Record Review Flip Flop

Bob Dylan – Modern Times (Columbia)

Never was much of a Dylan fan, but when Rolling Stone magazine bestows an album with its rare 5/5 review, I always get curious. I don’t know if I’d rank it quite as high, but there is something addictive about this album. I’m really not sure what the raspy old coot is carrying on about half the time, but the music chugs along in classic rock-n-roll fashion and manages to wrap around your brain like a comfortable old blanket. There are moments of graceful surprise, and the all-around vibe is sunny. I like to play this album a lot at work because it’s toe-tapping and familiar but background-y and inoffensive at the same time. (Rating 7.5/10)

Junior Boys – So This Is Goodbye (Domino)

This Canadian synthpop duo is haunted by the ghost of mid-period OMD and not afraid to sulk about it. Opening track “Double Shadow” is the first single an album highlight, evoking moody Molly Ringwald moments, its electro bass line pulsing seductively behind plaintive but plain male vocals. The rest of the album mines a similar vibe but never really takes off, remaining pleasantly mid-tempo throughout and occasionally boiling down into mush. At times, it reminds me of late-80's Depeche Mode wannabe band Camouflage. It’s the kind of thing a true synthpop songwriter like Martin Gore would cough up like an Aqua Net hairball and flush. (Rating 6/10)

Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton – Knives Don’t Have Your Back (Last Gang)

Ms. Haines is the enchanting chanteuse from Canadian indie rockers Metric, and occasionally Broken Social Scene. Her new solo album finds her mellower and moodier than ever with a record that is truly gorgeous and haunting. It’s a dark album with lethargic undertones and occasional glimpses of light, as on the emotionally jarring “Doctor Blind” (video below). The instrumentation is stripped down and sparse, just Emily and her piano with occassional strings. Haines voice is as comforting here as it is bold and anthemic on Metric’s records. She’s working kind of an early Cure vibe here (Seventeen Seconds) but even further stripped down and just as bleak. On paper, it sounds a little depressing, and it is slightly, but her glacial beauty and lyrical wit shine through the heaviness enough to create a captivating late-night candlelit classic. (Rating 8/10)

Darkel: Darkel (Source)

Darkel is Jean-Benoit Dunkel, who makes up ½ of French retro-synth maestros Air. His solo debut meanders into proggier territory than the clean Ikea-isms of his main band. The sound is fuzzy and raw, and ironically sounds more like a full band rather than a solo gig. The songs percolate toe-tappingly like French Roast coffee, favoring the vintage analog sounds and lyrical naivety that distinguishes much of Air’s music. Dunkel’s heavily accented voice occasionally drifts into straight-up whininess, and the overall sound is a bit claustrophobic in comparison to Air’s planetary space-outs. Darkel’s highlight is “TV Destroy” which drops a little Berlin-era Iggy Pop energy into the picture. (Rating 7/10)

Easy Star All-Stars: Radiodread (Easy Star)

Wow. Who would have guessed that a track-by-track cover album of Radiohead’s epic OK Computer done in reggae and ska styles could be so effective? Most “tribute” records of this ilk come across as novelty-esque and are usually good for one spin, maybe a few tracks for mix CDs. Radiodread, on the other hand, stands on it’s own as a highly listenable collection. The bleakness of the original tracks fits surprisingly well into the reggae vibe, creating for some unexpectedly intense moments throughout the album. Each track features a different vocalist from Horace Andy (who’s worked with Massive Attack), the lovely Kristy Rock (who’s take on “Paranoid Android” is mind blowing), and Junior Jazz (who manages to inject a bit of gospel soul into “Subterranean Homesick Alien”.) A few rough patches (“Karma Police” is just painful, sorry) keep it from being a truly great album, but overall its charms are winning. (Rating 7/10)

Missy Elliott: Respect M.E. (East West)

Melissa Arnette “Misdemeanor” Elliott came bouncing out of the blue in 1996 wearing a black hefty bag and bug-eye shades and hasn’t stopped since. A true innovator like no other hip-hop artist of the last decade, she has earned her place in the upper echelon of future funk with James Brown and Prince. Respect M.E. is her long-awaited greatest hits collection, which for whatever insane corporate reason is not being released in the US. Fortunately, I’ve seen import copies at a domestic price, and it is well worth hunting down. It’s simply all Missy’s thumping hit singles presented in non-chronological order including such ear candy as “Get Ur Freak On”, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”, “Work It” and the stunning Basement Jaxx remix of “4 My People.’ Like Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, this soon-to-be-classic compilation sums up the early career of an unstoppably creative woman who pushed the direction of pop music forward with each new single release. Essential. (Rating 10/10)

I've never been a Dylan fan either. I prefer his songs sung by others. I heard one song off his new CD and thought, "What is this garbage?! And why does Rolling Stone like it so much?" But then I heard a couple of others and found them to be quite nice. Not enough to buy it, though. Still not a Dylan fan.

By the way, nice photo of the statue by the lake. The guy who took that pic must be an awesome photographer. :)
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