31 January 2007

Snow Patrol & Dashboard Confessional: A Meditation on Whinerock

Snow Patrol is a guilty semi-pleasure: pleasant--good music for painting red housesbut neither sophisticated nor creative, and increasingly plastic to boot. They're relatively palatable whinerock, with the typical shortcomings and appeal--it's sweet in a wistful kind of way, but guilty of emotional posturing and brooding. The saving grace is variety, or at least a shallower monotony: if the songs' narrator were a person, he'd feel pretty much the same all the time, but for slightly different reasons. Behold Mahogany from Songs for Polar Bears, which is wistful at a relationship that didn't happen, and You Could Be Happy from Eyes Open, which aims at one which did.

Which contrasts to Dashboard Confessional, whose sound is more appealing and textured, but whose lyrics are intolerably whiny. Carabba's more consistent in his whining and posturing--the point is generally that he likes some girl who is for one reason or another an unfortunate choice.

Another difference is the vocalists' performance styles, I suppose; Carabba emotes to the back wall of the room across the street, where Lightbody treats the narrator's sadness with more distance. Since he's singing things like "Do the things that you always wanted to/ Without me there to hold you back, don't think, just do/ More than anything I want to see you grow/ Take a glorious bite out of the whole world", anything that turns down the volume on the knob marked Pathos is helpful: it might even get somebody kicked out of the genre, although neither of these two is in any danger.

The only Dashboard song that sticks is A Plain Morning off of Swiss Army Romance, which is frankly beautiful and possibly less whiny. Which brings up another way to get kicked out of the genre: make music which is simply too beautiful to be dismissed.

N.B.: Whinerock is a term I made up, I think. I'm not clear if it's the same as emo, because I'm not clear on what counts for emo; so I'll use my own term.

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25 January 2007

Earworm: Stars - Going Going Gone

Stars aren't news to anybody these days; but their music is still a melancholy, hardnosed, powerpop good listen. Had a strange dream this morning, but Going Going Gone is all that's left of it.

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24 January 2007

Dayna Kurtz: Texture, no Structure

This is a bit of a shame. Dayna Kurtz and Another Black Feather came with mad impressive accolades: "there's no logical reason why singer-songwriter Dayna Kurtz is not a full-blown star," according to the Boston Globe; she's won "Female Songwriter of the Year" from the National Academy of Songwriters, been on NPR's Morning Edition. And yet. . . I think she suffers from the Cassandra Wilson problem: it's interesting, creative music that somehow fails to compel me to listen to it. This verdict always leaves me wondering if one or five more times through the CD wouldn't change my mind; since that question can always be asked, I've never managed to answer it by other than giving up. She's clearly technically accomplished, her voice has an enviable topaz-smoky timbre, and the arrangement and production are thoughtful and unobtrusive; but somehow listening to a track like The Miracle leaves rather a blank impression. The only exception to this is It's the Day of Atonement, with its graceful urgency contrasting with and coarsened by the blunt, political lyrics. The album leaves the listener with questions: what could she be that she isn't? What isn't she? What will she be?

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23 January 2007

The Never @ SXSW

Reverbnation.com is running an interesting SxSW contest: based on traffic, song plays, and registered fans, two bands will get slots to play at the Reverbnation SxSW party. My own pick is The Never, from the strength of last year's remarkable multimedia CD Antartica. It's a good opportunity to play with Reverbnation's various tools, too, which are intelligently designed.

So . . .register for Reverbnation.com, become The Never's fan, listen to The Never--and a deserving band will play at SxSW!

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Cuckoo Canoe Revisited

Or, an object lesson in listening to the whole CD. . . when first exposed to Cuckoo Canoe's music via
their Myspace, I couldn't put them together into a coherent band with a sound. But now I've got my hands on Basketball Freedom Overdrive and listened to it a few times through, it's much clearer: they're a brash, energetic band leaning towards the latter-day New Wave stylings that are making the rounds again. Alaska Wolf Slay is the most clearly infectious, but that vigor pervades the CD. It's a good listen.

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22 January 2007

Earworm: Innocence Mission - Moon River

So it was my grandma's eightieth birthday this weekend, and the family had a surprise birthday party with neighbors, coworkers, kindergarten classmates, bridge partners--all of those connections that accumulate in a small town where people tend to stay put. One of the features of the party was a slideshow of pictures of my grandmother, from childhood til now, accompanied by chronologically-appropriate music; one such selection was an instrumental of Moon River. This reminded me that, as unimpressed by Now The Day Is Over as I was as a CD, the cover of Moon River is graceful and compelling.

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19 January 2007

Video for Amy Millan's "Skinny Boy"

Honey from the Tombs was one of the great finds of 2006; besides just being a good listen, it established Amy as the more interesting independent artist out of Stars. Now there's a new video for Skinny Boy, as well as the original single Baby I; they're up on the Arts & Crafts video page. Sadly, though. . . it isn't very interesting. It takes quite an exceptional video to be more than marketing material--a reason to play the song on TV--and this isn't it.

Still a good song, though.

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