Quick Review (LP): We Have The Fact And We’re Voting Yes by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes
Barsuk; 2000

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "Title Track", "Employment Pages", "405", "Company Calls", "Scientist Studies"

Dreamy.

TRACK NOTES

  • "Title Track" pretty much declares "We are here, and we intend to mope-rock this mother…"
  • The atmosphere on "Employment Pages" blows me away every time. It sort of reminds me of some of The Coctails work on their self-titled album (obscure reference alert!!!).
  • "Employment Pages" barely has a pulse. I love how open-ended it is.
  • "We spread out/And occupied the cracks in the urban street…" Brilliant.
  • "For What Reason" and "Lowell, MA" both rescue the album from bummersville. Cool indie-ish tunes, nice intricate guitar work.
  • "405" is so wonderful.
  • I saw these guys play Key Arena in Seattle back in 2006. It was kind of like their "local boys done good" moment. They opened with a rocked-out version of "405", which was awesome and threw the crowd into a frenzy.
  • So was the spelling of "Fury" on the sixth track intentional? Are the bugs angry because they are little? Is that what he’s trying to say?
  • "Company Calls" is a perfect example of what makes this band great. Pummeling and delicate at the same time. How do they do that? It’s like easy listening metal , dense and airy at the same time.
  • FWIW, "Company Calls Epilogue" sounds like an angelic Roy Orbison singing for Modest Mouse.
  • "No Joy In Mudville" is a bit sub-standard. Just doesn’t really go anywhere, but maybe that’s the point.
  • "Scientist Studies" is a track that I’d liken to "emo-Slint." Has Gibbard ever spoken on the influence of Slint in his songwriting, especially the early stuff?

ALBUM NOTES

  • There’s this incredible rainy haze that hangs over the record. It just so happens that it completely reflects the climate in Western Washington.
  • I don’t believe I’m saying anything revolutionary here, but this was the record that distinguished Death Cab from all the other emo acts of late 90’s/early 00’s era. Between this and Transatlanticism, Gibbard & Walla associates essentially set themselves apart from any pretenders here, and while WHTFAWVY isn’t perfect, I’d be hard pressed not to call it a classic.
  • Headphones make this one shine.
  • The cover of this record is perhaps the most indie/emo thing I’ve ever seen.

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

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): You Can Play These Songs With Chords by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
You Can Play These Songs With Chords
Elsinor; 1997 (Barsuk; 2003)

My Rating: C (51/100)

Best Tracks: "President of What?", "Hindsight", "That’s Incentive", "Army Corps of Architects"

DCFC in embryonic form…

NOTES

  • I prefer this early version of "President of What?" to the version released on Something About Airplanes.
  • The power-pop influences really stand-out here. I detect significant influence from the likes of Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet. Additionally, tracks like "Hindsight" display an affinity for the early, lo-fi work of PNW heroes like Modest Mouse and Built to Spill. Lastly, there’s a bit of Sebadoh in the mix for sure.
  • "That’s Incentive" is a cool bass-heavy sad-punk cut, although I’m certainly happy this wasn’t the main direction the band took.
  • The whole thing with throwing samples into songs as bridges is an annoying practice that I’m glad died away after the first album.
  • The most impressive thing about this early album is that its not all that impressive. Gibbard would certainly grow as a songwriter in the years to come.
  • BARSUK EDITION TRACKS: Only "Army Corps of Architects" is truly great among the extra tracks here, and to my knowledge it was was recorded far later in the band’s career. It reminds me a great deal of some of Modest Mouse’s great early singles, such as "Broke."

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

Thank You Emusic

This blog is not about advertising, but given that I have a healthy dose of writer’s block tonight, I thought I’d switch gears and just appreciate the fact that Emusic has pretty much drowned me in music over the last month.

1. There’s the standard 37 tracks per month at $15.
2. I purchased 100 tracks using a $30 gift card in August.
3. Last night, they gave me 50 extra downloads for being a loyal customer through their transition in bringing Sony onboard.
4. I will shortly be receiving 10 more downloads for rating 10 albums. Yes, I select stars for my favorite records, and I will get 10 free songs.

