Quick Review (LP): A Ghost Is Born by Wilco

Wilco
A Ghost Is Born
Nonesuch; 2004

My Rating: B- (64/100)

Best Tracks: "Hell Is Chrome", "Spiders (Kidsmoke)", "Muzzle of Bees", "Wishful Thinking", "Company In My Back", "The Late Greats"

Wilco’s "modern art" record.

TRACK NOTES

"At Least That’s What You Said"

  • A lot of restraint here.
  • Very Neil Young-ish feel.
  • Tweedy’s guitar solo is a "musical transcription" of a panic attack.
  • Overall, nice switch from soft and delicate to full out classic rock assault.

"Hell Is Chrome"

  • "When the devil came/He was not red/He was chrome and he said/’Come with me’"
  • Love the lyrics on this one.
  • Again, a little restraint goes a pretty long way here.

"Spiders (Kidsmoke)"

  • KRAUT-ROCK!!!
  • As much as I like this track, it’s always hard not to think "OK, let’s just go ahead and hurry up that part where they rock out."
  • Around 6 minutes it starts to get really great. The lyrics get interesting, the guitars get aggressive, and stuff starts coming in from all over the place.

”Muzzle of Bees”

  • This is one of the best on the album.
  • The way the track builds – that’s great.
  • It’s really very lovely and subdued.

"Hummingbird"

  • Great lyrics on this one.
  • But…the way the song ends bugs me a bit.
  • Overall, it’s a changeup for the band, and mostly a success.
  • But…not a resounding one.

”Handshake Drugs”

  • I’ve always preferred the version on the More Like The Moon EP. This one is too refined or something.
  • Actually, the live version on KT is better as well. Nels’ guitar work is spot on there.
  • Still, great song pretty much any way you slice it.

"Wishful Thinking"

  • Another great. This one is really about the musical atmosphere.
  • Great drum work by Kotche.

”Company In My Back”

  • It’s funny, I listen to a lot of these songs now and they sound a bit empty without Nels’ crazy guitar fills.
  • This one’s good, and it got better in later live performances.

”I’m A Wheel”

  • Sort of stupid.
  • I’m sure it’s really clever on some level I don’t understand.

”Theologians”

  • This is an interesting track. Never loved it, but Tweedy’s lyrics are definitely thought-provoking.
  • I like the way he quotes Christ from the Gospel of John. Not sure what to make of it though.

”Less Than You Think”

  • So obviously this one is a drag.
  • But…consider what Tweedy has to say about it and why he thinks it fits into the album.
  • Even as I review it, I’m thinking, "Am I really going to listen to all 11 minutes of this drone?"
  • The answer: "Not today, junior."

”The Late Greats”

  • Love this one.
  • Tweedy really understands what it’s like to be a rabid rock and roll fanboy and a hopeless dreamer.
  • I have so many "late greats" in my life of music listening. Rodan, Month of Sundays, Crain, among many others.

ALBUM NOTES

  • This is Wilco’s most transitional record. There lineup was still in-flux with Jorgensen being added and Bach leaving shortly after the completion of the record.
  • I gotta admit, I hate the production on this record. It’s a huge drawback for me. Sounds sort of stuffy.
  • Tweedy is too cool to reach, but it almost feels like he is doing the "anti-reach" here. I don’t think he had a clear sense of direction at the time, and his response was just to put together some tunes that said "I know what I’m doing." This is the anti-Jay Bennett record, though not in any vengeful or bitter sense. It’s simply sounds like Tweedy did everything in his power to avoid making these songs poppy.
  • Visually captivating cover. Not crazy about it, but it grabs you in a minimalist sort of way.

ATTRIBUTES

Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

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Quick Review (LP): Patience by Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine
Patience
IRS;
1992

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "Jacksie", "How Does It Feel", "How Does It Feel (Reprise)", "Sister", "Little Genius"

…wherein they don’t use the word “ubiquitous” in any song titles.

TRACK NOTES

"Jacksie"

  • Love the atmosphere here.
  • Also, it doesn’t really sound like an opener, but it works.
  • Sort of eerie. Muy bueno.

”I’ve Been Slipping"

  • They definitely get the atmosphere thing this time around. This one’s ethereal.
  • I really like Karin’s angelic vocals, dated though they may be.

