The Weekend Review: May 2011 Report

Originally posted 2011-12-29 13:51:59. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

It has recently come to my attention that the “box” format I’ve used on all my Weekend Review posts thus far this year is somewhat incompatible with at least the iPhone Safari browser, possibly with other smart phone interfaces as well.  What was intended to provide organization and aesthetic pleasure actually ended up cutting off my words from clear view on many devices.  So, my thanks to those who pointed that out, and rest assured I’m already brainstorming a format for next year.

As it is, my Weekend Reviews have fallen by the wayside in a year that has seen a significant format change — a blending, as it were, of my full-length reviews (which were, admittedly, perhaps too long) and my “Yes, No, Maybe So” one-sentence reviews (which started out simpler, but ended up having much of the complexity of my five star scale in the full-length reviews; I also pushed the definition of “one-sentence” to the extreme).

I’m excited for the new year to come for me to rededicate myself to the new music reviews in a more manageable manner and on a more regular schedule, yet I couldn’t let the latter two-thirds of the year’s new music slip by without comment.  So, without further ado, here’s my reviews (and many they are!) for May 2011, and I’ll be back soon to squeeze in the remaining months before the end of 2011.  As you can tell, brevity is a virtue as I rush to meet the 1/1/2012 deadline, and I am all the more excited for my end-of-the-year lists, which will be unveiled throughout the first weeks of January 2012.

 

The Schnozzle Sessions (Mike Fusco)

Producer: Mike Fusco

Released: (limited edition)

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “I Adore You” & “Do You Have a Sister”

Simply put, The Schnozzle Sessions oozes potential and makes a listener anxious for the blend of catchy tunes, clever and poetic lyricism, and passionate vocalizing that will surely be highlighted on Fusco’s next full studio album, a promise already made good on the “Modern-Day Pocahontas” single released this summer.

 

Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes)

Producer: Phil Ek and Fleet Foxes

Released: May 3, 2011

Rating: 2.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Helplessness Blues” & “Blue Spotted Tail”

I don’t think the Fleet Foxes are bad, I just don’t understand what all the fuss is about.  I don’t understand the Beach Boys comparisons they’ve been drawing since their breakthrough to the mainstream, a likeness clearly supportable in their lush, gorgeous multi-layered vocals, yet undeserved on the level of the song as a whole.  Fleet Foxes, like many recent bands, seem content to develop sections and lines – what Brian Wilson might have referred to as “feels” in the mid-sixties – and yet to develop no further.  There seems to be little of the creativity in composition that Wilson demonstrated early.  Of course, it was this quest for artistic development and perhaps even perfection that likely drove Wilson off the deep end, so Fleet Foxes are probably smart to keep to their formula, breaking out here and there in standouts like the poetic urgency of the title track and the understated, emotive beauty of songs like “Blue Spotted Tail.”  One might take “The Shrine / An Argument” as sign of greater aspirations, so there is indeed reason to pay hopeful attention for future developments…

I Am Very Far (Okkervil River)

Producer: Will Sheff

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 2/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “The Rise” & “Piratess”

There is something about the overall composition of I Am Very Far that smacks of two sticks struck together only a bit too slowly or at a slightly incorrect angle to achieve a spark.  Okkervil River is unsurprisingly strong in their lyricism here, very ambitious and coherent in their instrumentation, and yet something falls flat.  There is passion, but it fails to translate.  In too many places, the album falls into a march and trudges forward, having failed to achieve authentic momentum.  Still, the haunting aura of the album closer “The Rise” hangs over the whole as it fades, leaving an echo of what is possible.

 

Move Like This (The Cars)

Producer: Jacknife Lee & the Cars

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Too Late” & “Sad Song”

Having picked up this album as a passing fancy, feeling badly for how few units seemed to have moved before I found it on the CD store racks, the consistent quality of Move Like This was a pleasant surprise, a shock even.  In an odd way, the synthetic soundscape that the Cars not only rode but also helped to define over two decades ago has resurfaced and provided for this album to be released years after the band’s prime yet still sound remarkably fresh and modern.  The production quality is clear and crisp, the band keeps a fast pace, and Ric Ocasek (returning for the first time since 1988) sounds as vital as ever.

 

Give Till It’s Gone (Ben Harper)

Released: May 10, 2011

Rating: 2/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Don’t Give Up on Me Now” & “I Will Not Be Broken”

If anyone has been guilty of dragging out too little for too long, it is Ben Harper on this album.  Following his significant contribution to last year’s masterful Fistful of Mercy debut, Harper opens with “Don’t Give Up on Me Now,” easily the top track of the release.  However, much of the music that follows is emotive yet more than one track suffers from not knowing when to quit (“Get There From Here,” “Dirty Little Lover”), others from a whiff of autopilot (“Rock N’ Roll is Free,” “Pray That Our Love Sees the Dawn”), most from a feeling of drifting between the patterns of blues and its close relatives and an urge to be more.

