Various Artists: Happy Feet Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

This is bad, so I’ve been in a bit of a hurry to get this reviewed, posted, and off of my iPod.  I don’t want to listen to it anymore.

I bought this for free in a neighbor’s garage.  I don’t think I paid too much, but it’s close.  I got it for free, because my angelic toddler son was being incredibly well behaved and charming to everybody in the garage as Daddy got absorbed in looking through every CD he could find in the loosely-organized space.  The guy thought maybe my boy would appreciate it.  I think he made a better guess with the Country Lullabies CD I can’t seem to find now featuring “Walk The Line,” “Stand By Your Man,” and others in lullaby form.  This is more appropriate for ten-year-olds, not one-year-olds.

The album starts off surprisingly strong with a great song by Prince relegated to like status because of the silly character voices throughout.  (Side note: Didn’t Robin Williams used to be funny?  Has he always been so annoying?)  Gia Farrell’s “Hit Me Up” kicks and actually does get kept, while Pink’s “Tell Me Something Good” is a standard, but good blues rock thing and almost gets kept itself.  Who knew Pink could do that?

And then it goes into an awful version of Queen’s “Somebody To Love” by Brittany Murphy and from there it’s either stuff like that where Murphy, Nicole Kidman, Robin Williams, and other voices from the soundtrack take a lead on a cover song, or you get throwaway, bordering-on-good songs from bigger names like Brand New Heavies, Patti LaBelle, and The Beach Boys.   A couple of these are likeable and/or notable for being well-constructed mash-ups.  Most are not.  “I Wish” by Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams, and Fantasia Barrino is particularly notable as horrible.  It shouldn’t exist.

And I think that covers it.  Be gone with you, CD that besmirches the good name of CDs.

Rating:
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Keep:
“Hit Me Up” (Gia Farrell)
Like:
“The Song Of The Heart” (Prince), “Tell Me Something Good” (Pink), “The Joker/Everything I Own” (Jason Mraz & Chrissie Hynde), “Golden Slumbers/The End” (k.d. lang)

Song Notes:

  1. Prince: The Song Of The Heart – Pretty sweet.  If he can throw off something this good for an animated penguin soundtrack, how come so much of his stuff is so throwaway?  Eh, it’s hard to fault a prolific guy who’s got so much awesomeness in his oeuvre for even a 30-40% clunker rate.  And, to be clear, this isn’t great, but it’s got a really nice beat.
  2. Gia Farrell: Hit Me Up – Kickin’ beats.
  3. Pink: Tell Me Something Good – Pink can groove this well?  Who does she remind me of here?  She’s doing like a Bonnie Raitt thing, but there’s one specific singer  she really seems to be referencing.  It might be a guy.  You know who’d be good on American Idol?  Pink.
  4. Brittany Murphy: Somebody To Love – Didn’t know she sang.  I don’t see any reason you’d want to hear this one instead of Queen’s version.  Very badly missed note near end.
  5. Patti LaBelle, Yolanda Adams & Fantasia Barrino: I Wish – Sucks.  I cannot believe how crappy this is.
  6. Brand New Heavies Feat. Jamalski: Jump N’ Move – No.  Almost tolerable.
  7. The Beach Boys: Do It Again – Sounds just like The Beach Boys.  Is the Beach Boys.
  8. Jason Mraz & Chrissie Hynde: The Joker/Everything I Own – The way “Everything I Own” is mashed in to the chorus of “The Joker” is kind of cool.  The straight part sucks, but I’m giving it a like just for the mash up part.
  9. My Way (A Mi Manera): Robin Williams – Ugh.  The instrumental part is awesome, a Latin-flavored “My Way,” but Williams is annoying as all hell, of course.
  10. Nicole Kidman & Hugh Jackman: Kiss/Heartbreak Hotel – Another mashup.  I like Nicole Kidman, but I hate this.  She ain’t much of a singer.  The chug-a-chug of the “Heartbreak Hotel” part is cool, as is the Grease-like duet aspect (“summer love”?) of the song.
  11. Brittany Murphy: Boogie Wonderland – Ah good god.  Super annoying.  Not bad once it finally gets going almost 2:00 in.  The orchestration, spesh the horns, is pretty sweet.  But it’s not enough.
  12. k.d. lang: Golden Slumbers/The End – Beatles cover, obvs. Initially pretty likeable, but I think that’s mostly due to positive connotations that come with recognition of song.  I hate how obvious it is the kind of silly nonsense that’s happening in the movie at this point.  These movies are clearly conditioning our children to be a gleeful, spoon-fed audience in the future.  Not sure about that transition to “The End.”  Or this version of “The End” for that matter.  More morose than the original version even.  This takes all the exhausted-falling-asleep sense out of it and just makes it too sad.
  13. John Powell: The Story Of Mumble Happy Feet – Not nearly as annoying as so much of the other stuff on here, but just standard movie score stuff.  Not bad per se, but not something I’m drawn to.  Ditch is harsh, but even though it’s almost, it’s not quite a like.  A “meh,” if you will.