"How Does It Feel"

  • Catchy.
  • It’s fun to listen to Karin sing this song. She sounds really young, but she’s still a pretty great singer.
  • Hordinski puts himself up there with the likes of Buck and Marr on this one. Great guitar playing.

"How Does It Feel (Reprise)"

  • Exotic.
  • Seriously, as dated as this may sound, I like it.
  • Yessir, I do.

"Sister"

  • It’s right around this track that I start to realize how much better they got from album 1 to album 2.
  • Excellent guitar work by Hordinski. Nice n’ noodly.
  • Great vocal performance by Karin.

"Il Est Dans Mon Poche"

  • "It is in my pocket." (?)
  • Pretty and catchy, but leaves something to be desired.

"Fladers Genius"

  • Pretty little acoustic number.

"Little Genius"

  • They should really cut Linford loose on the piano more often.
  • This is good – sort of reminds me of a Bruce Hornsby instrumental.
  • Nice cello work too. Very pretty stuff here.

"Lullabye"

  • Good stuff. Only drums, Karin’s voice, and the sound of rain.
  • At first, I wasn’t crazy about this, but on second thought, I really like it.

"Circle of Quiet"

  • Nice job on the mandolin.
  • Very CCM-ish. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
  • Also reminds me of Lone Justice a bit. That’s a good thing, even though it also means it sounds very 80’s.

"I Painted My Name"

  • Lite alterna-pop on this one.
  • Nice enough, but forgettable.

"Rhapsodie"

  • This looks forward to their late 90’s/early 00’s sound.
  • Very earnest.
  • Like, more earnest than a late 80’s Mello Yello commercial. Nowwhutumean?

"Grey Monologue"

  • Yeah Daddy-o.

ALBUM NOTES

  • They still sound like Edie Brickell, but they are better at that this time around, and they wear the sound with a little more grace and feel.
  • Very strong first five to open things up. That gives way to a whole bunch of pretty passages that don’t really go anywhere. They are actually quite good, and I’m not sure if I like the effect of them or not.
  • Come to think of it, the evidence is that they ran out of ideas here and had to substitute some unfinished thoughts in order to fill out an album proper.
  • While it may not be a masterpiece, it’s a pretty significant step forward for Over The Rhine, and at least half of it holds up remarkably well.

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

Quick Review (LP): The Harrow & The Harvest by Gillian Welch

Gillian Welch
The Harrow & The Harvest
2011

My Rating: B (68/100)

Best Tracks: "Dark Turn of Mind", "The Way It Will Be", "Hard Times", "Silver Dagger", "The Way The Whole Thing Ends"

No longer an orphan. On her 5th album, GW sounds right at home.

TRACK NOTES

"Scarlet Town"

  • Fairly typical GW.
  • Rawlings sounds like an Appalachian Hendrix on his little acoustic.
  • Recalls "Caleb Meyer" a bit.
  • Has a dark feel, something almost Native American about it.

"Dark Turn of Mind"

  • This one reminds me of "Dear Someone" off of The Revelator. Not a bad thing.
  • Gorgeous, this one.

"The Way It Will Be"

  • Dig this one.
  • Sounds a bit Low-ish, tense, hushed, dejected, ya know?
  • Some of the lyrics hit in a really visceral way. The way they sing "Gatling Gun" does it.
  • Love the dual-melodic vox. Nice touch.

"The Way That It Goes"

  • Sing songy in feel, depressing in content.

"Tennessee"

  • I always get the line "It’s beefsteak when I’m working/Whiskey when I’m dry" stuck in my head.

"Down Along The Dixie Line"

  • Pretty, slow, standard.
  • A bit reminiscent of the stuff off of Soul Journey.

"Six White Horses"

  • Hey, a harmonica. That’s different.

"Hard Times"

  • One of her best. Truly beautiful, truly harrowing.
  • A must hear. Might just make you tear up.
  • "Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind…"
  • "Said it’s a big ol’ world/Heavy and mean/That big ol’ machine/Is a-pickin’ up speed"
  • This one really hits home on a personal level.

