Quick Review (LP): Take Care, Take Care, Take Care by Explosions in the Sky

Explosions In The Sky
Take Care, Take Care, Take Care
Temporary Residence; 2011

My Rating: B+ (77/100)

Best Tracks: “Last Known Surroundings”, “Human Qualities”, “Postcard from 1952”

Six more songs from the six song album guys

– Enjoyable, but I wish it was a little more explosive.
– “Trembling Hands” adds some adrenaline to the mix. Pretty cool.
– I had a hard time distinguishing this from the last one.
– Is it so wrong of the Explosions boys to essentially maintain the same formula each time out? I’d say its refreshing for a group of indie rockers to not strive for endless innovation, especially when the results are otherwise excellent musically. The reliability of their sound may in fact be one of the most appealling things about this quartet.
– Nothing on here is as good as “First Breath After Coma”, but then again that was one of the best tracks of the last decade.
– I like the handclaps on track 1. In fact, I was hoping that around the 3:00 mark the track was going to shift into a groove of some sort. It doesn’t, but that’s OK, I like it well enough anyway.
– That being said, I could do with some grooves as a counterbalance to the start and stop rhythms.
– They’ve added some new textures and are a little less obvious about being dynamic this time around. The album sounds great on a good pair of headphones. I’d say this one’s a grower.
– “Postcard from 1952” is some stately instrumental rock.
– Chris Hrasky’s percussion work explores some uncharted territory.
– Cool album cover.

– As always, I’ll put a big plug out to start with The Rescue, especially since it’s available for free. They started to chart some new territory here, but there’s quite a bit they’ve never followed through on.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): How To Become Clairvoyant by Robbie Robertson

Robbie Robertson
How To Become Clairvoyant
429 Records; 2011

My Rating: C (48/100)

Best Tracks: "When the Night Was Young", "He Don’t Live Here No More"

Is Clapton a verb? As in, “He totally Clapton’d this record?”

RANDOM NOTES:

– He was rarely The Band’s voice, but he was its chief songwriter, and a darn good one at that.
– A bit smooth and suave, and sort of bland in a Clapton-ish sort of way.
– Honestly, I was hoping for a record of big Americana pop songs, much like his solo debut.
– And then Clapton shows up on Track 6. It had to happen, right?
– It all sounds a little bit too good times-ish. I’d love to hear something with a little more bite.
– "Madame X" rocks it Weather Channel style.
– There’s no stamp here, nothing that screams at me "This is the new Robbie Robertson record!" Other than the fact that it is the new Robbie Robertson record, but you know what I mean.
– Is it just me, or does he sound like a less talented John Mayer knockoff?
– "He Don’t Live Here No More" recalls some of the pop brilliance of his eponymous solo offering, which is a far superior record.
– I do like "When the Night Was Young", but it does seem a bit pathetic lyrically.
– "She’s Not Mine" sounds a bit like something U2 might produce today, which unfortunately is not a compliment.
– In my mind, the ability of old rock stars to age gracefully has a gold standard represented best by Mark Knopfler, with the last 10 years of Bob Dylan recordings as a close silver.
James Leven (Paste) gets it right: "Still, Clairvoyant feels a bit underpowered when you consider the sheer tonnage of talent surrounding it." "With Peter Wolf and Robert Plant out making records that push the needle in the revered oldster lane, Robertson and his famous friends could easily have taken more names."
– Queue us all wishing that he’d get back together with Levon so that he could get re-inspired by a little southern badassery.
– As far as aging rock stars go, you have a spectrum that ranges from Eric Clapton to Bob Dylan. This clearly leans heavily to the Eric Clapton side of things.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (4/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Songs (3/5)

Quick Review (LP): Highway 61 Revisited by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Highway 61 Revisited
Columbia; 1965

My Rating: A+ (100/100)

Best Tracks: "Like A Rolling Stone", "Tombstone Blues", "Ballad Of A Thin Man", "Queen Jane Approximately", "Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues", "Desolation Row"

“I wanna to be your lover baby, I don’t wanna be your boss…”

