Posts Tagged ‘beck’

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Off This Century – My Favorite Albums of 2000-2009

December 25, 2009
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Ten Reviews

March 1, 2007

So I found this thing called rateyourmusic.com.

Anyone who knows me knows I have issues even keeping my own tastes and opinions straight, and I feel like having a profile like this helps put everything into perspective for me and keep my thoughts organized. It’s a good system for showing what I have, what I want, and what I really like as well. I have copy/pasted all the reviews from here over to there by now. But I have done a few quickie reviews on RYM as well. Not big, full album reviews, but smaller, quick, concise ones. And I feel like that’s working a bit better for me. Whenever I ask for criticism on my reviews, they are almost always that they are too long and not concise enough. So I think for a time I might see if I can write a lot shorter reviews and see how it works out. It’s not like full album reviews will just be out of the question though, I already have some more of those on the way. But I want to post some of the quickie ones I’ve got done on RYM. Enjoy.

Beck – One Foot In The Grave

Beck’s One Foot In The Grave is a quaint release in every way; it wasn’t a major album release, only two out of it’s sixteen songs meander into the three minute range, and most all of the tracks are acoustic folk recordings. Beck’s odd personality still gets into the mix with songs like Forcefield and Cyanide Breath Mint, but this is probably his most subdued album next to Sea Change. Quantity is clearly valued over quality here, but in any case almost all of the songs are real treats. The first five tracks are among Beck’s absolute best and He’s a Mighty Good Leader makes for a great opening cover, and Hollow Log is nothing if not simple and touching. A must have for Beck fans, this album is a real treat and a taste of Beck’s more stripped down early style.

Crossfade – Crossfade

I have no idea why I like this. Crossfade is a guilty pleasure record for me for sure, following in the wake of Linkin Park and other mediocre nu-metal. And let’s be honest here, it is mediocre nu-metal. Very few albums jump between good and bad as much as this. The opening Starless represents just about everything this album does wrong with a boring riff and cliched lyrics of pain and hate. Cold is interestingly enough an apology song and doesn’t wallow in it’s own problems. In any case, the lyrics almost always fail. It reaches some pretty good vibes though, which is weird, because a band of this stature really shouldn’t. It’s a contemplative listen, but the guitars don’t have enough strength. For as bad as Death Trend Setta is (if the name didn’t tip you off anyway), there are other songs that are actually good, specifically So Far Away and Disco, both of which have decent riffs and good choruses. The albums only true win though is The Unknown, the closing. It’s a simple elegant end to an otherwise overly complicated and boring album, and it emenates some great vibes and has an irresistable hook. I hate to see it, but I like this. It fails about as much as it suceeds, so I guess it’s not that accomplished, but it’s high points are actually good. For sleazy whining metal anyway.

Gorillaz – G-Sides

Gorillaz debuted with a killer album of chilled hip-hop and rock, and the album rocketed Damon Albarn to heights rivaling his fame as frontman of Blur. The album had several singles and some very good b-sides, and G-Sides is the best way to get those b-sides. But really, the disk only contains five b-sides that can’t be heard elsewhere. You might not have the Soulchild Remix of 19-2000 depending on your edition of Gorillaz, and it is far superior to the original version and well worth having, but besides the b-sides the disk only has sub-par remixes up for grabs. The version of Latin Simone found here has English vocals, and the Spanish ones were much better anyway. The rest of the remixes are really bad, nothing worth having. But the five b-sides are great gems. The true winners are Faust (chillout synths galore), Ghost Train (almost gospel hip-hop goodness) and 12D3 (a low key guitar strum with accompanying soft vocals). Probably unnecessary, but worth picking up if you liked Gorillaz.

Green Day – American Idiot

It’s unfortunate that I have gotten to the point where I cringe at the name ‘American Idiot.’ This is a very good pop album and that is just that, but it was overblown to ridiculous proportions. I’m not sure that I have heard any single album overplayed as much as this on the radiowaves, and for that reason the album is almost a task to listen to all the way through. But if it’s any condolences, this is about as good as the bands most popular effort Dookie, in it’s own way. Green Day hasn’t changed much by 2004, and they still know how to mix pop with punk pretty effortlessly. They have, however, gained a political edge. I had the pleasure of seeing the band play live on the tour, and they were very good. The crowd was annoying as all getout, but that aside the band still knows how to put on a show. And by this time they still know how to make a catchy tune. The title track and Holiday are probably the two best songs on the album, not to outrule the two great rock symphonies Jesus of Suburbia and Homecoming that are just too freaking long for the radio, but they were by no means the only tunes that got radioplay. Boulevard of Broken Dreams was a radio juggernaut and Wake Me Up When September ends got a music video what felt like years after this came out. It trips in a few places, specifically Are We The Waiting and Extraordinary Girl, but it is still classic Green Day. It just annoys the shit out of me. The radio killed it. Does that matter? Eh, not really.

