Archive for: ‘October 2004’

Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank

October 20, 2004 Posted by admin

Modest Mouse5

I don’t like Modest Mouse.

Now, I understand that this is tantamount to standing up at an atheist convention and screaming Halleluiah, especially in the realm of what has become our rather rarified taste here on the Muso. I also am fully aware that all the hype and praise that has been showered upon them since their ’96 debut is not just hot air and far more likely that something defunct in my musical taste has left me indifferent to one of the most established indie acts of our day. Albums have come and gone and never hooked me into the hyperbolic adoration that seems a signature of their fans. So perhaps I am not qualified to review their newest offering, but then again when have we ever worried about qualifications before offering an opinion?

With that rather verbose disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the topic at hand: We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank. The reason I included some detail on my history with Modest Mouse is that I now feel profound regret at not giving them more of a chance. I have clearly missed out on a lot. We were dead is an exceptional example of the genre we call home and a front runner for my album of the year, it slots so sweetly into our obscure taste that it is a wonder I don’t own their entire back catalogue.

I am well aware that since their Sony music signing in 2000 they have garnered much popular success (although none in this country) and there might be an element of their attempt to master the billboard charts that has allowed the sound to be accessible to previous unbelievers like me. I do feel that MM have managed this feat without compromising their flair for experimentation and unusual composition. Whatever the reason, the result is compelling. With a varied mix of style, guitars that seemed to have been reigned in and a greater level of constraint on vocals Modest Mouse have cleaned up what I have always perceived to be messy band play (however inspired it may have been) into a crisp, tight album. The unfortunate result of this is that long time listeners will find many parts of the album slowing to a rather lacklustre tempo and a few phases of the album that tend towards the bland. Perhaps some of the colour has leaked out but it is a far cry from the monochrome attempts of some of their counterparts.

I always feel that hooks into an album (tracks that lead you easily into full album listening) are often a good measure of how accessible the album feels (something that is always a problem with the type of music we listen to). We Were Dead has more openings than a Mexican cave system with every song welcoming you and inviting you to explore the next few tracks; as a result I have listened to the album from different starting points over a dozen times and the experience is still improving. There is something here for everyone, a statement that is rarely made of a veteran band of indie rockers.

The Best of 2007…So Far (20-16)

October 13, 2004 Posted by admin

kurt-vonnegut

It’s always a masochistic affair trying to assimilate musical moments and then rank them. It’s also a grossly subjective and forgetful process that, for good or bad, tends to annihilate context in favour of a less emotive but lasting resonance.

Despite this, we do it, because in a sense it defines a period of our lives in a snapshot of creative expression. Alongside the smoother gradients of our continued musical education, it demonstrates what we have deemed as most relevant and consistent within an evolving musical identity. It also aids a process of discovery, helping elucidate much which we have yet to cover on the site.

Of the three such lists we’ve compiled, this was in many ways the least trying. For starters, we were unanimous in our choice of the number one and while the relative positions are ultimately completely irrelevant, we managed to achieve general agreement fairly quickly.

On reflection, the list consists of a satisfying mix of debuts, sophomore releases and more mature fare. What is a little surprising to me is the weighty contribution of the computer. The subduction zone that occurs where traditional instrumentation and electronic music collide is, I believe, one of the most intriguing areas of the musical landscape. The variety of ways in which this is achieved in this list is encouragingly diverse.

So who didn’t make it? Most notable is the absence The National’s Boxer and Wilco’s Sky Blue Sky, though our respective reviews of the albums should highlight much of the reasoning. Another divisive exclusion is that of The White Stripes’ Icky Thump. In a positive sense, Vampire Weekend’s EP release nearly made it on the strength of its three tracks but ultimately didn’t. Likewise, EP releases from Caribou and Zookeeper proved exceptional yet ultimately unsubstantial enough to warrant inclusion and, though I first heard it this year, The Bang’s Shiny unfortunately predates 2007.

Anyway, here are the first five of our top 20 Best Albums of 2007…so far.

20. The Polyphonic Spree – The Fragile Army

Ignore the flowing robes and messianic haircuts that lend themselves to some sort of vague notion of apocalyptic dualism. The Polyphonic Spree’s choral euphoria is a cult worth falling for. While it may not be their best work, Fragile Army tones down the acid child imagery and succeeds in being more unashamedly enjoyable. Take whatever hypnotic sedatives they’re offering and settle in.