"Silver Dagger"

  • This one’s strong, if not stellar.
  • "The great destroyer’s in every man…"

"The Way The Whole Thing Ends"

  • Nice way to end the record. Kinda dreamy, almost like a lullabye.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Well hmmm…8 years later and that’s the way that it goes. Same as it ever was.
  • A few new-ish moments – "The Way It Will Be" and "Hard Times" are both great.
  • Overall though, what separates this from what she’s done in the past? Not much. Maybe it’s a grower?
  • Maybe, with the title and all (the image of plowing the field and the subsequent harvest), Welch is making a realist statement here? Maybe that’s the concept?
  • I can tell there will be times with this record that I will really love it, and others when I will pretty much forget about it.
  • With a few exceptions, this is par-for-the-course Gillian. She won’t win any converts here, but fans will find plenty to enjoy. I do find it disappointing that she didn’t emerge 8 years later with something a little more revolutionary, a changeup of some sort. But perhaps to do so would have been to confirm the worst sentiments of her critics? If she proves anything with this release, she proves that the music she makes is anything but an act. These are songs that she patiently cares for until they are ready for harvest, and she ain’t nothing but a sonic farmer girl, pure and simple. In hindsight, I sorta like that.

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

Quick Review (LP): No Line On The Horizon by U2

U2
No Line On The Horizon
Interscope; 2009

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Magnificent", "Unknown Caller", "I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight", "Cedars of Lebanon”

The sound of a band staying the course.

TRACK NOTES

"No Line On The Horizon"

  • Cool track, and a decent opener.
  • I always cringe at the line "You can hear the universe in her sea shells." I guess because it brings this to mind. Is it supposed to do that?
  • I mean, I know what he’s talking about with the whole sound in the sea shells thing, so, anyways…
  • It’s no "Where The Streets Have No Name" or "A Sort of Homecoming", but its trajectory is at least in that direction. Solid enough, if a bit underwhelming.

"Magnificent"

  • Word is the lyrics are loosely based upon the "Magnificat." Genius.
  • Love the intro. Nice touch, letting it sort of build from something a bit muffled. Gives it that epic feel.
  • Great U2-ish tune, BTW. One of The Edge’s best riffs in a while.
  • The lyrics "Only love can leave such a mark/Only love can leave such a scar" remind me of this and this.
  • "Only love can leave such a mark/Only love unites our hearts." Nice change up in the parallelism there. 

"Moment of Surrender"

  • This one reminds me of something from ATYCLB. Has a soul-pop feel.
  • I think they closed most of the U2 360 shows with this one. It is pretty climactic.
  • The pacing of the song is brilliant. It allows it to unfold like a story.
  • The lyrics are pretty great.
  • "My body’s now a begging bowl
    That’s begging to get back, begging to get back
    To my heart
    To the rhythm of my soul
    To the rhythm of my unconsciousness
    To the rhythm that yearns
    To be released from control"

"Unknown Caller"

  • LOVE this tune. A new U2 classic.
  • I detect some inspiration from Sufjan in the use of a choral style vocal. Compare this to "Chicago."
  • Bono loves to make reference to Jeremiah 33:3. Wonder what it is about that verse?
  • Or is it a Trinity thing? 3 x 3?

"I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight"

  • Say what you will, I like this tune, corny (and, er, picturesque – "Squeeze out sparks of light"???)  lyrics notwithstanding.
  • Sure, it’s the most obvious play for pop culture acceptance here, but it largely succeeds, and I’d rather hear this than 99.9% of the tripe that gets played today.
  • Another great Edge riff here.

"Get On Your Boots"

  • This isn’t as bad as I once thought it was. The initial bass and drums things is a little deceptive.
  • Still, I’m not quite sure how it fits into the rest of the album.
  • I don’t hate it anymore, but it’s still a bit of a skipper.

"Stand Up Comedy"

  • Hey, there’s the "Love, Love, Love" thing! You know, from "Until the End of the World."
  • U2 doesn’t wear cock rock riffage well.
  • Bono’s lyrics are interesting and self-deprecating. Not bad in that department.
  • I particularly like the one about helping God cross the street like an old lady.

"FEZ-Being Born"

  • Not sure what to make of this one. It’s really an instrumental in essence, eh?
  • That being said, I kinda wish U2 would do more stuff like this. Some instrumentals might make their records a little more diverse and ultimately a little more interesting.

