dreck and whining

Will someone please, please, God, hit me up with an album released sometime this year that doesn't land me in a pile of my own drool? Honestly, 2005 looks like an exciting year for music compared to what '06 is shaping up to be. Middling rock, flaccid pop, white bread techno, I am so. bored. Much of the critically praised shit I've waded through leads me to believe that people are just looking for something, anything, to praise recently. Band of Horses may very well be this year's Bloc Party for me -- nice enough band that gets way too much attention for near-flawless execution of enormously derivative and mostly unmemorable music. Though I do appreciate Everything All the Time more than that Bloc Party album, I already forget the name, it's nice at best.

The Knife's Silent Shout? Would be groovy enough if the production weren't so damn sterile. It's too bad, because you can hear the urgency of the timbres underneath the matte finish just itching to break out. And if that's what they were going for, well, congrats, I'll put it on next time I want to shake my ass to bed.

I can't say I was surprised when the new Flaming Lips album kinda, um, sucked. Nor can I say I was surprised at the new AFX to be more of the excellent same old same old. But I am incredibly disappointed with The Streets' latest go at it. I mean,
A Grand Don't Come for Free was so spectacular because it turned Mike Skinner's uninteresting, pathetic existence into something epic. (That, and it had "Blinded by the Lights," perhaps the closest musical approximation to getting fucked up I've ever heard.) But The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living is just... uninteresting and pathetic. But what's more, it's irritating as hell. Mike Skinner was once believable in his mundane revelations, now he just sounds coked up and overconfidently underconfident. Don't get me wrong, it's a fun album, but its aims are way too obvious, which makes it all the more aggravating when he misses the targets nearly every time. The verses to "War of the Sexes" are promising, but get utterly crushed by the gratingly awkward chorus; but even that can't beat the oh-shit-I-have-to-come-up-with-another-catch-phrase banality that is "Memento Mori". Weirdly enough, the awfully un-English-sounding "All Goes out the Window" is my favorite track here, strange considering I almost never really care for the slower, more R&B-influenced tracks on rap albums. Yeah, all in all, it looks like the boundary between endearing and annoying was a lot thinner than I thought. Damn.

So come on, other than Neko Case, can ANYONE tell me what needs to be heard from this year so far? I hear new Ghostface is good....


he poos WHAT?

Finally! Some 2006 albums I feel like gushing over...

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

I mean, I've known Neko to be "that voice" ever since I bought The New Pornographers' Mass Romantic, but how was I to know she had so much more to offer?? (Don't say Blacklisted, don't say Blacklisted... actually I just missed the boat on that one, oopsie.) I mean, those lyrics! How was I supposed to tell the woman was so subtlely poetic when all I knew was TNP's ever-increasingly irritatingly vague lyrics? Okay, I'll shut up about how unprepared I was to
*heart* this album.

No, I really do love it. This is not your typical Americana/country dig, no no (though her interp of "John Saw That Number" makes me feel like
Nashville is somewhere I would actually want to be for longer than a few days). Instead of the bare-bones, straightforward storytelling one might expect, you get fragmented mythologies and shattered narratives that urge you to explore the strange and bizarre facets to Neko's nuanced and expressive poetry. Single phrases jump out at first, and later transform in meaning when you slowly appreciate the context. Hell, I'm still figuring this shit out. It's engaging, and what's better, it's enormously pleasurable to engage with. The tunes are easy and catchy but never cloying. Oh, and the arrangements! I mean, I ain't know jack about different types of guitars or anything, but the instrumentation is clearly enormously variable and creative; each song's is distinct from the next, alternately conjuring darkness, warmth, and nostalgia. And then there's Neko's voice... fuck it, I'm not going to talk about Neko's voice. Everyone talks about Neko's voice. It's marvelous. The end. The point shouldn't be the voice, because damnit, that's only one element of the greatness that is the whole of this album. Seriously, I will definitely be basking in it all summer.

Final Fantasy - He Poos Clouds

Off the bat, I had, like, many reservations about this album. Like, how about the fact that it's called He Poos Clouds. And the artist calls himself Final Fantasy. And the album is described as a song cycle based on the eight spheres of magic in Dungeons & Dragons. Hell, that info alone is enough to make me hate this album. RPG's bug the crap out of me. I never understood the point. Why are you sitting indoors, making up shit about some random character for hours on end, when you can be, oh I don't know, out doing something with yourself? It's called REALITY, people, COME ONNNN.

Emmmm... sorry. I guess I can't fault Owen Pallett (the man behind the goofy name) too much, seeing as that he is out doing something with himself, something pretty impressive at that.
He Poos Clouds is by no means perfect, but it does exude creativity, ingenuity, and a striving for something greater than the whole of the parts -- things that have been sorely lacking in most albums released so far this year. Each track features a string quartet, with the occasional piano or sparse percussion, and Owen's sweet boyish voice. To compare him to Patrick Wolf or Andrew Bird seems sort of lazy, though; while the other two have obvious influences respectively in retro pop and blues & folk, Final Fantasy's material sounds a lot fresher, a sort of classical-pop hybrid that owes a lot more to Beethoven than The Beatles. It's a new sound that's quite unprecedented by anything recently released (thank god... as if we needed more derivative sludge anyway).

Still skeptical about the lyrical content? A song cycle based on D&D? No worries -- I see little here to complain about, and more than that, a lot to praise. He Poos Clouds's thematic material ranges from insecurity to suicide, from homoeroticism to metacriticism, from family to Kara Saun (yes, he mentions Kara Saun! TOTES BONUS POINTS). Mostly, though, the album seems, to me, to be about achieving transcendence within the constraints of our middling mortal lives. I know, I know, long worn-out existential banter, right? Hardly, in this case -- Pallett's words take on eerie shades of social and personal criticism as the narratives become more and more entrenched in one another. And something tells me that it's directed at the type of people who might start an album critique hating on RPG's....

Then again, I'm not sure about that. It's complicated stuff, and frankly it'll be quite the joy to figure out on your own. Do iiiiit.