The Weekend Review: August 2011 Report

Originally posted 2012-01-01 12:41:46. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

 

Tripper (The Fruit Bats)

Released: August 2, 2011

Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Tangie and Ray” & “You’re Too Weird”

On Tripper, quirky, folksy retro rockers the Fruit Bats fall into a comfortable groove, kicking off with the drug-induced experiences of the alliterative “Tony the Tripper,” following up two tracks later with the tale of “Tangie and Ray,” and later adding “Dolly” into the mix.  The Fruit Bats spin a veritable world across the eleven tracks on Tripper, adding bird sounds and what could be a stream to “The Banishment Song,” laying down warm, (dare I say it?) trippy atmospherics throughout.  Thought the album falters a bit near the end, it is overall true to their form.  It doesn’t have the same concision or catchiness as 2009’s The Ruminant Band, but it is, all together, a strong fifth effort from the band.

 

I’m With You (Red Hot Chili Peppers)

Producer: Rick Rubin

Released: August 26, 2011

Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Top Two Tracks: “Factory of Faith” & “Police Station”

This was a good year for rock, in quality if not in quantity.  Earlier this year, I held up the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light as one of the best rock albums in years.  I’m With You doesn’t quite ascend to that mark, but it is an outstanding rock album all the same: killer guitar, great bass, and all-around passionate performances.  From the well-arranged “Monarchy of Roses” at the start of the album to the standout tracks placed deep in the track listing, I’m With You delivers fourteen strong rock tracks, incorporating a range of sounds developed throughout the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ career.  “Factory of Faith” is catchy with punchy vocals, “Brendan’s Death Song” tempers a heartfelt lead vocal and guitar while caressing the eventual buildup beautifully, and even a less exceptional track like “Ethiopia” brandishes impressively expansive production qualities.  And this is only to comment on the first four tracks, never mind the true standouts: the gorgeous production and energy on “Police Station” and the epic quality of “Even You Brutus?,” to name only a couple.

“Lives of Crime” (Fruit Bats Cover)

Originally posted 2008-12-09 23:24:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Hello and welcome to your first post by someone other than Jeff since Saturday.  There’s no need to fret, though… he’ll be back for another awesome session tomorrow!

And, since it’s a Wednesday, we have an original song music video to look forward to!

For tonight, however, I’m bringing you yet another new band to the blog.  I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard of this band.  In fact, if I were a betting man, I’d be willing to put down serious money on it.  Why did I choose this song, you may be wondering?  Well — and this is no lie — this one actually came to me in a dream.  I had a dream a few nights ago that I woke up, walked over to my CD shelf, and began looking through the cases to find bands that hadn’t been covered yet.  Among the bands I thought of, my Fruit Bats CD came into my vision (in my dream) and thus popped into my head when I woke up.

If this doesn’t show just how pervasive the Laptop Sessions “session-a-day” project has been in our lives, then I don’t know what will.  I mean, how many people dream about things like this??

The Fruit Bats are an interesting band.  There is very little information available about them; even their Wikipedia page is fairly brief.  I found out a little more than I already knew — Eric Johnson is the lead guitarist and songwriter who formed the band in 1999.  He has been the only constant member.

I did learn that he used to be with a group called I Rowboat before the Fruit Bats.  What a name!  Currently, he’s working with the more popular indie/alternative group the Shins.  Also, I went to their official website for the first time.  It’s pretty plain — what they should do is hire one Jim Fusco of Fusco-Moore Studios’ Web Design Services to really make it stand out — but I learned that they have several tour dates planned for the west coast and that they have plans to record a new album.  Also, there’s a new “Blog” section on the site and the first post was made by “the Fruit Bats” last month.

See, blogs are where it’s at!…

So, I hope you enjoy this acoustic rock cover song.  If you get a chance to hear the real version, I think you should, as there’s some cool piano components to the studio recording that I, for obvious reasons, couldn’t and didn’t include.  I think it shows that I had a lot of fun recording this video.  And, truly, it reminded me about one of the best aspects of the Laptop Sessions project — we get to rediscover music that we have forgotten over the years and, through learning the songs, get to understand the music in a way that we previously had not.

