was waiting for me in my e-mail inbox when I awoke this morning.

My friend, Sean, has been in Niger for the past 13 months as a Peace Corps volunteer, and I’ve made it my mission to keep him abreast of all the important pop culture news that may not make its way to Africa. Also, I recently sent him a care package that included a 16GB flash drive loaded with all the music that he’s been missing out on during his absence.

He just sent me a rather lengthy e-mail chronicling his thoughts and opinions regarding many of the bands and albums that he’s finally been able to listen to. And I thought it would be cool to post them here.

So, without further ado …

Coheed & Cambria

This is obviously the first one I listened to. It was about as good as I expected it would be, but my expectations are pretty low. As a whole, it’s a solid enough album, but I’d probably rank it fourth or fifth of the five they have put out. Still, some fantastic songs. “Here We Are Juggernaut” is phenomenal. I really like “Far” as well, and the album ends strong with the title track. The biggest appeal of Coheed, as far as I’m concerned, is their amazing live shows, and I can only guess they are still tremendous in concert.

Abe Vigoda

I really wanted to like these guys because of the awesome name, but I wasn’t really feeling the music. There’s nothing really new here, it’s like their trying to sound like some sort of Vampire Weekend/Arctic Monkeys hybrid, and getting it terribly wrong. I definitely recognize some potential though. Maybe they’re just too raw at this point and need to mature a little bit.

Band of Horses

OK, so like you, I really got into “Funeral” when it came out in 2006 and WNRN played it all the time, but I didn’t really think much of the album and sort of stopped paying much attention. But the song they have on the soundtrack for “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” (“Our Swords”) is really good, and I never realized how much critical acclaim Cease To Begin received. You only gave me seven of the tracks from the album, but all of them are solid. “Is There A Ghost”, “Ode To LRC” and “Islands on the Coast” are all top-notch songs. I’m not nearly as impressed with Infinite Arms.

Beach House

These guys are like critical darlings, right? I can’t really get into it that much. I know you wrote that Teen Dream is the most accessible of their records, but even then it didn’t do it for me. Maybe I just need to give it a second, third, fourth listen. That’s how it was for me with Animal Collective’s Merriweather Post Pavillion, and I think that’s a solid album now. Not as amazing as so many critics think it is, but solid nonetheless.

Bombay Bicycle Club

Good, but not great. Again, I am less inclined to really get into a band if they sound like imitators, and these guys seem to be channeling Interpol and The National. I can appreciate the quality of the music, but I’m not that excited about listening to them.

Bound Stems

Liked it the first listen, liked it even more the second listen. There’s something about these guys. Very talented. I’d love to see them live.

Company of Thieves

“Oscar Wilde” is a good song, but the rest of the album is pretty crappy. Pass.

Dirty Projectors

So good. They seem so versatile, both instrumentally and vocally. The music is so interesting, but more than that, it’s actually catchy and fun to listen to. I want more.

Editors

OK, so here’s the thing about Editors. I really like “Smokers Outside The Hospital Doors”, but can’t really get into much else. It’s sort of how I feel about The National too. “Fake Empire” is an amazing song. Probably top 20 of the Oughts. But both of these bands seem to have too much of that early-’80s, New Wave-sound thing going on. Not that they are ripping any of those bands off or even trying to sound like them, I think it’s a legitimate influence thing, but those groups are just not as much my style as they are your style. I think that’s where our music tastes diverge the most. You got into music earlier and am older than me and have your brother who sort of opened that door to you to a lot of those ’80s groups early on and came to indie rock through that path. For me, I came to indie rock through the punk/emo path. I’ll always have a soft spots for bands that lean in that direction because of it, and be less inclined to like ones clearly influenced by an ’80s sound. So respect to Editors, but I pass.

Forward Russia

These guys are a little too out there for me. The thing I loved most about their first album was the title: Give Me A Wall! It made me just want to scream out that phrase in public. But the music was too weird for me to get into. The new stuff you sent is a little more accessible, but it doesn’t really pass the test to me. They are a bunch of weirdos and they can go back to where they came from.