"White As Snow"

  • Nice use of "Veni, Veni Emmanuel".
  • Flutters by in a sort of dream.
  • Nice tune, nothing particulary special.

"Breathe"

  • Part of me likes this one, part of me doesn’t.
  • What I like: Bono’s vocal and the general thrust of the song.
  • What I don’t like: the instrumentation, especially the strings and such.
  • I think it actually works as a stripped down rocker, but the dramatic swells are too pompous.

"Cedars of Lebanon"

  • There’s a haze that hangs over this one that I really love.
  • Reminds me of "Mothers of the Disappeared."
  • In fact, it reminds me of combo of "Mothers…" and "Love Is Blindness."
  • One of the band’s most interesting experiments in a while. That backing vocal on the chorus is haunting.
  • Love how it sort of drifts away into nothingness all of the sudden. Totally mortal.

ALBUM NOTES

  • What to make of this one? Went it hit the streets, I was put off by the silly single "Get On Your Boots." I assumed that if that was the best they could muster, the rest of the album must be tripe. (see my old review)
  • Recently, I’ve had a change of heart. The first 5 tracks are all strong, and "Magnificent" and "Unknown Caller" both rank up their with their greatest.
  • Problem is, the last half of the album is somewhat uninspired. Don’t get me wrong, none of it’s BAD, but it’s a bit mediocre on whole, although their are some decent ideas (touched on above).
  • All in all, this is the most "U2-ish" they’ve been since the late 80’s. There are glimmers of what they were able to do in the mid-80’s here, but there’s also a good bit of corniness and over-production.
  • Bottom line though is that the boys still got it. They may not be making classics equal to The Joshua Tree or Achtung Baby, but they are still making inspired music that has the ability to transport you to another time and place. And really, that’s all I ask for from Bono & co.

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

Quick Review (LP): Something About Airplanes by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
Something About Airplanes
Barsuk; 1998

My Rating: B (66/100)

Best Tracks: "Bend to Squares", "President of What?", "Pictures In An Exhibition",
"Amputations"

For those about to mope…

TRACK NOTES

  • Love "Bend to Squares." That mournful cello makes this one of the more definitive opening tracks that come to mind.
  • Prefer the Chords version of "President of What?", but this one is decent enough. Cool tune regardless. The keyboard sounds niftier here.
  • "Champagne from a Paper Cup" gets the mood right, clouded, confused, and dark.
  • "Your Bruise" continues the moody vibe. Gibbard’s vocals are great there.
  • On "Pictures In An Exhibition", Death Cab threatens a pulse. 
  • "Sleep Spent" reminds me of the work of the band Retsin, especially The Sweet Luck of Amaryllis. Pleasant, rainy day, sleepy sort of vibe.
  • "The Face That Launched 1000 Sh*ts" is a waste.
  • "Amputations" = muy bueno. Great guitar work there, even if it is a little amateurish. Solid drumming too.
  • "Fake Frowns" is pretty good. I like the breakdown in the middle. Good that they are picking up the tempo later in the record.
  • "Line of Best Fit" is dull. Not a great closer, or maybe too typical?

ALBUM NOTES

  • There’s a certain mopey glory here, something like a bedroom version of The Smiths’ debut.
  • Sounds like Seattle, except not like grunge. In case you were wondering, Sunny Day Real Estate is the missing link between these guys and Pearl Jam.
  • I’d say this album’s a grower. It doesn’t grab you as quick as some of their later material (say, Transatlanticism), but the songs are actually quite strong, and Chris Walla has an ear for atmosphere.
  • In keeping with their debut EP, this reminds me a lot of Modest Mouse’s early stuff for UP Records, which is high praise. The main difference is the urban dreams versus Modest Mouse’s backwoods existentialism.
  • All in all, while the record hints at the great things that were to come (particularly in the lyrical and atmospheric departments), this is a debut offering from a band that is still finding its way. Nothing wrong with that.
  • DELUXE EDITION: "There’s lots of people here…" The band’s first show sounds great. Nice Smiths cover. "State Street Residential" is nice live. Also, I wonder who The Revolutionary Hydra are, and how funny it must feel to hear themselves headlining on the back of Death Cab as an opening act back in the day.

