The Last Drop

Reviews and Clues on Music That Matters (to me)

Archive for December, 2007

New Issue: BBC Radio 1

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BBC Radio 1, Live Lounge Volume 2 – Usually, I try to give a little background on how or why I got an album. Brief, but just enough to enrich your understanding as to why it is relevant. This album has a much longer story and even deeper significance. Luckily, I will not bore you with too many details. I was given this album during the annual office Secret Santa ritual. Not bad for a luck of the draw, usually you get chocolates or bath products program. Even better, I was running Secret Santa for my team and knew who my secret gift giver was – my boss. That was when it hit me – my manager actually KNOWS me. She knew me well enough to gather a) I like music and I would always like it as a gift b) what type of music I would like and c) what creative extension of music I like she could find that I didn’t already own. All in 4 months. Thank you Lucy Heslop. It feels good to be known.

As for the actual album, it is a smattering of live performances from anyone who is anyone in the UK music scene for 2007. The fun part is that occasionally the artists will give their take on a popular song way outside of their genre. Corrine Bailey Rae brings Sexy Back?! Yes. Keane invites Beyonce and Christina Aguilera to get Dirrtylicious. And it works. Even Avril Lavigne wants a shot at Coldplay’s The Scientist. Not my top choice, but she tried. If nothing else, I’m a fan of the concept – loosen up the bands to give a decent acoustic performance and let them play if they want to. Some choices work, others don’t, but that’s what makes live music so magical. Top spot must go to the queen of all British media, Amy Winehouse, for not only succeeding in a wonderful cover of the Zuton’s Valerie, but two other artists covering her songs (Paolo Nutini and The Arctic Monkeys). When she’s on, she’s on. Just not in Minneapolis when I scalped tickets to see that bugger of a drunkard. Pure rubbish!

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December 27th, 2007 at 7:25 pm

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Stockpile: Faithless

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Faithless, No Roots – Tis the season for sharing great music. Thus, in honor of my good friend Matt, I had to listen to his favorite group. It doesn’t hurt that I happen to enjoy Faithless as well. Not a tough sell and not a tough listen. Their consistent aesthetic of reflectionary (yeah, that’s a word) dance music is intriguing and generally pleasant to listen to. No Roots finds a comfortable middle ground between politics and relationships that gently leans left while accommodating all listeners. Oh yeah, Dido is on this one too. So everyone will listen. Personally, the non-Dido music has always held my affection for Faithless. Don’t get me wrong – Dido has a place and time. Lord knows we all need breathy female singers with wanton need seeping from their vocal chords (I think I just heard another Ipod commercial counting off in the distance…). I just prefer the straight up buddhist ramblings. It’s soothing in a revolutionary way. Even though No Roots isn’t their latest effort it is still a relevant landmark in their collection and well worth the listen.

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December 27th, 2007 at 6:04 pm

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Stockpile: The Notwist

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The Notwist, Neon Golden – I am so blessed to have a poor memory. In the early days of my music expansion, I frequented the most lovely record shop in all of Atlanta (as voted by innumerable Atlanta journals). Occasionally, a sense of “missed opportunity” would fall over me and I would buy a stack of CDs to make up for lost listens in the past month. This would be a great opportunity for Mr. Olson to vouch for me in a comment somewhere… Since I was buying by the stack, I often listened to an album just once to decide whether I liked it. The Notwist fell into this camp and sadly I abused them with only one listen and a fatal no go. That is until last Sunday when I exercised my “this is why I carry all of my music with me at all times” rule and scrolled to an album title I couldn’t remember. Turns out I was too young to appreciate fine music. Something about fermentation and oak barrels that I couldn’t quite grasp until now. The album is beautiful. Really. I was a bit shocked and saddened that I hadn’t liked it on first listen. I think I’m falling for strings this winter. Or maybe grand orchestration. Winter does allow for more complex listening since I’m hiding from brutal winds. Weather withstanding, this album is a solid mix of strings, synths and brooding lyrics that pop, crack, whinny, and sing in all the right places. It’s surprisingly lighthearted as well. Which may be the secret ingredient – strings that aren’t too self important. Seeing as Patrick Wolf is playing this weekend, I may extend him this tip.

