#24: YACHT – See Mystery Lights

I’m willing to bet that a large majority of the people who stumble upon this entry have never heard of the band YACHT (Yes, all caps intended).  I know I had no clue who they were a few months ago; then, after receiving a “best new music” designation from Pitchfork Media, I decided to check out their album, See Mystery Lights.

I could probably say that See Mystery Lights is the most fun album on my list. Although we live in a time where the college party scene is dominated by catchy pop tunes you hear on the radio, if you ever were to drunkenly meander to a “hipster” shindig, this is the album they would probably be dancing to.  That’s how I would describe this album; a party album.  Either that, or a summer album.  So, if you’re looking for music to play at a party, which happens to be in the summer, then you couldn’t go wrong with See Mystery Lights.

But that aside, I actually think this is a quality album; which is not something that you could always group with a dance/party album.  The production is tight, and lyrically, it’s actually pretty unique and interesting.

One side note about this album: there is one song that I absolutely cannot listen to on my computer.  The track “Psychic City (Voodoo City)” [see below] features an electronic effect that sounds identical to the noise in iChat when somebody initiates an IM with you.  You know, the sound that is similar to a bubble pop.  The first time I heard this track, I was listening to it on my Macbook, and wrongly thought that I was receiving messages.

I can recommend this album to anyone with any sort of interest in electronic music, or anybody who is looking for a fun (yet unique) dance/party album.

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Released: July 28, 2009

Metacritic: 70/100
Pitchfork: 8.5/10
Allmusic: 3.5/5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks:

Ring the Bell

Psychic City (Voodoo City)

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#25: The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love

I’ve been listening to The Decemberists for a few years now, and I’ve developed quite a liking for them.  I can safely say that Picaresque is one of my favorite albums of this decade, and I still regularly spin The Crane Wife.  I thoroughly enjoy all of their albums, though.  Then we reach The Hazards of Love.  The Hazards of Love is the fifth studio album released by The Decemberists to date; a rock opera centered around a woman named Margaret who falls in love with a shapeshifter, William. 

It really is a decent album overall, but I can’t say I like it anymore than any of their prior albums.  This album, while stays consistent with the unique song structures and interesting lyrics that The Decemberists are known for, doesn’t boast many of the catchy and melodic tracks that ultimately sparked my interest in the band.  I feel that this is a much darker album than any of their previous albums, and while I am not necessarily against this, I don’t think it works for The Decemberists.  I can respect the musical and songwriting merit of this record, but it didn’t do it for me.  That being said, I still definitely like it, and I’d recommend to anyone who is a fan of The Decemberists.  Just know that it will be very different from what you are used to.

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Released: March 24, 2009

Metacritic: 74 / 100
Pitchfork: 5.7 / 10
Allmusic: 4 / 5

My Last.fm

Recommended tracks:

The Hazards Of Love 1 (The Prettiest Whistles Won’t Wrestle the Thistles Undone)

The Rake’s Song

My Top 25 Albums of 2009 – An Introduction

Welcome to the return of my blog.  I’d like to apologize to all of my loyal readers for this extended absence (Yes, I realize I have no loyal readers, and even if I did, they probably abandoned this blog months ago).

This month, I plan on doing something a little different with my page.  If you know me personally, then you probably know that I am passionate about music (some of you may even refer to me as a “music snob”, to which I won’t deny).  I dedicate a lot of my free time listening to and searching for new artists/albums, and am quite eager to share the new music I have stumbled upon.  So without further ado, I am happy to announce my newest series; “My Top 25 Albums of 2009.”

For the month of December (and probably January as well, depending on how often I am able to update) I plan to write an individual entry for each album in my top 25. I can’t promise a full-fledged review for each album, but I will undoubtedly give my general thoughts and overall impression.  I planned on uploading a few of my favorite tracks from each album to give people a better idea, however this apparently costs money.  Having said that (I got you, Curb fans), I will try to find YouTube videos of these tracks to embed on the page, since I know that WordPress allows this.

I hope you all stay tuned to my blog this month, and am looking forward to sharing my list.

Also – Check out my Last.fm page to see my current music listening habits (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Dave Matthews Band – Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

whiskey_fullSeems like the more free time I have, the less willing I am to do blog entries.  I’ve been on summer break for the last 2 weeks,  and I’ve barely attempted a blog entry.  I figure I’d do an entry on one of my highest anticipated albums of 2009, Dave Matthews Band’s Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.