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

Quick Review (LP): Yankee Hotel Foxtrot by Wilco

Wilco
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
Nonesuch; 2002

My Rating: A (88/100)

Best Tracks: "I am trying to break your heart", "Kamera", "War On War", "Jesus, etc.", "I’m the Man Who Loves You", "Poor Places"

Cosmic American Music goes through the looking glass.

TRACK NOTES

  • "I am trying to break your heart"
    • This is what happens when you take a simple folk song, deconstruct it, and throw everything at it including the kitchen sink.
    • "I am an American aquarium drinker/I assassin down the avenue" – I’ve got no idea what that means, but I love the way it sounds.
    • It sounds so simple, but as Tweedy has aged, his brilliance has consisted partly in the simplicity of his songs.
  • "Kamera"
    • The song that is, to me, the definition of "Dad Rock" for the new generation.
    • Love the Steely Dan vibe.
    • Power through restraint. Love the sonic flourishes in this tune.
    • Also, it’s great how the "Tell them I’m lost" bit gets juxtaposed against the basic melody.
  • "Radio Cure"
    • This is THE deconstructed song of the record. If you listen to the original version (I believe it was called "Corduroy Cutoff Girl") it was much poppier.
    • "Distance has no way of making love understandable" is the central theme.
    • I’m not a big fan of this song. A bit of a distraction in my book.
    • Anyway, check out "Corduroy Cutoff Girl." It’s an interesting study in how a track can change in production.
  • "War On War"
    • Hot damn, this is one catchy tune.
    • This is the type of song that you hear for the first time and immediately want to hear more from where it came from. So great.
    • "You’re gonna lose/You have to lose/You have to learn how to die/If you wanna wanna stay alive"
    • It’s an entirely new take on Parsons’ Cosmic American Music.
  • "Jesus, etc."
    • Beautiful.
    • "You were right about the stars/Each one is a setting sun"
    • "Tall buildings shake/Voices escape singing sad sad songs/Tuned to chords/Strung down your cheeks/Bitter melodies/Turning your orbit around"
    • Those lyrics, coming on the heels of 9/11 (actually before), are spine-tingling in a prophetic sort of way. This was the song that year.
    • Easily one of the greatest pop songs ever.
  • "Ashes of American Flags"
    • Again, love the lyrics here.
    • "All my lies are always wishes/I know I would die if I could come back new"
    • That slightly distorted guitar riff that sort of flares in owns this tune and really holds it together.
  • "Heavy Metal Drummer"
    • Poppy, almost to the point of being asinine. Gotta admit, though, I dig it.
    • "I miss the innocence I’ve known/Playing KISS covers/Beautiful and stoned"
    • Bleepity bloopity bleep.
  • "I’m the Man Who Loves You"
    • Another amazingly catchy tune.
    • It feels like Tweedy is riding a wave through this record, lyrically and musically.
    • Bennett did his fair share here, didn’t he?
    • The horns at the end are key.
  • "Pot Kettle Black"
    • This one doesn’t get top billing, but it’s strong enough.
    • Similar feel to "Kamera."
    • Dig the guitar fills on this one.
  • "Poor Places"
    • This one’s a centerpiece. Fairly deconstructed, but comes out on the other end of that process even better than before.
    • Listen to this version against the original (demo) mix.
    • Love the way the noise and the lyrics play against each other.
    • Gorgeous melody here.
    • The ending is brilliant to the point of being glorious.
      • “Reservations”
        • I like this tune, but always felt like it could have been a little more resounding.
        • Then again, perhaps a little more flourish would have been too over the top for this record?
        • That chorus is doggone lovely.
        • What is that distant organ thing at the end?
        • That creaking noise at the end is a nice touch.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Imposing album cover. It just grabs you. Those towers look like giant electrical transistors or something.
  • Noise all over the place in general. This is a fun record for headphones. It sounds very liveable, like they didn’t worry too much about the perfect take.
  • Fabulous concept. The impact of distance upon communication in general and love in particular. This record covers a lot of emotional ground but stays on subject pretty well.
  • I’m not crazy about a few of the tunes (mostly "Radio Cure"), but even that one holds together well with the rest, and is pretty pivotal in terms of concept.
  • This one may have a sensational back story (see the film, it’s a winner), but the great thing is that the music doesn’t rely on any of that.
  • This was the last album with Bennett. While Wilco changed drastically after his departure, they have managed to find their way ahead. He certainly left his mark though. Regardless of how JT and JB felt about each other, they made a great musical team.
  • Ken Coomer got the axe too. Apparently his drumming was too inflexible.
  • You’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t download the demos right now.
  • All in all, one thing is for certain. If you are a dude named “Jay”, then stay the hell away from Jeff Tweedy.

