LP Review: Song In The Air by Elliott

Elliott
Song In The Air
Revelation; 2003

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: "Land And Water", "Carry On", "Believe", "Drag Like Pull", "Song in the Air", "Away We Drift"

Next step: evaporate.

TRACK NOTES

"Land And Water" (4.5/5)

  • Very cool sound.
  • Still can’t understand a thing of what he’s saying. That’s his bag though.
  • Great guitar work by Benny Clark.
  • Production sounds PERFECT this time around. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.

"Carry On" (4.5/5)

  • Pretty melody.
  • Again, nice guitar effects by Benny Clark.
  • Another somewhat Coldplay-ish tune.
  • Well written song. Great arc.

"Believe" (5/5)

  • Here’s an excellent example of the band just sounding more graceful than on False Cathedrals.
  • This is a gorgeous track.
  • The string work is perfect.

"Beijing (Too Many People)" (4/5)

  • You know, this reminds me of The Shipping News’ second album (Very Soon…).
  • Pleasant, but maybe a bit too long?

"Drag Like Pull" (4.5/5)

  • Excellent instrumental.
  • Tight as a snare drum.
  • Bet this one was awesome live.

"Bleed In Breathe Out" (4/5)

  • A bit faceless (?).
  • Still, I like it.
  • Especially dig the part towards the end where Ratterman starts in with a more martial pattern.

"Song In The Air" (4.5/5)

  • Strings, piano, and Higdon’s voice. Just great.
  • A perfect interlude. This really grounds the album. Makes it feel complete.

"Away We Drift" (5/5)

  • Another excellent rocker. This is the band firing on all cylinders.

"Blue Storm" (3.5/5)

  • Not much here. It strikes of filler.

"Genea" (4/5)

  • If that’s not Eno-esque, I don’t know what is.
  • Very cool.

ALBUM NOTES

  • False Cathedrals gets the props, but for my money, Song In The Air is superior. The album nails it in terms of cohesion and concept.
  • Eno might call this “Music for Airlines.”
  • It’s a shame the band decided to call it quits after this, as it is their strongest effort artistically (though I’ll always have a big place in my heart for US Songs). In all reality though, I don’t know what they would have done after this. Get MORE atmospheric perhaps?
  • Few bands have so dramatically transformed in the space of five years. Remember when these guys were writing power pop?

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4.35/5)

LP Review: Transatlanticism by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
Transatlanticism
Barsuk; 2003

My Rating: A (88/100)

Best Tracks: "The New Year", "Title & Registration", "The Sound of Settling", "Transatlanticism", "Passenger Seat", "We Looked Like Giants"

Emo grande.

TRACK NOTES

"The New Year" (4.5/5)

  • From the beginning, announces a new Death Cab.
  • "So everybody put your best suit or dress on/We’ll make-believe we are happy for just this once/Lighting firecrackers off on the front-lawn/As 30 dialogues bleed into one"
  • The biggest rock song they’ve done. Maybe a little Trail of Dead influence here?
  • Near perfect, but I’ve always felt like it ends a bit abruptly, like an unfinished thought.

"Lightness" (4.5/5)

  • Floats.
  • Beautiful, sleepy melody.
  • "Oh instincts are misleading/You shouldn’t think what you’re feeling/They don’t tell you what you know you should want…”

"Title & Registration" (5/5)

  • Brilliant in every way.
  • Great arrangement. Love the xylophone.

"Expo ’86" (4.5/5)

  • Gibbard does amazing melodies and riffs, but on this album they were overflowing, plain and simple. Case in point. This sounds effortless.

"The Sound of Settling" (5/5)

  • If there was ever a radio-friendly Death Cab tune, this is it.

"Tiny Vessels" (4/5)

  • Nice chiming guitar riff.

"Transatlanticism" (5/5)

  • Epic.

"Passenger Seat" (4.5/5)

  • The talked about Codes & Keys being Eno-esque, but this is maybe the most Eno-esque thing they’ve recorded.
  • A bit of a Lennon thing going on too.
  • Flows really well on the heels of the title track.

"Death of an Interior Decorator" (4/5)

  • Sounds like the early 90’s.