 

Rome: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi)

Producer: Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi

Released: May 16, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Season’s Trees” & “Two Against One”

As a soundtrack, this album is held to a slightly different standard, one which is frankly difficult for me to calibrate, particularly without having seen the film for which it was designed.  As I had hoped for and expected, Danger Mouse’s presence is clearly felt and the songs with vocals are true gems, particularly “Season’s Trees” and “Two Against One.”  The choice of collaborators is ideal, Norah Jones taking lead on the former and ex-White Strip Jack White on the latter – both provide their unique vocal sound and distinct presence to their respective tracks, which serve to elevate Rome above background music — wonderfully quirky though that background music may otherwise be.

 

The Graduation Ceremony (Joseph Arthur)

Producer: John Alagia & Joseph Arthur

Released: May 23, 2011

Rating: 4/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Face in the Crowd” & “This is Still My World”

Particularly in this solo release, it becomes clear just how much Joseph Arthur’s presence was felt on last year’s excellent Fistful of Mercy debut release.  Unlike his bandmate Ben Harper, who seems to delight in a mixture of electric distortion and melancholia, Arthur captures an even deeper sense of loss on this album with a much more finely wrought sense of layering that results in an apparent mastery of mood.  There is a warm, personal atmosphere about this record, one not often achieved outside a live venue, and one that benefits from a multi-layered manipulation of the studio.  The ultimate result, on superbly rendered tracks like “Horses,” is of some pleasing middle ground being achieved between the simple and the overproduced.  Adding a quasi-rock romp like “Midwest” three quarters of the way in is just one of the many winks Arthur makes, hinting at his potential while remaining in the bounds of his project, his sound.

 

Demolished Thoughts (Thurston Moore)

Producer: Beck

Released: May 24, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Benediction” & “Illuminine”

Beck’s presence in the producer’s slot should come as no surprise given the feel and sound of Demolished Thoughts, though leading off with what are arguably the two strongest tracks somehow seems a frantic, freshman move.  Still, on these two tracks alone, and certainly throughout the record, Moore makes good on the laurels he has earned as guitarist for Sonic Youth, among other side projects.  His use of orchestration to accompany him throughout creates a beautifully murky mood and often works as an intricate counterpoint to his acoustic guitar.  Still, the brilliance of “Benediction” and Illuminine” are rarely achieved again, perhaps only fully in “Mina Loy” and “January” at the close of the album.

 

Codes and Keys (Death Cab for Cutie)

Producer: Chris Walla

Released: May 31, 2011

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “You Are A Tourist” & “Stay Young, Go Dancing”

While it is pretty much par for the course for me to hate on Death Cab for Cutie, most often via less than cleverly concealed observations of their mediocrity with relation to the praise they invariably receive, and while I initially lumped Codes and Keys in with the bulk of their catalog, I would be remiss if I did not admit that this latest album has softened my typical stance.  There is a certain mastery of atmosphere, a blend of guitars, still prominent in the mixes, with the other, more typical keyboard-based instrumentation of experimentation.  Perhaps their strongest product since Transatlanticism, Codes and Keys consistently maintains a clarity of purpose that is admirable, each track contributing to a sort of unity of effect.  You won’t find me helping to hoist it onto the “Best Album” bandwagon, but I won’t be kicking it off into the ditch either.

 

Ukulele Songs (Eddie Vedder)

Producer: Adam Kasper & Eddie Vedder

Released: May 31, 2011

Rating: 3/5 stars

Top Two Tracks:

Allow me to begin by expounding on my respect for Eddie Vedder both as a performer and as a presence.  If anyone can pull off an album of solo ukulele songs, it is Eddie Vedder.  Of course, had anyone predicted twenty years ago that he would actually put out such a record, most would have laughed.  Or spat.  However, here we are two decades post-Ten and scanning through a 16-track, one-man-ukulele-band album heavily weighted with Vedder-penned tracks, and hardly a Pearl Jam cover among them.  While there was a sort of artistry to the Into the Wild soundtrack, Vedder’s first solo release, that is lacking here, there is also a sense of ownership lacking from that effort that oozes forth here.  It’s hardly the first disc that comes to mind when I get in the car, Ukulele Songs is a stark yet striking effort that fits in just right in the fading twilight of a weekend evening.