Seaweed: Weak

Until my recent foray into the rest of the band’s catalog, this was the only album I’d ever heard by Seaweed, and it’s still the only actual CD of theirs I own.  So it’s a re-review, therefore I’ll keep it short.

Basically this is like Despised plus.  I mean, same vibe, tight, melodic punk with a complete monster on drums in Bob Bulgrien, even down to Jack Endino (who I ❤ more every time I realize he did one more of my favorite albums) as the producer.  My main complaints, such as they were, with Despised was the songwriting and the fact that it faded in quality over the second half.  Both of those problems are fixed here, but you still have the same kind of monochromatic thing going on and Stauffer is more of a vocal stylist than a singer.  But those are hardly big complaints when you’re coiled this tightly and strike this hard.

I love this album.  Love many of the songs, like them all.  Because it was my only exposure to the band, I was disappointed that their SP20 set covered so little of it, even though I still loved everything they played.  So the other side of that disappointment coin is that maybe the rest of their catalog is even better and I’ll be even more thrilled with the upcoming Four.

Rating:
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Mix:
“New Tools,” “Squint”
Keep:
“Recall,” “The Way It Ends,” “Stagger,” “Taxing,” “Bill,” “Clean Slate”
Like:
“Baggage,” “Bill,” “Shut Up!”

Song notes:

  1. Recall – The sound kinda sucks.  Very thin.  I can kind of hear the bass, but I can’t feel it.  Super energy, which is awesome.
  2. The Way It Ends – “If a fault is found/Assured it’s mine.”
  3. Baggage –
  4. Stagger – Like the tempo changes.  The best song on the album?  Probably doesn’t match up to “New Tools.” “Got near 20 years out of this arm/Got near 20 years out of this leg”
  5. Taxing –
  6. New Tools – God I love that pounding snare that is so tight throughout this album.  It’s the signature element of hardcore, in my mind.  But these guys add melody.  Also a candidate for best track on the album.  “Your analogies won’t comfort me.”
  7. Bill – Could be keep maybe.
  8. Clean Slate –
  9. Shut Up! –
  10. Squint –

Fischerspooner: #1

(I hate that cover art so bad.  The glistening, uneven stubble and the dry, cracking hair behind it disturb me.  Not the tongue, that’s fine.  It’s the follicular product.)

This is the first review of about 15 CDs that I bought in a neighbor’s garage for $1.  I don’t think I was as picky as I should have been.

That might not be completely fair.  This is pretty good.  It’s just that there’s nothing even close to the song that inspired me to buy it in the first place, “The Best Revenge,” which I reviewed in that 80-song iTunesU playlist I got for free.  And while it’s good, is it good enough to justify owning the physical version, jewel case and all?  Probably not.  But now I’m stuck with it, and don’t even try to suggest that I’m not, because Does. Not. Compute.

Anyway, apparently this is in the genre electroclash.  And according to Wikipedia, that completely non-descriptive term means that it’s dance music but like a song instead of just beats and sounds.  Meaning that it has song-like structure with a beginning, build, end, verses, chorus, etc.

And, yeah, that’s pretty much what you get here.  And Fischerspooner pay a lot of attention to the details, which is nice.  But it still ends up being a little too much like dance music where there’s just too much time where you’re stuck in a groove that might have been interesting for 20 seconds but isn’t for two minutes.  In short, there’s quite a bit of fat to cut from this album.  (Another similarity this has to straight-up dance music is that it’s better loud than not.)

But the meat’s good.  The slower tracks, like “15th Day” and “Tone Poem,” are the best here.  My hypothesis is that, since the songs are about the same length as the faster ones, and since the transition times between sections is about the same, that the parts get repeated fewer times in the same amount of time if they’re slower, preventing you from getting to bored before something switches up or ends.

I think one of the lessons here is that this is a genre appreciated in doses smaller than albums.  I don’t think that’s a surprise, either.  I don’t think anybody actually listens to this stuff start to finish in album form, even electroclash.  It’s just that that’s how I listen to everything, not having figured out a way to integrate different listening methods into my routine(s).  So there’s a disconnect for me.

