Archive for February, 2007

The Decemberists

Saturday, February 3rd, 2007

DPRP posted a week or so ago a very long-winded, genre-obsessed review of The DecemberistsThe Crane Wife. I am always interested in reading prog sites’ reviews of non-prog albums, although often as not I come away frustrated with the naiveté that is inevitable when reviewers write about an album that is not quite within their area of expertise (of course, I myself do this all the time — and if I start reviewing the contemporary classical music I’ve been listening to lately, watch out!). Anyway, as far as these things go, this is actually quite a good review.

Speaking of The Decemberists, a friend really wanted to see them, so I plonked down a cool $45 for their upcoming show in the DC area, at the Strathmore, a large, swanky (this is the kind of place where you can have “afternoon tea”… to the tune of $18) seated venue. I’m excited, but a little leery — the last time I saw these guys live, it actually kind of turned me off from their music for a few months. I’m not sure why, and I think that’s the only time something like that has ever happened. Maybe it was the impossibly stereotypical hipster/indie-kid appearance of bandleader Colin Meloy (not to mention a large plurality of the audience). Maybe it was the audience participation that I just found forced and silly. Maybe it was the attempt at an improv that was pretty much just awful. Not sure, but hopefully it won’t happen again. Hopefully it won’t happen again with any band — it was a distinctly weird feeling, especially since all in all, I did enjoy the show.

Wonder if this has happened to anyone else? You go to a show you’re excited about but you come away actually feeling more negatively about the band than you did before?

Henry Cow & Nelly Furtado (a natural combo)

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

For some reason I’ve been listening pretty nonstop to Henry Cow’s Concerts the past couple days (which means there will probably be a review coming soon — that it hasn’t yet been reviewed on this site is somewhat baffling). A favorite moment that just passed me by: some 11 minutes into the fabulous take of “Ruins,” Fred Frith’s ebullient guitar solo slowly stutters into the background, as if pushed backstage by Dagmar Krause as she begins singing wordlessly, imploringly. This stuff is sublime.

And now, since I know readers of this website are probably big fans of modern pop music:

Incongruously, the album that kept me awake on a recent long drive was something rather different — Nelly Furtado’s new one, Loose. I suppose this isn’t all that new anymore. In any case, it’s quite fascinating: the first few songs are pure club fodder, absolutely stinking of Timbaland (that sounds rather negative but isn’t meant to be), with all the lyrical nuance you would expect from songs called “Maneater” and “Promiscuous.” (Though the Steve Nash namedropping is kind of cute, or something. Hey, look! A fellow famous Canadian!) But then we get into some totally different stuff, like “No Hay Igual,” which combines your typical queasy Timbaland synth line with Latin percussion and insistently chanted vocals in Spanish. It’s actually pretty edgy stuff. This is followed by a song “featuring Juanes” that sounds more like a Juanes song than it does a Nelly Furtado song. And then, a little later, we get something that would totally be at home on a Kylie Minogue album: “Do It” is pure Euro dance-pop. Then there’s “In God’s Hands” which sounds more like Mandy Moore than anything else. Finally, there’s the triumphant closing song, an absolutely gorgeous slice of melancholy that is maybe the best pop ballad I have ever heard.

What is one to make of this? Furtado kind of carved out an identity for herself over her first two albums, but now she seems either totally directionless, or brilliantly unhinged, or maybe just a bit plagiaristic (even aside from the whole “Do It” controversy with Timbaland). Not only does Loose not sound anything like Whoa, Nelly! or Folklore, it also sounds nothing like itself, having absolutely no consistent sound. This isn’t necessarily so weird for some artists, but for a pure pop artist, it’s rather more surprising. I still haven’t decided if it’s a good thing or not. Or, for that matter, whether this album is any good or not.