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 (LP): If You’re Feeling Sinister by Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian
If You’re Feeling Sinister
Jeepster; 1996

My Rating: A+ (100/100)

Best Tracks: “The Stars of Track and Field”, “Seeing Other People”, “Me and the Major”, “If You’re Feeling Sinister”, “Mayfly”

Pathetic and delicate. Breathtaking, gorgeous, and grand.

NOTES:
– What was I listening to when I first heard this record in 1996? Oh, some Fugazi, some Snapcase, a lot of local hardcore bands with hoarse vocals and dropped-D “chugga chugga” guitars. As a general rule, it had to be distorted, ugly, muscular, and angry. Enter If You’re Feeling Sinister.
– The thing is, the songs here are INCREDIBLE. I mean, every time I hear “The Stars of Track and Field”, I envision these guys filling a stadium with the sounds of trumpets and twinkling pianos.
– That opening piano line on “Seeing Other People” is one of the greatest things ever. It’s got that Charlie Brown sense to it, and that’s about the right starting point for Belle and Sebastian.
I remember watching the cartoon when I was a kid. I’d love to see it again.
– The other thing: this is a great ROCK record. In contrast to their other early albums, this one sounds REALLY powerful. I mean, listen to “Me and the Major” on full blast. It sounds like it would have been at home on The Bends.
– “We’re the younger generation/We grew up fast/All the others did drugs/They’re taking it out on us!”
– The instrumentation is brilliant throughout, right up to the trumpet and recorder fest that ends the album on “Judy and the Dream of Horses.”
– Apparently Murdoch thinks this is his best collection of songs, but doesn’t think they are recorded very well. Perhaps, but I think that lends the record a certain edginess that their other early LPs didn’t have. This sounds pretty punk.
I agree with AMG that logically reducing this album to the perfect blend of The Smiths and Simon & Garfunkel doesn’t really do the album justice, but it’s probably the most accurate short description of this record that I can think of. Oh yeah, and this: “beautifully out of time.”
– Or maybe it’s this: If You’re Feeling Sinister re-defined indie rock.

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

My review of Tigermilk

Tracks of the Decade: “NYC” by Interpol

interpol_hattem_1“NYC”
by Interpol
from TURN ON THE BRIGHT LIGHTS (2002)

With New York City increasingly figuring as the all-encompassing and transcendent symbol of the modern world, it seems truly appropriate that the best song about the City of Man this decade was not Ryan Adams’ bouncy city-as-girl ode “New York, New York” but Interpol’s wounded hymn “NYC.” The Shelleyian aesthetic lumbers awkwardly forward in the swirling, echo-laden guitars and in Paul Banks’ paranoid croon, the atmosphere created serving to bring to life the nature of the city that never sleeps. Lyrically and melodically, it hints at the urban-lonesome work of Simon & Garfunkel songs like “The Boxer” and, appropriately, “The Only Living Boy in New York.” Banks sounds decisively lost in a world that is simultaneously spell-binding and terrifying. It’s as if Gershwin’s musical kaleidoscope has devolved into cold black and white hues. “New York cares” Banks howls. But for whom?