I could have done my review on Big Whiskey the day that it was released, but I wanted to wait until at least Friday, June 5th to do it.  On this day, I attended NBC’s Today Show to see DMB perform.  Took a 2 A.M. train to Manhattan, waited in line for almost 3 hours (in the rain), until I finally saw the band start performing at about 6:30 A.M.  They played 5 songs in total, and all of them at least twice.  It was pretty cool I have to say, seeing DMB play Ants Marching at 7 A.M.  Probably a once in a lifetime experience, and overall, I’m glad I made the trip.

I’ve been looking forward to Big Whiskey since 2006, the date of DMB’s first studio sessions after the disasterous Stand Up (2005). Stand Up, a feeble studio attempt,  put a bad taste in the mouths of many fans, and caused apprehension for the future of the band. DMB debuted a bunch of new songs in 2006 and 2007, and while I may have been excited in hindsight, I will admit that with the exception of “Shotgun”, none of the new songs gave me any hope for the future of the band.  The unexpected death of saxophonist LeRoi Moore in mid-2008 didn’t help my prejudgment either.  I truly thought this album, albeit most likely to better than the aforementioned Stand Up, was going to be another mediocre studio endeavor.

However I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King proves to be a return to greatness for the Dave Matthews Band.  Before I give my opinion on the full album, I will give a recap on my opinions for each song on the album:

 

Grux: The opening track of the album is essentially just a sax groove with some drums in the background.   There was no better way to open the album than a tribute to the late LeRoi Moore, though.  The jam culminates in a segue to the first actual song of the album, “Shake Me Like a Monkey.”

 
Shake Me Like a Monkey: This song sets the tone for the album to follow.  Energetic and horn-driven, I expect to see this open live shows in the near future.  Not one of my favorites on the album, but a decent song, nonetheless.

 
Funny the Way It Is: The song on the album that everyone has heard by now.  The first radio single is pretty much just that: a radio song.  It’s easily my least favorite song on the album, but I think it’s the strongest lead single since 1998’s “Don’t Drink the Water.”  I’m kind of annoyed that this has been opening shows lately, though.

 
Lying in the Hands of God: This is without a doubt the best song on the album.  It’s safe to say that this is the best-produced DMB studio song since the 90’s (unless you want to count the infamous Lillywhite Sessions).  Everything about this song works.  The music is incredible, featuring Tim Reynolds on the acoustic slide.  The lyrics are probably some of my favorite on the record, as well.  Probably one of my favorite parts of the entire record is the chorus of this song; “Save your sermons…” The vocal harmonies during this section are incredible.  Definitely a song I would recommend checking out if you’re into DMB.

 
Why I Am: Another tribute to the fallen LeRoi Moore, it reference’s Moore’s nickname “GrooGrux” several times in the lyrics. I first heard this song over a month before the album was released, as it was played live during their spring tour. While I really enjoyed the live performances of this song, I see it now as a pretty generic song.  One of my least favorites on the album, for sure.

 
Dive In: When I first heard this song, I wasn’t sure if was listening to “Karma Police” by Radiohead, or a Beatles song.  The chord progression during the verses is almost identical to Karma Police, yet the vocal melody sounds exactly like something off of The White Album.  At first listen, I really liked this song, but soon after I convinced myself that it was cheesy nonsense.  I’ve reverted to my initial opinion, and I actually really like this song now.  It’s so damn catchy, and I can definitely see it becoming a radio hit, especially in the summer months.

 
Spaceman: Here’s where the album really picks up.  Spaceman also was debuted live prior to the album’s release, and it was my favorite of the bunch.  I absolutely LOVE this song.  The added banjo of Danny Barnes to the studio cut makes this song one of my favorites on the entire album.  It has a classic DMB vibe to it, and pretty interesting lyrics.  Definitely recommended.

 
Squirm: This song is an absolute monster.  DMB has dabbled with the middle-eastern sounding tracks in the past (Minarets, Last Stop) and Squirm is another success in that genre. Probably my second favorite song on the album, it features some of Dave’s best lyrics in a very long time.  Absolutely make sure you check this one out.