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

Quick Review (LP): Till We Have Faces by Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine
Till We Have Faces
Scampering Songs; 1991

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "Eyes Wide Open", "Like a Radio", "And Can It Be",
"Sea and Sky"

A long time ago in a coffee shop far, far away…

NOTES

  • Let’s just be honest – "Eyes Wide Open", while catchy, sounds extremely dated to the "college rock" scene of the late 80’s/early 90’s.
  • "Someday" showcases the thing that makes this album stand out – the guitar work of Ric Hordinski. Otherwise, Linford’s not playing piano, and Karin sounds guarded and insecure.
  • "Like a Radio" hints at the kind of intimacy the band would be capable of well down the road. Pretty good.
  • "Iron Curtain" = kind of creepy.
  • "Cast Me Away" is a nice little vocal passage.
  • "And Can It Be" is one of the album’s highlights. A little mandolin thrown in for effect. Muy bueno.
  • Man, if "Gentle Wounds" don’t sound like "What I Am" then philosophy is not, in fact, a walk on the slippery rocks.
  • At times, Ms. Bergquist kinda sounds like Maria McKee. But she also sounds like Enya too. Weird.
  • "If I’m Drowning" just sort of slips by.
  • "Sea and Sky" is peppy. Another album highlight. That guitar lead reminds me of Belly. Coulda seen this being a radio hit back in 92 or 93.
  • There was this other, coffee house funk side to OTR back in the 90’s. The live cut "Fly Dance" is an excellent example of that. It also tells me that OTR have always been a live band.
  • "Paul and Virginia" is pretty, but nothing particularly special.
  • Oh goodness – the track is called "Ubiquitous Hands" – I had to look that word up. That’s a mighty big word. Very literati. Sort of a sleepy tune, but not bad for what it is.
  • "Genius of Water" closes things out with very little spark. Pretty forgettable.
  • Thankfully, I have 20 years perspective on this record.
  • What a radically different band this is from the Over the Rhine of today. Linford’s piano is nowhere to be found, Karin sounds measured and out of breath at times, and the star of the show is the guitar work of Ric Hordinski. I’m sure real OTR fans love this stuff, but I didn’t stumble upon the band until Ohio was released, so I’m not going to pretend to dig this. I’ll probably never listen to it again, but there a handful of catchy tunes here. Probably for completists only, and perhaps also for those who were there when it all went down. Me? I was 11 at the time, and listening to Guns n’ Roses.
  • For a more appreciative take, see the AMG review. “Later releases are stronger and more confident, but what they gain in confidence and surefootedness they lose in freshness and unpredictability.”

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

Quick Review (LP): Summerteeth by Wilco

Wilco
Summerteeth
Reprise; 1999

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Shot In The Arm", "I’m Always In Love", "How To Fight Loneliness", "Via Chicago", "When You Wake Up Feeling Old", "Summerteeth", "In A Future Age"

Fractured folk and power pop hybrid – “summer here and summer over there.”