Without further ado, here’s the song.  Don’t forget to rush back tomorrow for an all-new and excellent Original Wednesday with Jeff.  It’ll be good.  It’ll be “I fractured my skull by banging my head against a wall because Jeff wasn’t posting today but now he is so I’m still in pain but really happy to watch his new video” good!!…

See you next session!

The BEST PACKAGING of 2011 (The Year-End Awards)

Originally posted 2012-01-22 10:00:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

By Chris Moore:

Album covers are nice, but there is something transcendent about artists who put their full effort into designing an album package that elevates their work beyond music alone and into the realm of physical art.  This year, the award for best album packaging has to go to Sonic Youth member Thurston Moore’s solo release Demolished Thoughts.  Though a fairly minimalist black and white design, there are – in addition to lyrics, the presence of which is no longer a foregone conclusion – a slew of drawings and a collection of poetry to complement the music.  Tom Waits’ deluxe edition of Bad As Me comes in a close second, the booklet alone being a visual and lyrical experience, and the four bonus tracks providing a little extra for the true fan.  Wilco’s deluxe edition design for The Whole Love, another close contender for the top spot, offers four additional tracks (with the wry take on Nick Lowe’s “I Love My Label”) and a beautiful booklet that includes a visually brilliant set of drawings.

Each of these albums is proof positive that there are quality physical releases still being produced, even in what is clearly the age of the digital release.  This being said, I couldn’t help but point out two of the many terribly thin and unrewarding packages to see the light of day this year.  These are, inversely, reason to stay at home and download.

1) Demolished Thoughts – Thurston Moore

2) Bad As Me (Deluxe Edition) – Tom Waits

3) The Whole Love (Deluxe Edition) – Wilco

4) Ukulele Songs – Eddie Vedder

5) Mine is Yours – Cold War Kids

6) Tripper – Fruit Bats

7) Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

8 ) So Beautiful or So What (Deluxe Limited Edition) – Paul Simon

9) The People’s Key – Bright Eyes

10) Wasting Light – Foo Fighters (includes a piece of the original master tape!)

 

Honorable Mention:

All Eternals Deck – The Mountain Goats

 

Worst Packaging:

No Color – Dodos

El Camino – The Black Keys

Yes, No, or Maybe So: One-Sentence Reviews of 2009 Albums

Originally posted 2010-03-27 12:30:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

(Arranged in ascending order by release date)

With so many albums being released every week, what are they all like?  Which are worth your time?  These one-sentence reviews are the answers to those questions!

Battle Studies – (John Mayer) – MAYBE

(November 17, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Battle Studies may not be Mayer’s best work, but as a thoughtfully arranged collection of songs, it’s head and shoulders above Continuum. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbreak Warfare” – “Assassin”

Alter the Ending – (Dashboard Confessional) – MAYBE

(November 10, 2009) Review: About mid-way through, some tracks begin to blend together, but there are some standout songs that are both upbeat and engaging. Top Two Tracks: “Belle of the Boulevard” – “Until Morning”

Sainthood – (Tegan and Sara) – MAYBE

(October 27, 2009) Review: Their best work since So Jealous. Top Two Tracks: “Someday” – “Don’t Rush”

One Fast Move or I’m Gone – (Jay Farrar & Ben Gibbard) – MAYBE

(October 20, 2009) Review: Not a breathtaking masterpiece by any means, but there is a hypnotic quality to the combination of Farrar and Gibbard’s sounds and Jack Kerouac’s words. Top Two Tracks: “These Roads Don’t Move” – “California Zephyr”

The Fountain – (Echo & the Bunnymen) – MAYBE SO

(October 12, 2009) Review: Most reviews have jumped to the extremes, and mine is no exception; The Fountain is an outstanding rock album from a band that most major music magazines have essentially ignored. Top Two Tracks: “Live of a Thousand Crimes” – “Drivetime”

Forget and Not Slow Down – (Relient K) – YES

(October 6, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Hands down the best concept album of the year, perhaps the best album of the year overall. Top Two Tracks: “Part of It” – “Sahara”

Backspacer – (Pearl Jam) – YES

(September 20, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: This is the album that may single-handedly be responsible for my eventual hearing loss – it’s simply too much fun not to listen to at high volumes. Top Two Tracks: “Got Some” – “Speed of Sound”

Levitate – (Bruce Hornsby & the Noise Makers) – NO

(September 15, 2009) Review: I try to avoid comparisons to past work, but this new Hornsby album is just a little too far out from the norm for my tastes. Top Two Tracks: “Space is the Place” – “In the Low Country”

A Brief History of Love – (The Big Pink) – NO, PLEASE, NO!

