Friday, May 12, 2006

The Most Recent Listenings

For someone who most friends would describe as an "indie kid," I've really been listening to a lot of old music lately. Not entirely sure of the reason, but I don't suppose it's a problem. It's good to listen to music outside of The Latest Internet Fad from time to time.

More recently, I've found a lot of new music that I really enjoy. Elaboration to come soon, I'm sure. But in the meantime, here are some older titles (though some are new to me) that have been stuck on repeat in the past month or so.

Hem - Eveningland / Rabbit Songs
I'm cheating here a bit, listing two albums from one band. But it would be a very tough choice between the two. Hem, I've decided, is the slowcore of They rarely push the tempo past moderate, and always sound quite mellow. You'd think it would get a bit lackluster after a while. And you'd be right if Hem weren't incredibly adept at song composition, arrangement and performance. I absolutely adore Sally Ellyson's voice--the girl can just plain sing. She could be singing her groccery list, and it would still sound absolutely gorgeous.

Rabbit Songs, Hem's debut album, is full of simple and beautiful songs. The song writing and arranging is refreshingly clean and pointed. Melodies are catchy and memorable. Arrangements perfectly convey tones and textures without beating you over the head with them. Hem's follow up, Eveningland, only reassured that the wonders of their debut were not a fluke.

I'm not always the biggest fan of twang. But Hem, for me, is a perfect example of how great song writing and performing can win you over, regardless of genre.

Neko Case - Blacklisted
Neko Case is another example of the wonderful writing and performing talent combination. Her music has some very traditional elements in it; particularly instrumentation. And it's very clear that she listened to a lot of great music growing up. But there's something very modern about Ms. Case's work. I'm not entirely sure what it is. Perhaps some of it is her lyrics, which are far more open to interpretation than most. She also plays around with song structure a bit.

Her very pleasing voice doesn't hurt, either. Again, there's something I can't quite put my finger on about her voice. It's very unique, in a good way. She's very spunky, as is clear from an interview she gave with Pitchfork that had me laughing for ages. That attitude seeps into her songs, and it works oh so very well. Example: "Running Out of Fools."

The Lucksmiths - Warmer Corners
This absolutely adorable Australian trio makes perfect spring and summer music. Beautiful weather and sunshine call for a soundtrack of infectious melodies and fun. And what better way to do that than guitar driven power pop with clever lyrics and the occassional horn and string accompaniment?

Of their albums, I think Warmer Corners has won my heart as the favorite. Each one has its smattering of gems, with their smart and playful lyrics and can't-get-it-out-of-your-head hooks. But this most recent effort is the most consistently delightful. The increased use of horns and strings beefs up their sound when the tune calls for it, like "Fog of Trujillo". But they still know when to keep things sweet and simple, as with "Great Lengths". With Warmer Corners, The Lucksmiths both expand and hone their pop skills. It's a truly pleasant listen.

Elvis Costello - My Aim Is True

Amadou & Mariam - Dimanche A Bamako

I have been trying to write blurbs on these last two albums for nearly a week now to no avail. I think it's time to stop "Saving As Draft," in hopes that I can come back to it at a later date. I'm really not getting anywhere right now.

It's surprising how difficult it can be to explain why you enjoy something. In an English course freshman year, our teacher devoted an entire class to the subject of humor. He would read jokes or statements and then ask us why we found them funny if we laughed or smiled. Nearly every response was along the lines of "it's just . . . funny." I appear to be stuck in this sort of a rut. I'm left incredibly inarticulate about the music I enjoy most. I just end up with variations of "it's great!"

Hopefully this is only a post-finals burn out that will pass with time. In the meantime, please pardon my uncommunicativeness.


Blogger Lis said...

I must tell you again that I lvoe you for giving me that Hem cd. so good!

8:17 AM, May 22, 2006  

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