Yesterday was some kinda logjam at the record stores. Loads of new albums were dropping. A couple of higher profile discs that on any other week would have been the focal point of attention. I thought I'd give a run down of a couple of the notable releases, so here goes:
The Decemberists - The Crane Wife
This marks the major label debut for the band. Snatched up by Capitol Records when the Portland buzz was at its apex, it finds the band up to its usual literary rock bag of tricks. Atleast that's what everyone else is saying. Why "literary?" This is because The Decemberists can read. They also write songs that deal less with copulation and more with Civil War-era romance, or 18th century chimney sweeps, or Antebellum riverboat gamblers. Or something like that. I've never really been a fan of Colin Meloy and his merry band of nerds, however, this summer I turned a new leaf when I heard the tune "16 Military Wives" off their 2005 album Picaresque . I hadn't intended to purchase this yesterday, however, with the tune knocking around in the back of my head, I instinctively grabbed it as I strolled past the D section at the record store. After a first listen I am incredibly surprised I love it. Sometimes the sheen wears off quickly. I'll get back to you on this one. There was a lot of hype when the Capitol signing was announced sometime in the early summer. I just hope Capitol doesn't have high hopes for the band moving a lot of units. I haven't seen a lot of advertising or marketing regarding the album so we'll assume that the label is being realisitic. Lots of potential.
The Decemberists' Website
The Decemberists - Sons and Daughters(Right click and "save target as" for tracks) off of The Crane Wife
The Decemberists - 16 Military Wives off of Picaresque
Buy The Crane Wife on amazon
Beck - The Information
Beck's newest release follows his Summer 2005 release of Guero. The album was seen as a return to form for Beck who teamed up with the Dust Brothers as he had on the success solidifier of Odelay. On any other week this record probably would have been big news. The album comes with a set of stickers and a blank album cover, letting the buyer design their own cover art. Each track on the album also has a video. 15 new Beck tracks, 15 quirky videos, all for 15 bucks. Beck is also playing the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto October 16th. Check your usual ticket outlets if you're interested.
Beck - Cell Phone's dead off The Information
Buy The Information on amazon
The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
This album has been the most highly hyped around the indie world the past few weeks. In a world where leaked records often appear months in advance this one managed to stay under wraps. The title of the album comes from Jack Kerouac's On The Road; "boys and girls in America have such a sad time together." Pitchfork media set the bar high with a 9.4 rating. Rolling Stone magazine (as prominently displayed on the shrink wrap) asks "how can any band be this good?"
I've been a fan for awhile. Their previous effort, Separation Sunday instantly grabs you. However, the basic guitar riffs, suited for a band who garners E-Street and bar band comparisons, can be grating and ultimately take away from the finished product. The standout are leadman Craig Finn's lyrics. He crafts epic narratives that recall both Dylan at his most rambling and Springsteen at his most brilliant(Greetings from Asbury Park anyone). As you can see I've joined the circle jerk of critical praise. It is hard not to. Off first listen The Hold Steady have changed. Although the lyrics and storytelling still prevail, the band has matured into something other than just a riff-maker. As I mentioned previously ther was a lot of hype surrounding this album. The fact that the band had moved from French Kiss records to Vagrant led me to believe that it would be getting a fair push from the marketing lads. Incredibly telling is the fact that I was up at the mall today (3 big box record stores under the same roof) and not one of the chains had the record in stock. We here in the Indie world sometimes get ahead of ourselves. Little details like this remind you that the music universe hasn't been altered as much as we might believe. Look for this disc. It'll be topping best of year end lists everywhere in a few months.
The Hold Steady on the web
The Hold Steady - Chips Ahoy
Buy Boys and Girls In America on amazon
The Killers - Sams Town
Remember The Killers. They had a boyfriend, that looked like a girlfriend, that looked like... The album is inevitably going to be named a failure. Various reasons at play. The sophomore slump is a given considering how out of the blue the success of their first was. It doesn't help that Brandon Flowers is annoying and also described the album, pre-release, as going to be the best album of the past 20 years. Don't set the bar too high Mr. Flowers. This is basically the biggie of the week and/or month and/or year. Expect this to be played at your next college party. Also expect it to be played by that friend of yours with the "hip" dad (inappropriate knee touch) who is still down with O.P.P. You know, street style yo!!
Anyways, judging by the hype and big money marketing pushes this album will probably find itself atop the charts come next week. The Killers kicked off the season premiere of SNL last week as the musical guests. Although I mock The Killers often, I also have a soft spot for them. "All These Things I've Done" off their debut, Hot Fuss,is one of the best songs, dare I say it, of the past 20 years. Pure pop genius as i'll begrudgingly admit every now and again. The SNL appearance saw them perform lead single "When We Were Young" and "Bones". Apparently gone is the dandy/new wave image the band crafted first time around. replaced is the more american/western vibe of their second release. I found the SNL performance of "When We Were Young" completely irresistable. It made me love a song I had already trashed from my periphery. I've decide to go ahead and post the video( can't post it. check out the links for "When We Were Young" and "Bones" on SNL). My favourite part is the completely "natural" yelp about 2:20 in. The awkward lyrics( a Killers trademark) are made more evident while viewing. Something about the performance just really grabs me though. I've heard horror stories about The Killers live performance before. If their shows are anything like this though I might consider going. Once you get over the realization that these guys are pure image you can settle into a nice appreciation of the awesome pop music they churn out every now and again.
The Killers go to the internet
The Killers - When We Were Young
Buy Sams Town on amazon
Rob Sheffield gives a pretty fair review of Sams Town over at Rolling Stone
Besides the four listed above, October 3rd also saw the release of Akron/Family's Meek Warrior, a new Sean Lennon disc, a new Evanescence album for all you mainstream goths out there, as well as Jet's Shine On which is "reviewed" over at Pitchfork.