 
Alligator Pie: Big Whiskey was largely recorded in New Orleans, Louisiana, and this track is an example of why Dave loves that city so much.  Unlike earlier New Orleans themed “swamp-rock” DMB songs (Louisiana Bayou, Cornbread), Alligator Pie is actually a good song.  At first it seemed very average to me, however my opinion has GREATLY changed on this song.  I now consider this one of the best tracks on the album.  The tempo-changes of the breakdowns are awesome, and this song probably features my favorite bridge of any of the Big Whiskey songs (“All the things we know and everything we hope for…”).   Great song.

 
Seven: Another song that debuted live before the album release.  When I heard the first live version of this track, I hated it.  When I heard the studio cut, I still hated it.  Now I consider it nearly top tier on the album.   This song has grown on me more than any song on the album.  Why the sudden change?  Who knows, but that’s the beauty of music.  I now respect this song from a musical standpoint; the unusual time signature, and especially the funky horn section.  Still think the lyrics could have used some work, but a great song regardless.

 
Time Bomb: “Time Bomb” was hyped a lot before the release of the album.  It’s a pretty interesting song; the song starts off quietly, gradually builds up, and culminates into a heavy, Pearl Jam-esque outro (hence the title “Time Bomb”).  After listening to a few live recordings of this song, I can safely say that this song is a beast live.  My only gripe with the song is that the intro guitar riff is neglected after the first minute.  This guitar section was shown to the fans in nearly every Big Whiskey promotional video, and I grew to love it.  Unfortunately I feel like there isn’t enough of this guitar riff included in the song.  Still an awesome song, anyway.

 
Baby Blue: This song, which features modified music from a different Dave Matthews song “Sister”, is obviously another song written about their late saxophonist.  I think both the music and lyrics of Baby Blue are superior to it’s Sister counterpart.  You can really hear the emotion and pain Dave was feeling when recording this song.  I’d probably place towards the middle of the album if I had to rank the songs.  That being said, I still think it’s a great song.

 
You and Me: The final track of the album, “You and Me”, I have mixed feelings on. I honestly can’t declare whether or not I like the song.  This is why I think it’s a pretty weak album closer (then again, I can’t imagine of the other songs closing the record).  I guess all I can do is continue listening to the song, and attempt to create a better opinion.  Sorry if that’s a mediocre account of this song, but I honestly have no significant opinions on it, other than it sounds like another Beatles influenced track.  You and Me does include a hidden track to close the record, which features another LeRoi Moore based jam.  I find it fitting that Moore both opens and closes the record, but unfortunately, the hidden track is nothing more than a small tribute.  It’s pretty forgettable in the long run.

Although I may like some tracks more than others, I can safely say that I like every track on this album at least a little.  I haven’t been able to say that about any Dave Matthews Band record this decade. Although I still think this album has nothing on the DMB records of the 90’s, I truly believe it is a great record. More importantly, the strong effort put forth by the band on this record is apparent.  Another thing that I haven’t seen in any DMB record this decade.  Stand Up seemed like a slap in the face to die hard fan base.  It was evident that they didn’t care about making a great record, and the resulting product was a disaster.  Big Whiskey is just the opposite of this.  I can tell that the band was serious about making a great record, and the passion is replicated in the songs.  I’m happy to announce that after years of waiting, Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King has restored my faith in the musical abilities of the Dave Matthews Band.

Terrell Owens on Twitter?!

It’s been almost two weeks, but I’m finally back with a new entry.  With the end of the semester approaching I’ve been very busy with a research paper and exams.  This delay was pretty much inevitable.  Oh well, anyway…

With the recent upsurge of the micro-blogging service known as Twitter (everyone knows what it is by now), many celebrities have made accounts of their own.  I thought this was pretty cool, albeit, often times it isn’t truly the celebrity who’s behind the account.  On my own Twitter account (yes, I have one) I have followed celebrities such as Dave Matthews, Shaq, Tina Fey (don’t really think it’s her account though) and Adam Carolla.  While I enjoy reading what these celebrities have to say, it gets kind of old after a while, because in the end, I truly don’t care.  However, I recently found out that Terrell Owens of the Buffalo Bills has an account of his own (and yes, it has been confirmed to be him).  My intial reaction to this was nothing less than amusement.  I personally think Terrell Owens, although an idiot, is one of the most hilarious figures in sports.  Everything the guy does seems to amuse me; whether it’s getting tackled on the Dallas Cowboy mid-field logo, or crying on live TV, the guy is fantastic.  His twitter doesn’t disappoint either:

“neither ws i, blame the OC & romo!! but i’m happy 2 b where i am but i miss the other guys tht were & r true teammates!!”

But Terrell, that’s your (former) quarterback, your teammate.  How can ya blame Tony?!?

Also, you gotta love the grammar that T.O. uses here; the lack of a’s in “was” and “that.”  The shortening of “be” to “b”.  I know Twitter limits you to 140 characters but I don’t think it’ll kill him to write in English.

I plan to stay posted to T.O.’s Twitter.  It’s easily the best (and funniest) Celeb-Twitter I’ve come across thus far.

If you’re interested in visiting my Twitter (shameless plug), check it out http://twitter.com/keithheiman.  Not much there, but maybe I’ll do more with it in the future.

Madden NFL 10

Of all the off season NFL events, one of the most exciting (in my mind, at least) is the announcing of the cover athlete for Madden NFL.  Towards the end of the NFL season, and after the Super Bowl, there’s always great discussion of who will grace the historic cover.  This year, to nobody’s surprise, the cover will feature Arizona Cardinal WR Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald, who played a key role in the Cardinal’s Super Bowl campaign, will not be alone on the cover however.  He will be joined by Pittsburgh Steeler Safety Troy Polamalu.  This marks the first time in Madden cover history that two players will be featured on the cover.

Perhaps the most noteworthy aspect of the Madden cover, is the infamous “Madden curse.”  Since the game began featuring athletes on the cover (as opposed to John Madden, himself) certain players have undergone a performance downgrade, whether it be from injury, or just poor playing.  A notable example of this is Shaun Alexander (Madden 2007) , the reigning league MVP who faced an injury the following season causing him to miss several starts.  I personally do not believe in this curse, but you cannot deny the presence of it.  It’s nothing more than a coincidence in my eyes, but one has to question;  will Fitzgerald and Polamalu suffer in 2009?  These guys are both at the top of their game, and I expect it to continue in 2009.  Maybe this will finally end some of the Madden curse nonsense.

The concept of this cover is really cool in my opinion.  Featuring two elite players from the most recent Super Bowl is a great idea, and I’m curious if it will be the new formula for the Madden cover.  If this is so, what would happen if the Steelers were to make the Super Bowl again? (which is very possible; I make no mention of the Cardinals, well, because it’s just not gonna happen).  Would they really put another Steeler on the cover again?  I think it’d be silly to have a Steeler on the cover two years in a row.  Well, if this formula does hold true, I’m really pulling for an Eli Manning Madden NFL 11 cover…

*Shout out to my friend Mike (Gis) for this blog idea…

Beirut – The Flying Club Cup

Flying Club CupDisclaimer:  I’m not a professional music reviewer, so if you want a legitimate review of this album, I’d recommend checking out Pitchfork or Metacritc.  I’m here mainly to try and spread some of the new music that I’ve discovered recently.

I don’t consider myself a music expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I like to think that I have a pretty solid taste. Every so often I’ll come across an album that I find myself replaying over days, and even weeks. However, this time the album I’ve discovered is in a genre that I never would have expected: Eastern European / Balkan folk rock. The album in question:  The Flying Club Cup by Beirut.

Beirut began as the solo project of  songwriter Zachary Condon, but has since turned into a band led by Condon.   Currently the band has released a total of  4 EPs (I’ve yet to hear any of these, but they’ve all been pretty well received)  and 2 albums, Gulag Orkestar (2006) and the aforementioned The Flying Club Cup (2007).  I’ve listened to both of these albums, and while I enjoyed both, the latter was far more interesting in my mind.

What really stands out about this album is the build-up and layering of most of the tracks.  Nantes, the opening track, begins with a simple 3-chord organ progression.  But before you know it, there’s an array of different melodies gradually being added to the song.  You’ll be hearing the same 3-chord progression, but now with accordions, french horns, strings, percussion, and they’re all behind Condon’s outstanding vocals.   And it just sounds good. That’s really the only way I’m capable of describing it.  It’s good-sounding. Very pleasant, indeed.

I urge you to give this album a shot, even if you don’t think you’re into this type of music.  Hell, I definitely didn’t think I’d be ever be listening to Eastern European music in my lifetime.  I’m glad I stumbled upon this album though;  it’ll definitely be in heavy rotation for the forseeable future.

Check out these videos, and more at The Flying Club Cup link above.