Thursday, July 28, 2011

King of Anything

The short version:
Filter—The Very Best Things: 5/10
BT—These Hopeful Machines: 8/10
Janelle Monáe—The ArchAndroid: 6/10
Sara Bareilles—Kaleidoscope Heart: 7/10
Fauxliage—Fauxliage: 7/10
Amon Tobin—ISAM: 5/10
Lady Gaga—Born This Way: 7/10
Kidda—Going Up: 6/10
Ratatat—Classics: 6/10

I got Filter's best-of compilation The Very Best Things so I'd have a copy of Take a Picture and The Best Things, already having a copy of One from The X-Files: The Album.  There's not much else to be happy about on the album besides Hey Man Nice Shot which is also decent.  So it's got three great hits, a couple good songs, and some moderately awful crap.  I'd only recommend it if you're as anal as I am about having things on CD and not just MP3s.

BT's These Hopeful Machines turned out to be way better than I expected.  I guess it's a combination of house-techno and rock?  I'm not really down with my electronic music lingo.  I don't really consider myself much of a fan of house music—most of what I've heard sounds pretty lame and cheesy to me—but for the most part these tracks are interesting and sprawling and beautiful.  And long.  The shortest of my three favorites (Suddenly, Rose of Jericho, and Forget Me) is about eight minutes long.

Janelle Monáe's The ArchAndroid is some moderately weird-ass R&B.  It's what I would expect R&B music to sound like in Blade Runner or The Fifth Element.  In fact if you told me that Wondaland was playing in a club scene in some blockbuster sci-fi movie I would totally believe you.  A little ahead of Wondaland are my two favorites, Cold War and Oh, Maker, which are a little less bizarre than things like Make the Bus.  The album isn't all crazy, and at least I can't say it sounds like anything else.  I just can't quite tell if it's closer to genius or insanity.

I got Kaleidoscope Heart by Sara Bareilles specifically for King of Anything, which is gloriously perfect adult contemporary and absolutely the best song on any of these albums.  Watch the video, listen closely, and don't fall in love with it.  I dare you.  Uncharted is really great and Not Alone's not bad either.

So apparently Delerium had a side project with one of their favorite vocalists Leigh Nash from Sixpence None the Richer called Fauxliage, with one self-titled album.  It's no different in style than other Delerium albums of the 2000s except she's the only vocalist.  It's a bit bland though, and there aren't any truly excellent tracks.  All the World, Let It Go, and Someday the Wind are my favorites, but nothing stands out in comparison to the various Delerium and Conjure One CDs I already have.

Amon Tobin's latest album ISAM is a huge disappointment.  Tobin's no stranger to bizarre explorations of sound effects in his music, but the word "music" is beginning to be stretched a bit too far out of shape in this last CD.  Journeyman, Lost and Found, and Kitty Cat are the best tracks, but none are really all that great, and then there are just WTF moments like Surge that leave me scratching my head.

Oh, and maybe you heard: Lady Gaga has a new CD, Born This Way.  And it's relentlessly cheesy.  It seems like half the album has already been released as singles, and atypically, none of my favorites are among them.  The CD's not bad per se: Bloody Mary, Americano, and Government Hooker are all excellent and interesting and creative, for example.  But some of the new hits like Born This Way and Hair are like an entire gay pride parade condensed into audio form, and while they're generally catchy, they also kind of make me throw up in my mouth a little.  Not a good sign is that the special edition is 22 tracks and most of what's after track 8 (Bloody Mary) at best qualifies as "decent."

I picked up Kidda's album Going Up from a tipoff on Snow Patrol's Facebook page because the lead singer is the guest vocalist on the best track, Shining 1.  The rest of the CD is more peppy and less low-key than that one—Strong Together and VIP are both rather upbeat and fun.  The biggest problem is that those two tracks aren't much different than the remaining seven (ignoring a few terrible bonus remixes).  It's all heavily-sampled and repetitive electronica.  There's not enough variety to really keep my attention through the end.

I gave Ratatat another chance after not being too thrilled with their debut album, and from what I can tell their music has improved consistently and become more varied with each release.  Classics is their second CD and it's a lot more pleasurable to listen to.  It's still starting to try my patience by the end but there's nothing else like it that I'm aware of, and the more interesting beats let the guitar madness and solid songwriting shine though better than the last album.  The highlights are Lex, Montanita, and Loud Pipes.

After those I've got a lot more to check out: my music queue's pretty long again for now.  I've been listening to the Crysis 2 soundtrack which is also very good, and I've got a good variety of upcoming albums to keep me company.

(Sorry, no more album art for my music posts.  Blogger makes it a huge pain to format and Facebook ignores the formatting anyway.)