I’m intent on gleefully destroying any cred I might have as an amateur music critic, and today’s post is going to go a long way toward that goal. I’m talking about the poor, neglected albums on my iPod that I never got around to hearing. Sometimes I get overzealous and download so much music at a time (or friends burn stuff for me) I can never absorb it all, or I get sidetracked by the one record I really love. In most cases, I listened to the first two songs, or flipped through them all and decided I wasn’t in the right headspace, but never came back to it later. It’s also possible that I’ve listened to many of these albums and that they just didn’t leave an impression on me.
So here they are, in alphabetical order:
- Aimee Mann — @#%&*! Smilers I used to love Aimee Mann, but found her quasi-concept album The Forgotten Arm to be a little toothless, despite a plot-line that revolved around a hard-living wrestler. It’s hard to say if she’s changed or if I have, but either way, I couldn’t muster up the enthusiasm to give this record a spin.
- Antony & the Johnsons — I am a Bird Now
- Augie March — Watch Me Disappear This Australian band’s second album Strange Bird is one of my absolute favorites, and their first and third releases were pretty good, too. But all it took was three songs from their latest, Watch Me Disappear, and the awful classic rock sound sent me running, never to return.
- Beirut — The Flying Club Cup
- Beulah — When Your Heartstrings Break Love Beulah, especially their final album, Yoko. I think I’ve listened to half of this one, but I’m not sure why it never stuck with me.
- Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago Shocking, I know. Everyone else hailed this as one of the greatest albums ever, but I don’t get it.
- Cat Power — The Greatest I like what I’ve heard from this, and Jukebox was tolerable, but I’m still a little traumatized from Chan Marshall’s exercises in dreariness on albums like Moon Pix and What Would the Community Think that I can’t stomach any more from her.
- Choir of Young Believers — This is for the Whites in Your Eyes This is also no longer true, because I listened to this album as I was writing this post. I was psyched for this after hearing the excellent single “Action/Reaction,” and although this is a very good sounding record on the production level, I wish it wasn’t so consistently downtempo.
- Destroyer — Destroyer’s Rubies I need to try this again when I’m not prone to being weirded out.
- Dirty Projectors — Rise Above
- The Felice Brothers — The Felice Brothers Dylan-y.
- The Flaming Lips — Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Love The Soft Bulletin, great album. And I really like the first song on Yoshimi… which is the only song I’ve ever heard.
- Hot Chip — Made in the Dark
- Loney, Dear — Loney, Noir I really want to like this band more than I actually do, because they’re Swedish, and because their song “Airport Surroundings” was really catchy, and I’ve known a few people to recommend Loney, Dear. But they’re like a less interesting version of Grandaddy. And Grandaddy aren’t that interesting to begin with.
- M. Ward — Transistor Radio I gave this album to my dad. Because that’s the kind of music my dad likes.
- A couple of albums by Mount Eerie that my friend gave me. This was part of a CD-swapping deluge and I just didn’t make it to these.
- Neko Case — Fox Confessor Brings the Flood I am thrilled about Middle Cyclone. Loved it. There’s really no excuse why I haven’t listened to this one yet, especially considering that most Case fans think it’s the gold standard.
- Of Montreal — Skeletal Lamping And I thought I’d be the last person to complain about too many pop hooks, but Kevin Barnes happily frolics over the line.
- Okkervil River — The Stage Names and The Stand Ins I have never been able to get into this band, and I feel so left out.
- The Pains of Being Pure At Heart Ugh.
- Radiohead — The Bends You were probably with me up until this point, and then you saw that I’ve never listened to the Most Favored Record by a Most Favored Band. Seriously. It’s not like I’ve never heard Radiohead before. I pretty much own all of their albums, but it’s a case where I started towards the end and worked my way backwards. Still working on it…
- The Raveonettes — Pretty in Black
- Regina Spektor — Like, all of them.
- Ruby Suns — Sea Lion Sorry, Joseph! My interest has been piqued for their upcoming album, so I will (re-)visit this soon.
- Rufus Wainwright — Release the Stars and Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall Rufus, I just don’t know where our relationship went so wrong. I think I liked the idea of you more than the drippy, melodramatic reality, but I have to admit that no one does that sort of thing better.
- Six Organs of Admittance — Shelter from the Ash
- Sondre Lerche — Two Way Monologue There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be interested in this guy: he’s Norwegian, overly twee, and I once listened to a sample of this many years ago in the New Orleans’ Virgin MegaStore (RIP) — and remember liking it. But it’s hard to get excited about something so palatable.
- A whole bunch of albums by Stina Nordenstam. So far I’ve only explored The World is Saved, but I like her a lot.
- Also, everything by the Sugarcubes.
- The Thermals — Now We Can See
- The Walkmen — You & Me I think I might have actually listened to this once, but just didn’t give it the attention it deserves. The Walkmen is one of those bands that intimidates me just a little because they have such unconventional song structures, and they seem wonderfully deranged — but in a way that demands love and attention.
Thar’s the list. Blast away!
This is the last of the wisdoms I have for you. Go off into the world and do with it what you will, and always remember that knowledge is power and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The sad part is that the list only contained eight entries. I guess breadth isn’t really my strong point — I’m a depth kind of girl. So, lookie:
Augie March — Strange Bird
This Australian band has barely made it stateside — only one album, 2007’s Moo, You Bloody Choir is available on iTunes, and Amazon turns up mostly imports — but their albums are worth finding if you have the means. Moo may have captured the critics’ attention, but it’s Strange Bird, the previous album, that wins my oddball beauty competition. Assembled of band members ranging from literature lovers to trained jazz players, one might expect them to sound like another quirky, lit-inspired group, The Decemberists; Augie March’s songs, however, often have a mythic quality — never falling into camp, but not taking themselves too seriously, either.
The melodies of Strange Bird are fuzzy and nostalgic. The slower songs sound like lullabies half-forgotten, or lost battle hymns, and the faster tracks often play like rowdy, drunken pub songs. But despite the traditional bent that the song-writing sometimes takes, they never seem cliche or overly familiar. The melodies are fairly linear, deceptively simple; complexity comes in the arrangement of the instruments, building tension by adding layer after layer, until the songs come to a dizzying finish. Songwriter/lead-singer Glenn Richards also has a pretty impressive voice that moves easily between whispers and wails — although, I can’t for the life of me discern the lyrics through his mumbly enunciation. They’re most assuredly literary.
Download: Augie March — The Vineyard
And Honorable Mention:
Mia Doi Todd — The Golden State
Far from essential, but at least listen to a track for that voice. That rich, haunted, and completely devastating voice that quieted a New Orleans bar when she opened for The Folk Implosion several years ago (she also sang on their track “Chained to the Moon,” from One Part Lullaby). Her lyrics are too “tortured art student” for my tastes, and the mournful melodies are such a match for the voice that listening to more than one song might send someone into a spiraling depression. But this is a pretty song.
Download: Mia Doi Todd — The Growing Pains