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins – Cow Fingers and Mosquitoe Pie

Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous blues artist you will ever have the pleasure of listening to. His popularity lives on even after his death and this disk outlines his career very well. Let’s be honest here, the man is freaking crazy. But fortunately, this craziness translates through his music perfectly. His biggest claim to fame is his, well, incessant screaming, and he does it all the time. Be it through the ridiculous blathering of Little Demon or You Made Me Love You, the mindbending irony of Darling, Please Forgive Me (the man did have well over sixty illegitimate children), or the racist bombshells I Love Paris and Hong Kong, every minute of this is pure gold. This compilation would have been worth it’s price if only just for the fantastic and influential I Put A Spell On You and the hilarious cover of Temptation, but you get your full money’s worth on this album. The only problem is the lack of Constipation Blues, a Screamin’ Jay classic that you can probably hear in your mind already. There are even some alternate takes to put the icing on the cake. Don’t hesitate; pick this up now. You need it.

Nirvana – Sliver: The Best of the Box

I can’t bear to give this a bad rating, mostly because most all of these songs are very good Nirvana rarities, but I won’t deny that the collection is kind of pointless. Anyone who would have been interested in these rarities in the first place probably wouldn’t have been adverse to just shelling out the money for the box set With The Lights Out. Even if they did put their trust in this alone, there are many selections from the box set that were left out and truly deserved a spot, such as D7, They Hung Him On A Cross, If You Must, and Verse Chorus Verse. There are three previously unreleased tracks that might make this worth it to fans like me, and they are the Spank Thru take from the Fecal Matter demo, a boombox version of Come As You Are, and another version of Sappy. I can’t complain too much because these are all great tracks, but it’s a poorly constructed and unnecessary compilation that was probably a ploy to get the casual fans money, and it most likely didn’t work very well. That’s alright though; it’s another one for the collection.

Santana – Shaman

Why I gave this the lowest rating possible is irrelevant, as everything at 2.0 and under is a blur anyway. Either it’s bad or it’s not at that point, and this is bad. REALLY BAD. Santana is one of my favorite guitarists ever, and the preceeding Supernatural was a fantastic album. I actually saw Santana on the Supernatural tour and it was my first show ever. Not too shabby. But the energy from Supernatural almost doesn’t translate to here at all. The opening Adouma is the exception. It’s a good trance-like latin solo-fest, exactly what we love from Carlos. But the rest of the album consists of horrible collaborations with people who don’t deserve to be said in the same sentence as Santana. America is an easy pick for a worst Santana song list. I suppose The Game of Love is decent if not a bit annoying, but the album is otherwise dirt. He should have stopped while he was winning with Supernatural.

Smashing Pumpkins – Pisces Iscariot

A fine collection of Smashing Pumpkins b-sides, Pisces Iscariot handpicks the finest Siamese Dream era b-sides the band has to offer. One disappointing absence is that of Bullet Train To Osaka, a great James Iha original, but another one of his great songs is included, the country oriented Blew Away. Pretty much all of these songs stand alone be they muscular sunny riff-rockers like Hello Kitty Kat and Pissant or more downtempo melodies like Obscured and Soothe. There are two fabulous covers as well, a touching rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide and a catchy Girl Named Sandoz, as well as a signature SMP epic, Starla. Also included is probably the bands best b-side, Frail and Bedazzled. It almost holds the power of an individual album. You can see why these are b-sides because they really aren’t as memorable as the album songs, but they are essential nonetheless.