"We Looked Like Giants" (5/5)

  • Huge and feverish.

"A Lack of Color" (4.5/5)

  • Dark and, well, quite frankly, a wee bit depressing.
  • “This is fact not fiction for the first time in years…”

ALBUM NOTES

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Consequence (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): Zooropa by U2

U2
Zooropa
Island; 1993

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: “Babyface”, “Lemon”, “Stay (Faraway, So Close!)”, “Some Days Are Better Than Others”

Post-U2 (and everything else).

NOTES

  • Man, “Zooropa” (the title track) is like the anti-“Where the Streets Have No Name.” Very Eno-esque, reminiscent of something off Another Green World, but a little groovy too. I dig it.
  • “Babyface” is one of the strangest things they’ve ever recorded. It’s also really good. Kind of like a collision of Radiohead’s “Kid A” and “The Fly” off Achtung Baby. Love the twinkly piano thing.
  • Ah, “Numb!” The one where The Edge sings in the monotone and gets his face abused. Bizarre, but strangely enjoyable. I think it’s Bono’s falsetto that makes this track, and the organ breakdown is so silly that it’s fantastic.
  • “Lemon” is wonderful. Beautiful inspiration, transcendent melody. This is one of the U2’s underrated greats. I adore the bridge. See my review of the track here.
  • Man, “Stay”…the goodness on this one just astounds me. That chorus rises to heaven.
  • “Daddy’s Gonna Pay For Your Crashed Car” isn’t great, but it’s decent and pretty interesting. Bono calls it “industrial blues.”
  • The rhythm on “Some Days…” is some of the best work of Clayton and Mullen. Love Clayton’s bass line.
  • The atmosphere on “The First Time” is great. Another underrated gem. Kind of like a hybrid of “Mothers of the Disappeared” and “All I Want Is You.”
  • “Dirty Day” is a bit of a drag, but the overall tide of the album lifts it a few notches.
  • As much as I gotta respect Johnny Cash, I’m looking forward to hearing Bono on “The Wanderer” at some point in the not too distant future (AB deluxe perhaps?).
  • It’s amazing to think about how much this album has grown on me since its release. At the time, I though U2 had gone off the deep end, but as I listen to it now, I realize this is one of U2’s crowning achievements. It’s not quite a masterpiece, but this, like Achtung Baby, is a work of art.
  • There were apparently 20 tracks recorded during the Zooropa sessions, 10 of which are here, and 4 saw release (in re-recorded form) on Pop. I wonder what the other handful were, and if we’ll ever get to hear them? (I think “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me” was one as well).

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

Quick Review (LP): Achtung Baby by U2

U2
Achtung Baby
Island; 1991

My Rating: A+ (100/100)

Best Tracks: "Even Better Than The Real Thing", "One", "Until the End of the World", "Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses", "Mysterious Ways", "Ultraviolet"

“Let us go then, you and I / When the evening is spread out against the sky…”

