Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Don't You Evah

I decided to update the Ear's Current Cravings section. The previous albums, though excellent, moved down on my heavy rotation list a good while ago.

For brevity's sake, I think I'll only comment on a few of the albums. I'm a bit rusty on writing about music, too.

Spoon - Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga
I've been a Spoon fan for a while now. Considering my strong appreciation for melody and tight song writing, they're an obvious standby. I listened to their back-catalog this summer before approaching the new album. Hearing their work chronologically, the progression is so slight and clever. Each album has a clear "Spoon" sound without sounding like a carbon copy of it's predecessors.
On this album, the arrangements are more compact, and the songs relatively concise. The album as a whole is very pithy. And they've packed some excellent songwriting into this slick framework. Songs like "The Underdog" and "You Got Yr Cherry Bomb", with their horn riffs and handclaps, wouldn't sound out of place reworked by a 60's girl group. Other tracks, like "Eddie's Ragga" or "Black Like Me" have a heavier feel, but still carry subtly infectious melodies.

Andrew Bird's Bowl of Fire - The Swimming Hour
I took a while to get on board for Andrew Bird. But after discovering this album, I was kicking myself for my tardiness. Andrew has a real talent for songwriting, and this record highlights his diverse range of tastes and skills. He covers an incredible number of music styles in one, cohesive album. And does justice to all genres he attempts -- whether it's classical or rock n' roll.
One of the more endearing aspects of Andrew Bird's songwriting on this album is his controlled meandering. Songs like "11-11" take a minute or so to reveal their structure and inherent sing-along qualities. He has a plan, you just aren't quite sure what it is until the song's nearly over. Meanwhile, a track like "Core and Rind" shows that he can win you over with a straight-forward song too. Of course, it's hard not to fall for someone like Dr. Stringz!

M.I.A. - Kala
This inclusion is, perhaps, a bit premature -- I haven't heard the album in it's entirety yet. But all of the songs I have heard are excellent. I enjoyed her first album, but not consistently. "Bucky Don Gun" and "Galang" were captivating, yes, but I rarely listened to the album from start to finish. The similarities in songs grew grating as you listened to Arular -- perhaps a flaw of the sequencing.
But songs like "Boyz," "Bamboo Banga," and "Paper Planes" make me hopeful for Kala. There's a wider range of sounds and moods in these songs. Most importantly, the beats and arrangements are more sophisticated this time around. Tracks like "XR2" and "Boyz" are both club-bangers, but they have very different sounds. The former is sleek and sly, while the latter has an in-your-face excitement. This variety was missing on her first effort, both in her performance and the arranging. This broader range of compositions better showcases her talents as a singer and songwriter.
Maybe it's too early to declare this album a favorite. It could suffer sequencing issues, or have dud tracks that weigh it down. Maybe I'll be retracting this post in the near future. But considering that I loved "Hit That" -- a song that didn't even make the album cut -- I doubt it.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Fading into Obscurity

I've been a bit absent from this blog for the past year or so. Infrequent posts during the school year is pretty typical for me. But this year, the sabbatical continued on into the summer. The blog hasn't been the only thing I've ignored, either. I slowly stopped keeping up with new music -- rarely checked mp3 blogs, stopped reading reviews, and got into a music listening rut. I retreated from just about anything remotely intellectual. The only websites I regularly checked were CuteOverload and Go Fug Yourself. Entertaining, yes. But not terribly thought provoking.

I think after four years of college, spending ages buried in new music to process at WRUW, and stress levels that caused me difficulty breathing, I finally hit full-on burnout. Burnout from music and from, well, thinking.

But, I've had a summer filled with sleeping, copious amounts of trashy TV, and some much needed exercise. A vacation from the typical life of a student. And while I'm regretting not having a job this summer from a financial point of view, it was the right decision for my sanity.

I'm finally feeling ready to go back to the life of classes and research. I've even noticed my interest in music coming back. I feel more like myself again. Though I will admit that I'm watching Britain's Next Top Model as I write this post . . .

This resurgence comes at an excellent time, since my first year of graduate school is about to begin. Which brings me to the reason I wanted to write this post. I never officially mentioned it here, but I'm starting UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco's joint Ph.D. program in Bioengineering this fall. I moved in to my new apartment in San Francisco recently, after a week+ drive across the country -- from Philadelphia all the way to California.

So, here are a few pictures from my long journey.

Devil's Slide, Utah.

Antelope Island in Salt Lake City Utah.

View of The Great Salt Lake from Antelope Island.

Lake Tahoe, Nevada.

Yosemite National Park, California.

Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park.

More of Yosemite National Park.

And finally to San Francisco!

And UCSF's Mission Bay Campus. Somewhere I'll be spending a lot of time.
See more pictures at my Flickr account.

Hopefully this won't be the last you hear of me this year.