Quick Review (LP): Nothing Is Wrong by Dawes

Dawes
Nothing Is Wrong
ATO; 2011

My Rating: A+ (98/100)

Best Tracks: "Time Spent In Los Angeles", "My Way Back Home", "How Far We’ve Come", "Fire Away"

Scoffs at the sophomore slump.

NOTES

  • Harmonies! May not be as otherworldly and numinous as Pecknold and company, but these are strong enough to match some of the best acts of the 70’s.
  • Great melody and lyrics on "Time Spent in Los Angeles." ("You’ve got that special kind of sadness/You’ve got that tragic set of charms/That only comes from time spent in Los Angeles/Makes me want to wrap you in my arms")
  • That breakdown on "My Way Back Home" slays me. Love the coupled guitar riffs at the bridge.
  • "Fire Away" is basically one big homage to Jackson Browne. And I’ll be damned if "A Little Bit of Everything" doesn’t strike quite a bit like "The Load Out."
  • What does "Million Dollar Bill" remind me of?
  • This is a great road record. It’s got that wide open feel, the themes of leaving town and coming home, of loves lost and revisited, of the nostalgia for yesterday and dreams of tomorrow’s endless possibilities.
  • I love the humility these guys bring to making music. Splendid.
  • Appropriate title, as this is one of the best of the year.

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

Quick Review (LP): Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes
Helplessness Blues
Sub Pop; 2011

My Rating: A (86/100)

Best Tracks: "Montezuma", "Bedouin Dress", "Sim Sala Bim", "Helplessness Blues", "Lorelei", "Someone You’d Admire"

An “old soul” soul record.

NOTES
– Let me just get this out of my system: it is not humanly possible to top their debut LP and its accompanying EP.
– I think that is my favorite opening lyric in a long time: "So know I am older/Than my mother and father/When they had their daughter/Oh what does that say about me?"
– "Montezuma" is almost beautiful enough to reduce you to tears from the outset.
– Sounds like Fleet Foxes, but there is a wholly organic growth and realization here. They certainly aren’t resting on their laurels.
– Also, Pecknold is one of the most unconventional songwriters I’ve ever heard. Wonderful!
– Love the fiddle on "Bedouin Dress." And the lyrics…magnificent! "The borrower’s debt is the only regret of my youth." "Just to be at Innisfree again/All of the sirens are driving me over the stern."
– I saw these guys play the Ryman a few weeks ago. It was transcendent. Here’s clip of Robin performing "Oliver James." Again, it makes me tear up just thinking about how beautiful it was. Divine.
– Gettin’ their Led Zeppelin on during "Sim Sala Bim."
– Man, "Helplessness Blues"… you gotta love the heart on the sleeve. What a triumphant tune.
– "Lorelei" is beautiful. Sounds quite a bit like Dylan’s "4th Time Around."
– Gorgeous melody on "Someone You’d Admire." Recalls Simon & Garfunkel.
– "Grown Ocean" never quite reaches the heights of grandeur that I hope it will. I can’t quite put my finger on what’s missing. Anyone want to take a stab?
– There are a few less than transcendent moments on the record – "The Cascades", "The Shrine/An Argument" – so it’s not perfect by any means. However, it’s still pretty great, and a worthy follow-up to one of the best debuts ever.

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

Quick Review: Pope Killdragon LP by Strand of Oaks

Pope-Killdragon-Cover I was an instant fan of Strand of Oaks after hearing “Bonfire” a few months back. Timothy Showalter has an approach that might best be described as creepy campfire folk, evoking all kinds of dark season imagery through melancholy vocals (a la Robin Pecknold), acoustic guitar, and eerie, lush synth. “West River” opens things in instrumental fashion, invoking the spirits of the other songs like any good overture should. “Bonfire” remains the obvious standout, but I really dug “Daniel’s Blues” for raising the early SNL players to archetypal glory. I don’t know that this is quite achieves what “Bonfire” set my expectations to, as some of the songs blend into a monotonous drone (an easy thing for this type of music), but it is a solid effort nevertheless, and I recommend checking it out. “Bonfire” is simply a must-hear. Rating: B. RiYL: Fleet Foxes, The National, Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Songs:Ohia, Red House Painters.

Listen Here (Myspace site)
Pitchfork Review
Hearya Session
Daytrotter Session

Tracks of the Decade: “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes

fleetfoxes“White Winter Hymnal”
by Fleet Foxes
from FLEET FOXES (2008)

 

Fleet Foxes made a huge impact towards the end of the decade, largely because of the purity of their artistic vision. With all the policy wonks talking “green” initiative and necessity, the global community seemed to have adopted a sort of benevolent pragmatism toward the mountains, rivers, and valleys around us. For Fleet Foxes though, the natural order is a sacred thing, a temple not made by human hands. In “White Winter Hymnal”, one envisions the band filling mother nature with her own organic sounds. The forest seems to come alive as Robin Pecknold ends the lyric’s first run through, wildflowers suddenly bursting into bloom at the mere mention of summertime. It would seem then that Fleet Foxes sing a message transcendental, far beyond the inter-generational utilitarianism of our day. In the eyes of Pecknold and company, nature’s value is limitless because humanity gains its humanity in communion with the great outdoors. In this way, “White Winter Hymnal” is Fleet Foxes two-minute manifesto, a bold declaration made in word-snapshot enveloped by the band’s joyfully escapist sound. As a song, it is gloriously indispensable. As a sound, “White Winter Hymnal” is what it means to be alive.

Fleet Foxes: Sun Giant EP (2008)

fleet foxes sgepFleet Foxes
Sun Giant EP; 2008
Sub Pop Records

My Rating: 10/10

You know we are living in a good time for music when the songs of Fleet Foxes can be brewing in a gawky high-schooler’s bedroom one day and then rocking SNL just a few months later. This five-songer is no mere indication of greatness; it’s pure grandeur itself, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since R.E.M. released CHRONIC TOWN back in the day. There really aren’t words superlative and hyperbolic enough to describe the glories contained herein. “Mykonos” and “Sun Giant” would have been enough as a lead-off seven inch, but rounding it out with the other three tracks is like Christmas when you were seven raised to the power of your first kiss. Flabbergastastic.

TRACKS:

1. Sun Giant (5/5)
2. Drops in the River (5/5)
3. English House (5/5)
4. Mykonos (5/5)
5. Innocent Son (5/5)