Saturday, January 23, 2010

My Ears On... January 2010

It's really hard to write about music, because A) it's soooo personal, and 2) how do you describe sound? Sometimes I read the album reviews in Rolling Stone and Spin and wonder how the hell they came up with descriptions like: "Transference is Spoon's seventh album and, at times, sounds like their best: the jaunty drive of "The Mystery Zone"; the rough sugar of "Written in Reverse," with its barroom-rock charge and ooo-weee vocal frosting." What is "vocal frosting?" Anyone?

But, it's so much fun to share music. There's so much to talk about. So, I'm going to highlight what I've been listening to recently and try to share why I like, or don't like, it. As always, I'll talk about how it makes me feel, because that's what I believe music is all about.

Here's what I've been listening to lately.

Contra by Vampire Weekend

This album was just released last week, and it picks up where the group's debut album left off. It reminds me a lot of Paul Simon's Graceland without sounding like a cheap copy. Songs like "Horchata" (yes, like the Mexican rice drink) and "California English" are tons of fun to listen and groove to. This is the kind of album I want to enjoy on either a long road trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, or on Sunday morning over pancakes, orange juice and a newspaper. It's just a kick-back, chillaxin' record.

Live at Reading by Nirvana

Nirvana's music defined my adolescence, and I'm not ashamed to admit I cried my eyes out the day Kurt Cobain killed himself. Everytime I listen to a Nirvana record now, I am usually in a very depressed mood (which isn't uncommon for this bi-polar man). But, Live at Reading made me happy. Hearing the audience singing along, screaming, and celebrating Cobain's brilliant music energized me, bringing out the air guitar-shredding, invisible mosh-pit thrashing man buried inside me. Apparently, this was one of the band's most important concerts, but that's not what makes me love it. It's versions of songs like "All Apologies," "Aneurysm," and "Lithium" that bring a smile (and maybe a tear, if I'm in the right mood).

The Dark Side of the Moon by The Flaming Lips & Stardeath and the White Dwarfs

Remaking perhaps the most famous album by one of rock music's seminal bands is an act that takes major cojones. On that alone, you have to give the Flaming Lips their due. They team up here with Stardeath and the White Dwarfs and Henry Rollins to create a very odd version of what was already a really odd, progressive rock record. There are tons of fuzzy guitars, feedback wails, and sound effects here. Their version of "Time" opens with hurried breathing, coughing, and an alarm clock beeping in the background before exploding into a wall of distortion. "Money" sounds like it was being played on a child's synthesizer, with Wayne Coyne's voice sounding like a robot -- it's almost like they wanted the song to sound as if the lyrics were being spoken by an ATM machine. Overall, this record is really hard to get into, and I only recommend it to people who love Pink Floyd and the Flaming Lips and want to see what the combination of music and style produces.

If there's any music you're listening to lately that you think I should hear, or review, let me know. My ears are always open.

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