September 20, 2005
arts. michigandaily. com
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Insert awkward indie cutline here.
Nickel Creek starts
a half-hearted 'Fire'
By Kat Bawden
Daily Arts Writer
are creeping up
on us - slow-
ly. Their third
Should the Fire
trio Nickel Creek
the Fire Die?
SIGUR R6S CONTINUES LONG WILD TRIP ON 'TAKK'
By Chris Gaerig
Daily Arts Writer
The delicate and rustic melange
of banjo, guitar, violin, mandolin,
and bouzouki is instantly ear catch-
ing. Siblings Sean and Sara Watkins
play guitar and fiddle respectively,
Chris Thile plays banjo, mando-
lin and bouzouki. Their sound is
tightly constructed; it's clear they're
familiar and comfortable enough to
mingle with each other's music. The
fast-paced "Scotch and Chocolate"
is a prime example of their skill as
the racing strings are plucked play-
fully and sentimentally.
But though the .music is complex
and traditional, the lyrics are simple
and contemporary: "She tried to date
a friend of mine / I was at his house
when she came to say goodbye / He
stood her up so she took it as a sign
/ And I can't complain." The attempt
at lyrical simplicity with a could-be
By Gabe Rivin
Daily Arts Writer
taboo topic comes across as flimsi-
ness - a clear Achilles heel in their
songwriting. Another detraction is the
vocals. Though the singers blend beau-
tifully together, they are weak alone.
Nickel Creek's main fault is that
they're seemingly torn between
being bluegrass and being some-
thing more mainstream. They know
how to get it right: The charming
unrequited love ballad "Anthony"
is a stylistic gem, evoking the likes
of Peggy Lee with a lo-fi feel. Con-
versely, the fancier "Best of Luck"
breaks out of the bluegrass routine
with a half-attempted rock song that
sounds bland even in comparison to
the rest of the humble album. Their
attempt at mixing traditional with
contemporary and broadening their
musical horizons is recognizable,
but the result is more of a set back
than a nice tumble forward.
Music REV I EWm
When the Vikings discovered Iceland around 1000
A.D., they named it to deceive other travelers in search
of a warm, comfortable home. It
was a sneaky move, but when have
the Vikings ever been known to be Sigur Ros
compassionate and caring? If only Takk
there had been mass production of Geffen
music a millennium ago, the Norse
travelers wouldn't have had to go
through all that trouble. Sigur R6s would've warded off
enough foreigners with their chilling ambiance.
Known for their expansive sonic environments,
cocooning vocals and destructive crescendos, the Ice-
landic quartet Sigur R6s ambushed the music world's
conception of epic, intellectual composition. Coming
off of 2002's ( ) and dance-inspired, music-box freak-
out Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do, Sigur R6s made fans' mouths
water in anticipation of Takk. They don't disappoint.
Takk is laden with Sigur R6s's signature atmospherics
and vocals but diverges into uncharted, more optimis-
tic territory than on previous releases. Gorgeous string
arrangements replace the dead air and ambient drones
that marked earlier works. But the still indecipherable,
yet melodic and cheerier, moans of lead singer J6n pdr
Birgisson infuse a sense of hope into the group's some-
Sigur R6s's sound isn't unlike Homer's sirens.
It lures with comforting, melodic songs before it
destroys listeners with bombasts of guitars, strings
and chimes. Birgisson's croons on "Gl6s6li" fill the
room with a glossy warmth, while a parade of cymbal
crashes and distorted guitars march in unannounced.
By the time listeners realize it, the track is stampeding
through the air.
'Saeglopur" is another iceberg-like song. What
appears to be a fairly harmless, subtle track is quick-
ly overtaken by the feedback, driving percussion and
angelic vocals beneath.
