Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

I've been enamored with Lily Allen for a few years now. I've seen her live numerous times. I've seen her perform really well. I've seen her perform really really poorly. Along the way she has gained a serious following while also gaining a reputation with the paparazzi in her native UK for being a bit of a party animal. A recent feature in the NY Times attempts to put that image of her in the past. I'm even tempted to believe that she has reformed and loves a quiet evening alone in her flat. I suppose she had to prove she could live in a way worthy to her saucy, in-your-face lyrics. She is still really the only pop star that manages to put intelligent/interesting/funny spins on relationships in the female point of view. And when you get down to it her songs are ridiculously catchy and danceable. She basically became a genre onto herself. She sold 2.5 million copies of her debut Alright, Still and all of a sudden there was a deluge of female pop singers that tried to be sassy and creative in the Lily Allen mold. Essentially, Katy Perry should be giving 1/3rd of her royalties to Lily Allen.

Where her first album was heavy on the horns and driving, rocking tunes her new album shows a slightly different approach. This new tone and approach is largely attributed to producer Greg Kurstin (the Bird and the Bee). It's Not Me, It's You is listenable from front to back and quite enjoyable. Any fan of Allen's will be happy to know this album sounds fresh and not like a bunch of regurgitated songs. Kurstin has definitely opened up her ears musically. The influences on the album are quite eclectic, ranging from bubble-gum electro to Eurodisco, and, in a surprising twist, to a spaghetti-Westernized synth pop ditty called "Not Fair." It's an unexpected change from an artist that has made a living crafting a certain type of song. Yet, most songs keep their dance floor sensibility. Overall, the album doesn't have quite the bite as her debut, but that is probably because I have been numbed to the point where I expect her lyrics to be provocative about love, sex, and all the nitty details. When she sings, "Oh, I lie here in a wet patch/In the middle of the bed/I'm feeling pretty damn hard done by/I spent ages giving head" I'm not taken aback. I have a slight smirk and nod my head, because I would be disappointed if she wasn't singing lyrics like that.

Not Fair

Monday, February 09, 2009

What You've Missed

Jeeeeeeeesus it's been a while. For all those waiting anxiously to hear from me, I apologize once again. I'm going to try and stuff a lot of thoughts and music into this post so that I can feel like I've "caught up," which will hopefully keep the torches and pitchforks at bay a little bit longer.

There has been quite a bit of great music released already in the year 2009 which will probably show up on people's Best of 2009 lists. Am I jumping to conclusions? Yes. But I've done so with the help of THIS. I promise that at least 50% of the music I mention below will be praised and praised and praised again 10-11 months from now.

Andrew Bird - Noble Beast

Andrew Bird returns with his follow up to Armchair Apocrypha (2007) with another album that showcases his multi-instrumental talents as well as all the pizzicato your heart desires. It is a splendid album that I think is more dynamic than his previous effort. It also proves further that his hyper-literate nature is profitable so long as its reigned in and comes with a great melody. He is sure to only gain more and more exposure with tracks like "Oh No" and "Fitz and the Dizzyspells".


Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavilion

I've been listening to Animal Collective since I was introduced to their albums Sung Tongs (2004) and Feels (2005) a few years ago. At the time they were way out of the scope of my normal listening rotation and never delved into their catalogue except in passing. They have a distinct sound that truly is unique. I don't throw around that term very often, but when you listen to Animal Collective you're left with no other suitable adjective to describe their sound. Because of this fact it's hard to get "into" the band if you're the least bit put off by 9+ minute songs that consist of layered vocals, synths, pulse, meeps, skeeps, and occasional creeps. On their eighth studio album they hit it out of the park. It is by far their most accessible album, and most cohesive. It is never dull and has to be listened to beginning to end in order to gain full appreciation for its mastery.

Brother Sport

Antony & The Johnsons - The Crying Light

Antony & The Johnsons came to my knowledge with their seminal album I Am a Bird Now (2005). Being a vocalist for a number of years I appreciate a great voice when I hear one. The ultimate evaluation for me is The Goosebump Test. This is exactly what it sounds like. As corny as it is a great vocalist brings goosebumps to my arms and has such a timbre and tone that is unmistakable. Antony Hegarty has one of those voices. It's like no one else but also possesses an emotional resonance that is usually only found in opera singers if they're lucky. The first single may bring tears to your eyes, and I have no doubt you will hear it in a depressing/sad movie sometime in the next 18 months.

Another World

***These Next Couple Albums Have Yet To Be Officially Released***

M. Ward - Hold Time

Fresh off his gig with Zooey Deschanel, M. Ward returns with his follow-up to Post-War (2006). This new album shows influences from his time with Deschanel which is not necessarily a bad thing. The melodies and rhythms are familiar and catchy. The songs are relatively short and compact. There is still M. Ward's great guitar work as well as pulsing pianos, multi-tracked vocals, timpani and string flourishes. If there is something different it's M. Ward's mood. There are bursts of a sunnier disposition that is in contrast to his usual melancholy loneliness. Hold Time is another step forward for an artist that is inching closer and closer to the limelight.

Never Had Nobody Like You

Beirut - March of the Zapotec / Realpeople Holland

This double EP was leaked early and was later added to iTunes for a digital release back in January, but it's physical release will come on February 17th. It's two totally disparate works that show the range of Zach Condon. He gets backing help on March of the Zapotec from The Jimenez Band, a 19-piece band. This EP is inspired by his trip to Oaxaca, Mexico. The Realpeople Holland EP is remarkably different since it's electronic and has virtually no live instrumentation. Listening to these EPs next to each other is pretty great and can really hear the talent and artistry of a musician with a lot of influences and ideas. I liken this to when Bright Eyes released I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn on the same day back in 2005. Two totally different albums that stand up nicely by themselves. Personally, I think Realpeople Holland is more interesting because it's more of a departure for Beirut as an artist and what we're used to hearing from him.

My Night With The Prostitute From Marseille