mardi, mars 14, 2006

The Three Discs I Love Most Right Now are Not in My Lumbar Region which Aches from Snow Shoveling Yesterday

I received three CD’s in the mail last week (don’t hate). It’s all a part of my effort to catch up to stuff I missed last year.

The Strokes First Impressions of Earth
Though my friends teased me with abandon, I was absolutely gaga over The Strokes’ 2001 debut: Is This It – I probably saw it as too much. I liked that it was a return to the heady days of the album, short tracks, and a short disc; it left you (at least me) craving more. Their sophomore effort, Room on Fire like so many sophomore efforts, disappointed. How could it not? It wasn’t without its charm, but it was a pale shadow of the initial effort’s greatness. And I’ll admit that I bought First Impressions of Earth with reservations, but I’m pleased now to report my pleasant surprise. It is not as strong as “Is This It?” with its amazing tendency to establish a pattern, to deviate from it and then to return to it – illuminating both the pattern and the deviation, but it is strong nonetheless. For all the people who are prepared to dismiss The Strokes as a fad (as the Arctic Monkeys of 2001), this latest effort is a wonderful, hard to deny rebuttal.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Believe the hype here. I was absolutely enchanted by this disc, until I got to track 6 “Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth” at which time, I decided to renounce Wilco and Radiohead and follow this band to the end of the earth. Suddenly, everything except Republicanism made sense. Okay, so maybe that’s overstated (I’m still gleefully getting emails from the Radiohead and Wilco fan clubs), but this is a wonderful, wonderful album – at once quite complex and very simple. It’s full of something that is not as common as it once was, careful craft and attention to detail, little tiny things emerging and disappearing, the occasional surprise, but more, something you can chew on for days and days without loosing any flavor. This was the soundtrack to my NYC weekend (pictures of said weekend to follow).

But by far and away the jewel of the three pack is:

Sufjan Stevens Come on Feel the Illinoise
So do you know this guy? His goal is to make an album for each of the fifty states. I can tell you as a matter of absolute fact, he will not make it. Not even if he lives to be 150. He’s too careful a craftsman, and he puts too much into each song and disc. He researches the state and tells its story, and he tells it remarkably well. This guy is the guy that guys like me regard with jealous awe. He’s like the handsome star athlete with the easy 4.0 GPA, who’s a hit with the ladies and is, on top of it all, a nice guy. You love that guy, and you’re a bit envious. That’s Sufjan Stevens. But in this case, instead of being the state champion quarterback, he’s an hisotorian, a poet, a musician, and he’s extremely gifted in each. As I listen to his lyrics, I find myself thinking: my God, I wish I could write like that. The stories he chooses to tell leave you with a sense of Illinois that just seems apt, and his voice transports me to places where - as I drive my Subaru from point A to point B – I want to pull over instead and close my eyes (“John Wayne Gacy, Jr.” features a lilting warble that arrests me every time I hear it). I want to give this art my full and undivided attention. Every once in a great while, I find a disc that I would recommend to anyone who likes any style or genre, a disc so great that it defies all that, a disc that no one who likes music even a little will fail to admire. Friends, this is that disc.