NOTES
– The ultimate road record. Dylan was a master at thematically unifying a record. Is it the first road record?
– Is "Like A Rolling Stone" the greatest rock and roll track of all time? All things considered, definitely maybe. It represents both a convergence and pinnacle of Dylan’s styles up to that point, it sounds like everything the 60’s supposedly was, and, to be clear, it is epic in all the right ways.
– "Tombstone Blues" is lyrically great, and the lead guitar is fantastic. Wow.
– It’s all about the drunken ragtime piano, esp. on "Tom Thumb" and "It Takes A Lot to Laugh"
– My favorite lyric: "When you’re stuck in Juarez/And it’s Christmastime too."
– The record sounds so lush and brilliant, colorful and tuneful throughout. The opening piano riff on "Tom Thumb", Al Kooper’s organ on "Rolling Stone", the brooding throb of "Thin Man" – Highway 61 is packed with memorable moment after memorable moment.
– Undoubtedly one of the greatest rock records ever. Entirely deserving of your intention.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Nine Types of Light by TV on the Radio

TV on the Radio
Nine Types of Light
Interscope; 2011

My Rating: B (72/100)

Best Tracks: "Second Song", "No Future Shock", "Killer Crane", "Repetition"

Wherein experimentalism means the “Second Song” comes first.

NOTES:

– "Second Song" is pretty catchy, I could see this getting serious radio play. Almost reminds me of P. Gabe’s "Sledgehammer", but not quite as amazing.
– "Killer Crane" is great. The banjo is a sweet flourish.
-  "No Future Shock" is a powerful cut. Definitely worth some repeated listens.
– My biggest problem with TVOTR is the dude’s voice. It just doesn’t have a lot of dimension or a lot of power.  However, I will say that I appreciate the fact that he doesn’t try and hide the fact with a lot of processing and effects. And, he does do some pretty great things with what he’s got.
– Some of the tracks remind me of the Broken Bells record ("Will Do"). That is, they are a bit slow, dull, and melodically narrow.
– "Repetition" is startling – pretty great lyrics…
– At first, I wasn’t crazy about this record. The sound of TVOTR is not the easiest to get into, and I am convinced that they still haven’t made a record as strong as their debut. However, this is a good record with some pretty great tracks. I think I will revisit it a few more times this year, and it seems to me that it is likely a grower.
– What are the Nine Types of Light?
– Conceptually, dense, but somewhat impenetrable. I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt, cuz I know theez catz iz thinkaz.
– I’m sure I will be returning to this. : )

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): Smart Flesh by The Low Anthem

The Low Anthem
Smart Flesh
Nonesuch; 2011

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "Ghost Woman Blues", "Love & Altar", "Golden Cattle"

Brace for sleep…

NOTES:
– I love this band’s sound. It’s like the perfect combination of Low’s dark trance-rock and Hem’s chamber americana.
– "Boeing 737" is mighty, but its trajectory is all ahead. I guess I would have preferred they throttle back on it at some point.
– Dig the opener. The clarinet was tragically under-used for 50 years of rock and roll.
– In general, they can’t go wrong with slow songs, mandolin, sustained piano, and clarinet, but even a few of those are a little too sleepy.
– Religious themes going on with some of the song titles. I suspect this album is heavy on the lyrical content, but it’s darn hard to access.
– I dig "Wire" in and of itself, but I question it’s setting in the middle of the record, after "Matter of Time" and before "Burn." The record really starts to drag in the middle.
Ian Cohen of Pitchfork does a great job of summing up what’s wrong with this record. BTW, it pains me to use the word "wrong," because I really want to like this record.
– Overall, it lacks in the songwriting department, and certainly isn’t brilliant like OMGCD. Check out the tracks I mention. The rest can be left behind.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Songs (3/5)

Quick Review (LP): The Unforgettable Fire by U2

U2
The Unforgettable Fire
Island; 1985

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "A Sort of Homecoming", "Pride", "Wire", "Bad", "The Unforgettable Fire"

