Monday, May 10, 2010

Good month in music

Lots of good albums out recently, and I’ve been listening fairly thoroughly.

(Though apparently I’m in the minority when it comes to actually getting full albums) - I like trying to see the larger themes/ideas that the artists are pushing through, and I often disagree with whatever songs are being pushed as singles are truly the strongest tracks that the artist has to offer.

Upon reflection, I guess I’m getting old in that these are mostly follow-up efforts from artists I already know. But I can work on that if I get out to see some new bands once in a while.

Here’s the mini-reviews in reverse chronological order:

Mike Patton - Mondo Cane

While I have respected Mike Patton’s vocal talents for a while, I haven’t actually picked up a full album from him.

He has done great work as a singer with Faith No More, as well as doing some voice work in the gaming industry (including Portal). His work with the band Mr. Bungle is also fairly well-recieved, but I really struggle to listen through any of the songs on that record.

I do respect that Mike and Faith No More do random covers fairly frequently.

This album is a collection of covers of Italian-pop crooner music from the 1960s and 1970s, backed with a full band and orchestra as needed. No real references to Mike’s days in the hard-rock / metal / avant-garde scene (unless you count that an American putting a lot of effort into covering Italian pop from the 60s and 70s is a bit unusual for the musical landscape in the US in 2010).

I really like it; it’s refreshing compared to a lot of the other music I have in my collection. The production is good as well, there are distorted guitars added in occasionally, along with some effects, but it’s not overly gimmicky - the songs themselves with Mike’s singing are really what carry the album.

In short - I’m liking this one a lot, and I can find something that I like in most of the songs regardless of my mood.

The New Pornographers - Together

This band has grown on me; I really liked some the work on their earlier efforts but never quite fully enjoyed their full albums; some songs ended up just annoying me (I think it was something with the singers).

This album is not annoying me; I think that their mix of guitars, strings, vocals is working really well.

Maybe not a stand-out masterpiece single like “Sing Me Spanish Techno”, but there’s 4 - 5 really good songs and 4-5 decent ones.

There’s something timeless about their music, so I think that this will have some staying power in my attention-span.

Hole - Nobody’s Daughter

Wasn’t sure if I really wanted this one, but after listening through all the previews, I went for it.

Pretty good, though if you were never really into Hole to begin with, this probably will not change your mind.

Courtney’s voice sounds as if her hard living is catching up with her, but for the most part it’s used to good effect.

There’s a couple acoustic and whiny songs that I probably won’t listen to by choice again, but the rocking songs (where the distortion and drums are noticeable) are pretty good.

David Byrne & Fatboy Slim - Here Lies Love

Kind of like a disco Evita. I haven’t given this one as much attention as the rest. It’s not terrible or anything, but I prefer it as something to vary up my playlists on shuffle rather than just listening all the way through.

(For some reason, I usually don’t get into listening to showtunes recordings unless I’ve actually seen the show...I have that feeling with this one).

Gogol Bordello - Trans-Continental Hustle

Rick Rubin is producing this one. Not sure that I’d have noticed if it wasn’t in the description of the album. However, after having seen that bit of info, I keep drawing parallels between this record and System of a Down’s Toxicity....there’s the first song that sets the tone, there’s a slower song that builds in intensity, there’s a screamer, there’s a soft ballad, there’s a few other songs that fit with the general sound, and that’s the album.

Not that much else to say - the album sounds like Gogol Bordello. If you liked their earlier work, you’ll probably like this. If you didn’t, this is probably not going to change your mind.

I would love to see them in concert again sooner than later - I saw them back in October 2008 and it was a very fun show.

Gorillaz - Plastic Beach

I liked some of Gorillaz’ previous efforts, but they were mostly single-driven - I quickly got tired of much of the other material on that album.

I was pleasantly surprised with this one, in that the first 8-9 songs are fairly varied and decent.

After that point, I usually have to stop listening and/or end up changing to a different album.

Not sure if I’d really want to see these guys live though; even if they have Mick Jones and other luminaries playing along, I can’t imagine that this would be a super fun show (based on the clip of their performance on the Colbert Report).

But hey, if someone has free tickets and would like to share in order to prove me wrong, please do.

The Apples in Stereo - Travellers in Space and Time

Fun pop music, Apples-style, with a bit more of a dance/disco feel than their previous efforts. Pretty easy to take, pretty upbeat - they’re really good at what they do.

Lyrics are not mind-blowing, but I was not expecting them to be.

I’m not really a fan of the 20 - 40 second random sample or song throwaway tracks that seem to occur as filler, but that is pretty easily resolved with a few smacks of the delete key (deleting from playlist, not my master copies). Aside from those, this holds up well as an album that can be enjoyed all the way through.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings - I Learned the Hard Way

As I said in an a Tweet / Facebook status update, this record reminds me that I will never have the sultry voice of a middle-aged woman singing (mostly) about lovers who have done her wrong.

Regardless of not being able to sing along (well), it’s a satisfying listen. The Dap-Kings do a fantastic job of sounding like a superstar session band from the 60s, and that really adds to the character of this album.

While I do like this, I do not often listen through all the way; I like the songs to provide contrast to what I have on shuffle.

Again, would love to see this band live; I think that they would put on one hell of a show.