Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Prayers and Tears of Arthur Digby Sellers - The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia (2005)

I acquired this not too long after it was released and it is still one of my favorite records to this day. A splendid union of perfections and imperfections, "The Mother of Love Emulates the Shapes of Cynthia" houses astute and pensive lyrics that ride a highway of soft vocal melodies to a musical amalgamation of guitars both electric and acoustic, vibraphones, strings and even a drum machine here and there. The opening track, "The Eventual Intimate of So Much Nostalgia," is unassuming and calm at first, but by the time the listener knows what's going on, they're already down the rabbit hole and on to the next track, one of my personal favorites, "Concerning Lessons Learned by the Aliens." "Archaeopteryx" is a number filled with a fun amount of programmed elements, which leads into "Ammunition for a Bolt," a song delightfully reminiscent of The Faint's earlier work. "Above the Waves" contains one of my favorite lyrics, "We are the cavemen in the Garden of Eden. Frail, fucked up fossils - obsolete and useless. Now that we design our days, how will you stay above the waves?" If bands like Bright Eyes and Cursive are ingredients to the indie kid's starter kit, this album is for some of the more advanced pupils, but nevertheless remains a vital part of the record collection. And yes, their name IS a reference to The Big Lebowski, in case you were wondering.

For fans of: The Physics of Meaning, Belle and Sebastian, Eels, Now It's Overhead

(p/w: nodata.tv)

Eels - Daisies of the Galaxy (2000)

Third time's the charm. Counting Crows did it with "This Desert Life," Death Cab for Cutie did it with "The Photo Album," and Eels did it with this album. After the malaise of its predecessor, "Electro-Shock Blues," which E recorded in the wake of both the diagnosis of cancer in his mother and the suicide of his sister, this record is a gust of something lighter and more upbeat. As E himself put it, "If 'Electro-Shock Blues' was the phone call in the middle of the night that the world doesn't want to answer, then 'Daisies of the Galaxy' is the hotel wake-up call that says your lovely breakfast is ready." The record opens with "Grace Kelly Blues," which alternates between the feel of a marching band's hymn and an optimism that only slide guitar, light drums and acoustic strumming can offer. The album does hit a somber moment though, in the track "It's a Motherfucker." The song, while beautiful and slow, wastes no time getting to the point in the opening line, "It's a motherfucker being here without you." The most famous track from "Daisies of the Galaxy" isn't actually part of the album at all, but is included as a bonus track. It's called "Mr. E's Beautiful Blues," made famous, in part, to its inclusion in the film where the guy accidentally sends his girlfriend the tape of him having sex with the other girl so his friends pack up the car and drive halfway across the country to retrieve it. Yeah, that movie. The song lays amusing musings over an uplifting G, C, D progression whose optimism culminates in the chorus, which repeats, "Goddamn right, it's a beautiful day." Give this a listen and you know something? It will be.

MUSIC NERD MOMENT: The piano used on "It's a Motherfucker" is the same one used on Neil Young's "After the Gold Rush" album.

For fans of: The Flaming Lips, Sparklehorse, Grandaddy


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Laura Veirs - Saltbreakers (2007)

There's an overpaid, overrated, shutter shades wearin', microphone stealin' (and most likely legally retarded) rapper out there who has somehow found it fit to brand himself with the title of "lyrical wordsmith." Laura Veirs should sue the pants off him, or at least deliver a swift uppercut and take back what's hers. On 2007's "Saltbreakers," Veirs lays meticulous eloquence down on a bed of swirling folky instrumentation. My personal favorite example of this is on the album's third track, "Drink Deep." She sings, "...and the fire closed his eyes, tipped his flame hat and slipped through the dire rye. We wandered romantic, we scattered dark branches with the singing green stars as our guide." Recurring themes of oceania and stars guide this record into the harbor in the ears of the listener and there it stays for a good long time.

For fans of: Madeline, The Decemberists, Jenny Lewis


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Saves the Day - Stay What You Are (2001)

I know that nowadays, the term "good pop punk" is an oxymoron, but back in 2001 when second-wave emo was at its peak, this album was a pop-ridden addition to the neo-classics. Most memorable songs have an unforgettable opening riff that people recognize instantly. This record's opening track has an unforgettable opening NOTE. All one needs to do is pluck that D, and somewhere, ten kids will drop everything and sing, "This song will become the anthem of your underground..." The song, "At Your Funeral," is an upbeat ode to a friend that will no doubt one day soon be lost to drugs. Singer Chris Conley poses the question to the song's subject, "If I flooded out your house, do you think you'd make it out? Or would you burn up before the water filled your lungs?" The song ends with Conley repeating, "..and at your funeral I will sing the requiem. I'd offer you my hand, it would hurt too much to watch you die." On "See You," the chorus repeats, "'Cause I don't think that I have got the stomach to stomach calling you today," bringing in the teenage awkward of pop punk of the early decade that continues in the song "Freakish," where Chris croons, "Well here I am. I don't know how to say this. The only thing I know is awkward silence." This album reminds you that pop punk doesn't need a keytar, or shutter shades or Auto-Tune or a member whose instrument is listed as "programming."

For fans of: The Get Up Kids, Alkaline Trio, Midtown


Sean Hayes - Flowering Spade (2007)

If one were to cut into the arm of Music herself and take a look at what is flowing through her veins, one would find the same things that make up this record. Using this album, singer/songwriter Sean Hayes has reached a place that until hearing it, I didn't know existed. Hayes' vocals are a pleasant anomaly; unintrusive, yet lovingly disarming. Flighty harmonies accompany stand-up bass, blues-tinged folk guitar and light, brushed drums while accented by banjo, accordion and lots of other wonderful additions. On the opening track, "All for Love," Hayes sings to the object of his affection, "I'll be your monkey, I'll dance and sing. I'll be your fool, your lonely king." "Sufidrop," boasts a marriage of a banjo and hand claps that is undeniably delightful. The jazzy danciness found on "Hip Kids" is second to none. My favorite track hands down has to be "Elizabeth Sways." Finger picking a banjo, he croons, "When Elizabeth sways her hips, the whole world goes 'Mmmmmmmm'." I challenge anyone not to groove to that song. I've been wondering where this album has been all my life, but I'm not mad because now I have it and that's all that matters. Doesn't make sense, you say? Well, it's like Lester Burnham said, "You have no idea what I'm talking about, I'm sure, but don't worry. You will someday." PROTIP: Someday will come sooner rather than later if you give this album a listen.

For fans of: Damien Rice, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, William Elliott Whitmore


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eulogies - Here Anonymous (2009)

The sound of this band is really an amalgamation of sounds. The vocals of Peter Walker are a quilt woven together from the fabrics that make up the voices of Win Butler and Alec Ounsworth, most notably in the track "Eyes on the Prize". The bass lines of Tim Hutton take a cue from Julian Koster and Nicholas Harmer, while Chris Reynolds and Drew Phillips' drum and guitar tracks show simliarities with Jason McGerr and Chris Walla, respectively. It's a shame that Tim Hutton parted ways with the band during the recording of this album. Nikki Monninger of Silversun Pickups makes a guest appearance on the track "Two Can Play," an airy duet in which the vocals roll over the bass line and light drums as fog rolls over a highway. This record was co-produced by Hrishikesh Hirway of The One AM Radio, and if this is the end result of just the sophomore effort, I can't wait to see what the future holds.

For fans of: Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Earlimart