Listen Up 2008, pt 4

The Stand Ins, Okkervil River

NPR-indie-country-folk-rock... That pretty much says it all.

First listen, nothing stood out and grabbed me. Everything pretty much just went by and went in one ear, out the other. Definitely music that you have to be in the right mood or head-space to listen to. Can't just turn it on and rock out — the kind of thing I'm most used to.

And as weird as it is to refer to it as "this kind of music" — "this kind of music" is something that I'm not all that used to listening to. It's the alternative music of today. Just outside the mainstream pop universe, bobbing along the outskirts in its own gravitational orbit. And not everyone knows it's out there, because they're not looking past all the space junk that's right outside the atmosphere — the shit that's just going to end up falling back down to Earth, anyway, and get burnt up upon reentry. To be flushed back down the toilet of the bullshit pop monoculture...

Vocals remind me of Jarvis Cocker. Music goes from folk to country to orchestral pop rock — just stuff that's all over the place. Musicians that know what they want to do and are going to do it without the strangulating pressure of conforming to brain-dead pop music. A sort of Confidence Of Youth is what I hear... There's truth in the music.

I heard that their first album was good when it came out, and the same people praised this one when it was released. Wanna go back and give The Stage Names a try. A good find that just kind of makes me go: "Yeah, this is pretty good." But it doesn't energize me and make me go: "Shit yeah! This is what I'm fucking talkin about!" Guess I'm just a slave to the Rawk...

Favorite Tracks: "Lost Coastlines", "Singer Songwriter", "Starry Stairs", "Pop Lie" and "On Tour With Zykos"...

Tone, Jeff Ament

Bass player from Pearl Jam finally does a solo album... I've never listened to his side project Three Fish, so I don't know how this album compares to that — my only point of reference is the songs he writes for Pearl Jam — and I can hear a couple of these tunes having the quality and construction of songs that band would play. As a matter of fact, I could see them playing one or two of these songs on tour with Jeff singing. Just sort of messing around and wanting to have fun — appreciating good music, wherever it comes from.

I wanted to get the CD of this when it first came out — available in a limited quantity from Pearl Jam's website and certain independent record stores. But I didn't have the money right away, and once I did, it was sold out. So I had to settle for the download...

Songs that are full-on grunge slow rock from the dawn of '89 or '90. Ballads that aren't folksy like is the trend today. One even sounds like it could have been a Mother Love Bone song.

Songs full of energy — coming from a different time and corner of influence. Over twenty years of being a professional musician shows in his song writing. The tone of this album is similar to Stone Gossard's solo album, Bayleaf. Classic/minimalist rock production. Not huge and processed like is standard with most bands today.

This is a very safe, comfortable album. It sounds like something I could have been listening to for ten years, or so. It's almost nostalgic... Warm, but with quirky experimentation, too.

And I feel like I'm not paying enough attention to the lyrics, because if Eddie Vedder were singing, I'd want to read the lyrics (but without the booklet from the CD I don't have, it's not gonna happen anyway). I would try to focus and listen and comprehend... So I feel like I'm kind of missing out, or at least I could be.

Overall, this is a good album. But it doesn't excite me. It doesn't make me squirm with enthusiasm for more plays. Not a definite Re-Listen, but it's something that I'll probably put on later to rediscover on a slow introspective day.

Favorite Tracks: "Give Me A Reason", "Bulldozer", "Say Goodbye", "The Only Cloud In The Sky" and "The Forest"...

Who Killed Amanda Palmer?, Amanda Palmer

This album came to my attention because comicbook writer Neil Gaiman was talking on his blog about how he is writing text for a forthcoming photography book that is supposed to be a companion to the album. What interested me in actually listening to this album, was when Gaiman joined in on the disgruntled cries of fowl play when her record label demand that she take out shots of her "fat" belly from the video for "Leeds United". Watched the video, and that hooked me into wanting to hear the whole thing.

Her voice is fascinating — low, accented British on certain sounds, rough and coarse. I don't know what kind of music The Dresden Dolls make normally, but I like the kind of stuff on this album. Noir Lounge. Dark Cabaret. Piano heavy without being piano-centric — and I'm not sure if that's the Ben Folds production influence, or if this is normally her instrument... Not too soft like other female piano music. But there are gentle parts in this album, too. But this mix is nice, and you aren't getting hammered over the head with the delicate tone of estrogen and sorrow.

Lots of songs about relationships with men, but not your standard songs of "woo". Nuanced mature complexity that you don't get in pop music, and I can tell that there is not much a difference in age between her and I...

This is good stuff. I know I'll listen to this again, most definitely. I always enjoy good music with female vocals.

Favorite Tracks: "Runs In The Family", "Leeds United", "Blake Says", "Have To Drive" and "Oasis"...

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