Quick Review (LP): Sky Blue Sky by Wilco

Wilco
Sky Blue Sky
Nonesuch; 2007

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "You Are My Face", "Impossible Germany", "Side With The Seeds", "Please Be Patient With Me", "Leave Me (Like You Found Me)", "What Light"

Please be patient with this album.

TRACK NOTES

“Either Way”

  • Pretty. Love the strings.
  • "Maybe the sun will shine today…"
  • This one is more delicate than Wilco has perhaps ever been.

"You Are My Face"

  • Nice vocal harmonies.
  • Again, this one is delicate. A real change of pace going on.
  • The lyrics here are really interesting. Sonically, they are very musical in and of themselves. Some real verbal substance there as well though.

"Impossible Germany"

  • Amazing.
  • Television does soft rock. The tri-guitar interplay is fantastic.
  • This is what craftsmanship sounds like.
  • And what is the emotion here? Complicated.
  • Here’s my write-up of the track.

"Sky Blue Sky"

  • Tweedy sounds completely in tune with himself, comfortable in his own skin, maybe for the first time.
  • Hushed performance here. Reminds me a lot of the excellent "More Like The Moon" track.
  • "With a sky blue sky/This rotten time/Wouldn’t seem so bad to me now/Oh if I didn’t die/I should be satisfied I survived/It’s good enough for now."

"Side With The Seeds"

  • I wasn’t so sure about this one at first, but it has really grown on me.
  • This may be the liveliest track on the record.
  • Great guitar work from Nels Cline at the end.

"Shake It Off"

  • This one is a bit awkward, but I think it is meant to be.
  • What I mean is, the rhythm is a little stilted, the guitars sound a little off and un-melodic.
  • But I think it’s Tweedy’s communication of a sort of cloudy emotional state.

"Please Be Patient With Me"

  • Gorgeous tune.
  • Not a drum to be found.
  • This one reminds me of The Beatles’ quieter stuff. "I’m Only Sleeping", "Yesterday", etc.

"Hate It Here"

  • This one kind of reminds me of Big Star.
  • I’ve heard this one is supposed to be from his wife’s point of view.
  • I can see how this one would drive people crazy, especially with the direct lyrical approach.
  • That being said, I think there’s more going on here than at first glance.

"Leave Me (Like You Found Me)"

  • What does that piano line remind me of?
  • This one is another gorgeous soft rocker.
  • Nice bass work by Stirratt.

"Walken"

  • Strange spelling – is this song about Christopher Walken? It is sort of dancey.
  • "The more I think about it/The more I know it’s true!"
  • Sort of a goofy tune, but pretty catchy too.
  • They definitely sound like they are having a lot of fun.

"What Light"

  • Nice singalong-er. Almost a sweet drinking song quality to this one.
  • Overall, very simple, but also very appealling. Not a great Wilco track, but a good one.

"On and On and On"

  • This one seems to be a forgotten cut, but it’s really good.
  • Again, mellow, but packs a hefty emotional punch.
  • Nice way to end an album that has been a mix of light and dark.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Great cover image.
  • This album does very little to wow you. In my book, it’s all about the songwriting, the craftsmanship, the sort of patient consideration that requires a bit of thought about which note goes here, which lyric goes there, which instrument gets the emphasis on this or that passage, and how each track precisely fits together.
  • At the same time, there is an intuitive feeling to this album. It’s a bit paradoxical, but I get the sense that Tweedy loved this incarnation of the band and wanted to simply capture what they sounded like at that point in time.
  • One thing I love: there is this incredible 70’s classic rock vibe to the album. It’s really in Tweedy’s songwriting DNA. You can hear it in pretty much everything he does if you listen close enough.
  • All in all, after a 3 album experimental run, this is Wilco settling back into songwriting for songwriting’s sake. The results are frequently breathtaking.

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

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Quick Review (LP): Rattle and Hum by U2

U2
Rattle and Hum
Island; 1988

My Rating: C (53/100)

Best Tracks: "Desire", "Angel of Harlem", "All I Want Is You", "Van Diemen’s Land", "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (live)"

The sound of a band losing the plot.