Rating:
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Keep: “15th Day,” “Tone Poem,” “Turn On”
Like: “Sweetness,” “Emerge,” “L.A. Song,” “Horizon,” “Invisible,” “Ersatz,” “Megacolon”

  1. Sweetness – First impressions are pretty happy with this.
  2. 15th Day – Very good.
  3. Emerge – Starting to get kinda meh here.  This is too repetitive.  Apparently this was the hit, but that female vocal chorus line drives me nuts.
  4. L.A. Song – As an example of the low dosages needed, this is nice, fun, etc., but even just four songs in I am completely tired of it.  “Star above me/It’s fine”.  Pretty good, just too repetitive.  More a fault of the genre than these guys.
  5. Tone Poem – So far the two best songs have been slow ones.  I guess if your strengths are soundscapes and your weakness is being too repetitive, then it makes sense that if you get through less rhythm in the same amount of time you’ve made things better.  This is one of those perfect late night driving songs.
  6. Horizon – Not bad, but not a lot going on.  Starts off pretty noodly.  The last track slowed things down really nicely but here it seems like he might be veering off.  It has its moments, but it’s pretty boring/forgettable for the most part.
  7. Invisible – I have this as like or keep?  It’s definitely not keep.  So I’ll say like, but I’m really not into this.  The instrumental intro is really cool, in terms of both rhythms and timbres.
  8. Turn On – This might not get kept on a stronger album.  It’s quite good, but it’s also got that it’s surrounded by quite a bit of weakness working in its favor.
  9. !@*$%# –
  10. Natural Disaster –
  11. Ersatz –
  12. Megacolon – This one grew on me.  Cool sexy lyrics sung/rapped by female.
  13. Emerge (Junkie XL Remix) –

Various Artists: Kill Rock Stars 20 Year Anniversary Sampler

Free sampler, so right into it….

  • Very good, especially for a label’s sampler, except for an awful stretch from tracks six through nine.
  • Kind of surprised just how many good artists Kill Rock Stars has had

Song Notes:

  1. Elliot Smith: “Doubt” – I am pretty sure I’ve covered this elsewhere.  It was on Either/Or and I kept it but I think that was pre-like, which is fine.  So it’s an open heart.
  2. The Thermals: “Now We Can See” – Would have been keep.  The oh way oh oh oh part is annoying, but the rest of the song is easily full material.
  3. Gossip: “Standing In The Way Of Control” – Where do I know this from?  Best song on here.
  4. Thao & Mirah: “Eleven” – Would have been keep.
  5. Milagres: “Glowing Mouth (Radio Edit)” – Would have been keep.  “She said: Son you better get used to believing/In things that you can’t see”
  6. Xiu Xiu: “I Luv The Valley OH!” – Pretty annoying vocals.  It has its moments, but on the whole this is really annoying.
  7. Grass Widow: “Fried Egg” – Pretty bad and I think awfully forgettable, too.  In some ways (the frenetic pacing and atonal shouted vocals) the verses are like a less noisy, way less interesting Melt Banana song.  But then the chorus is really boring.  And the production seems to highlight the fact that they can’t play their instruments.
  8. Gospel Music: “Automobile [ft. Tracyanne Campbell]” – Terrible.  Terribly annoying.  Ouch, we’re in a real bad stretch of at least three songs here.  Three minutes of torture.  The vocalist in the spelling part sounds a bit like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.
  9. Bratmobile: “Die” – Snotty punk just like the name suggests.  It’s listenable but you have to be in just the right mood.  And I think more often than not I hate this.
  10. Sleater-Kinney: “Dig Me Out” – So awesome.  Second-best song here.
  11. Bikini Kill: “New Radio” – The first band you think of when you think of Kill Rock Stars.  Such a distinct voice and vocal delivery.  “Let’s wipe our come on my parent’s bed.”
  12. Marnie Stern: “Transparency Is The New Mystery” – Kind of an annoyingly blah and off-key intro.
  13. Deerhoof: “Believe E.S.P.” – I do like this one quite a bit.  Some cool rhythms.
  14. The Corin Tucker Band: “Doubt” – Very good.  Would have been keep.  Sounds an awful lot like her former band, Sleater-Kinney.
  15. Unwound: “Corpse Pose” – Pretty good, but pretty forgettable, too.
  16. Quasi: “Repulsion” – Sounds very familiar, but I don’t have the album this is on, nor is it on the mix from J-mez.
  17. The Boats: “T.V. Scientist” – Pretty cool, but the chipmunky voice is a bit unsettling.  Probably would have been like.
  18. The Decemberists: “16 Military Wives” – I think I might actually like this.  I know I like this, but what’s going on with me not hating on the last few Colin Meloy songs I’ve heard?  Love the horns.  What is that low one?  Trombone?  Would have been keep.
  19. Thao: “Bag Of Hammers” – Didn’t I cover this on that iTunesU playlist?  Yes, during my brief time on Blogger.  Somehow it got mix there.  I believe in my review of this the first time I said it was mix not because it was that good but because it evoked a very particular, fairly unique mood.  But it is driving me nuts now.  I mean, I’d drop this down to like in the old system, so I’ll keep it as open now, given that it is enjoyable in the right moods.
  20. Horse Feathers: “Curs In The Weeds” – Why do so many vocalists on this album sound so familiar?  I don’t hate this, but it doesn’t do anything for me, and it sounds really derivative.

