Thursday, August 25, 2011

This CD by When Saints Go Machine is probably Worth It!

Dulcet tones.

They are Danish electro-pop and I reviewed their album Konkylie at PopMatters; here's an excerpt:

Fortunately, there’s plenty of life to go around. Though the songs are deliberate and midtempo—no ravers, and only one boring slog near the end—their synth parts are built to pop and lock together, with all the inescapable momentum of a game of Mousetrap. The Saints build their two best songs around keyboard hooks of dreamlike clarity: “Chestnut” sounds like dripping water echoing through hungover ears, and the severe nine-note fanfare of “Church and Law” slices the song’s texture like a guillotine. Other songs’ textures find cool ways to use handclaps, lasers, weird laundromat churgles, and Vonsild’s manipulated voice. When the faire folk ballad “Konkylie” erupts into a geyser of cascading falsettos, it’s a euphoric moment. “Add Ends” ends the album with dripsodies of pleasure.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

These two sorta-Latin albums are NOT worth it.

Beware: Mediocre Music

I won't deny enjoying Pitbull's license to print money Planet Pit, but I'm not sure I'll ever need to hear it again either. Maybe it'll serve as an amusing time capsule of this moment in pop-radio history, when obnoxious club beats and naked capitalism ruled all. From my PopMatters review:

I’ve got similar reservations with Pitbull’s popular, Eurocentric new album Planet Pit. The title Planet Pit sounds like some hellish vision of our eco-disastrous paint-soaked future, Wall-E meets the Morlocks on The Road, but it’s actually an opportunity for Sr. Armando Christian “Pitbull” Pérez to introduce his brand new slogan: “Mr. Worldwide”! He used to be “Mr. 305”, see, but now he’s got hoes in different area codes. “International Love” (first promotional single, feat. Chris Brown) mentions at least nine locales, plus “countries and cities I can’t pronounce / And places on the globe I didn’t know existed.” (Kyrgyzstan?) So in the interest of increasing his market share and his genetic footprint, Pitbull has decided to grow his brand and sink it deep into virgin territory. He positions himself for action, feels out the strategic gaps, and fills them with his acumen, forever keeping his eye on the back end. The guy’s a rainmaker.

(I should note that the string of puns at the end there totally rips off Chuck Eddy's review of Sir Mix-a-Lot for SPIN, Al Shipley's review of Chris Brown over at Singles Jukebox, and Ethan Padgett's review of Birdman/Lil'Wayne for Baltimore City Paper. Shoulders of giants and whatnot.)

Next up, a completely underwhelming Fania Records remix CD by Joe Claussell. The rhythm may be gonna get ya; the Sacred Rhythm, on the other hand, will not. Also from PopMatters:

Claussell has long been prominent in NYC’s house music scene, but he has strange notions of what the kids are listening to these days. “How many kids… now even know what Fania was?” he asks in the liner notes. “Maybe some of them might hear this and get turned on.” I dunno; at times Hammock House resembles one of those Grammy-winning Herbie Hancock tribute albums, or deep house night at Body&SOUL, or even the suede-chested tones of Chuck Mangione, but how many kids are getting turned on by that stuff? (Besides all the Destroyer fans, I mean.) Straight-up Fania albums are crisper, noisier, and way more exciting, and they have cooler album covers too.
Not that Claussell should have released a bunch of straight-up Fania songs. But that’s what I’d rather listen to, and I know plenty of kids who’d agree.

(Yes, I will take ANY opportunity to make fun of Destroyer.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

This Drive-By Truckers best-of is Worth It.

It's not what I'd choose for a Drive-By Truckers best-of, but judging by the comments at PopMatters, I may have idiosyncratic Drive-By Truckers taste. For instance, I do not like their slow songs. But fewer than half these songs are slow, so there you go. From my review:

On Ugly Buildings, Whores & Politicians, an overview of their career up ‘til 2009, Drive-By Truckers are a big floppy mess, a wad of hair soaked in Sterling Bigmouth and meat juice. The rhythm section bashes out backbeat after backbeat, and the guitar riffs tend to be what other bands call “chord progressions”. There’s always some stray guitar or pedal steel wheedling over the top of everything else, a little lost stream of consciousness. Singer/songwriter/guitarists Cooley, Patterson Hood, and Jason Isbell sound like they’re discovering their songs as they go, and often as not they neglect to include a chorus. Despite their claim that Lynyrd Skynyrd is “America’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band”, the Truckers are way more Neil than Ronnie.

This Henri Pousseur album is TOTALLY WORTH IT!!!

Gorgeous, essential electronic noise from a pioneering Belgian dude. Or so sez my review of Parbolique d'Enfer ("something about parabolas in hell") at PopMatters. Here's some of what I also sez:

If you’re at all interested in electronic art music from the ‘50s on, you should hear this piece of music. For one thing, you’ve read about a similar mix, based on the same raw materials, in that dogeared copy of Björn Heile’s The Modernist Legacy on your nightstand. For another, Parabolique beautifully illustrates one solution to the problem of making old electronic works say new things. And it does so in a way that obviously parallels the contributions of reggae and rap producers, who make old recordings say new things all the time.

If you’re not interested in all that theoretical mumbo jumbo and you’re inexplicably still reading this, the 13 tracks of Parabolique are worth hearing for their sonic splendor alone. This mix is deep and layered, varied and surprising. It’s atonal and certainly nobody’s idea of easy-listening, but it’s no monolithic wall of noise either. Pure electronic squealing gives way to Ethiopian choirs, who are interrupted by angry blasts of squall, which melt into flitting synthetic insects and chimes. The music crescendos and morphs in gestures that are unpredictable but obviously intentional. At times it even settles into regular rhythms that are sort of catchy and bouncy. It’s arresting and devoid of cliché.