Like July and August, December’s a rough month for music releases. Unless you’re looking for Celine Dion’s new Christmas album (I don’t know… I’m sure she has one), you’re going to have a tough time finding new records to buy. And so, naturally, the music press is going to have a hard time finding records to write about. That’s why you end up with all those silly year-end lists. Before we get to those, though (and we will, in the next issue), we thought we’d take a look back and chime in on some ’05 releases we ignored upon their release.
We’re Already There
Philadelphia’s music scene has been far better than ours for a good five years. And now, thanks to a series of embarrassing NY Times articles stating just that, people are finally starting to take note. Mazarin’s Quentin Stoltzfus is one of the city’s most colorful personalities and arguably it’s most impressive musician. On the band’s third full-length, We’re Already There, Stoltzfus’ ear for soothing pop melodies and airy yet complex arrangements is on full display. It’s a shame all these Times stories didn’t come out before that doofus had to pick the music for Garden State. Or is it?
Because I’m not a complete asshole, I almost never use the word lovely. I have to apologize, though, because I cannot think of a single word that better describes the Clientele’s Strange Geometry. Each song is so meticulously put-together, so obscenely tasteful and focused that it’s easy to get lost in the record’s overall vibe. Pay closer attention, though, and you’ll notice the lyrics, which document singer Alasdair Maclean’s rocky relationship with his native London.
My Morning Jacket
When My Morning Jacket released Z earlier this year, I ignored it for two reasons. First, thanks to some fancy copy-protection bullshit, I couldn’t put it on my iPod, which is obviously retarded. Second, David Fricke said something about it being MMJ’s OK Computer, which is opening a can of worms I couldn’t possibly care less about. As it turns out, I have absolutely no idea what the fuck he’s talking about, but the record’s mostly enjoyable. They’ve strayed pretty far from the southern-rock stylings of their earlier material, and they’re implementing more keyboards than usual, which they’ve used as a centerpiece for a new, more textured and varied sound, most evident on the record’s standout track, ‘Gideon.’ I bet it sounds even better on headphones.
You Could Have It So Much Better
When Franz Ferdinand appeared from out of nowhere a couple years ago, they managed to get the kids dancing again, which is probably a good thing. It’s also safe to assume they convinced a few Pavement fans to update their sad, sad wardrobes, which is definitely a good thing. They accomplished all this by releasing a record that was merely decent, though, and that’s a surefire recipe for backlash. But before you start your bitching, take heed: they got their shit together for their sophomore effort, focusing more on interesting song structures and relying less on mailed in dance-rock hooks. You Could Have It might lack the obvious hits of its predecessor, but taken as a whole, it’s a huge step forward.
During my first listen to Apollo Sunshine, I distinctly remember thinking, “What the fuck is this?” and literally having to open iTunes to see what I was listening to. Obviously, this could be a good thing or a bad thing as the Boston band dabbles in all sorts of retro-pop subgenres. The more frightening and kind of annoying moments (‘Lord’) see the band unleash a barrage of extended garagey instrumental passages, while the more enjoyable moments display and almost Ringoian knack for catchy, offbeat melodies.