Quick Review (LP): The Photo Album by Death Cab For Cutie

Death Cab For Cutie
The Photo Album
Barsuk; 2001

My Rating: B (73/100)

Best Tracks: "A Movie Script Ending", "We Laugh Indoors", "Styrofoam Plates", “Why You’d Want to Live Here”

TRACK NOTES

"Steadier Footing" (3.5/5)

  • The "prelude" approach to opening an album.
  • Pleasant enough. I think it’s filler though.

"A Movie Script Ending" (5/5)

  • "Passing through unconscious states/When I awoke/I was on the highway…"
  • Love that arpeggiated guitar. Lovely.

"We Laugh Indoors" (5/5)

  • Like "Company Calls", this is one of those amazingly paradoxical "lite metal" tracks.
  • It’s like that scene in The Jerk – "He hates these cans!"
  • A really great guitar song. Amazing how they can make things so muddy yet so precise.

"Information Travels Faster" (4/5)

  • Reminds me of their first album.
  • Pretty good. Not their most memorable cut.

"Why You’d Want to Live Here" (4.5/5)

  • Solid melody.
  • It ain’t the feature, but it’s a strong deep cut.

"Blacking Out the Friction" (4.5/5)

  • see "Why You’d Want to Live Here"

"I Was a Kaleidoscope" (4/5)

  • Sounds like the early 90’s! Sort of a Pixies-ish guitar figure.
  • Very poppy.

"Styrofoam Plates" (5/5)

  • One word: BITTER.
  • As difficult as this song is to listen to, it’s a stroke of genius.
  • I just gotta show respect to the talent that Benny G. displays here. Not one of my favorite songs, but unique and brilliant nonetheless.
  • Just try forgetting this one.

"Coney Island" (4/5)

  • "Captain, sensors are detecting signs of Bruce Hornsby."
  • For the record, I love The Way It Is, the whole album.
  • Could’ve been longer. I like the melody.

"Debate Exposes Doubt" (3.5/5)

  • Disappointing closer.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Is Death Cab the first band to think to call an album The Photo Album? Even if they aren’t, I can’t imagine anyone pulling off that concept better. While the opener and closer could have been significantly stronger, everything in between is drunk on that rainy day nostalgia that truly defines the band. It’s not their crowning achievement, but as part three in their "opening trilogy" and the last album of the old school Death Cab sound, it gets the job done and delivers some true classics.
  • And I do wonder why they followed We Have The Facts so closely. Surely a little more space would have let this album fill out a bit more? Couldn’t they have put "Photobooth" on here? Think about that song opening this album and "Stability" closing it. That would have been epic and maybe even classic.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (3.5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4.3/5)

Quick Review (LP): Belong by The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Belong
Slumberland; 2011

My Rating: B (70/100)

Best Tracks: "Belong", "Heaven’s Gonna Happen Now", "Anne with an E", "Strange"

Classic indie rock, a bit overcooked.

NOTES

  • I like the chunkiness of their sound. Sort of reminds me of The Inbreds.
  • Very John Hughes-ish. Is Breakfast Club Indie its own genre of music yet?
  • A very throwback sound – shades of late 80’s alt rock a la Pixies and The Cure.
  • Arrrrggghhh!!! The vocals!!! Why can’t dream-pop bands get brassy singers these days?
  • "The Body" reminds me of Afghan Whigs – the singer is channelling Greg Dulli there.
  • The songs are good, but none of them really GRAB me the way I would hope. Needs GREAT songs.
  • It all starts to blend together after a while.
  • The vocals leave a little something to be desired. This dude sounds like the guy from Def Leppard whispering. It is perhaps the lingering negative influence of otherwise great acts like My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus and Mary Chain.
  • Pitchfork is much nicer to it than I am. I think the band needs to lay off of the sweet sound so much, and try something with a little more cockiness, a little more swagger. I was hopeful that "Strange", with its driving opening rhythm, was going to launch into something like "Gouge Away", but it was really the same old thing. I hope Kip Berman can find his inner Black Francis next time around.