Rating:
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Full: “Standing In The Way Of Control” (Gossip), “Dig Me Out” (Sleater-Kinney), “New Radio” (Bikini Kill), “Repulsion” (Quasi)
Open: “Between The Bars” (Elliott Smith), “Now We Can See” (The Thermals), “Eleven” (Thao & Mirah), “Glowing Mouth (Radio Edit)” (Milagres), “Transparency Is The New Mystery” (Marnie Stern), “Believe E.S.P.” (Deerhoof), “Doubt” (The Corin Tucker Band), “Corpse Pose” (Unwound), “T.V. Scientist” (The Boats), “16 Military Wives” (The Decemberists), “Bag Of Hammers” (Thao)
Broken:
“I Love The Valley OH!” (Xiu Xiu), “Fried Egg” (Grass Widow), “Automobile [ft. Tracyanne Campbell]” (Gospel Music), “Die” (Bratmobile), “Curs In The Weeds” (Horse Feathers)

BR5-49: Live From Robert’s

BR5-49’s debut, six songs over 10 tracks and 23 minutes, is a frenetically-paced, raucous concert that runs the gamut from rockabilly to ballads but mostly serves to cement the band as a force to be reckoned with.  BR5-49 made country cool again, not by alt-ifying it or being renegades, but simply by being young men embracing all the genre’s best, pure elements.  With instrumentation including a stand-up bass and fiddle to subject matter that celebrates being a hillbilly and subject matter that explores porn from the perspectives of both the entertainer and entertained and lampoons The Andy Griffith Show with a hypothetical episode involving explicit sex and drugs, BR5-49 announced they were here by letting us know their talent was varied and nothing was off-limits.  It’s amazing how much ground they cover, and how well they do it, in just six songs.

I’m struck as I come back to this at how dark it is.  You’ve got “Bettie Bettie” (porn) and “Me ‘N’ Opie” (Andy Griffith), and then there’s also two tales of murder in “18 Wheels & A Crowbar,” which is road-rage-cum-serial-murder and “Knoxville Girl,” a darkly mysterious standard in which the narrator kills “the girl he loves so well” in cold blood.

Part of me wants to keep this as three-and-a-half clowns.  I’m not sure why that is.  It might be because it’s just an EP, or it may be because if I want to listen to BR5-49 I reach for their better but still flawed self-titled album that followed this one.  But neither of those is really an inherent criticism, so four clowns it is.

Rating:
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Keep:
“Hillbilly Thang,” “18 Wheels And A Crowbar”
Like:
“Bettie Bettie,” “Me N’ Opie (Down By The Duck Pond),” “Knoxville Girl,” “Ole Slewfoot”
Filed Between: David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust) and BR5-49’s BR5-49

Song Notes:

  1. Boot Plug –
  2. Hillbilly Thang –
  3. 18 Wheels And A Crowbar –
  4. Bettie Plug –
  5. Bettie Bettie –
  6. Me N’ Opie (Down By The Duck Pond) –
  7. Tip Plug –
  8. Knoxville Girl – It kills to make this only like, but it’s not quite as powerful as I remember it and the lyrics are so disturbing.
  9. Ole Slewfoot –
  10. Fire Marshall –

The Beatles: Revolver

Second CD reviewed in a row that I fairly strongly disliked at first.  I was lukewarm on this one for a much longer time, though.  I think I finally understand its reputation now (though the stupid debate among hipsters about Revolver v. Rubber Soul as the best Beatles album has to end…just partaking in the debate is a lame attempt to signal hipster cred, at which point you lose all non-hipster cred.)  Once I got past the terrible sound and the stretch from 4-6 without a keeper I was able to see it for what it is: a collection of mostly fabulous songs.