NOTES

  • U2 is often accused of trying to inherit The Beatles’ mantle with their cover of "Helter Skelter" opening this record. However, the biggest problem with their cover is that it sort of sucks.
  • "Van Diemen’s Land" is a harrowing little sleeper, isn’t it? Really nice stuff from The Edge.
  • "Desire" is the punchiest tune they’ve written since "I Will Follow."
  • "Hawkmoon 269" is okay. Nothing particularly special in my book. The gospel singers are a little cheesy.
  • Their cover of "All Along The Watchtower" is without vision and forgettable.
  • The live version of "I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For" is really nice. The gospel choir takes it in a different direction, but really captures the essence of the song.
  • "Silver and Gold" wasn’t even good in the studio. It doesn’t stand a chance here.
  • The live version of "Pride (In The Name Of Love)" is decent. Nice singalong. "THE EDGE!!!" Love that part.
  • "Angel of Harlem" is such a great tune. It’s one of the few stellar moments here, a song that really transports you into the hustle and bustle of NYC.
  • "Love Rescue Me" was co-written with Bob Dylan. He can be heard on the track. It’s a decent sort of big city blues number with a horn section to boot.
  • "When Love Comes to Town" is one of the band’s firiest moments. It actually sort of reminds me of REM’s "Orange Crush" in a weird way.
  • "Heartland" is a cool tune. Though not among their greater tracks, it’s a definite highlight here.
  • "God Part II" is supposed to mark the jumping off point into techno for the band. It’s a dud.
  • Don’t really dig "Bullet the Blue Sky" anyway, so why would I like it live?
  • As simple as it is, "All I Want Is You" is prime U2.
  • The thing is, if they had cut all the filler, U2 might have had a decent (though still inferior) companion to The Joshua Tree on their hands. See below for my thoughts on a tracklisting.
  • Though it contains a handful of great tunes, Rattle and Hum is the work of band on the verge of nuking the fridge. As a film, it’s actually pretty enjoyable, but the record itself is confusing. It’s not an enjoyable listen from start to finish, and many of the tracks are questionable as anything other than interesting outtakes or incidental music. Towards the end of the Lovetown tour, Bono would famously tell the crowds that U2 needed to go away and "dream it all up again." Couldn’t have put it better myself.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (2/5)
Songs (3.5/5)

My Rattle and Hum tracklist
1. Hawkmoon 269
2. Desire
3. Van Diemen’s Land
4. Silver and Gold (The Joshua Tree version)
5. Angel of Harlem
6. When Love Comes to Town
7. Love Rescue Me
8. Heartland
9. God part II
10. All I Want Is You

Quick Review (LP): Their Satanic Majesties’ Request by The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones
Their Satanic Majesties’ Request
Decca; 1967

My Rating: D (35/100)

Best Tracks: "2000 Man", "She’s a Rainbow"


Listen to what the flower people say…

NOTES

  • "Sing This All Together" is almost completely ludicrous, except for the part that’s actually a song.
  • I dig the plinky little piano line on "She’s a Rainbow." It’s sort of a neat tune, one of the better ones on this album.
  • There are most definitely a few "MAKE IT STOP!!!" moments on this record. ("Gomper")
  • “2000 Man” is a pretty cool tune. Not amazing or anything, but decent.
  • Coming as it does right in the middle of one of the greatest run of albums in rock and roll history, there is just so much to despise about this record.
  • I’ve always been a naysayer when it comes to Sgt. Pepper’s, so you can probably imagine that I thought this record was awful. It really does remind me of something from the annals of Spinal Tap. The band seems to agree, since they never went down this road again. I guess it’s best to let The Beatles be The Beatles.
  • AMG offers the counterpoint here, but if the band don’t like it, then why should I?

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (3/5)
Consequence (2/5)
Consistency (2/5)
Songs (3/5)

Quick Review (LP): The Boy With The Arab Strap by Belle & Sebastian

Belle & Sebastian
The Boy With The Arab Strap
Jeepster; 1998

My Rating: A- (81/100)

Best Tracks: "It Could Have Been A Brilliant Career", "Sleep The Clock Around", "Ease Your Feet Into The Sea", "Chickfactor", "The Boy With The Arab Strap"

Excruciatingly pleasant rainy day book-core.

