Saturday, August 02, 2008

365 Albums - Week 6

36. Common, Finding Forever - I'd never heard Common's music before this album. In fact, I'd only heard of him in passing, and my first real exposure to him at all was the movie Smokin' Aces. Of all things, his acting made me more curious about his music. I've since found out that he was also in American Gangster, but I don't recall what part he played.

Common is a rapper from Chicago, as evidenced on "Southside," which also features Kanye West. Other guest artists include Lily Allen on "Drivin' Me Wild," one of my favorite tracks on the album. I never would have thought that Lily Allen would appear on a rap album, but what do I know? It's a good song. He makes reference to his acting career on "Break My Heart:" "
She said 'you know I don't be datin' rappers'/I said 'I got my SAG card, baby I'm an actor.'" I just thought that was funny.

I really enjoyed my first real dose of Common. Maybe I'll seek out more of his stuff.

37. Warren Zevon, My Ride's Here
- Warren Zevon was one of those I'd heard about; heard basically declared a genius and a legend, in fact. But I'd never actually heard him for myself. His death a few years' back bought a lot of these kinds of tributes out, and I felt like I'd missed out on something for never hearing about him before then.

If I'm being completely honest, I didn't really find a whole lot here that was genius-level. "Sacrificial Lambs" is pretty monotonous, while I found "Basket Case" offensive ("
She's manic-depressive and schizoid, too/The friskiest psycho that I ever knew"). The only bright spots that I found were "Macgillycuddy's Reeks," an Irish-tinged song, and "Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song)," a tragicomic story about a hockey goon who dreamed of scoring just one goal.

I endured the rest of the songs, or I skipped over them partway through. If there's a better Zevon album out there, something perhaps more representative of his "genius," I'd love for someone to point me to it.

38. Franz Ferdinand, You Could Have It So Much Better - I'm really trying to rack my brain for the band to which I want to compare this group. I want to say some group from the 80s, as there's something in their sound, and in particular singer Alex Kapranos' voice, that reminds me of some of the pop bands that were big then. At any rate, Franz Ferdinand is a Scottish band employing elements of rock, punk, and pop. They're high-energy and irreverent, although it took me a second listen to really appreciate them.

39. Beanbag, Welladjusted - This was another one of those instances when the name of the band and the cover interested me enough to pick it up on a complete whim, since being picky for this doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe, just maybe, it would turn out similar to my happy discovery of Arctic Monkeys last week.

Not so much. Beanbag is a lower-key Christian metal outfit whom I found irritating around the middle of the album. It's not really the style of music that I dislike...when I'm in a mood, metal is what I want. And if there's some industrial elements mixed in, all the better. There are good Christian bands in this vein, too. I call Beanbag "lower-key" because whether it's the mixing or something else, the sound seems kind of empty, like they're missing something to round it out properly. At times the guitar sounds too tinny; at others it's the drums. If I'm listening to metal, I want that stuff to punch me in the stomach, but in a good way. This just punched me in the ears. In a bad way.

40. Kings of Leon, Because of the Times - Up until this point in the week, this whole project was beginning to feel like a drag; like I was forcing myself too much. It wasn't necessarily the selections that were weighing me down: Common and Franz Ferdinand were enjoyable enough.

So then I popped in this CD. I'd first read about Kings of Leon in Relix magazine, but had never actually heard their music. Within two minutes of the opening track, I discovered that there was and is hope for this project yet.

Kings of Leon are a pretty straightforward rock quartet made up of three brothers and a cousin. They skip around from a more gritty garage sound to more pensive ballads (still with a hard edge). At some points I hear Modest Mouse, at other times Dylan, at still other times a more punk sound. This album provided the relief and reassurance that I needed to keep going with this wacky 365 thing of mine. I'm sure that it won't be the last one that I'll need.

41. Wolfmother, Wolfmother - This album was released in 2006, but it sounds like it was released in 1973. It seriously sounds like a long-lost Zeppelin recording. They even wanted the cover to look the part: a serpentine sea goddess under lettering that they must have borrowed from the band Kansas. I first heard of this band in Relix...they even show up on a few samplers that came with different issues. But I somehow blocked out the fact that they are glaringly influenced by the blues-rock of the '70s.

The lyrics further add to the illusion. There are lots of references to The Haze and the city or landscape and lightning crashing and the ancients and whatever. Check out this gem on "Woman:" "Woman, you know you're a woman, you got to be a woman, I got the feeling of love." Now pretend that someone is singing it while doing their best imitation of Robert Plant in his prime.

None of this is especially bad. I did like this album, and they certainly aren't going anything less than full-out with their tribute to their influences. But at the same time, something about this kept me from taking them too seriously.

42. Solomon Burke, Don't Give Up on Me - Pretty much knowing nothing about Burke before picking this up, I've since learned that this is one of his latest albums. In fact, all of the songs on this album were contributed by other recognizable songwriters: Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, etc. When I learned this, I worried that this was a cover album. Fortunately, these songs were written specifically for Burke to use here.

I dig Burke's music now. Burke is a blues/soul pioneer, and I guess that this was his brief return to the mainstream. He's still got the voice, as evidenced on "Flesh and Blood." The Blind Boys of Alabama make an appearance on "None of Us Are Free," a call to unity and justice. Thanks to this initial exposure, I'll be sure to keep an eye out for some of Burke's more classic material.

Album of the Week:
Kings of Leon, Because of the Times
Song of the Week:
Solomon Burke, "None of Us Are Free"
Lyric of the Week: "You're the reason I'm leaving/and by leaving we don't stop living you know." - Franz Ferdinand, "You're the Reason I'm Leaving"