Initial Reactions (2012): Mermaid Avenue III, M. Ward, Sara Watkins

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

Billy Bragg/Wilco – Mermaid Avenue III [B]: One last round for old times’ sake. Though not as great as the first, it beats the second for sure. The Tweedy-led tracks are real treats, reminiscent of the YHF demos. A few cuts could’ve used more work; otherwise, a delicious slice of dessert from one of the most fruitful experiments in rock and roll history. ("When the Roses Bloom Again", "Listening to the Wind That Blows")

M. Ward – Wasteland Companion [B+]: That distinctive voice inhabiting simple acoustic songs. Folk-ish with experimental tinges, i.e. the creepy howls of a desolate landscape in the title track, putting the emphasis on Ward’s mellow side. All in all, a strong record, one I’ll keep in rotation, and who knows what insights a few more spins might bring. Invites you to wander cautiously through the desolation.  ("The First Time I Ran Away", "A Wasteland Companion")

Sara Watkins – Sun Midnight Sun [A]: Well here’s a surprise. The opener’s distorted, hyperkinetic fiddling signals a musical shift, and gorgeous tunes get dressed up to launch this into ‘A’ territory. The centerpiece is the harrowing kiss-off "When It Pleases You.” Intense, beautiful, edgy, gorgeous, imaginative, interesting, and a major leap forward for a promising artist. In short, it’s everything I love about music. ("When It Pleases You", "Lock and Key")

Advertisements

U2: 11 O’Clock Tick Tock

A few months ago, I realized that the very early U2 track “11 O’Clock Tick Tock” was, to put it simply, bad-ass. Just watch this version from Red Rock way back in the day. That riff…laws yes…

“Saaaaad song, sad song…”

Haiku Review: Magnetic Fields’ Love at the Bottom of the Sea

I’m certainly not the first to do this, but I thought it would be fun. I’ll be posting these “Haiku Reviews” as addendums to my Initial Reactions posts that usually come at the beginning of the week.

double entendres

sexuality so weird

worn on his sleeve. eww.

Haiku Review: The Shins’ Port of Morrow

I’m certainly not the first to do this, but I thought it would be fun. I’ll be posting these “Haiku Reviews” as addendums to my Initial Reactions posts that usually come at the beginning of the week.

"morrow" means morning

fresh start is the aim? achieved

in members only

Initial Reactions (2012): Bruce Springsteen, Magnetic Fields, Father John Misty

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball [A-]: A strong record that could have been stronger. The problem? Springsteen picked a potent theme (avarice), gave it a compelling banner (who or what is the wrecking ball here?), and then cast it in pristine production. The result is a good, maybe great record instead of a classic. It’s a winner for sure, but dressed up too pretty for a blue collar manifesto. Still, surprisingly fine. ("Wrecking Ball", "Land of Hope and Dreams")

Magnetic Fields – Love At The Bottom Of The Sea [B-]: That first track is funny and all, but the double entendres start to ring hollow around the album’s middle, if not sooner. Now I’m not enough of a follower to know how this fits into Merritt’s career, but what I do know from my copy of Holiday is that the man doesn’t need to rely on cheek to create a compelling record. Sure, it can be fun for the novelty, but overall, the results are forgettable. ("God Wants Us To Wait")

Father John Misty – Fear Fun [B]: Good night! J. Tillman tries hard to make a great record and makes a decent one. There’s 5 times he comes close to writing a classic tune, but he crams so much in that the tunes sag under the weight. At times, I get the sense that he’s so taken with his own abilities that he forgets to serve the song. Now I know that sounds oh-so-criticale, but just listen to track 10. Not writing a novel sir – writing songs. ("Funtimes in Babylon")

Initial Reactions: The Shins, Chairlift, Andrew Bird

Initial Reactions are just that: my reactions to records after only a few listens (usually 2 or 3). I try to be fair, but if a record doesn’t make much of an initial impression on me, someone’s going to need to tell me to pay closer attention if they think it deserves better. (see the sidebar for rating descriptions)

The Shins – Port of Morrow [B+]: James Mercer is looking for a fresh start with this one, the chance to embark on voyages heretofore unknown with a new crew. While promising, his refitted outfit is less scrappy. Where Chutes and Wincing both sounded ready to spiral out of orbit into pop hyperspace, there’s a definite restraint here. The wild-eyed vision seems to have taken a backseat to professionalism. Also, first half strong, second meh. ("Simple Song", "Bait and Switch")

Chairlift – Something [B]: As much as I like Chairlift’s synth-pop sound, it ultimately underwhelms. The songs are packed so dense that they can barely breathe. There’s a punkish vigor here, but a more restraint in instrumentation would go a long way. The result is a record that is frequently interesting and beautiful, but never quite glorious. Girl can sing though… ("I Belong In Your Arms", "Cool As A Fire")

Andrew Bird – Break It Yourself [B]: I feel like a heel awarding anything less than an ‘A’ to a talent like Andrew Bird. Break It Yourself, however, lacks for memorable songs. Sure, 8 of the 12 tracks would qualify as excellent, but nothing about this record culls my subconscious into a return. So God-given ability is one thing, but in my defense, would anyone rate a Joe Satriani album as "great" just because he can shred? I rest my case. ("Give It Away", "Hole in the Ocean Floor")