NOTES

  • It’s If You’re Feeling Sinister‘s demure kid sister.
  • "Is It Wicked Not To Care?" is a pretty great moment. Gotta love the xylophone + guitar bridge.
  • I think of this record as 12 variations on The Beatles’ "I’m Only Sleeping."
  • This is one of the most "democratic" records since Music From Big Pink (Deja Vu?/Rumours?).
  • Drags a bit in the middle. "Seymour Stein", "A Spaceboy Dream", and "Dirty Dream Number Two" all have their place, but they aren’t particularly strong back-to-back.
  • And then it launches into "The Boy With The Arab Strap", which may be the defining B&S song (at least the 90’s B&S). Excellent.
  • Is that a recorder solo?
  • "Chickfactor" is a nice change of pace.
  • "The Simple Things" adds some vigor to the mix.
  • "Rollercoaster Ride" is really pleasant, a last little stroll through dreamworld before you have to wake up again to reality.
  • Overall, this one is a would-be classic, but it’s a bit under-grand. Good melodies abound, but it’s a bit sleep-inducing and, at times, formulaic. That being said, I’d rank this as perhaps their second or third best offering, and one of the best albums I can think of for an overcast and lazy Saturday morning.

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

Quick Review (LP): Bringing It All Back Home by Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan
Bringing It All Back Home
Columbia; 1965

My Rating: A (95/100)

Best Tracks: "Subterranean Homesick Blues", "She Belongs to Me", "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Gates of Eden", "It’s Alright Ma I’m Only Bleeding", "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue"

This is Dylan’s first truly great album. Sure, he’d written lots of great songs before now, but this one feels crafted to please from start to finish.

NOTES:

– From the outset this sounds fresh and revolutionary.
– The lead guitar throught is excellent.
– The bridge album from his early folk style to his surrealistic Americana.
– All in all, this is a great album full of funny, colorful, thick songs and exceptional playing. There is a dream-like quality throughout.
– "115th Dream" is a lyrical trip.
– "It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue" is one of my all time favorite tracks, because it is a break-up song that puts the end of the relationship in apocalyptic terms. Also, I like the noodly guitar that sort of haunts the background of the track. It’s flourishes like these that are signs of what was to come from Dylan over the next several years, both in his solo work and in his collaborations with The Band.
– This is perhaps Dylan’s Rubber Soul or maybe even his Revolver. That is, it’s a bit overlooked, but arguably one of the greatest records of the 60’s. It marks a turning point in music history for sure, and as for personal preference, this begins my favorite Dylan period.
Erlewine of Allmusic makes a good point that the whole Dylan going electric thing makes for good film footage of angry fans, but as an artistic marker, it is overplayed: “…it’s not just that he went electric, either, rocking hard on "Subterranean Homesick Blues," "Maggie’s Farm," and "Outlaw Blues"; it’s that he’s exploding with imagination throughout the record. After all, the music on its second side — the nominal folk songs — derive from the same vantage point as the rockers, leaving traditional folk concerns behind and delving deep into the personal.”

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

Quick Review (LP): Admiral Fell Promises by Sun Kil Moon

sun kil moon admiral fell promisesSun Kil Moon
Admiral Fell Promises
Caldo Verde; 2010

My Rating: B-

Best Tracks: “Third & Seneca”, “You Are My Sun”, “Admiral Fell Promises”

This is a record so snoozy that it makes “I’m Only Sleeping” seem like a Mastodon outtake (Yes, I’m here all night). Rarely does it approach that monolithic musical identity called pop/rock. Instead, it’s a serious departure even from the slo-mo epics of Red House Painters. This is more of a classical guitar album than anything else, and I can handle that on one level. The problem is that I don’t think Kozelek’s fans want him to fade away into obscurity as a “high art-form” musician, and unfortunately that’s what the trajectory on this record appears to indicate. Whereas there’s a handful of distinctively strong tracks, such as the world-weary “Third & Seneca”, most of the record feels academic, just a little too reasonable. In light of that, maybe a collaboration with Mastodon next time around wouldn’t be so outrageous. Wake me up the next time around.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review
Paste review

Quick Review (LP): Shame Shame by Dr. Dog

Dr Dog Shame Shame.jpgDr. Dog
Shame Shame
Anti/Epitaph; 2010

My Rating: B+

Best Tracks: “Stranger”, “Where’d All The Time Go?”, “Unbearable Why”

Saw these guys live back in 2004, and at that time I was really into The Band, so it all made perfect sense. Bought their first CD (Toothbrush), which turned me off, because back then I didn’t do lo-fi. Since then, they’ve released a lot of stuff, and since this one is really pretty good, it seems I’ve got a lot of catching up to do. Their appeal still abides in that same good-time/goofball, working class, folk-rock category, and what’s more I don’t detect one iota of hipsterism here. I appreciate that. These guys are increasingly making AOR sourced from all the right influences, from The Beatles to The Eagles to Boston. When it all comes down to it, this one ain’t gonna blow your mind, but in my estimation, it should provide several repeated listens worth of classic rock bliss.