(September 14, 2009) Review: I’m reminded of the Byrds song “Everybody Gets Burned” – if you have any respect for rock music, steer clear of this album and do your best to never consider this band and the amazing debut release of The Band (to which their name alludes) in the same thought. Top Two Tracks: n/a

Humbug – (Arctic Monkeys) – MAYBE SO

(August 25, 2009) Review: The distance between how little I like early songs like “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” compared with how much I like this new release is vast; overall, Humbug has a cohesive, infectious, and interesting sound, blending alternative rock/punk stylings with echoes of the Who and the Moody Blues in all the right places. Top Two Tracks: “Crying Lightning” – “Cornerstone”

My Old, Familiar Friend – (Brendan Benson) – MAYBE SO

(August 18, 2009) Review: From “A Whole Lot Better” onward, Benson’s latest release is joyful power pop that borrows generously from the sixties and seventies; it’s a great deal of fun from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Garbage Day” – “Misery”

Release – (Sister Hazel) – MAYBE NOT

(August 18, 2009) Review: This album is the perfect choice for background music: it is consistently upbeat without being too frenetic, certainly won’t offend anyone, and yet isn’t likely to inspire or even excite anyone either – the heinous typos in the booklet don’t help their cause. Top Two Tracks: “Vacation Rain” – “Ghost in the Crowd”

Ursa Major – (Third Eye Blind) – MAYBE NOT

(August 17, 2009) Review: There will supposedly be another 3eb release soon titled Ursa Minor, culled from tracks that didn’t make the cut for this album; suffice it to say that Ursa Major gets an “eh” and barely a “Maybe Not” rating with the so-called best songs from their recent sessions, so… Top Two Tracks: “Bonfire” – “Summer Town”

xx – (The xx) – MAYBE SO

(August 17, 2009) Review: This debut release by the xx is a gripping, murky, beautiful collection of songs that won’t fail to draw you in to their world each listen. Top Two Tracks: “VCR” – “Shelter”

The Ruminant Band – (Fruit Bats) – MAYBE SO

(August 4, 2009) Review: Aptly titled after the Fruit Bats took twice as long as usual to release this record, The Ruminant Band is worth all the extra wait time:  still quirky but with a lot more energy, backbeat, and attention to making a great album, rather than just a compilation of songs. Top Two Tracks: “The Ruminant Band” – “Singing Joy to the World”

Strange Cousins From The West – (Clutch) – MAYBE NOT

(July 14, 2009) Review: You’ll have to go back to Blast Tyrant or so if you want original, innovative Clutch; what you’ll find here is confined by the blues parameters the band has imposed on themselves – which is not to say you won’t find largely powerful performances of largely predictably structured songs and a couple true gems. Top Two Tracks: “50,000 Unstoppable Watts” – “Minotaur”

Horehound – (The Dead Weather) – MAYBE SO

(July 14, 2009) Review: The Dead Weather certainly deserve credit for having forged a unique sound and presence – Jack White best described their music as “ferocious” – but the riffing, repetition, and other indulgences can be distracting; overall, as a debut release, Horehound is promising… Top Two Tracks: “I Cut Like A Buffalo” – “Hang You From the Heavens”

Ocean Eyes – (Owl City) – MAYBE

(July 14, 2009) Review: A bit too placid for me, but I can perceive at least part of the reason that this album’s simple, soothing numbers have spread so quickly and been embraced by so many. Top Two Tracks: “Fireflies” – “The Bird and the Worm”

