July: 13 Album Reviews


30 Jul 2007, 19:20

New format for reviews, even though I’m pretty sure nobody reads these anyway – I can indulge my inner control freak if I want to, damnit. I added a “kept” and “rating” function, just based off my iTunes process. “Kept” is, of course, the percentage of tracks I didn’t delete. “Rating” is a 1-4 scale; 1 is deleted tracks, 4 is heavy rotation. This still isn’t wholly accurate – I am hoping to move to a 5-star rating system soon, that will let me differentiate the “okay if I’m in the mood for it/unobjectionable” from the “interesting – let’s see if it grows on me” a little more effectively. The reviews are still a better indicator of what I really think about the albums, natch.

CaesarsPaper Tigers
Left ratings sheet at home.
WTF, GraceNote – this is not electronica. It’s indie rock. I could have lived without this album – I bought it because I really liked the two songs I’d heard, and it turns out I really liked those two songs, and some of the others are okay. Still, there are enough hooks that I’m pretty sure some of the songs I kept will grow on me, and none of it was objectionable. Nice cheerful music for summer driving or house cleaning.

The FingerWe Are Fuck You/Punk's Dead Let's Fuck
Can't find rating sheet for this either, damnit.
Ryan Adams, you weirdo. This is his and Jesse Malin’s random hardcore punk rock album, and it’s great classic punk rock – lots of screaming, short loud tracks, angry lyrics, and thrashy drums and guitar. Most of it sounds a lot like the rest of it. I don’t need a lot of music like this (see: heterogeneity comment) but I like to have some, and this is as good as any. The Finger is a hilarious track that makes me giggle every time I hear it, and one or two others can make me pogo a bit in my seat.

The KillersSam's Town
Kept: 100% Rating: 2.75/4
I know someone who had this on repeat for half a year. I feel no such temptation, but I liked it a lot more than I expected to as a whole album. One of the few albums where I kept all the songs, including the intro and outro; the singer’s voice is a little odd, but we who listen to Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen cannot really throw stones about such things. It reminds me of Springsteen meets Whiskeytown meets Fall Out Boy, though that last may possibly be only because I acquired the first Killers songs I heard around the same time as I bought my first Fall Out Boy album. Unlike many albums, which I listen to, weed out, rate, and put into general rotation with everything else, I have specifically sought this out to re-listen to it several times as a full album.

Kept: 82% Rating: 2.27/4
Okay, I definitely need to start buying CDs based only on having heard and liked tracks, rather than based on Last.fm recommendations. This was boring. Possibly because I was expecting it to be smarter; it wasn’t any worse than The Finger’s album, which I liked, and I went into that expecting what I got. Morningwood was a sort of classic punk album with unexceptional/unimpressive lyrics (though the lyrics to Babysitter were so fucking creepy I deleted it instantly – somehow, pedophilia jokes really lose all humor potential once one becomes a parent) and I’ll keep it in the “in the mood” file for when I need screamy punk rock.

Mr. LifEmergency Rations
Kept: 88% Rating: 2.63/4
Every time I listened to the “indie hip-hop” tag radio on last.fm I put it in the background and then toggled up to take a look at the artist when I heard something that attracted my attention. And Mr. Lif kept attracting it. Really, half of the Def Jux label did, but right now I am buying CDs used, and this one was cheap (hush, I will buy other Def Jux albums new to support the label, okay?) so it came first. I liked it; it’s a short album, and it tells a story, so listening to it in my usual piecemeal shuffled way is not as awesome as it might be, but whatever. I like the politics, I like the flow, and the only track I didn’t keep was the intro, which is not a musical track.

Nitin SawnheyBeyond Skin
Kept: 17%/92% (home/office) Rating: n/a
Gorgeous kind of downtempo political electronica that tends to leave me cold. Interesting artist, and my partner (who is a huge fan of downtempo electronica) says it’s really good. From my perspective, there were two good tracks – The Pilgrim (Spek, who is the featured artist on this track, has a flow that reminds me of Doodlebug from Digable Planets); and The Conference, which is really funny if you are a white-collar worker who ever has to facilitate meetings or conference calls; it’s an aural representation of exactly how that feels. (I think it was probably about something else, but whatever. Subjectivity.) I kept the whole album on my work computer (I work to downtempo electronica a lot) and only those two songs at home.

No DoubtRock Steady
Kept: 77% Rating: 1.77/4
Schizoid album, torn between one or two pieces that are more old-school reggae-influenced ska than even most older No Doubt stuff and stuff that sounds like new Gwen Stefani (which, snore.) A few good tracks and a lot of forgettable stuff that’s mainly one or two lines repeated over and over and over to a catchy beat. I couldn’t believe we didn’t have all the No Doubt albums, as my partner and I both like them – when I mentioned this to him he said, “Oh, yeah, I used to own that too, but it sucked.” That’s a bit harsh, but not totally inaccurate; Rock Steady is no Tragic Kingdom.

Queen LatifahBlack Reign
Kept: 100% Rating: 2.93/4
Re-purchase. When I left cassettes behind I didn’t replace this, and now that I have it again I can’t fathom why I didn’t get the CD long ago. Confident, feminist hip-hop that projects an attitude I love along with just fucking awesome music – I remember I spent a whole summer (1993?) where this didn’t leave the tape player in my car. Even though I love almost every song on this album, Coochie Bang gives me that “oh my god Issue Song” twitch – even if I agree with the take on the issue, Issue Songs always feel a little too much like an after-school special for me to fully enjoy them. That doesn’t mean I don’t sing along – I just try not to think about it when I do.

Mark RonsonHere Comes the Fuzz
Kept: 46% Rating: 1.53/4
I forgot I'd bought this until I found the rating sheet just now, which should tell you how excited I was about it. Should have bought Version, as that was the album that kept popping up on Last.fm with the songs I liked, but I read the Amazon reviews and they were stronger for this one. Whatever, Amazon people; your taste is not my taste. Half of this album left me cold and the other half was okay. I will still buy Version, and I still enjoy listening to his Authentic Shit podcast (thanks, illya23, for the link to that) every week, but this was not the album for me at all.

The SoundsLiving in America
Kept: 92% Rating: 2.5/4
Every time I listen to this I love it a little more. Maja Ivarsson’s voice woos me one moment and grates on me the next, but that works really well for this – it’s a little bit pop, a little bit rock, and a little bit punk, and it makes me want to bop in my car seat and sing along. I will be buying another Sounds album very soon, I think, and this one is slowly creeping up in rotation. As a matter of fact, I have Seven Days a Week stuck in my head right now. Also, have you ever seen pictures of Maja? Yes, yes, I really am that shallow. Witness the fact that my main thought about the entire 8-hour broadcast of the LiveEarth concerts was “Wow, Madonna’s ass looks fantastic.” \o/ Anyhow, the only song on this I didn’t keep was S.O.U.N.D.S., because frankly, songs that involve spelling are boring.

The StreetsOriginal Pirate Material
Left ratings sheet at home.
British … indie hip-hop? GraceNote says electronica, but I think not. Refreshingly different, but very indicative of a problem I’m having listening to some hip-hop. When the rhymes or the emphasis fall off the beat, it makes me wince. “It doesn’t scan!” something inside me screams. I am given to understand that intentionally moving the emphasis off the beat is one of the innovations of modern hip-hop, and I think I can go with it in a lot of contexts – when it’s done well it can be like the poetry of Kay Ryan, whose unique internal rhyming and syncopation has made her my favorite living poet. The Streets, however, are using really trite rhymes and rhyme schemes on some tracks that make me expect the pat dadadadaDUM, dadadadaDUM meter of doggerel and when I don’t get it it feels “off” to me – and not in an Ogden Nash kind of way, either. Also there is an incorrect use of the apostrophe in two of their song titles and I am an elitist bitch who gets bothered by shit like that. Even if it was intentional. I will either end up hating this album entirely or really liking it, and I can’t tell which yet.

Throwing MusesHouse Tornado
Kept: 100% Rating: 2.36/4
A decent, classic Muses album – I’m surprised I didn’t own it, but an ex-girlfriend had a copy and I probably didn’t buy it after we broke up because of the icky memories. That was over a decade ago now, so, hey, those memories are gone, and I liked the album. It hasn’t had time to grow on me like Muses albums do, but Saving Grace is an instantly amazing track, and there were a few others that stood out as well. Currently probably my least favorite Muses album, but as I say, they tend to grow on me over time.

Yeah Yeah YeahsShow Your Bones
Kept: 100% Rating: 2.9/4
Good stuff. I grew progressively less interested in the songs as the album went on, but still liked them a lot. I’ve put quite a few tracks into heavy rotation, including Gold Lion. It seems a little odd for someone who loves the Throwing Muses as much as I do to complain about lyrical abstraction, but I seriously have no fucking idea what most of these songs are about, like, none. It’s a tough line to walk (I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately) between abstraction and the personal; I love Regina Spektor in part because her lyrics are intense without being so…personally confessional that they make me uncomfortable. Singer-songwriters like Tori Amos and Liz Phair trigger my embarrassment squick with the kind of raw emotion they’re flinging around; that sort of thing needs to be layered behind levels of abstraction or distance for me to fall in love with it. (HI. MY ISSUES. LET ME SHOW YOU THEM.) Anyway, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs go a leetle too far in the other direction; I had to look up “pieu” from one of their lyrics (at least, that’s how it was spelled on the lyrics site I was using…), and still couldn’t figure out what the hell it was and thence what the song is about. Still, good music, I like it quite a bit.

Also, could the Last.fm interface for journal writing be any more user-unfriendly? Jesus. I really don’t need to return to the start of my tl;dr entries every time I insert a tag, thanks. And WTF flat brackets and non-standard html coding. Grrrr.


  • heyadamo

    Nice reviews. I own about half the ones on your lists, and IMO your analysis is pretty fair. House Tornado to me suffers due to the dated 80s production, but otherwise, yeah. That Morningwood album was pretty blah to my ears too. Well done -- will look forward to reading more.

    31 Jul 2007, 4:52
  • nicebutnubbly

    Hey, thanks. I know very little about music, so nuances of production totally escape me, and I always wonder why I'm reviewing things at all, you know, since I have such a small knowledge base. But I'm glad you enjoyed - I checked out your profile, and your taste is interesting and eclectic - I'll give your radio station a listen, for sure.

    31 Jul 2007, 17:10
  • heyadamo

    I am always happily willing to hear someone complimenting me on my musical taste. :-) Hope you enjoy my radio station, and if there's any artists or albums you see that you have questions or comments about, hey, you know where to find me... and hey, anyone who has freaking STRONG BAD in their top 10 songs is coolsville by me.

    1 Ago 2007, 5:01
  • nicebutnubbly

    Nothing like burninating some thatched roof cottages to get you through a bad day, you know? Listened to your radio station this morning and enjoyed greatly, ta. Will no doubt return to it often. Curious, though, how the hell can you have over 10,000 plays and over 400 by your favorite artists and only 16 or so for your top songs? Do you never, ever listen to a song repeatedly? I mean, I have a few mixes I work out to, and after a month or two those songs all show up in my top, because I listen to them at least 3x a week. Are you on shuffle all the time, or what?

    1 Ago 2007, 21:54
  • heyadamo

    I am either listening to an album, start to finish, or on shuffle. Since my library is currently teeming with almost 13,000 tracks, tracks tend not to repeat much. Also, with most of my top 10 artists, I have pretty much their whole catalog, so there's a lot of room to cover. I don't have a mix per se. Not sure why.

    2 Ago 2007, 4:42
  • kyuuketsukirui

    LOL! I can't believe your ratings have like .63 and stuff. XD I'm glad you liked Sam's Town! I listen to it all the time as a whole still (right now the whole thing is in rotation with some other albums and individual tracks on a mix playlist), especially in the car. In fact, I've just been listening to it in the car again this week and am all filled with love again. I don't know, man. I can't think of many albums that make me feel like that, not even their first album (which I like, but doesn't compare by a longshot).

    4 Ago 2007, 9:20
  • nicebutnubbly

    Still working on the accuracy of the ratings system - anything I don't keep gets a 1, when it should more properly get a 0, and since it's only a 4-point system, almost everything falls between 2 and 3 points. Decimal places ensure accuracy! It has nothing to do with me being totally anal-retentive! Or with recommender's disease... I think I'll switch to a 5-point format and start giving my non-keepers zeroes. Next month.

    4 Ago 2007, 15:25
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