Monday, June 23, 2008

Musical Thoughts

I've been listening to a shitload of new music lately, kittens. So much so I can barely keep it all straight in my head.

I only brought one mix CD along with me to my long weekend in Santa Fe for use in the rental car, so, wary of growing bored with it too quickly, I picked up a copy of Death Cab's new one, Narrow Stairs. Honestly, I can't even tell if they're a good band anymore--I'm going to tend to like what they do because I tend to like the sonic palette they use and they tend to keep using it. Simple as that. It's definitely more of a piece with Plans than it is any of their pre-major label stuff in that the production's exceedingly glossy (without being soulless) and any angst it contains isn't congealing so obviously on the surface anymore. There are no real clunkers--except maybe "Talking Bird"--the band is tight as ever (Jason McGerr: MVP), and Gibbard's tenor is starting to acquire some butteriness where it used to be all citrus. Whatever the album's charms may be, though, they were magnified exponentially for me through the concentrated repetition, nearly subliminal absorption, and heightened emotional receptivity peculiar to being in a car for several hours at a stretch, listening to the same thing on repeat--a pleasure I haven't enjoyed for a very long time. I really don't think I would have given the album that much of a chance to grow on me if it hadn't been for those circumstances. At least two of my all-time top-five favorite albums ascended to that ranking the same way, so...draw what conclusions from that you will.

Apropos of bands whose sonic palettes I tend to like, I'm slightly shocked by how much I'm actually not liking Shearwater's Rook. Maybe I just need to live with it some more, but, based on the way everybody talks and blogs about this band, I thought it would be an instant love affair--the sweeping emotion, the big dramatic swells, all the bird imagery. And yet...not so much. I'm tremendously bugged by Meiburg's falsetto, which he uses to signify importance way too often, when it's his full-on chest voice I find most affecting.

The new Raconteurs album has been a pleasant surprise after just a few spins. (Thanks, Chanesaw.) These guys could've just crapped out another album on par with Broken Boy Soldiers (which is to say, pleasant enough but ultimately unremarkable and unmemorable), but you can hear the sound of honest-to-God ambition on Consolers of the Lonely. The song forms and instrumentation are adventurous (horns!!) and the album qua album hangs together better than it would've needed to. Plus, I always forget how much I like Brendon Benson. (Though, he or whoever else had a hand in writing the otherwise stunning "The Switch and the Spur" owe former collaborator Jason Falkner some cash for lifting that opening chord progression from "The Plan" on Can You Still Feel.)

Because the CTA likes to fuck with me personally, I missed the starting times for two different movies I was trying to see on Saturday, so by the time I finally got to the theater, the only thing starting that I was even halfway interested in was, yes, Kung Fu Panda. I love a good animated romp, and this was generally amusing, lovely to look at, well voiced, etc. But, in my post-Buffy brain, I have a really hard time swallowing "chosen one" story lines that aren't exceptionally well done, not to mention that, ultimately, this film is a valorization of incompetence and gluttony so long as they're accompanied by ebullience and joie de vivre. Um, no. Obviously, I'm all for spreading the message that bodies of all shapes and sizes are acceptable, etc., but a kids' movie promoting itself with McDonald's happy meals featuring a character who both overeats when he's nervous and uses food as the only tool that will get him motivated while not being particularly skilled in anything other than enthusiasm and non sequiturs is, um, pretty frustratingly early-twenty-first-century American. Not cool.

Also, of course, RIP to the good Mr. Carlin.

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