That’s 197 tracks in one month at $45.  That’s 23 cents a tracks. Muy bueno.

And what did I purchase? Well, here’s an incomplete list:

1. Modest Mouse, No One’s First and You’re Next EP
2. 12 tracks from Bob Dylan’s first two greatest hits volumes (i.e. “All Along the Watchtower”, “I Shall Be Released”)
3. 5 tracks from Pearl Jam (i.e. “Nothingman”, “Once”)
4. Nathan, Jimson Weed
5. Hem, Funnel Cloud
6.  Neu! 75
7. Arcade Fire EP
8.  The Swell Season
9.  The Inbred, Kombinator
10. Sandra McCracken, Red Balloon
11.  The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime (43 tracks for the price of 12!)
12.  5 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Sad Sappy Sucker
13. Son Volt, The Search (Deluxe Edition)
14. Sandra McCracken, Gravity/Love
15.  Dinosaur Jr., Farm
16. 6 tracks from Modest Mouse’s Epic releases
17. Bruce Springsteen, Hammersmith Odeon London ’75

And while there’s more where that came from, I’m not even done buying yet. I don’t know of a deal that even comes close to that in music downloads. So if you haven’t done a free trial with eMusic, what are you waiting for?

Weekly Review Roundup 8/29/2009

Radiohead’s Top 12 Non-Album Tracks…
10 to 12
7 to 9
4 to 6
1 to 3

Other reviews:

R.E.M., Out of Time
The Fire Theft, The Fire Theft
Dinosaur Jr., Beyond

Coming next week:
– a look back at one of my top tracks of the decade (the first in a series that will produce my top 20 or so)
– CD reviews of:

  • Modest Mouse’s  This is a Long Drive for Someone with Nothing to Think About
  • Mark Knopfler’s Golden Heart
  • Nathan’s Key Principles
  • Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut

Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (2007)

Modest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank; 2007
Epic Records
My Rating: 60/100
Despite the nautically-doomed title, the Mouse proves with their fifth album
proper that they will indeed float on. Nowhere near as heavy with the weight
of mortality as their previous offering, this is a meaty power-pop record
with the standard Mouse-eccentrities turned up to 11. Themes are varying yet
unified, meaning the record doesn’t suffer from the monotony that sunk GOOD
NEWS,and there’s even a moment or two of jubilant quasi-optimism
(“Dashboard”, “Missed the Boat”). Unfortunately, the overall experience
suffers from an extreme lopsidedness that will most likely have you
switching to something else after track 7. In the final analysis, though, WE
WERE DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK is a nice recovery from the near
disaster that was GOOD NEWS. I’ll be looking forward to the next full-length
offering from the Issaquah’s finest.
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)
Tracks:
1. March into the Sea (4/5)
2. Dashboard (5/5)
3. Fire It Up (5/5)
4. Florida (4.5/5)
5. Parting of the Sensory (3.5/5)
6. Missed the Boat (5/5)
7. We’ve Got Everything (4/5)
8. Fly Trapped in a Jar (3/5)
9. Education (3/5)
10. Little Motel (3.5/5)
11. Steam Engenius (2.5/5)
12. Spitting Venom (3/5)
13. People as Places as People (4/5)
14. invisible (2.5/5)

Modest_mouse_2007_albumModest Mouse
We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank; 2007
Epic Records

My Rating: 60/100

Despite the nautically-doomed title, the Mouse proves with their fifth album proper that they will indeed float on. Nowhere near as heavy with the weight of mortality as their previous offering, this is a meaty power-pop record with the standard Mouse-eccentrities turned up to 11. Themes are varying yet unified, meaning the record doesn’t suffer from the monotony that sunk GOOD NEWS,and there’s even a moment or two of jubilant quasi-optimism (“Dashboard”, “Missed the Boat”). Unfortunately, the overall experience suffers from an extreme lopsidedness that will most likely have you switching to something else after track 7. In the final analysis, though, WE WERE DEAD BEFORE THE SHIP EVEN SANK is a nice recovery from the near disaster that was GOOD NEWS. I’ll be looking forward to the next full-length offering from the Issaquah’s finest.

Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (3.5/5)
Consequence (4.5/5)
Consistency (3/5)

Tracks:

1. March into the Sea (4/5)
2. Dashboard (5/5)
3. Fire It Up (5/5)
4. Florida (4.5/5)
5. Parting of the Sensory (3.5/5)
6. Missed the Boat (5/5)
7. We’ve Got Everything (4/5)
8. Fly Trapped in a Jar (3/5)
9. Education (3/5)
10. Little Motel (3.5/5)
11. Steam Engenius (2.5/5)
12. Spitting Venom (3/5)
13. People as Places as People (4/5)
14. invisible (2.5/5)

Weekly Review Round-Up 8/16/2009

Here’s a list of the CD reviews I did this week:

Monday
Radiohead, OK Computer

Tuesday
Dinosaur Jr, Farm
Modest Mouse, Good News for People Who Love Bad News

Wednesday
Radiohead, The Bends Collector’s Editions Disc 2
Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career

Thursday
REM, Fables of the Reconstruction
Josh Ritter, The Animal Years

Friday
Tortoise, Beacons of Ancestorship
Radiohead, OK Computer Collector’s Edition Disc 2

Saturday
U2, No Line on the Horizon
Jeremy Enigk, OK Bear

Enjoy!!

August 11, 2009

Two new reviews today:

– Dinosaur Jr.’s FARM
– Modest Mouse’s GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS

News from around the web:
– Built to Spill got a new LP on the way (PASTE)
Sufjan’s hitting the road. [Pls pls pls let this be to road test songs for a new full-length!] (Pitchfork)

Just gotta say, today it’s SGB 2, Pitchfork 0, for those keeping score. AND I’VE GOT A DAY JOB AND A FAMILY. Who loves you baby???

Modest Mouse: Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004)

MODEST MOUSE
GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS
EPIC; 2003
MY RATING: 38/100
Isaac Brock and I would not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things; we view the world through exceedingly different lenses. However, as an artist, I nonetheless
respect him, and really enjoy the overall sound of his band. I’ve been spinning Mouse records since ’97 or so, and the first four years of the band’s
recorded output providing something of a soundtrack to the aimless nights of my youth. His early records in particular, though bitter and a bit twisted, bore
an indelible melodic sweetness and sympathy underneath the rough exterior that belied a deep and unique soulfulness on his part. What I’m trying to say is
that I speak as a fan. However, I’m sad to say that MM’s fourth album is a monotonous screed of depraved bitterness and metaphysical angst, with the soul of
it all and the sense of humor markedly absent. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I REALLY dig “Float On,” and I chuckled when I saw it covered in a FORD
commercial on American Idol. Similiary, “Blame it on the Tetons” is as pathetically righteous a track as “Custom Concern” or “Trailer Trash,” so I gotta
respect. But that’s about it. “Ocean Breathes Salty” might have been a strong b-side, but it’s just a bit too disonant to register as single-quality Mouse.
“The Good Times Are Killing Me” sounds promising, but fails to deliver in the way “Styrofoam Boots” did on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST. You can have the rest;
there’s just not a whole lot here to get excited about. A truly disappointing record.
TRACKS:
1.Horn Intro
2. The World at Large (3/5)
3. Float On (5/5)
4. Ocean Breathes Salty (3/5)
5. Dig Your Grave
6. Bury Me With It (2/5)
7. Dance Hall (2.5/5)
8. Bukowski (2.5/5)
9. This Devil’s Workday (2/5)
10. The View (2/5)
11. Satin in a Coffin (2/5)
12. Interlude (Milo)
13. Blame it on the Tetons (4.5/5)
14. Black Cadillacs (3/5)
15. One Chance (2.5/5)
16. The Good Times Are Killing Me (4/5)
mouse-goodnewsMODEST MOUSE
GOOD NEWS FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BAD NEWS
EPIC; 2003