NOTES

  • Even today, "Zoo Station" is such a bizarre song. It certainly sent the message at the time that U2 were re-defining themselves as a band. The "Everything In It’s Right Place" of the 90’s.
  • "Time is a train/The future, the past/We’re standing in the station/Our face pressed up against the glass"
  • "Even Better Than The Real Thing" = prophecy. Brilliant guitar work from The Edge.
  • You don’t need me to tell you that "One" is great, but I really love the way the song avoids the traditional verse-chorus-verse. The guitar tones are wonderful too.
  • "Have you come here for forgiveness/Have you come to raise the dead/Have you come here to play Jesus/To the lepers in your head?"
  • "Until the End of the World" is worth the price of admission alone. Judas sings the lead. Jesus sings the "Love love love!"
  • "In the garden, I was playing the tart/I kissed your lips and broke your heart/You, you were acting like it was the end of the world…"
  • "Waves of regret and waves of joy/I reached out for the one I tried to destroy/You, you said you’d wait til the end of the world…"
  • That ending. Haunting, beautiful, amazing.
  • “Who’s gonna ride…?" has always been a personal favorite. Love the wall of sound, the glam coupled with the gorgeous and romantic melody. Amazing lyrics.
  • "Oh the deeper I spin/The hunter will sin/For your ivory skin/Took a drive in the dirty rain/To the place where the wind calls your name…"
  • "So Cruel" is another great from this record. Brilliant songwriting. Sort of sounds like Elvis, doesn’t it? I could see him covering this, a medley with "Suspicious Minds."
  • "The Fly" is a really cool tune. I’ve always loved Bono’s falsetto on that tune, and the way he duels with his own voice on the lower end is brilliant.
  • "Love/We shine like a burning star/Falling from the sky/Tonight"
  • "A man will rise/A man will fall/From the sheer face of love/Like a fly on a wall/It’s no secret at all…"
  • "Mysterious Ways" is the big poppy hit here, but it’s no less a brilliant tune. No one can make meaningful and rich radio rock like U2.
  • "Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World" is another personal fave. It’s another example of the band sounding completely re-vitalized and fresh, brimming with ideas. Love that ethereal synth part in the background. That makes the song in my book.
  • I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but "Ultraviolet" is such a wonderful song. Amazing atmosphere, amazing tune.
  • Achtung Baby contains the band’s best ending sequence. "Acrobat" sets things swirling, setting the mood for what comes next.
  • "Love Is Blindness" – the opening organ is a nice touch. A waltz – what a way to end the record!
  • By the way, what is that lyrical style called (on "Love Is Blindness")? Bono uses it quite a bit, but he really nails it here. Is it a litany?
  • Big awards go to all players here. Bono’s vocals and lyrics are rich and compelling, The Edge’s guitar work is other-worldly, and Clayton and Mullen changed their style to lay the groundwork for greatness. Also, Eno and Lanois work their magic again. Can’t forget Lillywhite or Flood either.
  • Nevermind and Out of Time may have helped spur the music revolution in 1991, but it’s Achtung Baby that stands alone as a truly revolutionary experience. Even today, there’s a magical "high art" quality to the record that is an extremely rare achievement in the world of pop music. Only U2 could pull off a tongue-in-cheek pop record concerned with such weighty themes. A marvel of biblical proportions, and perhaps the record U2 was pre-destined to create.
  • A previous write-up.
  • Really looking forward to the deluxe edition (6CDs!!!) in November.
  • One last thought – AB as a whole sort of reminds me of the T.S. Eliot’s “J. Alfred Prufrock.” I mean the feel of the record. I just realized that.

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

Quick Review (LP): Codes & Keys by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
Codes & Keys
Atlantic; 2011

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "Home is a Fire", "Codes and Keys", "Doors Unlocked and Open", "You Are A Tourist", "Unobstructed Views"

"Life is sweet in the belly of the best."

NOTES

  • Apparently, they were going for Eno circa Another Green World here. I can hear that, though it still sounds like Death Cab of course.
  • At first blush, this is very piano-based.
  • "Doors Unlocked and Open" has a little bit of a kraut-rock vibe. Sehr gut.
  • "You Are A Tourist" may be the most radio-friendly track they’ve ever written. Bouncy & poppy.
  • "Unobstructed Views" is a nice touch. A very Eno-ish moment, although I wish they’d gotten a little more out of this world with it.
  • "There’s nothing past this." Gibbard sure is a sentimental nihilist, and a certain one at that. ("St. Peter’s Cathedral")
  • The first half far excels the second. That’s a problem they’ve faced on a number of their albums.
  • After all the keyboards and electronic wash of the first 10 tracks, the acoustics, strings, and toms on "Stay Young, Go Dancing" are a nice way to end the record.
  • In terms of theme, this record is like one big expansion of "I Will Follow You Into The Dark." The subject matter is full of existential despair, which makes for an interesting listen. Gibbard is nothing if not a guy with an interesting outlook on the world.
  • This is one of the band’s best records, and I think they are getting better with age. I do wish it was a little more raw at times; sometimes there’s a disconnect between Gibbard’s lyrical content and the prettiness of the tunes. There are some very choice cuts here though, and I think this one is worthy of deeper interaction. Maybe they’ll make a Cosmic American record next time around?

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

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)