Tool – Lateralus

Tool’s biggest flaw is that their music goes over peoples heads before they can truly get a grip on the music and enjoy it, but the band makes up for it by being easily the most sophisticated and talented metal band active today. Lateralus just so happens to be their magnum opus, and like Tool as a band, it is an acquired taste and at first very difficult to understand. The band has progressed a great deal since ├ćnima, but every member of the band has already proved themselves to be of the absolute best at their trades, so there isn’t any real need to prove anything. The whole band lets loose with this energetic, dark, adrenaline filled masterpiece. But once again, it’s no easy listen. The genre is no longer just metal, but progressive metal, and each song is laced with complex beats and druggy dirty guitars. But for anyone who can manage to wrap their head around this album, the payback is plentiful. No time is wasted here, and only two “filler” tracks are included, both essential to the overall mood. Every track is key to the overall structure of the album, but some are a bit stronger than others. The Grudge is a colossal opener, featuring the famous Maynard twenty five second spine tingling scream and a killer Danny Carrey drum solo. Schism is the radio pick with it’s irresistible bassline akin to Fourty Six & 2. Parabol and Parabola are respectively reflective and muscular accompanying tracks, and Triad is the albums highest point, an instrumental outburst of dark energy. But once again, there is not a weak track on the album. It’s not hard to have problems with this album on the first listen; Maynard’s voice is extremely varied and may not appeal to some people and the rhythm can be downright confusing if your ear is not trained. This album may not be an easy listen or a good introduction to Tool, but it is, by a good margin, the height of their career. Tool is a very difficult, complex, and draining band, but giving them enough time to sink in yields great rewards, a fact that Lateralus demonstrates to the utmost.

Yo La Tengo – Painful

Easily Yo La Tengo’s best album, Painful is a wonderful masterpiece of dream pop and noise rock. It may not be packed to the brim with gems like I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One is, but the album does wonders in it’s own subtle ways. Each song is a meticulously planned work of art. The songs fall under two categories, quiet comforting pop and the signature Yo La Tengo guitar developing noise. This kind of combination would seem counterproductive, but in a way both fit the same mood, conveyed well even with the cover of the album. Each song has it’s own distinct night time image to go along with it, be it a badass hero trip to 7/11 or a gentle sleepy dream, this is Yo La Tengo at their absolute best. But the height of the album actually comes at the end with the monumental I Heard You Looking, one of the best dream-pop instrumentals you will ever hear and a truly moving development of sound. The problems Painful has are a matter of preference; Painful has a stronger coherency as an album than anything and has maybe less power in individual songs than I Can Hear The Heart, but it still holds a historical place with Yo La Tengo by being the first album where the band came into full circle. A tight, classic album.

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Beck – The Information

October 5, 2006


I’ll admit it, I felt like a little kid when I removed this album from the plastic. Beck really does know how to market an album, that’s for sure. The thing is practically a toy, or at least as close to one as an album will ever get. Beck has always been one for getting out very broad ideas in a very broad way, but they are ideas nonetheless. The idea here is individuality and creation, as shown by the Lego block Beck logo on the front. And actually, also shown by the fact that this logo is the only thing on the front besides a square grid where you can place stickers that are included in the inner sleeve. The same goes for the back cover, except the blank space is all next to the tracklist. Yep, Beck (or maybe his art director or something) made the album art, but the man knows that expressing ones self is very important and fun, so he let you do the arrangements. I have a feeling that different copies of the album have their own sets of stickers too.

And you know what godammit, he didn’t have to do this at all. He so easily could have just released the songs and have been over with it. But instead his aim is to be creative, and in this venture he suceeds with flying colors. I have a serious doubt that anyone else has ever had the idea to let the listener create their own album cover. Beyond this, Beck also makes the purchase a double whammy by including a DVD with low budget but indefinitely interesting music videos for each song on the album. It’s a curious and extremely confusing way of putting out an album, and yet it’s delicious too. It’s not like Beck is trying to make a big statement as opposed to being a smartass or just having fun. If that was the case, he would have just released the album on CD-Rs, or maybe just give the listener a blank CD with the address of some music industry jackass in the sleeve.

In this way, Beck is really trying to detatch himself from the big business music industry bullshit that not only poses a problem for Beck himself, but also for the listener. If Beck wanted to, he could release all of his music on a tiny independant label, or better yet, make his own (really, I’m surprised that he hasn’t done this yet). And yet he seems to have found some kind of comfort in Interscope. Which is why the anti-piracy warning on the back is almost conspicuous. I’m pretty sure the man isn’t that concerned about money, so this almost seems like a thing that he had to get out of the way before letting loose. He has said in interviews that he realizes that the internet age has changed things considerably. Instant information happens. File Sharing happens. Youtube happens. So in a way he trys to accomodate to the situation.