TRACK NOTES

  • You know what "Can’t Stand It" reminds me of? "You’re So Vain." Cool tune though, poppy as a hell, a great jumping off point.
  • "She’s A Jar" is the first of the record’s slower, abstract folk numbers. Tweedy’s in abstract poetry mode there.
  • "Shot In The Arm" is still a live favorite of the band. It’s a really cool, spacey, Neu!-ish tune. Great lyrics.
  • "What you once were isn’t what you wanna be/Anymore!"
  • "We’re Just Friends" is a personal favorite. Sort of reminds me of Randy Newman.
  • Same with "Always In Love." I love how big it is as a power-pop song. Tweedy sounds like he’s coming off the rails.
  • "Nothing’severgonnastandinmywayagain" is cute, but it’s a bit annoying too. I’ll take it though.
  • "Pieholden Suite" may not be one of the better tracks here, but it sort of points toward the band’s more experimental/fragmented approach on later records.
  • "How To Fight Loneliness" is a gorgeous little acoustic strummer. Great instrumentation.
  • "Via Chicago" is another tune that points toward Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Brilliant in every way.
  • "I dreamed about killing you again last night/And it felt alright to me" – that is so great.
  • "ELT" is cool, but sort of drags in the middle and pails in comparison to some of the other power pop numbers herein.
  • I just don’t care much for "My Darling."
  • I love "When You Wake Up Feeling Old." It’s one of my all-time Wilco favorites. It almost sounds like something Chicago would’ve recorded in collaboration with The Beach Boys.
  • The title track features some great lead guitar work. It’s a nice combo of the record’s two sides.
  • "In A Future Age" is similar to "Via Chicago". Perhaps not as dark, but equally great. Love the piano work there.
  • Imagine The Beach Boys of the mid-60’s forming a band with Alex Chilton and Chris Bell in the early 70’s and you pretty much have the magnificent "Candyfloss."

ALBUM NOTES

  • Great late night driving album. Amazingly good for top of the lung singalongs in order to stay awake.
  • This album, more than any other, strikes me as a partnership between Tweedy and Bennett. Bennett really exerted his "throw everything at it" production mindset with Summerteeth.
  • There are two sides to this album: a sunny, power pop side where the upbeat tunes foil Tweedy’s utterly miserable disposition at the time and the understated, experimental folk side where fractured but gorgeous tunes pass the time and Tweedy crafts some amazingly adventurous lyrics.
  • I compare this one to Radiohead’s OK Computer. Not quite as experimental as it seemed when it first came out, but it serves as a turning point for the band and the record when people really started to take notice.
  • Given the two faces of the album (power pop/fractured folk), I’m starting to sense some of the brilliance of the record.
  • When it all comes down to it, this album contains about 10 or 11 amazing songs, and while many are unpolished, there is an open-ended feel to everything here that makes it very listenable.
  • The definition of “summerteeth” according to the Urban Dictionary. I’m thinking this refers to the fact that the album contains both light and dark songs. It could also refer to the way the lyrics are really biting at times. Also, Tweedy has a thing for interesting words as well, and I think that factors in.
  • Always thought that moon image was a captivating cover.

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

Quick Review (LP): Bon Iver by Bon Iver

Bon Iver
Bon Iver
Jagjaguwar; 2011

My Ratings: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "Perth", "Holocene", "Michicant", "Calgary",
"Beth/Rest"

Another Winter World.

TRACK NOTES

  • "Perth"
        • A strange hybrid of metal and soft rock.
    • Definitely something brilliant here.
    • Those drums are pretty great.
  • "Minnesota, WI"
    • Is that a banjo or a guitar?
    • Love the layers of instruments and voices.
    • His voice is really just another instrument, isn’t it?
  • "Holocene"
    • Gorgeous arpeggio.
    • "I could see for miles, miles, miles"
    • This one’s a big winner. Just really lovely.
  • "Towers"
    • I like the fact that he didn’t throw as much into this one.
    • Thank God those locomotive drums kick in, because I was going to have to do it if he didn’t.
  • "Michicant"
    • Waltzy.
    • Dreamy.
    • Hyper-nostalgic.
  • "Hinnom, TX"
    • This one’s sort of goofy.
  • "Wash."
    • Kind of reminds me of Rachel’s later work.
    • Hypnotic.
    • Excellent piano work.
    • Bears the nostalgic mark as well.
  • "Calgary"
    • The video is amazing.
    • I’m a sucker for those warm, mournful synths, so I love this track by default.
  • "Lisbon, OH"
    • Transitional. Not much to say about it.
  • "Beth/Rest"
    • Wow.
    • It’s ridiculous to me that in 2011, there are people arguing that the instrumentation is controversial because it is cheesy. That’s because it’s so wonderful.
    • This sounds like the soundtrack to Christopher Cross’ dreams.
    • This is hands down one of the best tracks of the year.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Impressionistic.
  • BTW, it should be against the law for bands to release self-titled albums, unless it is the debut. I think it’s such a cop out. Points docked on concept.
  • Surprised he released this in the summer. Would have made more sense as an early fall.
  • This reminds me of the Strands of Oaks’ Pope Kildragon, except all dolled up with special effects and such.
  • Reminds me of the Destroyer album that came out earlier this year as well.
  • He’s all about evoking a sense of location and space, eh? These songs are very personal in the sense that he is giving voice to specific locations.
  • Places and times, some fictional some real, some non-descript and other very specific, some ancient, some yesterday.
  • There’s a lot going on here. I’ve barely scratched the surface lyrically. I’d love to dive into this one a little more at some point.
  • Want to know what this sounds like? Imagine Brian Eno producing a Coldplay album. Oh, wait…
  • Except it’s like Eno’s Another Green World with Chris Martin singing in falsetto, and his Hobbit brothers nowhere to be found. Seriously, isn’t it funny how Chris’ bandmates all have Hobbit names?
  • Great cover art. Sort of naturalist and surrealist all at once.

