Cibo Matto: Stereo Type A

Motivated to put the wraps on this one (is that even a thing? my brain is fried right now) because I just looked closely at the album cover picture above and realize it lists 16 tracks, two more than the version I’ve got. I guess in Japan this wasn’t long enough and so they need two more tracks on their version? Which is fucking hilarious because the main takeaway I have with this album is that both the songs and the album as a whole are too fucking long. (The second main takeaway is that if I write “almost a full heart” in the track notes I can relieve myself of a ton of pressure to decide whether it’s full or open. I needed that.)

14 tracks over 57 minutes. Good glory ass balls to the highest! Yeah, the fatal flaw with this record is the song (and album) lengths are that of a prog rock band, but they fill that time with quirky pop song content. Not a winning recipe.

A cute little synth riff, and cute, heavily accented vocals make this really appealing initially. But by the time they get to the chorus and you realize it’s one fucking line repeated four times and then they basically turn that into a five minute song…. I mean, seriously, nobody listened to this and thought, “Hmmmm, do we really need to have all of these sounds?” Or, conversely, somebody did review this as a product and though, “Yeah, that all needs to be said. Everything there is essential.” And this is from 1999, when we’d had many years to absorb the worst aspect of 90’s music, that of rambling album lengths due to the amount that could be stored on a CD. I’m not a big fan of records, but I think they kind of almost hit on the perfect album length of about 45 minutes accidentally.

And the Japanese version is even fucking longer. Lord have mercy.

Rating:
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– “Working For Vacation,” “Sci-Fi Wasabi,” “King Of Silence,” “Mortming”
– “Spoon,” “Lint Of Love,” “Clouds,” “Blue Train,” “Sunday Part I,” “Sunday Part II”
– “Flowers,” “Moonchild,” “Speechless,” “Stone”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Four Tet: Beautiful Rewind

No idea what I heard that inspired me to download this tale of two types of songs and put it into the review rotation. Absolutely none. Where would I have run across a Four Tet song?

Anyway, so Four Tet. It’s like one guy doing a lot of electronics and vocal sampling. Reminds me a lot of James Blake, and I had a pretty similar experience with that album as with this one. Something caught my ear, it sounded really new, and I excitedly started listening and kind of got frustrated with the repetitive nature of the genre.

So, as I said above, the theme here is Tale Of Two Songs. One type of song is pretty awesome. It’s got very cool keyboard layering and tricky rhythms and sweet, sweet, sugary sweet female vocals that never get old no matter how often they’re repeated. The second type of song has a more aggressive rhythm and a male vocal that is annoying the second time it’s repeated and then goes on to be repeated about 100 more times.

This is so close to being a great album. The full- and open-hearted songs could be better with some easy choices, and usually the broken hearted songs have something to offer. For “Buchla,” it’s when the female vocal comes in about halfway through, and for “Aerial” it’s the first half of the song, before the male vocal really picks up. Sense a pattern? Yeah, for some reason, the male vocals on this release drive me nuts. On the other side of my rating scale, “Parallel Jalebi” would have been a mix candidate if he’d just left off the last 90 seconds, where he cuts away to silence and then slowly brings the track back…to what purpose?

Anyway, some very cool parts on here that I absolutely love, but they rarely work as songs and they really don’t work as an album.

Rating:
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– “Parallel Jalebi,” “Unicorn”
– “Our Navigation,” “Ba Teaches Yoga,” “Crush,” “Your Body Feels”
– “Gong,” “Kool FM,” “Buchla,” “Aerial,” “Ever Never”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Beak>: Beak>

Great album for working to. Mood music.

Been working on this album forever, mostly because I can’t figure out if it’s three or three-and-a-half clowns. But it’s been months now, so time to just start writing and see where it leads me.

It’s at least three clowns, that much is not up for debate. I do like this CD. It’s atmospheric mood music, mostly very sparse, but a trio that for the most part plays bass, heavily affected guitar, and keys.

Minimalism meets popular music. The music is quite repetitive, atmospheric, as I said, but it drifts in small changes ever so slowly, sometimes almost imperceptibly. Often times, if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear just one note change in a recurring pattern and then, after that note’s been in there for a while, another note will change, and by the end they’ll be in a very different place.

Sometimes the changes can be more dramatic. Gradual, but still big changes, occur, for instance, in “Blagdon Lake,” which, by the time it’s over, is darned hear a headbanger with dramatic accents driving the beat home.

On the other hand, I just don’t see myself reaching for this that much. Just not my cup of tea, and after you get past the top five or six songs, the rest of it is kind of filled out with meh.

