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November 05, 2002 - Image 7

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The Michigan Daily, 2002-11-05

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ART S

The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 5, 2002 - 7

BREAKING

RECORDS

REVIEWS OF THE MUSIC INDUSTRY'S NEW RELEASES

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
You CAN PLAY THESE
SONGS WITH CHORDS
BARSUK RECORDS
By Sean Dailey
For the Daily
Death Cab for Cutie, in recent
years, has been widely heralded as
one of indie's most important band,
and for good reason. Their blend of
Built to Spill-style arrangements and
laid back, almost Belle and Sebastian
storytelling (minus the Belle) is
instantly gripping. Their latest release,
You Can Play These Songs With
Chords, is an interesting look into the
past of this great band.
Chords is really two albums in one.
The first eight tracks are a re-release
of the band's first recording, You Can
Play These Songs With
Chords, distributed on x ?>
cassette back in 1997. {
Recorded on an eight-h
track by future Death
Cab founders Ben Gib-
bard and Chris Walla,
these tracks are definite-
ly low-fi. Five of these
tracks were later re-
recorded for the band's
first LP, Something About Airplanes.
Gibbard's voice, void any of digital
studio polishing save reverb, still con-
tains his trademark saccharine; he's
both calming and angry at the same
time. Lyrics like "Think I'm drunk
enough to drive you home now / I'll
keep my mouth keep shut under lock
and key, that's rusted firm, no lie," on
"Champagne from a Paper Cup" are
the typical fare for Death Cab for
Cutie, known for their bitter, engross-
ing songs about remorse and lost love.
Most of the first half of Chords fol-
lows the tried and true "sad & slow"
pattern, except for the tempo-defying
"That's Incentive," which could have
easily been a b-side from a Modest
MARK FARINA
MUSHROOM JAZZ 4
OM RECORDS
By Jeremy Kressmann
Daily Arts Writer
Portabella, Shiitake and Jazz are all
types of mushrooms, believe it or not.
It just so happens that
Mark Farina is responsi-
ble for the latter of the
three. Farina's long await-
ed new installment to the
ever-popular Mushroom
Jazz series has finally
arrived. A series of com-
pilations of smoothz
downtempo R&B, soul,
hip-hop, and house,
Mushroom Jazz has long been lauded
among chill-out fans for its choice
track selections.
It's outside the realm of the chill-
out aficionado that Mushroom Jazz

k;:: 5 :.

Mouse album.
The first eight tracks culminate on
the hypnotic "Line of Best Fit", one
surely to end up as a last track on sev-
eral mixtapes. With lyrics like "These
things take my time and energy /
Don't stand too close without apolo-
gies," Gibbard ends the first half on a
somber, worn out note. This song
makes anything Yo La Tengo's put out
feel like caffeine by comparison.
In striking contrast, the second half
of Chords begins with an incredibly
upbeat cover of the Smiths' "This
Charming Man." Gibbard does his
best Morrissey impression that is a
welcome change to the morose offer-
ings of the first eight tracks. The
remaining tracks are all rare or unre-
leased studio quality recordings
arranged in chronological order, start-
ing as far back as 1996. These are
much closer to the Death
Cab for Cutie known and
loved by scenesters
nationwide. Standout
tracks include the sample
laden "Flustered / Hey
Tomcat," the hopeful
"Tomorrow," and the
Secret Stars cover
"Wait." The last track,
"Army Corps of Archi-
tects" is also worthy of note, a sooth-
ing end to a somewhat haphazard
collection of songs. The gentle
rhythm section and subtle xylophone
are simply beautiful.
You Can Play These Songs with
Chords, while lacking the cohesiveness
of a true album, is definitely a must-
have for Death Cab fans. Others may
find it a bit disjointed. Those new to
the band should check out their earlier
releases, particularly We Have the Facts
and We 're Voting Yes or The Photo
Album before picking up Chords. Only
fans of the band will truly appreciate
this collection of early tracks.
RATING: * * *

SHORT TAKES

SIGUR Ros
( )
MCA
By Andrew M. Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
Iceland's Sigur Ros are a quartet
who play glacial, atmospheric
music. They play guitars with violin
bows and basses with drum sticks.
Lead singer J6nsi Birgisson has
such a high, alien voice he makes
Jeff Buckley sound~gruff. Their last
album, Agaetis Byrjun was a majes-
tic whorl of guitar lull and guiltless
grandeur, which they sold whole-
sale to critics and fans alike. Their
new album, is something of a dif-
ferent story.
First, let's get something straight
- pretension doesn't preclude great
art. While Sigur Ros's decision to
name their new album (),-forgo
track titles and sing in a fabricated
gibberish has many critics throwing
the p-flag around, don't buy it.
It's a petty criticism of a band
capable of conjuring language-
transcending theatrics. The new
album finds the band using more
keyboards, often as melody lines
over the fabulous layers of guitar
noise. The melodies, sung through
a natural reverb, resonate in the air
like old folk hymns. The album
opens with a slow-leak elegy, com-
plete with a choir of tape manipula-
tion. Everything from the skeletal
picking of track 2, quivering bass of
track 6 to the ruptured drumming
and cinematic bombast of the clos-
ing track are executed perfectly.
Some will be put off by the Sigur
Ros's long, involved compositions
and often-slow pace. Unlike most
bands, the payoff always arrives,
often in the form grand waves of
sound and heartbeat percussion.
Sigur Ros sound ancient -bearers
of grand hymns surrendered to time
and apathy, until now. Sigur Ros are
pretentious as hell, but it doesn't
stop them from packing more beau-
ty, power and violence into their
compositions than any of their
peers. Is this pretentious, or does
this just make other bands look
like a joke?
RATING: * * * *

