Hey, There’s a Bird in This Mirror!

Diversion Enthusiast Society, est. 2007

Music Marathon 2009, Postscript

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It was sorely tempting to let this blog just sort of fade out, since Raina and I have largely moved operations to the low-maintenance, quick-update-friendly Tumblr.  Since it’s getting to the end of 2010, however, and I’m about to start another (and, with any luck, better fated) annual music marathon, I thought I might as well tie up loose ends on last year’s, which was sacrificed for the sake of last-semester-of-grad-school sanity.  Here are the albums I didn’t write up (but did listen to in the marathon):

Tegan & Sara – Sainthood
Key songs:  “Hell,” “On Directing”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Good, frivolous guitar-pop, but it’s not one that I dig out a lot, aside from “Hell,” which I put on my year-end mix.

U2 – No Line on the Horizon
Key songs:  “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight,” “Moment of Surrender,” “Unknown Caller”
Requisite Post-Achtung Baby Stinker Single Award (past winners:  “Lemon,” “Discoteque,” “Elevation,” “Vertigo”):  “Get On Your Boots”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Not so great.  I was pretty happy about No Line… when it came out.  In its more atmospheric moments, like “Unknown Caller,” it had superficial similarities to the best of U2’s late 80s material, particularly The Unforgettable Fire.  “I’ll Go Crazy…” takes the stiff white boy funk that they’ve been doing so long that it’s gone from irritating to sort of charmingly misguided and affixes it to a positivity-spouting chorus, that despite a clunker of a title phrase, is on a par with their best pseudo-spiritual pop songs.  But.  Despite the band’s attempt to inject their new songs with the kind of grandiosity they haven’t attempted in years, the songs themselves are just a little too thin, Bono’s lyrics too hit-and-miss.  It had a shelf life of about a month for me.

John Vanderslice – Romanian Names
Key songs:  “Fetal Horses,” “Too Much Time,” “D.I.A.L.O.”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Not bad, but for Vanderslice, “not bad”‘s not all that good.  Romanian Names is easily his slightest effort since Mass Suicide Occult Figurines (way back in 2000), but this seems to be by design.  As far as I can tell, it’s not a concept album, and Vanderslice seems to have finally gotten 9/11 and Iraq out of his system.  Unfortunately, Vanderslice is at his best when he has a solid through-line (or a set of serious topics, as he did on Pixel Revolt, one of the decade’s largely unheralded best) and, along with a less meticulous approach to production and arrangement, Romanian Names just doesn’t carry the weight his best work does.  Still a pleasant listen, though, and it’s not that out of step with his other albums.

Visqueen – Message to Garcia
Key songs:  “Hand Me Down,” “Jimmy Vs. James”
How it stacks up in November 2010:  Eh.  Visqueen has their sound, which is sort of a supercharged poppy punk thing, but the major appeal has always been Rachel Flotard’s vocals.  Message to Garcia is mostly more of the same (and not as spirited as their previous releases), although the band sounds the best when they step out of their comfort zones, like Flotard showing off some newfound Neko Case-style phrasing on “Hand Me Down” (Flotard has toured as a backup singer for Case), and the band rocking a shuffle on “Jimmy Vs. James.”

Volcano Choir – Unmap
Key songs:  “Island, IS,” “Still” (a dense, double-stuffed version of Bon Iver’s “Woods” from the Blood Bank EP)
How it holds up in November 2010:  Really, really well.  Anyone who was knocked out by the vibe on Bon Iver’s For Emma, Forever Ago, would have been wise to pick this up last year, as it takes that wintry color scheme and paints it out on a bigger and weirder palette (as for those knocked out more by the folky songwriting on For Emma, I guess mileage may vary).  This isn’t to sell short the contributions of Collections of Colonies of Bees, full collaborators with Justin Vernon on this.  These songs take serious chops to play; it’s to their credit that you barely notice this if you’re not paying attention.

M. Ward – Hold Time
Key songs:  I don’t know – that one tune from the beer ad?
How does it hold up in November 2010:  It sounds as much like an M. Ward album now as it did last year.  Which means I barely ever listen to it.

Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
Key songs:  Maybe “Bull Black Nova”?
How does it hold up in November 2010:  I don’t know.  I don’t want to listen to it again because it disappointed me so much last year.

The XX – XX
Key songs:  They all sound pretty much the same.
How does it hold up in November 2010:  It’s okay for background music, but nothing I need on the regular.

So that’s it for last year’s music marathon (and possibly this blog, at least for a while).  To be continued over here.


Written by Dave

November 14, 2010 at 4:44 pm

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