A rating of 3.5 often does mean a meh album that has some really good moments in it. But given that you really have to have some patience to get to many of those since they’re, say, the back half of a five minute song and can only really be appreciated after the full build, does this still count? For example, my favorite moment on the record might be the last one-and-a-half minutes of “Ham Green,” but you have to wait 4:45 just to get there.

On the other hand, a rating of three means that, while I do like the album as a whole, there are usually some pretty prominent flaws or real frustration I have with at least parts of it. I don’t really have that here. At worst I’m just maybe a little bored, waiting for a payoff too long in coming.

If I were being an objective critic, I’d give it 3.5, maybe even more, as reward for what feels like to me very good execution on vision. If I’m rating for myself, then I’m going to give it a three and likely not spend that much more time with it. When I first started blogging I tried to be more objective. Now, I don’t care about that so much and would rather leave a record of how it affected me. The funny thing about this record is that when I’m listening, I’m definitely at a 3.5. But I never want to listen to it. I don’t know, something about a 3.5 just doesn’t feel right. So here’s what I’ll do. I’ll be generous with the full hearts so that I remember I did like quite a few songs on here, but I’m going to leave the rating at an even three.

Rating:
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Mix: “Blagdon Lake”
– “Backwell,” “PIll,” “Ham Green,” “I Know,” “Iron Action,” “The Cornubia,” “Flax Bourton”
– “Battery Point,” “Ears Have Ears,” “Barrow Gurney,”¬† “Dundry Hill”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Lucius: Wildewoman

First listens to this album were groan-filled, as this band out of Brooklyn (with an American Idol history) looks and sounds exactly like every other band out of Brooklyn. Listening to the disc, I just knew they’d done a fucking Tiny Desk Concert…sure enough, there it is. And can you believe that one of the guys in the band has a beard and the other has a mustache? Fucking hipsters. It sounds just like Local Natives except the female-sounding-vocals are actually produced by females. One of which is super hot, so at least there’s that.

Anyway, I got sidetracked on the listening-and-reviewing path because I’ve been working on the 2013 mixes (complete now; yet to be unveiled). And over the course of listening to this again and again I gradually softened into non-resistance and finally welcoming. ‘Cuz the songs are actually really good. They do their best to mask that fact by bookending the album with the two worst songs and naming the album after the absolute worst one.

“Hey, Doreen” is the obvious single except for some reason “Turn It Around” is the one they went with and the one that’s getting all the airplay. Everybody is doing it wrong! “Wildewoman” sucks…reminds me of Dar Williams’ “Flinty Kind Of Woman” in its lyrical content. They should have ended the disc with the nicely floating “Don’t Just Sit There,” with its at least titular motivation, but they had to tack on the harmless “Monsters” and the overwrought worst-of-70’s AOR “How Loud Your Heart Gets” that’s like a mix of Toto, Steelheart, and Heart…reach for your lighters, baby!

Production sounds like ass. Way too compressed. It should not be that loud, assholes. I am obviously losing this fucking war.

Rating:
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Mix – “Hey, Doreen”
– “Turn It Around,” “Go Home,” “Tempest,” “Two Of Us On The Run,” “Until We Get There,” “Don’t Just Sit There”
– “Monsters,” “How Loud Your Heart Gets”
– “Wildewoman”
Filed Between: Low Vs Diamond (Low Vs Diamond) and The Lucky Stars (Hollywood & Western)
Song Notes: After the jump
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Catherine Wheel: Happy Days

HappyDaysBasically all you need to know about this album: histrionic adolescent lyrics sung in an overwrought manner over heavy-handed guitars and uninspirational drums for 14 tracks and 62 minutes.

Bloated and hard to swallow, Catherine Wheel’s Happy Days does have its share of moments buried under the thick clay of Too Much that is the majority of this album, but they never lift up the fog of overdone enough to make it work for a full song. A poor man’s Smashing Pumpkins. Much more tolerable in small doses…I can usually make it through the first half of the album, with track seven “My Exhibition” changing the tone to a Vs-era Pearl Jam kind of punk thing. But then it goes right to the worst track on the album: “Eat My Dust, You Insensitive Fuck,” a song for which the term bloated is a huge understatement.

It’s not clear to me why this band exists. Bands doing this kind of thing were a dime a dozen in the mid-90’s, and I don’t know what you wouldn’t get from any of the others that you’d need to get from these guys. I guess there’s a bit of a prog element, but it’s not done that well, so I don’t know, like maybe if you just couldn’t get enough “Fate’s Warning”?