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

Quick Review (LP): Being There by Wilco

Wilco
Being There
Reprise; 1996

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Misunderstood", "Far, Far Away", "Monday", "Outtasite", "Forget the Flowers", "What’s the World Got In Store", "Say You Miss Me", "Sunken Treasure"

Power-pop + Art-punk + Cosmic Americana + Epic country = Classic LP

NOTES

  • "Misunderstood" is the height of transcendence. Brilliant in every conceivable way.
  • First you have those lyrics. ("When you’re back in your old neighborhood/Cigarettes taste so good/But you’re so misunderstood/So misunderstood…")
  • Then the instrumentation. The way different instruments carry the tune by themselves at different times.
  • And Tweedy sounds completely lovesick over rock and roll.
  • "Far, Far Away" is transporting. THAT’s cosmic american music right there. That’s what I think of.
  • "I long to hold you in my arms and sway/Kiss and ride on the CTA"
  • "Monday" sounds like the fusion of Big Star and Grand Funk Railroad. Power pop glory. Love the horns. Brilliant.
  • "Outtasite (Outta Mind)" is a second power pop gem. These guys sound like they are having a blast. Sounds Petty-ish.
  • "Forget the Flowers" is a cool little truck stop country tune. It’s unassuming, but it’s a winner.
  • "Red-Eyed and Blue" is the sort of off-kilter experiment that makes this album so special. Sleigh bells and whistles!
  • "I Got You" is good power-pop, though not as great as tracks 3 and 4.
  • "What’s the World Got In Store" is a personal favorite. Gonna request it when I see them live in a few months.
  • "Hotel Arizona" is a bit of a joke by title alone, but in all reality it’s a pretty cool rock song.
  • What does "Say You Miss Me" remind me of? It’s those background vocals. Fantastic groover regardless.
  • "Sunken Treasure" is one of their greats. "I am so out of tune with you…"
  • "Someday Soon" is another brilliant slice of roadhouse country.
  • "Outta Mind (Outta Sight)" is an unncessary aberration on an otherwise brilliant album.
  • I think of Dylan on "Someone Else’s Song." Nice accordion in the background.
  • "Kingpin" is too jammy. In my opinion, filler, though I guess it’s a bit of a highlight live.
  • I like the feel of "Was I In Your Dreams." Sort of woozy, a drunken, lovesick singalong perhaps?
  • "Why Would You Wanna Live" is fairly forgettable. Belongs toward the end of the record.
  • "The Lonely 1" may be kind of pitiful, but it’s gorgeous as well. Reminds me of the film Almost Famous. I love to think of a young kid looking up to his rock star hero.
  • "Dreamer In My Dreams" never really does anything for me. I know they were trying to go for that Stones thing, and it works nice enough on the album, but overall, it’s subpar Wilco. (Is it anything more than a fractured rip-off of "Honky Tonk Women"?)
  • Supposedly based on a film of the same name. Even sounds faintly cinematic.
  • Interesting recording process for this record. Each song was rehearsed, recorded, and mixed on its own day.
  • Apparently 30 songs were recorded. Deluxe edition, anyone?
  • Love the simplicity of the album cover and artwork in general. The album concept is reinforced by the shots of the band in the studio. As for the album cover, nothing really says “being there” in rock and roll like the hand on the guitar. Understated, but appropriate and, to a degree, brilliant.

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