Driftless Euphonious Fancy

In which I’ll be randomly touching upon some of the music that’s been heard wafting through the hot summer air recently Chez Flippy Floppy:

Lily Allen: Alright, Still (Regal Zonophone UK, 2006)

She’s a young and witty Brit chick, who despite her young age seems to have had a series of truly rotten relationships with boys. And she’s taken the opportunity of her debut album to exact her revenge publicly on all of them. There’s something addictive about Ms. Allen’s summery brand of slightly reggae-flavored pop and her acid-tongued wit. She drops the f-bomb within the first few seconds of the first track “Smile” (already a #1 hit in the UK), but does so in such a pleasant manner, you want to swoon and sing along. There’s an edge here similar to the music of The Streets that keeps it fresh and sets it apart from the rest of the drab pop scene. Alright, Still is really a rare case of all thrill and no fill, from "Smile" to the last track "Alfie" a loveable ode to her weed-smoking little brother. The songs are pure mean fun and catchier than mad cow disease. Let’s hope Ms. Allen never finds a guy to treat her right, so we can continue to be delighted by her cleverly original dis-o-rama. Rating 9/10.

R.E.M.: Life’s Rich Pageant (IRS, 1986) If I had to pick one R.E.M. album, this would be it. At one point I was pretty into Georgia’s finest, but have given up lately due to a series of albums that seemed to serve no purpose except for to put me to sleep. I hadn’t really listened to Life’s Rich Pageant in quite a few years, but happened upon a used copy at a thrift store the other day. Wow! I forgot how much it really rocks. This is the band at their creative peak, musically and lyrically with one highlight after another: “Begin the Begin”, “These Days”, “Fall On Me”. Michael Stipe was still hot back then, all pouty lips and big curly mane. In a way, it was the end of an era of American indie rock – the band went for the big guns with Warner Brothers after this – and things just haven’t felt the same since. Rating 10/10.

The Mountain Goats: Get Lonely (4AD, 2006)

I’ve been a fan of indie label 4AD since back in the glory days of effluvia and dark miasma. For a long time, I would automatically purchase anything the label released, even without listening to a note, because anything 4AD was guaranteed to hit my pleasure center in one way or another. When the Mountain Goats released their first album, Tallahassee, for the label a few years back, I was a little on the disappointed side, unable to hear any of the familiar gauzy, artsy elements I had come to expect. Here was a man plaintively crooning atop not much more than an acoustic guitar. It sounded suspiciously dry, like it was recorded direct-to-boombox. I just didn’t quite get it. I wasn’t expecting much when the next Mountain Goats album, We Shall All Be Healed hit the shelves, but decided to give it an open-minded listen. The sound was quite a bit more welcoming and lush, fleshed out with a full band and even strings. Finally, I began to hear the charm and wit in John Danielle’s sometimes horrifically autobiographical lyrics. Much to my surprise, it became one of my favorite albums of the year. The next release, The Sunset Tree, was similar in feel and just as engaging. This year’s offering, Get Lonely, strips the sound back a bit and feels gorgeous and delicate, whereas Tallahassee sounded a bit raw and harsh. It’s another fine Mountain Goats album, full of Darnielle’s many sharp observations about life and one-liners that make you unsure if you want to laugh or cry. It’s impossible not to relate your own life to his vivid word paintings. Perhaps, the only drawback to Get Lonely is the feeling of saminess that creeps on after about half the album, partially due to the return to simpler acoustic pastures. Rating: 7/10

Justin Timberlake: “Sexy Back” - single (Jive, 2006)

A little shocking first time through, like “oh, no, Justin goes electroclash!” Then it starts to seem really cheesy, like some kind of retro nineties rave thing. Mr. Timberlake has never sounded so white, but then again he says he’s channeling David Bowie and David Byrne here, two other white guys known for their occasional forays into funk. “Sexy Back” seems like a Timbaland rush job, a quickie beat and that farty, repetitive synth hook. I was intrigued at first listen, but the more I hear it, the less groundbreaking it seems and the more nerve shattering it becomes. Fact: it sounds much better when Mik-n-Mac’s DJ Jason switches up the BPM on it just enough to take it from plodding to scorcho. Rating 6.5/10

Christina Aguilera - Ain't No Other Man - single (RCA, 2006)

I always thought this chica rose to the surface of the foam in the big pop music cappucino - she can really sing. On this, the first single from her new double CD, Miss Thing belts it out harder than she even did on "Lady Marmalade", and that's saying something. Her vocal acrobatics come from the gut and are entertaining and genuine, never irritating like the multi-ocatave hysterics of Mariah Carey, for example. The beat is fast and the horns are bright and punchy, evoking a jazz nightclub from the forties filled with well-dressed pimps and hos. Xtina really has her own style - unlike so many other pop tarts these days, she doesn't have to rely on her big name producer (although DJ Premier does a bang-up job here) to create a hit for her. Her voice stands well enough on its own and even if she sang "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" to a Casio beat, it would still sound earth-shatteringly hot. Rating 8/10

Is that Lily beeatch only available as an import, I was going to buy it on Amazon, when I read somewhere else that it was released domestically.. now I want it bad.

P.S. In order to leave a message I have to type in a word verification and today's is "kqueur" it's almost like it knows I'm a queer that used to ravage Coeur d'Alene... or maybe I'm just doing too many allergy pills these days
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