Monday, May 17, 2010

Review: LCD Soundsystem - This Is Happening

Oh James Murphy...where have you been all my life? I just discovered his music this past winter, and to tell the you truth it didn't click with me until about 2 months ago. At first I didn't understand all the praise and hub-bub, but nowadays I can't stop listening to his music. He's just that good. He takes sounds (and sometimes entire songs) you've heard before and molds them into his own personal mix of music that both makes you think and makes you dance.

"This Is Happening" is LCD Soundsystem's third full-length release, coming a little over three years after the fantastic "Sound of Silver." He's finally perfected the hybrid of dance and rock that he's become so famous for. This is not your typical dance/rock LP though, this album contains some of the deepest lyrics I've ever heard in this realm of music.

Every classic album has a truly great opener, from The White Album's 'Back in the USSR' to Pinkerton's 'Tired of Sex,' they perfectly set the mood for the rest of the album, and let you know what's in store. James Murphy has done not only that, but he's also created one of the best songs this reviewer has ever heard in the form of 'Dance Yrself Clean,' a perfect mix of lyrics, sound and dynamic. It starts with an extremely sparse bassline and a few keys, and totally erupts at around the 3 minute mark, if this song doesn't blow you away, nothing ever will.

The album continues with a song that Murphy himself has dubbed as being "dumb," but that doesn't make it a bad song by any means. 'Drunk Girls' is in the same vein as 'Watch The Tapes' and 'Daft Punk is Playing at My House,' they're not the most serious songs he's done, but they are fun and a bit of a breather from the rest of his headier songs.

Murphy may be going through a mid-life crisis of sorts (he just turned 40), but this has made his lyrics mature in a way previously unimaginable. On 'Losing My Edge,' his first single back in 2002, he lamented that he wasn't as hip as the new wave of "cool kids" that were invading his territory. Now he's sing about longing for another person's touch and believing in waking up together. He seems to be far removed from his earlier mind-set but he's also just as aware as he's ever been.

"Now all I want is your pity, all I want are your bitter tears," he sings on 'All I Want,' his take on David Bowie's 'Heroes.' This is the sound of a man taking a song that he's probably heard a thousand times and truly making it his own. It's a highlight of the album, with a constantly circling guitar line and synth that gets completely out of control by the end.

'I Can Change' has an early Gary Numan-esque keyboard part that immediately gets stuck in your head from the opening bars. Later on in the album he claims that he doesn't make hits, but that's exactly what he does here. "I can change...if it helps you fall in love," is one of the best choruses he's ever written and his voice gets right to your heart with it's pure honesty.

The album continues with 'Pow Pow' with it's typical Murphy rants that he's used in earlier songs, but somehow he's able to make it sound new and refreshing again. It segues quite nicely into the mostly piano-driven 'Somebody's Calling Me,' with it's story of missed connections and eventual hook-ups.

The album closer 'Home,' is a very heartfelt song about longing to be there and eventually realizing that no matter what you do, it won't get any better. To Murphy, "Home" is the perfect place where everything is in it's right place and you can just shut out the world and think. It's an easy song to relate to and another classic in the making.

As I've alluded to earlier, Murphy puts forth some of his best vocals/lyrics of his career on "This Is Happening," making this a true thinking man's album. The music has never sounded better either, with instrumentals that constantly surprise and excite the listener.

He's said that this is LCD's final album, and in many ways it's his "Abbey Road," the perfect end to a career. One hopes however that they can continue on in the future. When you hit a creative zenith like LCD has on this album, you only want to hear more.

In the end, I believe it to be far superior to both their self-titled debut and "Sound Of Silver," and I wouldn't be surprised if it tops a lot of lists come this December.

Best Tracks:
Dance Yrself Clean
All I Want
I Can Change
Pow Pow
Somebody's Calling Me

Sunday, May 16, 2010

R.I.P. Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio


One of the best singers of his generation has passed away today at the age of 67. Diagnosed with stomach cancer back in November, the Metal God finally succumbed early this morning.

