Sunday, July 27, 2008

Album Review: Elbow - The Seldom Seen Kid

The opening track “Starlings” off of Elbow’s most recent LP perfectly foreshadows the greatness to ensue on one of 2008’s best releases so far. The first 15 seconds begin with a “Day in the Life” accumulation of noise that builds until abruptly halting, only to make way for a gentle, lulling harmony that draws you in to an unknown and unpredictable sonic territory. The song continues to cycle through a bewildering series of building, exploding with horns, and careening strings.

The sound of Manchester’s Elbow can be loosely compared to the dream rock of bands like Doves or Travis, even at times Sigur Ros. But limiting them to just these contemporaries wouldn’t do them justice. One of the main contributors to their unique sound is Guy Garvey, who leads the band with his majestic, Peter Gabriel-esque vocals. His voice leads the way throughout the wondrously diverse soundscapes as if a guiding light shining a path for us to follow. The variety of musical territory explored is breathtaking, ranging from delicately sweeping arrangements (“Mirrorball”) to more crunchy, haunting experiences (“Grounds For Divorce”).

The album is rare in its faultless execution from beginning to end, with a constant draw for the listener as if exploring a series of dreams and not wanting to wake up. Highlights include the cathartic “The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver” and the beautiful, almost heavenly “Weather To Fly”. Despite the bands poor name choice, Garvey and his party make no missteps on their epic fourth LP.

Key Tracks:

The Bones of You

The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver

One Day Like This

Final Verdict: 9.3

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Album Review: Coldplay - Viva La Vida or Death And All His Friends

It's apparent from the very first track of their newest offering that this ain't gonna be your typical Coldplay album. What this track also tells you is how heavily Brian Eno's signature sound will permeate through the LP. At this point, Eno has been credited for producing some of rock's greatest offerings from some of its greatest bands, including U2's legendary
The Joshua Tree and Talking Heads insanely creative Remain In Light.

Now it's Coldplay's turn for a bit of the Eno touch. So of course he has pushed the band towards the idea of new instrumentation and sound. Up until this album, Chris Martin had rarely felt safe wandering too far away from his harmless piano playing and empathetic, soprano vocals. However, here the band often generates a more raw sound, with tracks such as "Lost!" and "Violet Hill" sharing a crunchy, forceful tone. Of course, there is still plenty of room for more lighthearted affairs, such as the delightfully catchy "Strawberry Swing" and the swirling epic "Lovers In Japan/Reign of Love". However, the band has taken noticeable step towards a completely new mentality towards the final product that they want to deliver.

The band aims high and as ambitious as ever to try to create something that they hope will completely make the listener spellbound in sonic glory from start to finish. There really aren't any bad tracks on this album, only a couple that fail to deliver the full aural blowout that the band is hoping to maintain ("Cemetaries of London", "Yes"). However, in the end, this is certainly Coldplay's greatest offering to date, and shows that even the most universally successf
ul bands in the world is still willing to take risks with their music, which is always reassuring.

Key Tracks:
Violet Hill
Death and All His Friends

Final Verdict: 8.8

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Concert Review: Spoon @ Prospect Park Bandshell, Brooklyn (7/15/08)

Around 9pm on a clear, peaceful summer evening in Brooklyn, the four members of Spoon walked onto the Prospect Park Bandshell stage to kick off what would be one of the most thrilling sets I've ever seen. Wisely, they decided to ease into their performance with the swaggering "They Never Got You" off of their lauded 2003 LP Gimme Fiction, which served as a good taste of the band's winning formula for both fans and new listeners. The band then erupted into barrage of much loved new and old material, unsurprisingly playing the majority of tracks from their (future classic) 2007 release Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.

Before the show, I had heard one of my trustworthy friends shrug off a Spoon gig they had seen as being somewhat lackluster. This was actually probably a good thing for me to hear, as it set me up to expect nothing that would compare to the raw, kinetic power of their album library. So when Spoon went on to play their second song "My Mathematical Mind", the possibility of a mediocre review of the show was vaporized, drifting away with the rest of the smoke machine generated fog lifting off the stage.

Britt Daniel, the singer/songerwriter and lead guitarist of Spoon is obviously the centerpiece of the band's sound, as well as the epicenter of its tremendous force. Part of the satisfaction that comes with the way that he plays is his incredible way of evoking a bottled-up energy through both his abrasive guitar attacks and his straining yet sometimes tempered vocals. The band is known for its very economical use of sound and instrumentation, which sets up a perfect barrier for Daniel to burst through with his angst-filled performance tendencies.

And of course, one of the real unexpected treats for me was their choice for their grand finale. After the first three encore songs, I had no idea how Daniel and his crew were going to top themselves after already leaving such a firm sonic stamp on the fan's ears. However, all was fulfilled when they dove into a cover of the Stones' classic "Rocks Off", featuring a three part horn section and, once again, Britt Daniel's explosive play style. All in all, Spoon smothered all doubts I had of their live capabilities, giving me and the rest of the crowd even more reason to believe that New York City is truly THE music mecca of the world, and that Spoon is a very solid contributor to this.

Spoon covering The Rolling Stones' "Rocks Off"