Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Vox Populi, Vox Uxor

This belongs in the album cover hall of fame, with Ken

Weezer has a new one out yesterday, "Raditude," and if you have ever listened to Weezer before, you know their music is just plain old fun. They are also one of the only bands whose lyrics I listen to, because I know I'll get a kick out of them. Their single, "(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To," is a great example of the type of song you can expect from the album --- fun, fun, fun.

You know how some artists set out to make the most artful, most meaningful, emotional music they can, to affect the lives of those around them?

Yeah, Weezer ain't doin' that.

You can tell that they are having a shitload of fun in performing their songs, and I can't describe it well, but you can tell that every single one of 'em is smiling while they're playing. Seriously, give it a listen and you will agree, the bass player must be smiling.

A lot of these songs are based on the type of riffs you would come up with in your high-school garage band, simple stuff that other musicians would run from as hackneyed, but Weezer has the songwriting and the attitude - excuse me, Raditude to write a full and fun song around them.

Of note, my wife, whom I consider to be the vox populi when it comes to music, loves this album. She was dancing around the bedroom while she was getting ready this morning, just thinking about "I Want You To." She called me twice on the way to work to say something like "listen to track 2, it's totally you and me!" This is one the ladies can get down with for sure.

The track list itself is fun, even. With titles like "The Girl Got HOT," the tale we all know of running into a high-school bookworm years later and thinking "damn, she fine!", "Can't Stop Partying," a club parody that includes shoutouts to Patron and "tha 'Goose" as well as a rapped verse from our boy Lil' Wayne (Weezy and Weezer, together at last), and "In the Mall," which is exactly what it sounds like. There's also a thoroughly well-written and heartfelt "Love is the Answer," which, while off-pace with the rest of the album, is the kind of song that will play in your head when you look at the pictures you took in college.

They also have a snuggie.

 "The Weezer Snuggie is actually very easy to play in — that's one of the greatest things about it," Cuomo explained. "You're able to strum the guitar, you're able to do fist pumps and pound the drums and stay warm."

I also have to give the post-listen report on the Say Anything and The Almost albums that were released today. First off, I have to say, music is not a competition. The "best" album doesn't exist in absolute space, it only exists for you, or for me. That said:

Most Improved / Baddest-Ass: Say Anything - Say Anything
This album really blew me away. First thing I noticed was the production. Other Say Anything albums have sounded like they were recorded in my basement --- lacking fullness and sounding inconsistent across tracks. This one is in the big leagues, for sure. I actually like the mix better than the other two albums I bought yesterday.

I can't do a track by track breakdown of this one, because I would basically be gushing. I love this album.

Where previous Say Anything releases had a sometimes bitter or vulgar tone, singing candidly about drug addiction and love/hate relationships with girls, this album has the same fire wrapped up in maturity and thoughtfulness. Also, self-awareness:

In one song, "Mara and Me," where Max Bemis sings "There are babies with guns, beheading their friends, in shopping malls around the world --- yet somehow the Kings of Leon still find time to write songs about girls," he interrupts himself, all the music stops and he says, "Wait a second --- I can't write the same damn song over and over again" and the song changes completely. It's a brilliant move that captures what this album is about. Staying candid, staying edgy, but shedding the bitterness and zeroing in on the gigantic raw talent they collectively possess for writing songs that make you want to tell your friends.

This is the kind of album where any song, if I heard it individually and out of context, I would say, "Holy shit, what is that?! I love it," and go score the whole album on good faith. Go buy this album.

Most Staying Power / Best Songwriting / Best Instrument Performance: The Almost - Monster Monster
You've already read about The Almost, who they are, and why they are. The first listen of this album was like meeting the type of person you could marry. Stay with me here. That person is not likely to be the badass, the slutty-kind-of-hot, the daredevil. They will, however, have something about them that makes you think "they get it, they get it in the same way that I get it." There is still flash, awe, and excitement, but you know it's not a veneer, it's that way all the way through.

This album is fun to listen to, because you know the capability of the band, or more accurately, Aaron Gillespie, is monolithic. When you watch the Bourne Trilogy, part of what makes it fun is that after you're in the zone, you can see a room full of knives and broken glass, no way out, Jason Bourne, and 10 CIA assassins, and be all like, "He's got this." That feeling of confidence in your character is what draws me to The Almost --- their songwriting is just perfect, the instrumentation, the parts they write, the stops and accent parts they throw in just to make you jump-back-say-damn, are just so perfectly crafted and executed, that at any point during any song, you know that A) you like what you're hearing and B) that whatever's coming next is sure to surprise you.

Aaron Gillespie played all the drums on the album, too, which you know I like. Let's just say singing and songwriting isn't his only talent.

Don't be fooled by the video above. The feel of the album is Foo Fighters-meets-The Fray-meets-Thrice-meets-Third Eye Blind. I'll be listening to it 5 years from now.

Also of note, there's a new single out, for free motherflippin' download on iTunes from Them Crooked Vultures, the Led Zeppelin / Foo Fighters / Nirvana / Queens of the Stone Age / Kyuss supergroup. There is so much hype behind this album, it will sell like Snuggies whether it's awesome or not.

Speaking of which, the Foo Fighters' greatest hits album is out today, too. I would be more excited if I hadn't already LimeWire'd my own Foo Fighters greatest hits album 5 years ago. (Ed. Note: I only buy music now.)

I have picked up so many new albums in the last week I can't hardly keep up with the listening. Instead of on headphones (my preferred listening method), I have had to listen to a lot of it in the car. I've included a video of me listening to music in the car (below), so you can try and pick up on some of the methods I use to listen critically.

This one goes out to my big sis, and our old neighborhood friend, David, who did pretty much exactly this every morning on the way to school. And on the way home from school. And any time we had to go anywhere after school.

Jungle is Massive,

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