And yet the album itself is pretty much what we have come to expect from an excellent Beck album. It’s varied yes, as that is just what Beck does best. Even considering the spontaneity of Mellow Gold and Odelay and also the themed shape of Mutations and Sea Change, this is a middle ground alongside Guero. The general idea behind the album is to crank out relaxing chill tunes, and usually in a more electronic and synthetic way, deviating strongly from Becks early days as a writer of lazy and occasionally touching folk songs. But then again, the artist has no real need to proove himself, so as he has done before, he really can do whatever the hell he wants and still be effective, which is why almost all of the tracks are great, and not just good, but great in their own individual ways. Of course there are a few clunkers that you can see the direction in but still fail in comparrison to the rest. These songs are later in the album though, after the long haul of fantastic songs. Standouts are I Think I’m In Love, a stellar tune that anyone can relate to, because love really is a curious but beautiful thing. Cellphone’s Dead stands out to, as an eclectic and heavily beat oriented obvious choice for a single that is meticulous and clever with it’s details. The piano-centric Strange Apparition is a glorious throwback to days of pop old, and We Dance Alone, a track around the middle of the disk, is a hypnotic electronic dance groove. The true standout track is Nausea, a rock solid groove with a bit of downhome simplicity, a song that ranks among Beck’s most instantly gratifying and fun with it’s extravagant decoration. And the equally impressive Movie Theme would be a gorgeous closer if it wans’t followed by the traditional strange noise track to wrap things up.

The problems are pretty apparent though. I’m not going to pretend that Beck is anything close to perfect, and he just can’t seem to get his musical demons dealt with, and they still plague him. The main problem is the vocals, which he seems to not even take that seriously anymore. We all know that Beck likes to rap and he can in fact do it well, but more often than not he falls back into familliar patterns when he could have just as easily sang a simple little tune and not have to worry about people getting discouraged with his predictably unpredictable lyrics and raps that always work in the exact same predictable ways. Beyond this, many lyrics are forced with aimless launches through choruses. The lyrics “I think I’m in love, but it makes me kind of nervous to say so” are nothing more than him falling on his ass and not really doing much to recover. Unlike Guero, The Information really doesn’t have too many hooks, and while they are there, they, uh, dance alone few and far between. Also, some songs are just generally uninspired. The 1000BPM/Motorcade/The Information block is horribly tiring and mediocre. These problems do have cushions to fall on, because when the vocals are bad, the great music pulls it back up. And Beck fans also find comfort in the weirdness of even the least accessible songs.

It just seems a shame to me that Beck has not realized his problems and remedied them somewhat. I’ve never been too much of a fan of rap, and while Beck doing it does make the practice more tasteful, he does it somewhat too often now, and no longer in the glamorous pop context that helped out Loser.

But I will be the first to say that I am completely satisfied with this purchase. Considering the fact that I got to make my own cover and feel like I was eight again (yes, that’s good), have the DVD, and be surprised by a generally outstanding album that I was expecting to be mediocre, I got it for about $10 at tower records. Now that’s a real steal if I have ever seen one. The fans will appreciate this the most, and even casual listeners will recognize the signature Beck sound and approach that span the album. First time Beck listeners would think, what the hell is this? But no one was expecting Beck’s everchanging agenda to accomodate to brand new fans so easily. The approach is cool, the music is great, and it’s fricking Beck.

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Beck: New Album!

May 29, 2006

“Beck has just completed his new album, which he’s been in the studio working on with producer Nigel Godrich. The album is due out this fall – check back here at beck.com soon for more information.”

What more can be said? It’s Beck. It’s freaking Beck. And he’s got another album after, what, less than two years? That’s pretty fudging good in my opinion. What confuses me is how he is completely done with the album and he made no indication (as far as I know) that he was ever even working on it, considering he is working with as big of a name as Nigel Godrich. But I think this is great. The last Beck album, Guero, still stands as my favorite album he has made, and yes, I have heard Odelay, so don’t reccomend it to me. Mutations is way up there too, maybe even above Odelay. The man is a genius, and I think it’s great that he’s putting out another record. He seems to not really plug along at a quick pace when it comes to releasing albums, but hey, if he’s got more material totally done this quick, then wow. I’m excited. And you can bet I’m going to pick this baby up on the day of release.

1. Elevator Music

2. I Think I’m In Love

3. Cell Phones Dead

4. Nausea

5. Soldier Jane

6. Strange Apparition

7. Dark Star

8. Movie Theme

9. We Dance Alone

10. No Complaints

11. 1000 BPM

12. Motorcade

13. The Information

14. New Round

15. Horrible Fanfare/Landslide/Exoskeleton

It’s going to be a more hip-hopy thing, which is fine, but if you want my opinion on it, it seems like theres way too much rapping and not enough singing. But you won’t hear me really truly complaining about anything that Beck releases anyway. I’ve heard a lot of the new songs. There are even videos for We Dance Alone ande I Think I’m In Love, and theres one coming for Cell Phones Dead too. The deal with the album art is, and this is straight from Becks mouth, it’s going to be a sticker thing. Like, it’s just a blank cover, and the album art is in stickers, so you can make your own. Pretty cool stuff.