Of Flora and Hissing Fauna: Records Reviews, Links and Naked Midgets
Now in theory, if you'd have described the Decemberists to me without letting me hear any of their music, I'd probably despise them, considering I don't typically care for sea shanties, fake British affects and anything to do with Barrow Boys (my disdain for barrow boys dates back to the war, when I was attacked by a marauding gang of Barrow Boy thugs)
Despite my irritation with the idea of a group like The Decemberists, I happened to find their first three albums pretty damned good. Yet I often found myself reluctant to listen to their music, as though it were some kind of chore. Maybe it was the fact that I went to high school with at least four girls named Leslie Anne Levine and three named Myra Goldberg. Or maybe it's the fact that Colin Moloy sounds like he spends most of his weeknights holed up in a room he calls his "study," analyzing the intricacies of the relationship between Ishmael and Queequeg. Either way, their first three albums were a lot more impressive than they were actually fun to listen to.
Perhaps that's why I'm surprised how much I love their forthcoming album The Crane Wife, an album which features a vast musical and artistic growth and fleshes out the Decemberists sound more than any of their previous works to date.
The album starts out innocously enough, with "The Crane Wife 3," a song that could fit comfortably on any of the band's earlier works. But by the second song, the equally pretentious and outstanding 12 minute and 42 second epic "The Island, Come And See, The Landlord's Daughter, You'll Not Feel The Drowning" one gets a sense of the bands new direction. Moloy
himself describes the sound as folk-prog and that's a pretty good enough description for me. The album sounds like what would happen if after Syd Barrett left Pink Floyd, they replaced him with the lead singer of the Fairport Convention and/or Herman Melville and not David Gilmour.
Other standout tracks include "The Perfect Crime 2," in which the band employs an almost disco-sounding keyboard and drum beat to produce a song that might be the closest thing the Decemberists will ever come to making something danceable.
"Summersong," the single already leaked from the album shows the Decemberists doing what they do best. Essentially, it's a simple love song filled with imagery of sand and swallowing waves and all that literary stuff that manages to keep you simultaneously entertained and reminded of the fact that Colin Meloy has an MFA and you don't.
If you liked the Decemberists previous albums, you'll probably still like The Crane Wife. Meloy and his gang of merry minstrels (because they seem like the kind of guys who'd like to be called minstrels) have more than enough literary chops. Their album is chockful of well-constructed songs that will have you turning to old Japanese folk tales to see what the hell they're referring to. But with their latest work, the band has evolved into a more varied and mature sound that just might win the band a bigger fanbase. Which would probably be a good thing, since I imagine Capitol has already begun re-thinking this whole investing in indie bands strategy in light of what happened to Sound Team. Barring any upsets, The Crane Wife is a lock to make my Top 10 albums of the year and it's a definitely a recommended purchase.
Download--The Decemberists "Summersong," from The Crane Wife
Of Montreal: Using That Old Excuse of Just Being Very Very DrunkHissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer has already leaked, despite the fact that the Polyvinyl Records album isn't supposed to be released until January 23rd of next year. I imagine hearing this news made poor Kevin so angry that he had to run out and buy three new wedding dresses just to cope with the tragedy. Retail therapy never fails, eh big guy?
But the truth is, Barnes needs to chill out a little bit and bask in the fact that Hissing Fauna might just be his best album yet. Now I was never a fan of early Of Montreal. Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse is one of the most awful things I've ever heard and one of the few albums I've never been able to get fully through. But over the last few years, Of Montreal has put out some of the best indie-pop albums around. Satanic Panic in the Attic and The Sunlandic Twins are both outstanding, even if I'm sure I'll never be able to hear "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games," again after Outback Steakhouse has suitably desecrated its reputation.
But with their latest album, the band that rose out of the ashes of the Elephant 6 collective has made perhaps their finest work. While Pitchfork and Stylus are both shamefully rushing to annoint Justin Timberlake the next Prince, Barnes has quietly staked his claim to that title.
Hissing Fauna is very much an Of Montreal album, with catchy drum machine beats, his own disco keyboards and electronic beats and flourishes.
But while the songs on Hissing Fauna are as ridiculously catchy as the ones on their last album, Barnes has matured as a songwriter. Sure, his song titles are still absurd and pretentious. The new album has tracks entitled, " Heimpalsgate Like Prometheus Curse," "Faberge Falls Shuggie," and "Cato as Pun," (whether he named it after Cato's Letters or the sidekick of Inspector Clousseau, I'm unsure). However, Barnes has become more instropective in his songwriter, a trend best evidenced by his strangely affective 12 minute break-up song"Past Grotesque Animal." Yet his pen isn't just directed inward, as several songs either indirectly or directly lampoon the church.
The only problem with the album is that sticking a 12 minute song right in the middle of it, kills its momentum, particularly considering the song easily contains the album's gloomiest lyrics. Either way Of Montreal has produced another classic album, one that can easily stand beside their last two works. In fact, it might even be their best. You won't be able to legally get your hands on this one until January, but when it finally does come out, I strongly encourage you to pick this one up.
In the meantime, download the leaked single from the album.
Of Montreal-"Suffer For Fashion,"
Passion of the Weiss Rating: 8.5
Somewhere, Popeye is Mourningannounces his retirement from the blogging game. Personally, I think there's some sort of serious spinach conspiracy afloat, perhaps one started by someone on the Iceberg Lettuce Promotions Committee.
At any rate, it's a bit futile to go tell you guys to check out the guys blog if you haven't already, but why not? Go over there if you're feeling up to it and check it out. There's a hell of a lot of good writing over there and its a sad thing to see Spinach Dip bow his head from the cantankerous world o' blogging. His blog is one of the first I ever read and still one of the best. As others have said, here's to hoping that his retirement goes the way of Jay-Z.
Just Like MJ: If MJ had a 42 Percent Career Shooting Percentage
Speaking of whom, Straight Bangin' has already written a pretty poignant assesment of the artist formerly known as Sean Carter, which seems to eloquently sum up most of what I've read on the Internet since Jay-Z announced that he's returning with a new album, entitling Kingdom Come. I can't say I'm expecting much from this album (maybe Jordan's first year with the Wizards rather than his first un-retirement), but aside from the fact that it seems like Jay-Z is now taking album titling tips from 1970's porn flicks, it'll still prolly be one of the best five rap CD's made all year. And even though I'm sure the Internet will tear Kingdom Come to shreds, I guarantee it's better than Tha Carter III and Hell Hath No Fury. If nothing else, I'm excited if nothing else for the fact that I might get four new songs to play while I'm at the gym. Because honestly, major label rap music made in the year 2006 might've only contributed 10 new songs that I'm not sick of--and 90 percent of them are from the Method Man, Masta Killa and Ghostface albums. And I'm aware Masta Killa isn't even on a major.
And if you're still hanging around, check out this article from Cracked Magazine about 5 Once-Great Comedians who've lost their way. It's pretty dead-on, save for the unnecessary takedown of Jim Carey.