Rating:
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– “My Exhibition”
– “God Inside My Head,” “Waydown,” “Receive,” “Shocking,” “Love Tips Up,” “Hole,” “Kill My Soul”
– “Little Muscle,” “Heal,” “Empty Head,” “Eat My Dust You Insensitive Fuck,” “Judy Staring At The Sun,” “Fizzy Love”
Song Notes: After the jump
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Superdrag: Regretfully Yours

It’s fitting that the cover of this album would be a mirror, because I’m experiencing a bit of through-the-looking-glass-ness as I listen to it. Specifically, I keep hearing one of my all-time favorite albums, The Stereo’s Three Hundred. This came out two years earlier than Three Hundred, and it’s safe to say it was an influence on The Stereo, and I think Rory in particular, as they worked on that album. But the fact that I’m coming to it 16 years after it came out and 14 years after Three Hundred…I keep thinking Superdrag’s ripping off The Stereo, but of course if there was any ripping-off going on it had to go in the other direction.

So you’ve got power-pop, attitude-filled, guitar-driven rock with great hooks, cool chord changes, and anthemic, singable choruses. It’s really rock and roll in its purest form, and it’s hard not to love it. I do love it. Plus there are lots of lyrics about cigarettes and masturbation, so, you know, lots of fun college memories.

The biggest similarity to The Stereo is “N.A. Kicker,” which is like a mash-up of the verse of a Rory song from Three Hundred and the chorus of “4 AM” from New Tokyo Is Calling. Consider these lyrics:

N.A. Kicker:
You’re the one I wanna adore
And I can’t shut it off anymore

 

4 AM
Who’s that knockin’ at my door
My guess is it’s the one I adore
Cuz I can’t get to sleep anymore

Still, at the end of the day, Three Hundred is better executed than this. The Jamie songs are just too strong and it sounds a ton better. Regretfully Yours is on the major label, but the work Jamie did on Three Hundred sounds so much more full…it sounds like it was meant to be played in a 15,000-seat arena.

Rating:
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Mix: “Slot Machine,” “Phaser,” “Carried,” “Cynicality,” “What If You Don’t Fly”
– “Sucked Out,” “Destination Ursa Major,” “Whitey’s Theme,” “Truest Love,” “What If You Don’t Fly,” “Nothing Good Is Real,” “Rocket”
– “Garmonbozia,” “N.A. Kicker”
Song Notes: After the jump

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Remy Zero: Villa Elaine

Lots of promise but ends up wallowing in a pool of mediocrity. I can’t help but think it could have been so much better, though. Strong production, with excellent timbres and instrumentation, but cumbersome song structures and painfully slow tempi end up drowning the album in a sea of trying too hard.

“Prophecy” is the obvious stand out track on the album, and even then it’s merely decent when I’m not walking. Love stepping to that backbeat while I’m walking around, though.

The rest of the first half of the album is filled with mediocrity. “Hermes Bird” is harmless but unremarkable (ditto for “Life In Rain”), and it wouldn’t fit anywhere else but the first track. “Hollow” is basically a song right off the back half of Jane’s Addiction’s Ritual De Lo Habitual, right down to the vocal effects. Every time “Problem” starts I think, “How do I have this as broken?” and then it gets to the chorus and I remember, but hell it’s probably worthy of an open heart.

But who do these guys want to be? What’s the game on this album? They’re kind of like a vaudeville imitation act, up there with “Weird Al” Yankovic in their ability to imitate other bands. “Hollow” I mentioned, and then “Goodbye Little World” is one of those stupid Billy Joel-like numbers where the lyrics are talking about a party with Joey and Susie and everybody’s got a problem or story that can be summed up in five words. “Fair” channels the worst of Goo Goo Dolls and Soul Asylum. I also get the rip-off vibe from “Gramarye,” which starts exactly like Low Vs. Diamond’s “Don’t Forget Sister,” but since¬†Villa Elaine preceded that songsit’s just my bad luck, I guess, that I can conjure it when listening to this after the fact.

However, everything gets blown away in the suck department by “Wither Vulcan,” a painfully slow ballad with absolutely nothing interesting taking place over its length.

Harmless but unremarkable sums up a lot of this album. There’s a ton of promise here, as I mentioned, even in the songwriting department. I can listen all the way through and only want to skip a couple of songs, but I am completely unmoved by all but “Prophecy,” and for that one it helps if I’m literally moving in the first place.

Rating:
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– “Prophecy”
– “Hermes Bird,” “Life In Rain,” “Hollow,” “Problem,” “Gramarye,” Yellow Light”
– “Wither Vulcan,” “Fair,” “Goodbye Little World,” “Instrumental 523”
Song Notes: After the jump

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