Last Week: A Retrospective
This entry may be even more incoherent than usual (happy Monday!). I slept restlessly for four hours last night, feeling the onset of a nasty cold and overstimulated by a new musical obsession. Last week’s fascination with Erlend Øye developed into full-blown mania — the likes of which should burn out pretty quickly — but in the meantime, it’s keeping me up nights. It reminds me of my high school days when I was completely smitten with Lou Barlow, and spent my nights huddled in the dark common room of the girls’ dorm with my discman, switching out disc after disc of Sebadoh, The Folk Implosion, and Sentridoh, comparing tracks, desperate for some transcendent moment that was just out of reach. I’m like an addict that way.
Now I have new ways to fuel the obsession. We didn’t have mp3 players back then, very little of the internet, and definitely no YouTube. I’m a sucker for musicians with large discographies and multiple side-projects because there’s so much to dig into, so much to learn. So, naturally I hunted down Øye’s 2004 mash-up record in the DJ Kicks series, a fun techno-romp featuring Kings of Convenience remixes, Phoenix, and one particularly doomy cover of The Smiths’ “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” layered over Röyksopp’s “Poor Leno.” Awesome. I also acquired his 2003 solo album Unrest (which is fine but not up to par with his collaborations), the latest Kings of Convenience, Declaration of Dependence, which is actually pretty great but takes a few tracks to really get going, and the most recent The Whitest Boy Alive release, Rules. I also dredged up a nearly-lost mp3 of his cover of Wham!’s “Last Christmas.” I am not even kidding.
But how long can I stay obsessed with a musician who pretty much defines “mellow?” I just like the warmth of his voice, the way it lends humanity to the coldest electronic tracks. And his sweet dance moves don’t hurt, either.
Moving on. So, last week saw the release of Midlake‘s first album since 2006’s The Trials of Van Occupanther, and while I’m not going to review the album right now, I would like to say a few things about the “hype” surrounding their new The Courage of Others. I do not envy Midlake. They’ve been a band to watch for a long time now, which seems a little unfair considering that all their goodwill was earned from two, maybe three songs (“Roscoe,” “Head Home,” and, to a certain extent, “Young Bride”) off Trials. Critics and fans have waited for almost four years to see what they did next, so there was a lot of pressure on the new album to be brilliant. Pitchfork gave The Courage of Others a particularly damning score of 3.6, but, honestly, I’m not sure what anyone was expecting given:
A) Midlake’s success is mostly predicated on the strength of “Roscoe,”
B) The Trials of Van Occupanther sounded nothing like their first record, Bamnan and Slivercork,
C) and although people were charmed by Trials‘ soft-rock Fleetwood Mac sound, it’s not like anyone wanted the band to revisit that territory.
For the most part, it seems like The Courage of Others has been critically well-received, so Midlake probably isn’t sweating that Pitchfork review too much.
In other (slightly more random) news, I bought Jose Gonzalez‘s In Our Nature. I’ve been haunted by his cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” ever since I heard it played over the closing scenes of a Friday Night Lights episode. It’s a perfect “closing scenes” kind of song, and I like to listen to it just before bed; the finality is a great way to wrap up the day.
(right-click) Jose Gonzalez — “Teardrop”
And filed under Things I Didn’t Know I’d Like: Charlotte Gainsbourg‘s IRM. I listened to the collection once through on lala, and was completely charmed by it. That shouldn’t be any kind of surprise, though, considering how much I like Beck (who wrote and produced). As soon as my bank account recovers from last week’s iTunes and Waterloo binge, I’ll have to add it to the collection.
Whew. Sorry for the info dump — hopefully the next entries will be more focused. Don’t forget that Yeasayer‘s new album, Odd Blood comes out tomorrow! I know it leaked a while ago, but I’ve remained mostly unspoiled. In the meantime, WHO DAT!