MY RATING: 38/100

Isaac Brock and I would not see eye-to-eye on a lot of things; we view the world through exceedingly different lenses. However, as an artist, I nonetheless respect him, and really enjoy the overall sound of his band. I’ve been spinning Mouse records since ’97 or so, and the first four years of the band’s recorded output providing something of a soundtrack to the aimless nights of my youth. His early records in particular, though bitter and a bit twisted, bore an indelible melodic sweetness and sympathy underneath the rough exterior that belied a deep and unique soulfulness on his part. What I’m trying to say is that I speak as a fan. However, I’m sad to say that MM’s fourth album is a monotonous screed of depraved bitterness and metaphysical angst, with the soul of it all and the sense of humor markedly absent. It’s not like I haven’t tried. I REALLY dig “Float On,” and I chuckled when I saw it covered in a FORD commercial on American Idol. Similiary, “Blame it on the Tetons” is as pathetically righteous a track as “Custom Concern” or “Trailer Trash,” so I gotta respect. But that’s about it. “Ocean Breathes Salty” might have been a strong b-side, but it’s just a bit too disonant to register as single-quality Mouse. “The Good Times Are Killing Me” sounds promising, but fails to deliver in the way “Styrofoam Boots” did on THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST. You can have the rest; there’s just not a whole lot here to get excited about. A truly disappointing record.
TRACKS:
1.Horn Intro
2. The World at Large (3/5)
3. Float On (5/5)
4. Ocean Breathes Salty (3/5)
5. Dig Your Grave
6. Bury Me With It (2/5)
7. Dance Hall (2.5/5)
8. Bukowski (2.5/5)
9. This Devil’s Workday (2/5)
10. The View (2/5)
11. Satin in a Coffin (2/5)
12. Interlude (Milo)
13. Blame it on the Tetons (4.5/5)
14. Black Cadillacs (3/5)
15. One Chance (2.5/5)
16. The Good Times Are Killing Me (4/5)

Modest Mouse: No One’s First, and You’re Next EP (2009)

mm-nooneModest Mouse
No One’s First, and You’re Next EP; 2009
Epic Records

My Rating: 78/100

The Modest Mouse formula (which as far as I can tell is, algebraically-speaking, {[Talking Heads + Pixies] x Pavement}) certainly hasn’t changed very much over the years, which isn’t such a bad thing, considering they have a pretty unique sound. Happily, the latest offering compiles a bunch of tracks recently released as seven-inch singles, so it’s altogether a short, simple, and solid affair. Honestly, I’d say it’s their best release, at least in terms of consistency, since their last singles collection, BUILDING NOTHING OUT OF SOMETHING.  The songs are tuneful, muscular, and feature all of the standard Modest Mouse traits that we’ve come to know and love. In a world where “we all try harder as the days run out”, it’s nice to have a band as strong as Modest Mouse effortlessly churning out the same ol’ twisted ear candy going on fifteen years. Based on this, I’ll be looking forward to the next LP, Marr or no.

TRACKS:

1. Satellite Skin (5/5)
2. Guilty Cocker Spaniels (4/5)
3. Autumn Beds (5/5)
4. The Whale Song (5/5)
5. Perpetual Motion Machine (4/5)
6. History Stick to Your Feet (5/5)
7. King Rat (4/5)
8. I’ve Got It All (Most) (5/5)
S
1. Satellite Skin (5/5)
2. Guilty Cocker Spaniels (4/5)
3. Autumn Beds (5/5)
4. The Whale Song (5/5)
5. Perpetual Motion Machine (4/5)
6. History Stick to Your Feet (5/5)
7. King Rat (4/5)
8. I’ve Got It All (Most) (5/5)