No spoken words, just a dream…

NOTES:
– This was their Kid A moment, an attempt to completely re-define themselves in a manner that could potentially alienate their core fanbase. 
– A record that is simulatenously beautiful and bloated, wrought with meaning and somewhat meandering, a blockbuster and a headscratcher.
– No one can front-load a record like U2.
– The great moments (tracks 1,2,3,4,7) are great enough to lift the tide, and all of the non-great moments sort of drift by in a pleasant Eno-ish experimental haze anyhow.
– I like what Bono has to say about the album: "The Unforgettable Fire was a beautifully out-of-focus record, blurred like an impressionist painting, very unlike a billboard or an advertising slogan." I’m not entirely sure that this means they weren’t just lazy and/or indecisive, but after a lot of years of being unsure how I felt about this album, I now really like it. It’s especially fitting for overcast spring days.
– "A Sort of Homecoming" marks a complete change of direction for U2. Mullen and Clayton do great things rhythmically. It’s also one of my all-time favorite U2 songs.
– "Elvis Presley and America" is perhaps the most indicative of where the band was at with this album. They seem to have been willing to follow their muse just about anywhere, and this particular track is an improvisation over the slowed-down backing track of another song.
– I like the fact that these songs are said to be about things that they aren’t really about, ie "The Unforgettable Fire", "Bad".
– I also like the fact that this record was intended to feel unfinished. Additionally, Eno’s made a good call by having Clayton and Mullen dial it back a few notches. That creates the sonic soil for The Edge and Bono to do their thing.
– My estimation of this record keeps improving. It’s pivotal, mysterious, and never completely gives it self away.
From Pitchfork, an excellent review: "The first song on 1984’s The Unforgettable Fire is called "A Sort of Homecoming"– not just "A Homecoming". And that shade of uncertainty– that "sort of"– is key. Compared to U2’s first three albums– and almost everything that has come afterward– The Unforgettable Fire is marked by a sketchy in-between-ness that works as a gracious foil to the the band’s natural audacity. It’s sort of stadium rock, sort of experimental, sort of spiritual, sort of subdued, sort of uncharacteristic, sort of brilliant, sort of a classic." 
DELUXE EDITION FAVES: "A Sort of Homecoming (live)", "Love Comes Tumbling", "The Three Sunrises", "Bass Trap", "Disappearing Act". This is the band’s best b-sides era. The four I’ve listed here are truly excellent, and any serious U2 fan should be familiar with them.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (4.5/5)

Quick Review (LP): Tomboy by Panda Bear

Panda Bear
Tomboy
Paw Tracks; 2011

My Rating: B (68/100)

Best Tracks: "Slow Motion", "Surfer’s Hymn", "Last Night at the Jetty", "Friendship Bracelet", "Benfica", “Afterburner”

Is Noah Lennox hiding behind the wall of sound?

NOTES:
– One of my favorite recent trends in band names – BEARS!!!! Seriously, how does this kind of thing happen? You’ve got Panda Bear, Grizzly Bear, Bear in Heaven, Minus the Bear, etc. And then there are the beach/surfer bands: Beach House, Best Coast, Surfer Blood, Wavves, Beach Fossils, etc. Anyone want to start a band with me called Polar Bear Suntan? We are guaranteed to spark an indie revolution!
– What is with over-processing vocals? Especially when people have decent voices? It makes it so difficult to connect on a personal level. I have this problem going all the way back to My Bloody Valentine.
– I like "Slow Motion" quite a bit. Sort of a world music vibe there.
– The vocal harmonies are very interesting. I suppose that’s one reason this guy is such a critical darling? I like the Fleet Foxes harmonies better though. One guy harmonising with himself doesn’t have the same effect as three or four different voices, with all their subtle (and not so subtle) differences.
– There’s something intangible about these songs, as neat as they may be. Still, I have a feeling this record will grow on me over the next few months. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve re-evaluated my score come December.
– It seems to me that Panda Bear holds the same fascination for critics as My Bloody Valentine, which I honestly still don’t entirely understand. Yes, both acts make gorgeous music for audiophiles, but in my mind, they leave something to be desired in terms of narrative and connection. 
– Here’s the deal: I appreciate density and the use of heavy reverb at times, but Lennox, like many current indie bands, sounds like he’s hiding behind it all. I can tell there’s some serious Beach Boys influence going on, but on that group’s best work, there was an immediacy that was simply arresting. The songs here sound obscured and distant, and at times entirely void of emotion.

ATTRIBUTES:
Cohesion (4/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consistency (4/5)
Songs (4/5)