“The New Year” (Death Cab for Cutie Cover)

Originally posted 2010-01-04 18:57:34. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Death Cab for Cutie chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to the first all-new Laptop Session of 2010!  It is my pleasure to kick off another great year here for the best cover song music video blog on the Internet today.  This past year has indeed been a year of changes, of many comings and goings for most of us here, and now we’re setting out to make this the best year yet. 

There’s a lot to live up to, given the past two years  and more of contributions.

Still, I think we’re up to it.

What can you expect?  Well, for now, you can expect a Chris Moore Monday and a Jim Fusco Tuesday each week.  Although Thumpin’ Thursday is no longer regularly filled, you never know when Jeff will get the itch again…  As for Guest Sessions Friday, it is my sincere hope that recent regular Jeremy Hammond will continue to send me links.  In fact, he’s already sent me the link to his video for this Friday’s post, and I can tell you that it’s a song that I remember fondly.  I first heard it on one of my dad’s “hits of the seventies” cassette tapes.  (Remember those?  They were THE media before CDs…)  From what little I know of him through our email conversations, Jeremy seems like a really interesting guy with some great ideas for cover songs to record.  Finally, as for Saturday and Sunday, there will be one edition of “The Weekend Review” each week.  On top of all that, you have the “From the Music Blog Archives” feature to look forward to each and every time you visit the site; we’ve gotten to the point where there are so many posts available to draw from that many are ones that I read as though for the first time…

If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll check out my “50 Best Rock Albums of the Decade, 2000-2009” list and liner notes, posted over the past several days.  Now, my next project is to finish off my “Best of 2009” lists.

First, though, I need to take a breather!

Today was the first day back to school, and what a relaxing start it was, due mostly to the 90 minute delay we had.  I didn’t sleep in, but I did get a lot of grading done.  When I finish this post, I’ll be returning to that seemingly endless task until I’m off to a BK Lounge run with Mike and three hours of live TNA.  This feels in many ways like the biggest single show since my friends got me interested in professional wrestling a couple years ago, so I’m looking forward to it as a full three hours of relaxation before school gets back into full swing tomorrow.

Which brings me, at last, to the session of the night.  I’m bringing you my cover version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “The New Year,” which is the opening track to their strong Transatlanticism album.  I’ve already recorded one song from that release, “The Sound of Settling,” a while back, but I couldn’t think of any better song for the first post of the New Year, 2010. 

I hope you’ve had a relaxing and productive holiday, and that the promise of more Laptop Sessions and related posts gives you something to look forward to throughout 2010.

See you next session!

“The Sound of Settling” (Death Cab for Cutie Cover)

Originally posted 2009-08-11 13:20:37. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

For Death Cab for Cutie chords & lyrics, CLICK HERE!

By Chris Moore:

This one gave me blisters on me fingers and numbness in me thumb (thanks to all the sliding up and down the guitar neck, the barre chords in the progression, and the fact that I didn’t really know the lyrics to the verses before playing it tonight), but it was all worth it, for all two minutes of it.

And, quite a number of takes of this simple little song later, I know the lyrics by heart!

“The Sound of Settling” is the second single from Death Cab for Cutie’s fourth album, Transatlanticism.  This is the album that my sister, Jaime, strongly recommended I hear if I hear nothing else from the band.  Seeing as how this is one of those “I’ve heard of them, but I haven’t heard any of their songs” bands for me, I picked it up on sale and enjoyed it.  Apparently, it was the first album that frontman Ben Gibbard felt was a truly serious, well put together record.

While I like several of the songs on this album very much, I haven’t found myself very interested in picking up their other material, as they seem to have a penchant for EPs and other non-album releases.  Those sorts of releases seem nice if you’re a fan and have new material to look forward to, but they’re really quite expensive over the long run.  Consider Ben Folds’ EPs  Speed Graphic, Sunny 16, and Super D; those added up to a combined total of about $24.00 for 15 songs, about 7 or maybe 8 of which were any good.  This is not a slight to the good songs on these EPs; some were tremendous and among his best ever released.

Then there were the covers and outtakes from previous albums that he re-recorded.  And, as any music fan knows, some songs were never meant to see official release outside of designated bonus track status on another album or collection.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this cover song music video, as it is the first Death Cab for Cutie song to be debuted at the Laptop Sessions blog.  There was so little new music of interest this week as well as last week that even I don’t feel a need to visit Newbury Comics today.  And THAT’S saying something!  So, instead, I went back to my iPod to find a band that we had missed along the way.  There are still a lot of bands that have gone uncovered, as well as classic and/or great songs from artists that we have, so don’t even think about taking us out of your “Favorites” menu.

