Tuesday, December 13, 2005

 

Top X Part II

Bright Eyes: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning Funny to see how critics shoved Conor Oberst from "the next Bob Dylan" status to "not on my top ten list, dude" this year. It's not his fault that the songs are only very good rather than downright classic, is it? Yes, some of the prose can be a little purple but when a young song writer has the good sense (and balls) to invite Emmylou Harris to do background vocals you have to give him some credit. And when he backs the invitation up with the singing, arranging and song writing chops to make her seem this perfectly placed you can't help but wonder if critics may have been better off wasting ink comparing Oberst to Gram Parsons. I'm Wide Awake it's morning is 45 minutes of solid, evocative song writing which suggests that Bright Eyes' best is yet to come. Kings of Leon: Aha Shake Heartbreak Prettyboys? Yes. Pretty frickin' great record? Also yes. Magnolia Electric Company: What Comes After the Blues Neil Young is a GOD and if he were alive today this is absolutely the kind of record he would make: fabulous country-inspired rock and roll full of swingblade country rock guitar peals and falsetto heartbreak. Wait, Neil Young is still alive? OK, nevermind. eels: Blinking Lights and Other Revelations The brain is a Pandora's box. There's too much in it, creativity, grief, confusion, knowledge; all spilling, sloshing and fighting for position. Blinking Lights and Other Revelations is the sound of an artist opening up the box and giving all the contents a good shake. Given that approach, not everything that falls out is going to be perfect (some of the instrumental tracks seem unnecessary) or tidy (a Tom Waits sample doesn't save Going Fetal) but the overall effect of being hit by 32 tracks of effusive, unbridled - and somewhat disorganized - creative power is hard to deny. It's also hard to deny that Blinking Lights is another one of those sad records I've seemed to surround myself with this year. Unlike the songs on The Mountain Goats' The Sunset Tree, eels tunes like Things the Children Should Know, Son of A Bitch and The Other Shoe bring a palpable, vivid type of world-weariness that may not be for the faint of heart (or the happy). This is the sound of real, fresh wounds celebrated and gently dressed with lush instrumentation and soaring vocals. Who knew bandages could sound so catchy? Fiona Apple: Extraordinary Machine Confession: I would never have heard this record if it weren't for all of the record company brouhaha surrounding its delay/release. Confession #2: The record company who wanted it remixed were probably dead right. This record is a mainstream career killer of the highest order, full of near-burlesque strings and horns, swirling piano roils, falsetto vocal trills and darkly comic musings on the price of fame and artistic credibility. Confession #3: I don't think killing a mainstream career is as horrible a thing as the people at the record company seem to.
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