American Central Dust – (Son Volt) – NO

(July 7, 2009) Review: As the title implies, Son Volt’s latest album could have been found buried in a collection of Americana; while it certainly hits high points on certain tracks, the simplicity of the arrangements and even the packaging (no lyrics – really?) confine this album to mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “No Turning Back” – “Jukebox of Steel”

Leaving Wonderland…in a fit of rage – (Marcy Playground) – MAYBE

(July 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Overall, Leaving Wonderland hits emotional pay dirt with the theme of losing love and youth to the ravages of time, and yet John Wozniak’s lyrics and arrangements leave much to be desired in terms of depth and artistry. Top Two Tracks: “Gin and Money” – “I Burned the Bed”

Wilco (the album) – (Wilco) – YES

(June 30, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: An atypically brief release, Wilco (the album) is dominated by a wide range of interesting sounds and ideas all packed into tight tracks that ebb and flow just right; multiple listens are a must. Top Two Tracks: “Wilco (the song)” – “You Never Know”

Big Whiskey & the GrooGrux King (Dave Matthews Band) – MAYBE

(June 2, 2009) Review: “DMB” has produced a very strong album that starts off with focused, expressive tracks yet lags somewhat in the second half’s instrumental, repetitive, and nonsensical indulgences. Top Two Tracks: “Funny The Way It Is” – “Time Bomb”

Secret, Profane, and Sugarcane (Elvis Costello) – MAYBE SO

(June 2, 2009) Review: Finally, a stripped-down recording from a rock artist that doesn’t reek of the urge to “jump on the acoustic train”; Costello’s songs here could just as convincingly  have been recorded a century ago. Top Two Tracks: “Complicated Shadows” – “Sulphur to Sugarcane”

21st Century Breakdown (Green Day) – YES

(May 15, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: Another concept album of epic proportions from Green Day:  big, in-your-face power chords at some points, acoustic guitar and piano high in the mix at others, and strong vocals all around – a well-executed album from start to finish. Top Two Tracks: “Last Night on Earth” – “East Jesus Nowhere”

Together Through Life (Bob Dylan) – MAYBE SO

(April 28, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: As per usual, Dylan says it best: “I know my fans will like it; other than that, I have no idea.” Top Two Tracks: “Shake Shake Mama” – “I Feel a Change Comin’ On”

Tinted Windows (Tinted Windows) – NO

(April 21, 2009) Review: I remembered while listening to this that there’s a reason I stopped buying Fountains of Wayne albums since Traffic & Weather, and there’s certainly a reason I’ve never bought Hanson albums. Top Two Tracks: “Back With You” – “Nothing to Me”

Halfway There (Jim Fusco) – YES

(April 7, 2009) – CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: It’s as if all of Fusco’s previous work was only “halfway there” – combining ambitious vocals, innovative guitar parts, and a track listing that boasts eleven great songs, this is easily one of the great albums of 2009. Top Two Tracks: “I Got You” – “Ruins”

The Hazards of Love (The Decemberists) – MAYBE NOT

(March 24, 2009) Review: The Hazards of Love will keep you guessing and trying to piece it all together, but it may not get a lot of immediate repeat listens based on the quality of individual songs; kudos to the Decemberists if only for keeping the concept of the concept album alive and well! Top Two Tracks: “The Wanting Comes in Waves/Repaid” – “The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned)”

No Line On The Horizon (U2) – MAYBE NOT

(March 3, 2009) Review: There’s something to be said for Bono’s energy, but it’s not always enough on this record which fluctuates between moments of mastery and moments of mediocrity. Top Two Tracks: “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” – “Stand Up Comedy”

Keep It Hid (Dan Auerbach) – MAYBE

(February 10, 2009) Review: Essentially, what you would expect — gritty, bluesy rock with excellent guitar work. Top Two Tracks: “Heartbroken, In Disrepair” – “My Last Mistake”

Working On A Dream (Bruce Springsteen) – MAYBE SO

(January 27, 2009)  –  CLICK HERE FOR A FULL REVIEW Review: The past three Springsteen albums have been exercises in purposeful songwriting, raw acoustic and harmonica work, and upbeat pop/rock respectively — Working On A Dream has it all! Top Two Tracks: “What Love Can Do” – “Life Itself”