Listen:

The Polyphonic Spree – Running Away

19. Stars – In Our Bedroom After the War

While Stars usually puts even my tolerance for indie pop to the test there is something very seductive about the sound on this album. Surface appearances are often deceptive with bands like Stars and on first listen many songs can easily be passed on without further listening. To do so would be a shame, however, there is a lot more here than meets the eye. While it is not everyone’s cup of tea listening to the sweet sound of Amy Millan on a sunny day is certainly one of life’s true pleasures.

Listen:

Stars – My Favourite Book

18. White Rabbits – Fort Nightly

Fort Nightly was a big grower for me. While at first I didn’t really get what the fuss was about, this is a debut that is busting with potential. While the band doesn’t offer up anything uniquely creative their fundamentally solid sound is something that is quite rare for a debut release. Two vocalists, two drummers and two guitarists mean that while not revolutionary, White Rabbits deliver their music with a lovely richness and depth.

Listen:

White Rabbits – Kid On My Shoulders

17. Sam Skarstad – Serkus

Serkus is a wholly ambitious album and whilst it doesn’t always achieve what it sets out to, Skarstad must nevertheless be applauded for his efforts. At times and in places, the songs transcend their uncomplicated structures to convey truly rich impressions to the listener. Read our review here.

Listen:

Sam Skarstad – Boat

16. Linfinity – A Manual For Free Living: Installation

Of the entire list to follow, I view this release as the most under-appreciated. Linfinity does not seek to be new, but instead pays worthy and enthusiastic homage to half a century of rock memorabilia. Perhaps it is because I have heard much of the second instalment of this grand project, perhaps I give to much credence to an intriguing mixture of familiars, regardless, I recommend that you seek this out and listen. Read our review here.

The Best of 2007…So Far (15-11)

October 12, 2004 Posted by admin

virginia-tech-massacre

A little later than we had planned, but here is the second instalment of the best albums of the year to date.

15. Frog Eyes – Tears of the Valedictorian

The Canuck triumvirate of Krug, Behar and Mercer has done more to expand my musical landscape than many others in recent years. While previous Frog Eyes releases have seemed overly idiosyncratic and needlessly complex it is probably the education I have received at the hands of the Swan Lakers over the last two years that have opened my mind up to the beauty of Mercer’s music. Mercer’s ability to create phrases of lyrical splendor amongst a tumultuous backdrop of instrumental accompaniment will keep me hanging on his every word for years to come.

Listen:

Frog Eyes – Bushels

14. Battles – Mirrored

I never went through a math rock phase. The rigid structural conformity, seemingly staccato rhythms and asymmetrical beats always seemed too much like self-imposed strangulation for me to really enjoy it. With Mirrored though, Battles have returned me to a genre that seemed lost. I stumble knowingly toward a cliché when I say that John Stanier’s drums are the heart of what makes Battles exceptional, but it is the sunny melodies and hopelessly contorted lyrics that makes this album stand out from the math that I’ve heard before.

Listen:

Battles – Atlas

13. Dan Deacon – Spiderman of the Rings

Spiderman of the Rings trades in few half measures and small steps. Deacon’s complete insanity prefers subtraction rather than the addition of layers and the result is an animated (literally) cacophony that unfolds with spectacular precision. Read our review here.

Listen:

Dan Deacon – Wham City

12. Sibot – In With The Old

The sole South African representative in the bunch; this veteran of the SA music scene I has finally made the album we have been waiting for. While his projects have varied from hip hop acts to the jazz kaleidoscope that is Closet Snare, Sibot’s solo work has always been teetering on the brink of true success. With a more restrained performance and some inspired sampling In With The Old may just be the album to make Sibot the house hold name we all know he should be. Read our review here.

Listen:

Sibot – Bang on the Drum (feat Spoek Mathambo)

11. Map of Africa – Map of Africa

Sweaty, jazzy, soulful, funky, grinding, psych- rock. However you want to classify this heaving monster, the adjectives are unlikely to reflect the fact that Map of Africa is DJ Harvey and Thomas Bullock, better known for their house and electroclash forays respectively. Rock will rule the dancefloor.

Out With The Old

October 8, 2004 Posted by admin

The more perceptive among you may have noticed that The Muso has, like a chameleon, changed it’s outer skin. As I hate the self-indulgence in posting endlessly on new site designs I will keep this necessarily brief. Firstly there will be many tweaks and changes coming over the next few weeks but mostly we are happy with how it turned out and I hope you will find it a comfortable place to rest your eyes for a few moments in your day. As neither of us are designers or knew the first thing about coding; the attempt to design our site ourselves (twice now) has been punctuated with more than a few disasters. If you have any constructive criticism about how we can change things please drop us a line.