Instead, be sure to stop by later tonight when our founder makes his triumphant return to the second day of the week as it should be:  Jim Fusco Tuesday!

See you next session!

(The text of my original Monday night post follows below the video…)

Originally titled and posted as:

The Laptop Sessions: “_ _ _   _ _ _ _ _   _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _” (???? Acoustic Rock Cover Song)

By Chris Moore:

Well, my cover song music video for tonight is recorded, rendered, and ready to go…

…and if I actually had Internet (thanks for nothing, Cox!) or even a wireless signal from an unsuspecting, password-phobic neighbor, you’d be reading my post and watching my video. Instead, I’ll be posting both my session and the accompanying chords tomorrow after I get a visit from the cable guy (lower case for any of you Jim Carrey fans thinking the worst!) some time between 10:30 and 12:30.

Until then, I’ll leave you with the following clues about the song I’m playing:

1) The song is from one of my favorite albums to listen to at night in a dark room, sometimes to fall asleep to.

2) The aforementioned album is NOT “Pet Sounds.”

3) My sister recommended this band and album.

4) The band is named for the song performed by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band in the 1967 Beatles movie, “Magical Mystery Tour.”

5) The band’s name is comprised of four words – an adjective, a noun, a preposition, and an object of the prep. -in that order.

Okay, that’s all I’ll give you. Check back Tuesday afternoon for the startling conclusion to this post!

The BEST MUSIC VIDEOS of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-23 10:00:26. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Although the music video may have slid significantly farther down in relevance since its heyday in the eighties and nineties, there are still artists making them.  In fact, it seems to be fairly standard procedure, and the venue of choice appears to have become YouTube’s VEVO provider.  I spent a long time watching more videos than I’m willing to admit here.  The result, below, is a streamlined list of only the best.  To be truthful, I have recognized more than I believe are truly notable, if only because I felt they were worth mentioning after I had taken the time to watch them.

If you like music videos and miss them, I encourage you to take the time to watch those listed below, especially the top ten, all of which are available via YouTube.

1) “Give It All Back” – Noah and the Whale

2) “Calamity Song” – The Decemberists (Inspired by David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest)

3) “Perform This Way” – “Weird Al“ Yankovic

4) “This is Why We Fight” – The Decemberists (Directed by Aaron Stewart-Ahn)

5) “Call” – Joseph Arthur (Directed by Joseph Arthur)

6) “Stay Young, Go Dancing” – Death Cab for Cutie

7) “Born Alone” – Wilco (Directed by Mark Greenberg)

8) “Monarchy of Roses” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (Directed by Marc Klasfeld; inspired by the work of Raymond Pettibon)

9) “Wake and Be Fine” – Okkervil River (Directed by Daniel Gibb)

10) “Thunder on the Mountain” – Wanda Jackson (Directed by thirtytwo)

11) “Jejune Stars” – Bright Eyes (Directed by Lance Acord)

12) “Suck It and See” – Arctic Monkeys

13) “Rope” – Foo Fighters

14) “Get Away” – Yuck (Directed by Michael)

15) “Lotus Flower” – Radiohead (Directed by Garth Jennings)

16) “CNR” – “Weird Al” Yankovic

17) “White Limo” – Foo Fighters

18) “Casting Lines” – Jack’s Mannequin (Directed by Claire Marie Vogel)

19) “Monsters Anonymous” – Kevin Hearn (Directed by Dr. Minz)

20) “Words I Never Said” – Lupe Fiasco

21) “Louder than Ever” – Cold War Kids

22) “Comeback Kid (That’s My Dog)” – Brett Dennen (Directed by Ben Moon)

23) “Paradise” – Coldplay (Directed by Mat Whitecross)

24) “Summer Place” – Fountains of Wayne

25) “Longing to Belong” – Eddie Vedder

26) “You and Me” – Parachute

27) “Amy, I” – Jack’s Mannequin (Directed by Chloe Fleury)

28) “Waiting for My Chance to Come” – Noah and the Whale

29) “What I Know” – Parachute

30) “The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie” – Red Hot Chili Peppers (Directed by Marc Klasfeld)

 

Honorable Mention:

“Satisfied” – Tom Waits (Directed by Jesse Dylan)

“Blue Tip” – The Cars

“Royal Blue” – Cold War Kids (Live at Third Man Records)

 

Also of Note:

Nine Types of Light – TV on the Radio (60 minute feature)