Saturday, July 4, 2009

Top Musical Let Downs of 2009 So Far

While thinking about this “best of the first half of 2009” business, I realized that, yes, a lot of great stuff has come out already this year, but I’ve also had a few musical let downs. Just knowing some of the following records were coming out I had already mentally prepared a spot for them in my best of list, so I was particularly crushed when they didn’t even merit honorable mention… I will bitch about them now.

God Help the Girl - God Help the Girl
When I read that this Stuart Murdoch project, “features an array of female vocalists, Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy, the members of Belle and Sebastian, and a 45-piece orchestra” I pretty much peed my pants. I even forgot that I really didn’t care for Belle & Sebastian’s last record. Now, there are a couple great songs - “Perfection as a Hipster” featuring Mr. Hannon and the title song (which reminds me a lot of Lightning Love) for starters. But the bulk of the record sounds like really boring singers doing uninspired covers of songs from Tracey Ullman’s early 80’s "girl group" record You Broke My Heart in 17 Places. Really, the best thing about God Help the Girl was it made me want to dig out and reappreciate You Broke My Heart In 17 Places.

PJ Harvey & John Parish – A Woman and a Man Walked By
I have loved Ms. Harvey for just about ever. Rid Of Me is one of my favorite albums of all time, and considering the recent trend of remastering and reissuing 90’s indie rock favorites, I’ve been keeping my fingers crossed that this gets the deluxe treatment. Now, the last time these two paired up in '96 it didn’t result in a perfect record, but it was still really good. “That Was My Veil” is still one of my favorite Harvey songs. But this time around I just couldn’t get into it. I don’t know – maybe I’m still holding a grudge because of White Chalk. But A Woman and a Man... just seems hard to digest and scattered.

Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications
Oh, my mid-to-late 90’s Brit Pop lovin' days… Jarvis Cocker could do no wrong and the songs “Disco 2000” and “Common People” could cure anything. Remember when he jumped onstage in '96 and drunkenly mocked Michael Jackson’s totally sanctimonious Bit Awards performance? That was awesome. But sadly the new record isn’t. I was excited to hear he was pairing up with Steve Albini for this record – it seemed like such a perfect mismatch – like Albini could be MC Skat Kat to Cocker’s Paula Abdul. But it just doesn’t seem to work that well. Cocker just comes across as a creepy old British dude who always wanted to be in a Roxy Music cover band. The last song on the album takes over eight minutes to prove the easy to verify fact that Cocker should probably not try to be Barry White. But really, when I heard Cocker sing the line, “I want to refrigerate this moment…” I knew it just wasn’t going to work out.

The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
This really wasn’t really a highly anticipated release for me – but I loved the song they did with David Byrne for the Dark Was the Night compilation, so that put them on my radar. Then Bitte Orca came out and everybody was losing their minds over it, so I decided I had to hear it. And really, it’s not a bad record, it just doesn’t make me lose my mind or even come close. It reminds me of The Silent Years meets School Of Language and really, I’d rather just listen to The Silent Years and School Of Language.

So there you have it. Happy Independence Day America. Now get off the internet and go blow up some prepacked, colorful explosives made in China to celebrate this joyous occasion.


Zach Curd said...

I've been pretty let down by most things Jarvis-related for a few years now, I didn't even know he had a record out! Sheesh. I'll have to check it out.

Re: Bitte Orca. I haven't bought it yet, and have only heard a few songs. That said, I'm blown away by Longstreth's vocal arrangements. They are seriously insane and put every one of his contemporaries to shame. You can always tell the people who went to music school. I'm also really loving the lyrics of "Stillness Is The Move." You don't really get that sort of soulful "directness" in indie-rock these days, and I'm all about that shit.

Long comment from someone who doesn't really comment on blogs!

Laura said...

I totally appreciate your comment Zach - and frankly, I was surprised by my lack of enthusiasm for Bitte Orca. As much as I dug so many aspects of the record as a whole, listening to it all the way through made me feel anxious and tired. But I'll be curious to know what you think of it once you hear it...

Jean-Luc Garbo said...

What a great idea for a list! I found myself pretty much agreeing with your articulated conclusions so thanks for not just slagging them off for kicks. You gave them a chance, but they didn't meet your expectations. I felt bad about the PJH being underwhelming, but I still dust it off because I love her. I loved this one line: "Cocker just comes across as a creepy old British dude who always wanted to be in a Roxy Music cover band." Ouch. Long live Pulp nonetheless.

Laura said...

Thanks Jean-Luc for recognizing that I wasn't "just slagging them off for kicks." Also for using the term, "slagging them off for kicks" because I'm totally stealing that. :)

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