  1. Taxman – Liked more before I knew it was George whining about his taxes.  #OccupyTheBeatles. (“Daddy singing taxman song.”)
  2. Eleanor Rigby – Ridiculed so much for the fact that violin players love it.  Stupidest criticism ever.  Fantastic song.
  3. I’m Only Sleeping – Sounds like crap, but a great song to sing to my kids.  (“Daddy singing sleeping song.”) It’s a fantastic song, period, I just wish it didn’t sound like ass.
  4. Love You To – George’s sitar contribution to the album.
  5. Here, There and Everywhere – Fine, but yawny.
  6. Yellow Submarine – I’m torn so much on this song.  I’ve never really liked it, finding it way too simple.  But it is a cool song to sing with kids (“Daddy singing submarine song”), and the expansions on the theme in the instruments is kind of cool.  And it’s Ringo, so I want to love it.  But I can’t stand it.
  7. She Said She Said – Is the sound good enough to mix?  The song is, not sure if the sound is.
  8. Good Day Sunshine – “Daddy singing sunshine song.”
  9. And Your Bird Can Sing – peaking, but great song.
  10. For No One – So sad
  11. Doctor Robert –
  12. I Want To Tell You – Gad sound again
  13. Got To Get You Into My Life –
  14. Tomorrow Never Knows – Another sitar one.  This one’s much better.

Rating:
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Mix:
“Good Day Sunshine,” “And Your Bird Can Sing”
Keep:
“Taxman,” “Eleanor Rigby,” “I’m Only Sleeping,” “She Said She Said,” “For No One,” “Got To Get You Into My Life,” “Tomorrow Never Knows”
Like:
“Love You To,” “Here, There and Everywhere,” “Doctor Robert,” “I Want To Tell You”
Filed Between: The Beatles’ Help! and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

Brad: Interiors

I didn’t like this album when it came out, but it’s now easily my favorite Brad album and clearly superior to the only Brad record I had to compare it to at the time, Shame.  And what’s not to love?  The songs are gorgeous and well-constructed, the sound is luxurious, modern, and comfortably familiar all at the same time.  Keyboards are integrated perfectly with Stone Gossard’s fabulously endearing melodies and Shawn Smith’s weepy, heavenly voice.  It runs the gamut from exuberant rock (“Secret Girl,” “Lift”) to mournful protest (“Some Never Come Home”) to funk-cum-psychedlia (“Those Three Words”) to arms-spread-wide feel-good uplifting (“The Day Brings”) and remains cohesive all the way through.  Sure, it’s got a couple of would-be non-keepers (“Funeral Song” and “Candles”), but there’s nothing that even comes remotely close to bad on here and a couple of the songs contend for Best Song Ever (“The Day Brings” and “Those Three Words”).  Music’s a funny thing.

This being the Japanese import version, it’s got a couple of extra tracks: “Seance” and “Heaven Help.”  Both are very good, but the band did good to keep them off the album proper as they don’t quite fit.  “Heaven Help” is another slow, sad one on an album that didn’t have another such slot to put it in.  The other, “Seance,” is not quite finished; it’s bicycle horn instrumentation is fun and exciting, but the carefree feel that brings contrats starkly with the strong emotional context of the rest of the disc.

Rating:
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: “Secret Girl,” “The Day Brings,” “Lift,” “Those Three Words”
[Open]:
everything else
Filed Between: Brad’s Shame and Welcome To Discovery Park

Song Notes:

  1. Secret Girl –
  2. The Day Brings – best song ever?  Played as I walked down the aisle at my wedding.  Yes, I, the groom, had my own music as I walked down the aisle at my wedding.  Twice.  You wanna make something of that?
  3. Lift – Full, but if I mix from this album it’s going to be “The Day Brings” or “Those Three Words”
  4. I Don’t Know – “I don’t know where you come from/I don’t know where you’ve been”
  5. Upon My Shoulders – Could be much shorter.  Very good in parts, but definitely a weak spot on the album.
  6. Sweet Al George – “No religion is supposed to be fun.”  “Greatest thing about the blues/Is man you got nothin’ to lose.”
  7. Funeral Song – Another weak point where it dips into a slow, sad, minor groove and kind of brings everything way down.  A dirge.  Repetitive.  Good parts, though.
  8. Circle And Line –
  9. Some Never Come Home –
  10. Candles –
  11. Those Three Words –
  12. Seance – Clown horn.
  13. Heaven Help –