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

Quick Review (LP): Wasting Light by Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters
Wasting Light
RCA; 2011

My Rating: C (50/100)

Best Tracks: "Bridge Burning", "Rope", "Arlandria", "A Matter of Time"

Dave Grohl must have a NICE garage.

NOTES
– I’ve never been a huge fan of the Foos, but I will say that The Colour & The Shape is a pretty great album, and the band has shown other flashes of brilliance at different times in their career.
– The key to the best of the Foos is the hard rock mixed with the big pop sensibilities.
– They reach for the big pop sound on a few tracks, but don’t quite hit it.
– Who is that on track 3? Kinda sounds like Mike Patton.
– "Bridge Burning" recalls "Monkey Wrench", a little less poppy.
– I can’t help but think this all sounds a little generic.
– "Arlandria" briefly recalls something from The Pixies. That’s sorta cool.
– "A Matter of Time" also features some sort of poppy Sonic Youth like moments.
– All in all, a waste of time. No disrepect intended to DG, but this is the sound of a band that hasn’t really grown all that much from their inception.
– Here’s the thing: they tried to be a "garage band" here. The problem is, they still sound like a modern rock band in a tricked out studio with a budget to blow through. I would have seriously respected a true "garage" album. Too bad.
The Pitchfork review hits the nail on the head.

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

Quick Review (LP): Recovering the Satellites by Counting Crows

recovering the satellites Counting Crows
Recovering the Satellites
DGC; 1996

My Rating: A- (83/100)

Best Tracks: “Daylight Fading”, “Children In Bloom”, “Monkey”, “A Long December”

After channeling Van Morrison on their first record, the Crows hired Pixies producer Gil Norton and decided to channel The Band on their second. You’ve got Dan Vickrey and his massive, flaming guitar riffs as Robbie Robertson, Duritz as the fame-wrecked and soulful Richard Manuel, and even Charles Gillingham’s organ sounds like the madness that Garth Hudson was putting out back in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Where lovely mandolins once adorned the band’s pretty folk songs, Duritz has instead concocted a collection of stadium-sized hard rock songs. Some of them are epic. “Children In Bloom” and “Recovering the Satellites” both go way beyond anything you’d have thought the band was capable of on August and Everything After, and “Miller’s Angels” is about as impressionistic, cathartic, and arcane as a roots rock band could be that side of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Yet the album shares one key thing with August – great songs. Between “Daylight Fading”, “Monkey”, and “Have You Seen Me Lately?”, this is one of the better rock albums of a hard rock decade. That’s notable, especially since Duritz really doesn’t get much credit as a rock musician. But the proof is here for those who are willing to listen and put aside the fact that he is also the guy who wrote (great!) wuss-rock like “Mr. Jones” and “Round Here.” Still, the final word must go to “A Long December”, which is quite simply one of the greatest tracks of the 90’s, and the sort of tune that is nearly impossible not to sing along with. Naysayers, respect is due.

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

Related Links:
My review of August and Everything After
AMG review of Recovering the Satellites
Duritz on the songs
SputnikMusic reviews of Recovering the Satellites

Worth Shouting About: Free EP from Follow The Train!

The Great Disturbance EP

Well that’s just too cool — the apparently re-united Louisville space-rock powerhouse Follow The Train is giving their 2005 (out-of-print) EP The Great Disturbance away for free on their newly re-vamped website. So give the second track, “Wake Up”, a listen below, and then head on over and download some costless goodness. And while you’re there, you may as well pick up Mercury or A Breath of Sigh, excellent releases in their own right…

If you’ve never heard Follow The Train, you’re in for a dose of anthemic, dreamy rock that is part-U2, part-Pixies, part-Afghan Whigs, and part-Cure. That is to say, there is a late-80’s indie throwback feel to their work, a sound I’m happy to hear making a resurgence in their little corner of the music world. Enjoy!

Download Follow The Train’s Great Disturbance EP for free.

Listen to “Wake Up” by Follow The Train: