Monday, July 9, 2012

Living Things

The short version:
Deep Forest—Boheme: 4/10
Caravan Palace—Caravan Palace: 8/10
Morgan Page—In the Air: 7/10
Parov Stelar—Shine: 8/10
Parov Stelar—Coco: 9/10
Miike Snow—Miike Snow: 7/10
The Wanted—The Wanted: 6/10
Redlight King—Something for the Pain: 6/10
Dev—The Night the Sun Came Up: 6/10
Ellie Goulding—Lights: 8/10
Scissor Sisters—Magic Hour: 6/10
Wolfgang Gartner—Weekend in America: 6/10
Meg Myers—Daughter in the Choir: 5/10 (free download)
Linkin Park—Living Things: 8/10

The album Boheme by Deep Forest is not very good.  It's not terrible but it's nothing special; it's weird new age / world music and it has a bunch of people singing in crazy-ass languages so I guess I'm a racist now if I don't like it.  Some of the tracks are downright bizarre.  Then again, it's from 1995 and it would probably sound a bit different if they were making the same album today.  Cafe Europa, Boheme, and Katharina are the best tracks on the disc, and they're pretty decent, but there's not too much else to love on there.

The self-titled debut from Caravan Palace is pretty excellent though.  It's, like, modern gypsy music.  I don't have anything else like it and I don't know how else to describe it.  Check out Dragons, We Can Dance, and Suzy.  They're delightful.

Morgan Page's In the Air is a pretty good house-y dance CD.  The title track featuring Angela McCluskey, Sultan + Ned Shepard, and BT; Body Work featuring Tegan and Sara; and Gimme Plenty featuring Shana Halligan are all quite good, and there are several other pretty decent tracks.  Several of the songs on the CD seem pretty simple and just give me the impression that they didn't really require a lot of effort; whether or not it's true, it makes them a bit less enjoyable than they probably otherwise would be.  But it's all upbeat and danceable and still recommended.

I've recently discovered Parov Stelar thanks to Spotify, and I've picked up most of his albums, including Shine and Coco.  His music crosses a bunch of genres, but it seems pretty jazz-influenced, so I guess if I had to pick one I'd settle on "jazz fusion."  From Shine, Tango Muerte is easily one of the most amazing pieces of music I've heard so far this year.  War Inside and the title track are also particularly excellent.  From Coco, Catgroove is pretty amazing and catchy, and the title track is touching and slow; you'd be surprised to hear they're from the same album.  Fleur de Lille is pretty great too.  Unfortunately it's a bit expensive to get CD copies of his music in the United States; MP3s are readily available if you don't want to resort to importcds.com.

Miike Snow is the name of a band, not a person, and their first album is pretty fun alternative electro-pop.  Song for No One is infectious, and Black and Blue and Animal aren't far behind.  My main complaint about the CD is that a lot of the tracks rely heavily on a very repetitive droning note; out of my three favorites it's somewhat evident in Animal, but it's really noticeable in some of the other otherwise great tracks on the album like A Horse Is Not a Home [not a typo].

The Wanted is a boy band.  Let's just get that out of the way.  Anyway, their self-titled US debut is a decent pop CD.  It's not great, but it's not bad, and it's far better than I'd have expected had I just read "boy band."  I guess we're getting better at this boy band thing?  (It helps that their US debut is basically a best-of from their first two.)  The best tracks on the CD are Glad You Came, Chasing the Sun, and Warzone.  If you like pop music, I think they're worth a shot.  If you don't, well, then you're going to loathe this album.

Redlight King's Something for the Pain is hard rock.  Fandango sent me the track Comeback from the album for free when I bought my Avengers ticket, which was nice of them, and I guess it paid off for someone because I ended up buying the CD because of it, because it's a great single.  The title track is also rather good, and so's Underground.  The band didn't quite put itself on my "omg must hear their next album!" list but it's worth a listen if you like harder rock music.

The Night the Sun Came Up by Dev is a weird album.  Sometimes it's weird dance music, sometimes it's weird rap, and sometimes it's weird electronica.  The best track is Me—I don't know what to call it.  Alternative sung electronic hip-hop?  In the Dark is pleasant and mildly danceable.  Dancing Shoes is pretty.  I don't know who would like the CD—if you have a relatively high tolerance for weirdness in your music you might like this a lot.

Ellie Goulding's album Lights is rather good, though nothing on the CD reaches the fantastic self-titled single.  (Note that the more popular and slightly more awesome Bassnectar remix is not present on the album.)  Oddly, after opening with Lights, it leaves you with several mediocre tracks and then all of the best stuff isn't until the end of the album, like the two great closing tracks Salt Skin and Your Song.

Scissor Sisters' latest album Magic Hour is decent but not as good as their previous one.  After hearing their preview track Shady Love featuring Azealia Banks (wonderful video) I was really interested to see what they would come up with, but the rest of the album turned out to be pretty similar in style to their previous stuff and not nearly as wacky.  The opening track Baby Come Home (another fun video) and the lighter Inevitable are the two best, with Shady Love pulling up the rear, lame pun intended.  Worth picking up, but don't bother with the deluxe edition, because the bonus tracks are extremely bad.

Wolfgang Gartner's Weekend in America has one incredibly good track, Still My Baby featuring Omarion.  Forever featuring will.i.am and Shrunken Heads are great dance tracks too.  Most of the rest isn't that memorable and it's kind of loud and grating.  I'd probably just recommend just picking up those excellent singles unless you really love this style of dance music.

Meg Myers has a free EP, Daughter in the Choir; it's pretty good for free.  I like Adelaide, which is some pretty good angry-girl alt-rock, and Poison is decent.  Tennessee is fun and it's my new favorite anti-hipster song.

Finally, Linkin Park's latest CD Living Things is out, and I think it's quite pleasant.  It's evolutionary; no massive new changes to their sound or anything.  Their first single Burn It Down is fantastic, and Lost in the Echo is close behind, with the softer Roads Untraveled probably being my third-favorite.  (I think that Lies Greed Misery would be one of my favorites if it weren't so screamy.)


Aaaaaand that is what happens when you go on a Spotify-induced spending spree.  Still got about fifty albums to go...

Sunday, July 8, 2012

B-movie

The short version:
Hans Zimmer and Graham Preskett—The Da Vinci Code: 6/10Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard—Batman Begins: 7/10
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard—The Dark Knight: 7/10
Bear McCreary—SOCOM 4: 7/10
Bear McCreary—Zom-B Movie: 2/10


I've been listening to a lot of soundtracks and instrumental music recently.   It takes me a little while longer to get through them since the music necessarily falls into the background when I'm listening—some of these I've been going through for like half a year.

Hans Zimmer and Graham Preskett's score for The Da Vinci Code is decent.  There are several really atmospheric pieces, and quite a lot of use of choirs, so if choirs are your thing, then this would probably be a good CD for you.  I particularly like Fructus Gravis, Malleus Maleficarum, and Rose of Arimathea.

Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard's scores for Batman Begins and The Dark Knight are also pretty good, with the second movie's soundtrack being a little darker and weirder than that of the first movie, which had a little bit more of a traditional orchestral action movie soundtrack.  From Batman Begins I like Eptesicus, Antrozous, and Molossus.  From The Dark Knight I like Like a Dog Chasing Cars, Why So Serious?, and I'm Not a Hero.

Bear McCreary's soundtrack to the game SOCOM 4 is also pretty good.  It's similar to the most Asian-y parts of the Battlestar Galactica soundtracks.  It's a two-disc set, and plenty of the material is not particularly fantastic, but if the best tracks were chosen for a single-disc release you'd have a pretty killer CD, and I think it would probably have Clawhammer's Betrayal, Battle for Control, and Theme from SOCOM 4 on it.

His soundtrack to Zom-B Movie is terrible.  I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be terrible, given the name.  Everything about the packaging suggests to you "this CD is going to be terrible; you should not buy this."  I love Bear McCreary and even so I didn't want to buy it, but I entered a contest for a signed CD and I won it.  I guess I got what I paid for.  Cecil and Orson is decent, and Chillerama Main Title / Floyd's Bean Bag, and Ryan to the Rescue are okay.  Most of the rest is barely listenable.  I can't even find it online now... that's not encouraging.

Real faces

There's been a strange change in my dreams over the past couple months: people I know who show up in my dreams have their real faces.  This is definitely different from the way my dreams worked for my first thirty years, and it's strange to me that I would experience such a change so late.  Previously, people I know from my life would appear in my dreams, but their faces and physical characteristics would be different.  Someone I know as a tall, thin, black guy could be a short, fat, white guy with a completely different face in my dream, but I'd still immediately recognize that person in the dream and wouldn't realize that anything was strange until I woke up.  But now, suddenly, that doesn't happen anymore: people I know from reality are showing up in my dreams with their correct physical appearances—some people I've seen that day, some people I haven't seen in years.  Odd.