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December 17th, 2007 at 9:15 pm

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New Issue: Radiohead

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Radiohead, In Rainbows – This will be the shortest post on the new Radiohead album. I think it was best described by my friend Jeff as “beautiful…in a much less paranoid way” than their other work. As someone that loves music primarily for, well, the music I couldn’t think of a better description for the instrumentation of the album. After a few focused listens for lyrics, beautiful was still the best descriptor for the album. The previous albums post OK Computer provided a great sonic landscape with surrealist lyrics that you could take in or out of context. I never paid attention to to the “meaning” of Kid A, but I don’t think it mattered. It’s really delightful to actually pay attention and be rewarded for it. The sense of optimism is even a little thrilling. Thom Yorke falling in love is a bit unnerving, but a surprising reprieve from the usual ambient doom and gloom.

The flow of the album was similar to Hail to the Thief – start with a bang, introspective middle, reasonably epic ending. The added touch of cautious optimism gave this album a much needed uplift from the previous record that truly separates the good from the great. Simply put, it is beautiful.

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December 12th, 2007 at 10:00 pm

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New Issue: Clare & The Reasons

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Clare & The Reasons, The Movie – Another spur of the moment purchase at a concert. Clare opened for St. Vincent and everyone in the crowd was buzzing for her band name and CD. Granted, her music perfectly suits Shepherds Bush Hall and the overall expectation from a St. Vincent concert. Still, the sheer delight and stunning musicianship (yeah, they have a 3 piece string section, how quaint) won me over and I stalked her for another performance in London. After the second stellar show, I gave in and bought the album. As with my earlier experience buying an album at the show, what I bought was far different from what I expected. In opposition to my experience from The Gossip , the album was overproduced compared to their strip down sound live. The whimsical, quaint and charming songwriting turned sappy and bloated once they went into the studio. The greatest distinction is the addiction of percussion. When writing French jazz folk songs, a driving drum beat is not a necessary characteristic. It actually detracts. Clare’s clear, heart melting voice gets lost in the orchestration with the percussion being the primary culprit. The strings also get a dose of schmaltz on record. Such a shame – what was irresistable and generally sweet turned into Michael Buble at his worst. Even collaborations with Sujan Stevens couldn’t save it. For all it’s faults, Clare’s voice is still worthy of praise and the songs are still inventive (if a little too cute). Seriously who writes a song about Pluto’s demotion from being a planet? Not enough bands.

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December 11th, 2007 at 9:47 pm

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New Issue: Blow

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The Blow, Paper Television – A recommendation from a Scottish friend who knows obscure American bands from Portland, Oregon. As if making a breakup album is a new concept, Paper Television brings a refreshing take on heartache through the mastery of low fi electronic music. As of recent, it is a bankable formula (I think I saw Lily Allen cashing in another royalty check at Lloyds last week) and The Blow deliver on using sympathy to form a cohesive and catchy album. What impresses me most is the actual sound is super-simplistic – keyboards and drum machines that sound more like late stage Atari games than actual instruments. Khaela Maricich’s voice adds to the DIY flare with emotion overtaking production (and sometimes pitch) as the primary focus.

I’m just thrilled that The Blow stuck to their guns and used the least amount of sound to get their point across. So many electronic acts are exploiting the accessibility of technology to create overly processed music (see most of Mark Ronson’s work outside of Back to Black ) that seek to titillate with obscure samples or just plain old overload. Sometimes all you need is a Casio from Radio Shack set to 4 notes and a high hat. Which happens to be my favorite song on the album (True Affection).

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December 9th, 2007 at 4:02 pm

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Top Drops: November

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Yeah, I know. It’s been a while. November aka birthday month turned out to be jammed pack full of concerts, travelling, and of course, my birthday. In the midst of all this activity, I not only lost sight of posting to the blog, but also lost sight of my bank account (see my Flickr photos for proof). Thus, few new music purchases in November. In fact, Ms. Nash, was the only album purchased the whole month. Thankfully, it wasn’t the only music I was listening to. Lots of memorable live music (Devendra Banhardt, Bondo de Role, St. Vincent). And a few surprises on my Ipod. Which brings me to my pick for the best of November.

Daytrotter – Daytrotter’s mantra of not racing to be the first to discover new music but the best at sharing new music to those interested has worked for me. 3 artists and 12 songs every week. For free. Often songs that haven’t been released. I recently stumbled upon my Daytrotter stockpile and put it on random. Even when the artists are played at random, I enjoyed most of the songs recorded (apart from The National) and am looking forward to purchasing some of their albums. This month. So I don’t have a month long lapse in new music 🙂 Thank you Daytrotter for realizing the value of trial. Let’s see if anyone else in the music industry will follow.

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December 9th, 2007 at 3:34 pm

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