Thursday, October 18, 2007

Rock 'n' Roll Recap

Radiohead - In Rainbows (Radiohead, 2007) With all of the hype about the band self publishing their new album on a sliding pay scale, it's easy to forget that there's actually some music involved, and pretty good music at that. The edgy, paranoid techno-rock of their last couple of albums is continued here, with some flourishes of lush strings and acoustic guitars to break up the proceedings. My favorite track on the album is "Bodysnatchers" probably because it is the track that comes closest to straight ahead guitar driven rock and roll. The moody and acoustic Faust Arp takes an unusually skeletal structure and is quite successful. But the whole album is consistently good and really needs to be heard as one suite of music rather than as a group of individual tracks.

Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog (Sub Pop, 2007) Iron and Wine is the brainchild of one man, Sam Beam, who has gone from performing spooky and ethereal folk songs, to performing spooky and ethereal pop songs fleshed out with multi-tracked vocals and electric instruments. The songs are full of mystery and longing and Beam's voice is still as evocative as ever. All of the songs are good and consistently interesting, but the song "White Tooth Man" really stands out for me as an interesting departure from some of Beam's earlier music with the use of very insistent drumming and propulsive guitar. "House By the Sea" is fascinating as well for the introduction of some African rhythms which gives him a wider sound palette to work with. This is a very interesting and unusual album, I can't wait to hear what Beam's next move is.

Bruce Springsteen - Magic (Columbia, 2007) After listening to a lot of independently produced music of all genres it's quite a shock to hear the heavily produced and anthemic old-school sound of Bruce Springsteen. Part of Springsteen's genius has always been the shotgun marriage of the Jersey Shore bar bands to the Phil Spector Wall of Sound. That sound comes out loud and clear on the lead-off track "Radio Nowhere" with blasting overdubbed guitars and ominous vocal drone decrying the death of radio (thanks a lot, Clearchannel) and the compartmentalization of American culture in general. "Terry's Song" is a heartfelt tribute to a lost friend. "Livin' in the Future" amps up the bar band sound, recalling "Glory Days" in it's upbeat message. "Gypsy Biker" and "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" reprise familiar Springsteen exploration of the American myths of "the road" and adolescence. So, while there's nothing really new here, his formula is so rock solid and genuine, that it adds up to another fine album.

The Shepherd's Dog

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