Not all of Takk is that deviant. "Meo Bl6dnasir" is
bright and heartfelt from the outset. The sunrise cymbal
splashes and choir carry the two-minute interlude from
beginning to end. Its palm-muted guitar and interweav-
ing xylophone lines are a welcome departure. "Se Lest"
sounds like an extension of Ba Ba Ti Ki Di Do with
its dependence on auxiliary percussion. The song is a
lullaby amplified by Birgisson's manipulated falsetto. It
ends with a schizophrenic episode of waltzing horns.
Takk houses Sigur R6s's most ambitious departure
from their early work. "Gong" opens with a seemingly
electronic drum beat and staccato bass line. It is sur-
prisingly reminiscent of Radiohead's Kid A. While to
an untrained ear Birgisson and Yorke's vocals might
occasionally be mistaken for one another, the two
groups' music rarely, if ever, crossed paths. The track's
dependence on a guitar riff gives the song a more con-
ventional structure and groove.
However, aside from their envelope-pushing albums,
Sigur R6s is notorious for their live shows. While many
contemporary artists' music translates poorly to a more
personal stage, Sigur R6s's soars to new heights. Their
ambience and atmospherics are said to enthrall listeners
and hurl them into a wholly different sonic experience.
Because of this reputation, Sigur R6s has legions of
fans willing to follow them around the globe. Their Sept.
20, Michigan Theater show sold out in approximately
two minutes - a feat nearly unheard of for anyone of
their popularity. Those sales are generally reserved for
groups like The Pixies and - during the height of their
ill-fated popularity - the Backstreet Boys.
In recent years, Sigur R6s fans have drawn been
compared to worshipers of groups like the Grateful
Dead, but not in that let's-go-smoke-weed-and-trip-
out-to-this-band kind of way. Rather, Sigur R6s's fans
are being compared to the Dead's notorious Dead-
heads (the legion of people willing to follow the band
across the continent). While their number is signifi-
cantly smaller than the number of Deadheads, fans of
Sigur R6s are just as vigilant and dedicated to their
Takk is another installment in the infallible, fan-
crazed catalog of Sigur R6s. The group continues to
consistently produce some of the smartest and most
dense music being made without sounding played-out
and monotonous. Many would argue that Sigur R6s is
pretentious, pompous music that only elitist indie critics
can get behind. The excellence of Takk and their large
following attest to the opposite. These Vikings have
earned the hype.
Like the rest of the pantheon in
the golden age of '60s jazz, Herbie
Hancock should have died in a grand,
tragic way. 1973
was his year to Herbie
go. It would have Hancock
been glorious: a Possibilities
run with Miles Vector/Hancock
quintet that rede-
fined jazz with In
a Silent Way and Bitches Brew, a bril-
liant decade of collaborations with
music's finest and a hotest new funky
piece of fusion called Head Hunters.
Yep, he could have escaped mortality
with an untarnished image.
But something funny happens
when old man death doesn't come
a knockin'. Like Stevie Wonder up
on display playing for Will Smith,
Sting looking stoic for a Puff Daddy
performance or Santana teaming up
with Rob Thomas, Herbie Hancock
finally caved in and did a collabora-
tive record. Joining together in the
spirit of middle age, the aforemen-
tioned greats (Herbie, Stevie, Sting
and Carlos) team up for an undeni-
ably average record.
Hancock is joined on Possibili-
ties not just by former superstars,
but some young bucks as well. John
Mayer, Christina Aguilera, Jonny
Lang and Damien Rice all make
Garfunkel was merely a funny word
conjoined with the name of a gifted
singer. But of course this is a small
oasis of joy among the boring.
Simon's respect for jazz singing
doesn't make up for the usually bom-
bastic resonance of the others who
make Hancock a guest on his own
album. Formulaic feel, good pop and
a semblance of brilliance from jazz's
lost piano man lends itself to an
album that confirms the dissipation
of America's unique, original genre.
WE STILL HAVE
TATTOOS ... FROM
AGO. YOU KNOW
YOU WANT ONE.
CRF--, _. M
for more information call 734/998-6251
The University of Michigan College of Literature, Science,
and the Arts presents a public lecture and reception
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