In the world of old-school Metal there were few voices as unique as Dio, this man was always able to blow me away with his voice. I've been a huge fan since hearing 'Holy Diver' as a young man, there was just something about his voice and music that defined what "Badass" really is.

"Heaven And Hell" the first Black Sabbath album to feature the singer has been my favorite album of theirs since I first heard it back in high school. The lyrical imagery he conjured on this album is second to none in the realm of old-school metal.

In addition to his work with the mighty Sabbath, he is also well known for his early work with the band Rainbow, who's album "Rising" is another solid classic. Obviously his solo work was one of his major claims to fame. From the classic "Holy Diver" to the harshly underrated "Killing The Dragon" you could always find something that you'd want to hear.

Very disappointing (other than the obvious) is the fact that Heaven & Hell, the band comprising of the "Mob Rules" era Sabbath had just released their new album "The Devil You Know" a year ago. It was one of the heaviest albums of the year and I was really looking forward to where they would go from there.

So goodnight sweet prince, and flights of gargoyles sing thee to thy rest.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Review: The National - High Violet

It all comes rushing back. That's how it feels to listen to 'High Violet', The National's 5th studio album. It's one of those albums that has the power to remind you how great music can really be.

This album also proves that this band isn't afraid to take some welcome chances. Starting off an album as anticipated as this one with a 'demo' takes a lot of balls. It also takes a lot of confidence in your material as well. "Terrible Love" starts the album off in a raw manner, leading you to think that perhaps the entire album is going to have the same 'Basement Tapes' sound to it. The rest of the album isn't nearly as dirty, in fact it's quite lush with just the right amount of polish.

Taking it's lead from 'Boxer,' The National's previous album, this is a beautiful sounding record filled with little bits and pieces you won't even notice until the 10th listen. 'High Violet' seems like the end of a trilogy at times, taking what worked for 'Alligator' and 'Boxer' and taking it to it's practical conclusion. Where those previous albums may have stumbled occasionally, their latest is always on point, which is a real treat for listener.

Bryan Devendorf's drumming and Matt Berninger's lyrics/vocals are still at the forefront of most of the songs, and if it ain't broke, please don't fix it. Devendorf plays with perfect precision and restraint on songs like "Little Faith" and "Bloodbuzz Ohio" and Berninger's lyrics are better than they've ever been.

On "Anyone's Ghost," Berninger paints a deeper and more lyrical painting than most listeners are accustomed to, with lines like; "Go out at night, with your headphones on again, and walk through the Manhattan valleys of the dead." With such great imagery, a National trademark at this point, this song is a definite highlight on an album filled that's filled with them.

Another of which is lead single "Bloodbuzz Ohio," which defies the common logic that the first single is usually the worst song on an album. While it's not the best song on the album, that honor goes to "Conversation 16," (more on that gem in a minute). Featuring the surreal lyric of being "carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees." This is not only one of Berninger's best songs lyrically, but vocally as well.
Back in 2001 on their debut there was a track titled "The Perfect Song," well now nine years later they finally have the perfect National song in the form of "Conversation 16." A thing of pure beauty and a little bit of malice, this song captures everything that's great about this band. Berninger sings with such conviction that it seems as if he truly believes what he's saying and when he repeats "I was afraid I'd eat your brains, Cause I'm evil," you believe it too.

For those of us in need of real music from a real band, The National's 'High Violet' will certainly deliver. If you're a fan of bands that clearly know what they're doing and are really good at it too, than I urge you to get this album as soon as possible.

'High Violet' is everything an album should be; great without being pretentious, very interesting/far fetched lyrically, and amazing instrumental prowess all rolled into one great package. At one point on the album Berninger claims he's "a confident liar," and that just may be the key to The National's continued success.

Best Tracks:
Conversation 16
Bloodbuzz Ohio
Anyone's Ghost
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks