Friday, February 19, 2010

The Brutalist Bricks

Ted Leo has a new album coming out. You may have heard this, I don't know. In any case, this is of course essentially the highlight of my year. There's been a few major musical events so far this year. Certainly Yeasayer's new album was pretty exciting. Unlike everybody else in the world, I *loved* it. Some other good people put out stuff too. Vampire Weekend, Spoon, Beach House. 

But being that these aren't the types of albums that turn up in bargain bins and I'm too poor to afford the internet to download them, much less BUY them, I'm stuck with the one album I bought when I still had money (the aforementioned Odd Blood).

Being that I am so poor, it's basically a return to the last few decades of the last century before the advent of the internet. When music could only be obtained by taping it off the radio, stealing your friend's CD, or buying it. And since kids were just as poor then as I am now, they were pretty goddamn picky about what they bought. They didn't go out and purchase just any album. It had to be something special by somebody they really loved. Hence my position. The Spoons and the Beach Houses will have to wait. But a new Ted Leo album is an EVENT.

Ok, maybe not really an event. A new Jay-Z album, that's an event. But it's always a special occasion when I'm gonna drop money on music and that's exactly what I'm gonna do on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010.

After all, Ted Leo is worth it. Everything the man's ever put out has been great. He's one of the most solid, consistent rockers out there in fact. And he ROCKS. While most "indie rockers" these days write music to be comatose to (Antlers, I'm looking at you, and I actually LIKE you!), Ted is like 40 and still rocks out like punk never died. He's got a sensitive, ponderous side like any man of his age, starting to write those lyrics about mortality and the like as he is now officially middle aged, but he balances it out well enough that it's not a hindrance.

At this point you may be asking yourself what the point of this rambling blog post is. Surely I'm not just posting paragraph after paragraph just to fellate Ted Leo; there has to be something I'm taking forever to get at. Well, there's really not. I'm just excited.

This is actually the first album by Mr. Leo and his band the Pharmacists that I've bought new, mainly because I had a weird way of discovering him. Several years ago, this is actually going way back now, I knew this guy that loved Ted Leo. I fucking hated that guy and his incessant talking about Ted Leo made me vow never to listen to him.

On top of that, I had this weird image of Tommy Chong's character Leo from That 70's Show fronting the RX Bandits in my head that I just couldn't shake and it totally turned me off the band for absolutely no reason.

But slowly as I learned and listened to more, I eventually came to find songs like "Timorous Me" and "Me and Mia" to be amazingly well crafted pop rock songs. Such that it became obvious I could no longer just simply be apathetic to Ted Leo's existence and curse his band whenever they were brought up.

Being me, I procrastinated for ages, but eventually I did actually listen to his albums and I fell in love. The man is a genius, blending the influences of his youth from Fugazi to the Rude Boys into a catchy combination of no-bullshit punk, acoustic driven jangle pop, roots reggae, crunchy classic rock riffage, and powerful political criticism. It's anthemic and fun, it's secretly intelligent and openly emotionally driven, and it's some of my favorite music ever made.

So to say I'm excited to lay my money down on March 9th and buy The Brutalist Bricks is a goddamn understatement. I'm ecstatic as the day approaches. I really, really can't wait. The only bigger event on the horizon for me is finally getting my chance to see the Flaming Lips live the week after my 19th birthday. That's going to be a hell of a weekend. But for the next three months?

This'll do, Ted, this'll do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bjork - Telegram (1996)

As I sat alone in the freezing cold of my heaterless soon-to-be-former home and took yet another pointless GED practice test to tell me I still suck at math and can't memorize formulas to save my life, I put on this remix CD I grabbed out if the dollar bin at Half-Price Books, hoping Bjork's tender voice would warm me up. At times it served its purpose, but mostly the spacey ambience and heavy beats served to chill me even further. For every sweet, orchestral mix, there's one placing Bjork in the context of a rave, rolling and freaking out. And for every one of those, there's one that cancels out the warmth of Bjork's voice by placing her in a frighteningly claustrophobic, paranoid, and isolated place. Somewhere in the darkness of space, Bjork is in cold sweats and singing to soothe herself. That's almost appealing in a way. Unsettling though it may be, it still evokes a strong emotion and makes those tracks such as the Dillinja mix of "Cover Me" and the Mika Vainio remix of "Headphones" true stand-outs. On the more pleasant side of things, the Deodato mix of "Isobel" is upbeat and slightly tropical, like the memory of better times dancing at some sort of island gala before whatever led her to the situations of "Cover Me." Another highlight is the inclusion of both the original version and a remix of "I Miss You." The original, a bonus track tacked on the end, is an excellent darkly funky dance workout recalling more evil 80's Prince (think 1999, Sign o' the Times, and the Black Album) but with a 90's jungle edge to it. The remix casts it as an east coast hip hop jam, complete with a rap verse, reminding one of the wintery Illmatic or Liquid Swords tracks ("Represent" or "Cold World" for instance) that were recent of the time. Not normally being a fan of remix albums, I have to admit I was impressed by this one. Sure, Bjork is known for delivering on the remix album concept, but so are Nine Inch Nails and I personally feel like there's maybe five worthwhile tracks among their entire remix discography. So color me surprised that Bjork and her collaborators actually do deliver on this one, proving there was an actual point to remixing Post. Of course that point might just be that Bjork's voice sounds good over anything, but the music on this one doesn't indulge in any of the usual remix pitfalls that ruin albums like this which helps save it as well.