Frightened Rabbit

These guys, as far as I’m concerned, are head and shoulders ahead of the rest of these Scottish bands. What’s with all these Scottish indie groups coming out, anyway? And it’s not just that they’re Scottish, it’s that they try to sound like they’re super-Scottish. As you know, I’m not really feeling Glasvegas. And as much as I wanted to love them because of the name, We Were Promised Jetpacks just seemed like a lesser version of Frightened. Not bad, but nothing new, nothing different, nothing remarkable. That said, this new Frightened album is still not as good as Midnight Organ Fight. Granted, it would be tough for them to come out with an album that good, but still, they missed the mark. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” is a really great song. Really great. But there are no other really great songs on the album. But there are plenty of good songs, so it’s good enough.

fun.

Tremendous. Standing ovation. I am in love. I want to play “Benson Hedges” over and over again. And the other songs too. I guess it makes sense, since I like The Format, Anathallo and Steel Train, where all of these guys come from. But this is a great example of channeling an influence, like Queen, while still maintaining one’s own sound. The only negative is you only put five of the songs from Aim and Ignite on the flash drive. I want more of this. Have you seen these guys live? It sounds like they would be a lot of fun. Ha! I didn’t even do that on purpose.

Grand Archives

Nice music to chill out to, fall asleep to or just zone out to. It doesn’t really strike me as remarkable in any way. Just something that would be nice to listen to. Maybe I’m underestimating these guys, and that’s something else that might come from multiple listens, but their stuff doesn’t really stand out.

Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard

Not as good as I was hoping for, but maybe I was just hoping for too much. I think part of the problem here is they’re limited because it’s a soundtrack. They are specifically writing about the movie, which just boxes them in too much. Plus, it seems like somebody was trying to recreate the “Into The Wild” soundtrack, with which Eddie Vedder did such a good a job. It’s just too bad Benny G wasn’t spending this time working on another Death Cab record. Speaking of which, aren’t they due for a new one?

Margot & The Nuclear So And So’s

Spectacular. I really liked Animal/Not Animal, and they definitely did even better with this one. You can tell they are maturing musically. There is less of the rawness that I loved in a track like “A Children’s Crusade On Acid”, but better song structures and more catchy hooks and melodies while still retaining that sort of unique quirkiness of theirs (like in “Paper Kitten Nightmare”). My favorite song is definitely “Quiet A Mouse”, and I love the fact that I can’t get it out of my head. This was obviously one of the albums I was looking most forward to, as a follow-up to something I really liked from 2008 or 2009 and the only one that bested the album that originally captured my interest in the band. … The Dodos come close, but they failed to make an album as good as Visiter. There are still some real promising elements of the new record, which is still great. They are clearly trying to increase the versatility of their sound without completely reinventing themselves, and I like the idea. Maybe they’ll perfect it on their next record. … It’s less of a positive development with The Gaslight Anthem, which seemed to try to make their sound too accessible, and seem to have lost something important in their sound. The ’59 Sound was an album that had so much sincerity, character and intensity to it, and all three weren’t as prevalent in this new one, but, like The Dodos’ new album, I still think it’s a good record. … I can’t say the same about the new Los Campesinos! effort. Serious let down. … And Matisyahu? It’s like he stopped trying after making the first three radio-friendly (albeit really good) tracks to start the record. And where is the spirituality? If he cares so much about his religion, why aren’t I seeing more of it in his music like the other record?

Mute Math

I’m very intrigued. Very intrigued. Really digging this. Definitely need to give it more listens to really take it all in and get my head around it a little better, because it’s definitely a unique sound — a real fusion of so many styles and even eras.

My Morning Jacket

Shame on me for not giving them more of a chance earlier on. Same goes for The New Pornographers. Both really solid acts with really solid tracks. Represent.

Owl City

I really like this album, but I think maybe I’m missing something. I mean, between the lyrics and the vocal style, it really sounds like something that would be geared toward children. Sort of like Architecture in Helsinki I guess, except much better. So it’s really good, but kind of weird. Not that it’s necessarily a bad thing.

Two Door Cinema Club

Awesome. Another gem that I may have never discovered if not for Todd Merchant. This is a great album start to finish, and I love their sound, even if it clearly is ’80s influenced. They somehow pull it off much better, as far as I’m concerned. Maybe we’ve got to the point where it’s once removed. Like, these guys are more influenced by The National instead of The Cure. Whatever it is, it’s working.

OK, that’s it for now. I obviously have a lot more I need to listen to, but so far so good as far as I’m concerned. Thanks again…

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