Welcome back! In today's installment of my musical journey through R.E.M.'s discography, I tackle the first two full-length albums from the Athens, Georgia quartet. The first one, 1983's Murmur, pops up in just about every list of the greatest pop/rock albums ever made, so I was really curious to hear what all the hype was about. And then it's on to next year's Reckoning and the first major stylistic change for the group. While the two records were released almost exactly one year apart, they really are very different artistic statements. So anyway, Murmur. Hey I recognize that first song! It's a re-recorded version of the band's first single, "Radio Free Europe." Well one thing's for sure, this new version is a lot cleaner-sounding and much more professional. Too bad it doesn't quite
The term progressive can have rather dangerous effects on music. For starters it makes the typical music fan cringe with ideas of long-winded guitar solos and lyrics about gnomes fighting dragons. Second, it can cause musicians to try to make albums that actually match those ideas. When coupled with other words like “19th century sea-faring folk ballads” it has to be questioned whether anyone would even bother listening. And yet here we are witnessing the sixth studio album from the Decemberists more than a decade into their career. After having built a sizable following with what seems like a rather niche take on indie rock, perhaps it is those potential trappings that forced Colin Meloy and company’s hand towards taking a more stripped-down and straightforward approach on The King is
Sigh. Once again there's so much music and so little time. In fact, most of albums on this list can't properly be considered "new" anymore, but that's life. Dave King - Indelicate (Sunnyside Records) King has already established himself as a jazz percussionist par excellence with the Bad Plus and Happy Apple, but here he decides to carry the entire load himself. While I'd love to say that Indelicate is a prime example of a talented artist finally allowed to break free from the shackles of the group format, that isn't really the case here. King's muscular and primal rhythmic approach to the drum kit carries over to the piano but it becomes clear fairly quickly that while King has a number of good ideas (among them the simple but engaging "Homage: Young People" and the bouncy "I
A pair of new albums from both sides of the Atlantic have found their way into my rotation this week. From the good ol' U.S. of A comes Backyard Tire Fire's The Places We Lived (Hyena Records), the followup to last year's excellent Vagabonds and Hooligans. Stylistically, this album shares many traits with its predecessor but is definitely not a rehash. Checking in at just over the half-hour mark, frontman and guitarist Ed Anderson and company (brother Matt on bass, Tim Kramp on drums) get right down to business with the deceptively simple title track. It didn't make a strong impression on me when I first listened to it, but days later the main guitar riff was still rattling around my head, a tribute to Anderson's songwriting. The integration of synths and chimes (not to mention a br
From two completely different ends of the musical spectrum comes a pair of albums - one new and one upcoming - that both get the coveted GFS stamp of approval. First up is the self-titled debut EP from Build (New Amsterdam Records, 2008), a Brooklyn-based indie classical quintet formed in 2006. Now I know what you're thinking: "Classical music? Boring!" Stop thinking that, you're wrong. This are modern, tuneful compositions that bears precious little resemblance to your father's classical music. For those familiar with Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Build takes a similar approach to their music. It's never stuffy or rigid, although it's far from poppy or light. Composer/violinist Matt McBane has written five songs that are challenging enough to reward multiple listens, but aren't
I recently had the chance to conduct an interview with a real live band - well, over email that is. As a result of an earlier post on this very blog, the manager for Backyard Tire Fire wrote to me, and one of the end results is that I was able to get the band featured on Blogcritics as this week's Band of the Week. It was definitely a neat experience, and my first foray into interviewing since my days as a high school sports reporter in the '90s. So to sum up - check out the interview and check out the band. Quality stuff indeed.
Once in a while I fall into a bit of a rut with my music and get the urge to strike out and discover some new bands or some new styles. And by "new" I mean "new to me." The last time I did this was about 6 years ago when I started seriously developing an affinity for jazz. That period bore a lot of fruit and allowed me to get into groups/acts that have really had an impact on me, such as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and many others. This time I decided to delve into so-called "indie" music. I made an earlier attempt around 1998 but didn't really get too much out of it. I was a bit turned off by the shoddy production values I heard on many of the records I sampled, and quite honestly found a lot of it rather boring. I won't name any of those bands here for fear of gettin...