Wikipedia on the album (good writeup)
Pitchfork review
Paste review
Metacritic reviews
Band website

Second Story Man: Screaming Secrets (2010)

Second Story Man
Screaming Secrets
Noise Pollution; 2010

My Rating: 69/100

Tragically under-recognized Louisville band delivers a solid third full-length…

Having grown up in Louisville, I’m astonished to say that while I have known of Second Story Man for years now, their third long player SCREAMING SECRETS is my first full length exposure to the band. I’m not really sure why. As a 90’s scene kid, I was a fan of the members’ work in bands like Itch House and The Flats, but for whatever reason, Second Story Man have managed to hover just below the national radar for 12 years now. While they have toured occasionally with the likes of Shipping News and Sebadoh, they have otherwise contented themselves with churning out apparently masterful noise pop records whenever the mood strikes them. So unfortunately, I can’t really speak to Second Story Man’s growth as a band, but I can attest to the fact that this is a marvelous record that will most likely go tragically under-recognized. SECRETS succeeds by finding a Beatles-esque middle way between the ultra-dynamic river city indie of hometown greats like Slint and Rodan and the scrappy indie pop of early 90’s Chapel Hill bands like Superchunk and Polvo. While opener “The Want Within the Need” and A-side closer “Traffic Jams” attest that the band can rock at full-power, I find myself continually drawn to the lilting and lush “Quietly” and the pastoral acousti-pop of “Suicide Dream.” Elsewhere, the dissonance of “Flies” recalls Murray Street-era Sonic Youth, and “The Mav” best exemplifies the band’s powerful dual vocal approach. Given the overall quality of SCREAMING SECRETS, I’ll definitely search out the band’s back catalog. Having grown into this record over the last few months, I can entusiastically say that it’s high time the world get to know Second Story Man.

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


Tracks:

1. The Want Within the Need (4.5/5)
2. Clocks (4.5/5)
3. OompaLoompa (4/5)
4. Quietly (5/5)
5. Traffic Jams (4/5)
6. Flies (3.5/5)
7. The Mav (4/5)
8. Floor Falls Out (3/5)
9. Suicide Dream (4.5/5)
10. Bottom Line (3.5/5)

START WITH: Quietly, The Mav, The Want Within the Need

The Beatles: Revolver (1966)

REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so,
when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a
Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they
have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP
The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and
through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966.
“She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground
they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor
Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and
the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album
of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in
schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)THE BEATLES – REVOLVER
MY RATING: 100/100
REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I would not call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who WORSHIP The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. This one should be taught in schools.
1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)
revolverThe Beatles
Revolver; 1966
Capitol Records/EMI

My Rating: 100/100

REVOLVER came out 13 years before I was born, and I only discovered it in 2000 or so, when I was really learning alot about The Beatles. Now I wouldn’t call myself a Beatles fanatic. I recognize the universality of their appeal, I concede that they have written innumerable fantastic and classic tracks, but I know people who worship The Beatles, and I am not one of them. REVOLVER, though, is just brilliant through and through. I mean, I can’t believe the way John Lennon was writing guitar riffs in 1966. “She Said, She Said,” “And Your Bird Can Sing?” Shred. They cover most of the ground they would later take 30 tracks to hit in 14 here, from sad and elegaic (“Eleanor Rigby”) to lethargic (“I’m Only Sleeping”) to avant-rock (“Tomorrow Never Knows”), and the quality is so high throughout that there is no denying this is the greatest album of their career, and probably in the top 10 of all time. Canonical. This one should be taught in schools.

TRACKS:

1. Taxman (5/5)
2. Eleanor Rigby (5/5)
3. I’m Only Sleeping (5/5)
4. Love You To (5/5)
5. Here, There, and Everywhere (5/5)
6. Yellow Submarine (5/5)
7. She Said She Said (5/5)
8. Good Day Sunshine (5/5)
9. And Your Bird Can Sing (5/5)
10. For No One (5/5)
11. Doctor Robert (5/5)
12. I Want To Tell You (5/5)
13. Got To Get You Into My Life (5/5)
14. Tomorrow Never Knows (5/5)