:
a

gets a little sketchy. With a product
this "genrefied," it's bound to invite
some head-scratching among newer
Mushroom Jazz listeners. Name drop-
ping obscure tracks by urban music
favorites like Pete Rock, Scienz of
Life and Fat Jon may impress the
hardcore fan, but it remains somewhat
unapproachable for the uninitiated.
But as far as mixing
abilities and track selec-
tion Farina is the coolest
DJ in school. Nearly a
22-year veteran of the
Chicago and San Fran-
cisco club scenes, his
blending and matching
skills are always perfect
and as smooth as the
music. It doesn't hurt to
have underground hip-hop stars Peo-
ple Under the Stairs make an appear-
ance either.
RATING: ***

TOM PETTY AND THE
HEARTBREAKERS, THE LAST DJ;
WARNER BROTHERS RECORDS
Petty misfires with this concept
record about how badly the music
industry sucks (where the hell have
you been Tom?). He's right of course;
greed rules, sex sells, substance and
integrity get lost along the way. But
Petty can't quite see his convictions
through. The music is bland, sounding
like a Heartbreaker's cover band
(except Jon Brion's orchestrations) and
the lyrics are warmed over cliches.
Bring back Rick Rubin to man the
boards and write more tracks like the
glorious "Dreamville" and George
Harrison tribute "The Man Who Loved
Women," Tommy. * * ii
-Scott Serilla
MC PAUL BARMAN,
PAULLELUJAH;
COUP D'ETAT RECORDS
On his full-length debut, this Brown
graduate from Jersey kicks out mind-
bending rhymes for the junior New
Yorker set. Imagine your bushy-haired,
creative writing GSI decided he was
the clown prince of rap. Sophomoric
and brainy in the same breath, the
unlikely MC plows through bugged-
out sex jams like "Cock Mobster" and
rants against education system on the
title track. But without Prince Paul,
who headed up previous releases, too
many tracks can't get past their own
cleverness. * **
-S. S.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA, STRIPPED;
WARNER BROTHERS RECORDS
Chrstina Aguilera's second album
Stripped exhibits a strange pluralism.
In this video age when image is every-
thing, we find Aguilera juggling two
artistic dilemmas: One - follow the
trends that are currently popular on
MTV and bare all for maximum record
sales, or two - focus on musical
artistry and great album making. With
Munchausen-like flippancy, Aguilera's
album jumps from innate innocence
and optimistic odes of belonging to
sexual provocation and sticky club
anthems with Camus-like anxiety. This
all leads to question: If Stripped is the
diary of a rising talent or a calculated
career move? The artist and the album
struggle to find purpose. * *
-Devon Thomas
THE DONNAS, SPEND THE NIGHT
ATLANTIC RECORDS
These California ladies take a run at
maturity with their frustratingly catchy
major label debut, rolling back the pre-
fab "bad girl gang" gimmicks that
defined their early records. What's left
is simple Kiss-meets-the-Go-Go's rock
aimed at making your kid sister forget
all about J-Lo and Justin. Don't expect
it to work, but here's hoping songs like
taut opener "It's On The Rocks" and
maybe semi-lame "Dirty Denim" with
its anti-garage hipster sentiment, might
convert a few teenyboppers. * * *
- S.S.

THE LES CLAYPOOL,
FROG BRIGADE;
PURPLE ONION
By default and design, Claypool
became the alt-rock Zappa; a remark-
able, hyper-productive virtuoso
whose intricate songwriting is often
obscured by his aburdist humor and
love of eccentric noise. Onion might
be his most Zappa-like effort yet,
with the loose collection full of car-
toony vocals and angular melodies,
but also with meat-fisted political
tirades. Sure to please the Primus
faithful, but who can say how many
others. * **
-S. S.
J. MASCIS AND THE FOG FREE,
So FREE; ULTIMATUM MUSIC
Alright its bit ironic when one of
Rock's most notorious control freaks
writes an entire concept album about
freedom. Let's put that aside. The ex-
Dino Jr. frontman tosses off his best
songs in years and like on '91's Green
Mind, virtual plays everything him-
self. Reportedly largely composed
while J was skydiving, the record bal-
ances out the manic guitar crunches,
delicate folk and wistful vocals that
have out of portion on other Mascis'
solo work. *** 9
- S.S.
DAILY ARTS
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