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Saturday, May 06, 2006

And Now for a Musical Interlude

I'm taking a momentary break from my thrice yearly grading marathon, and as I continue to wait with baited breath for Emery's long-overdue missive on Monster Island Protestantism, my thoughts have turned to the diversionary. What are you guys listening to these days? Anything good?

Down here in the Boro, we're waiting for the new disc by the Features with almost as much anticipation as FFB readers await Emery's theological Kong. The Features, who hail from the Boro itself, are Nashville's best rock band. Ask anybody. I wish I could say this was an original judgment, but it is pretty much conventional wisdom among the Nash-Vegas cognoscenti. We've seen them live a few times, and, well, Damn! As an opening act, they blew two bigger name headliners off the stage--Kings of Leon (Rolling Stone darlings who recently opened for U2) and Fountains of Wayne--and were even better headlining their own shows. Their last album, Exhibit A, is punk candy, but not in the annoying way that you hear every five minutes on modern rock radio (Sum 42, Blink 142843690666, etc.). The Features sound more like the Sex Pistols singing power pop at full volume, perfect and often unexpectedly sweet little songs with hard guitar and a circus organ that makes the whole thing rock like the soundtrack to an insane asylum romantic comedy. My favorite songs are "Walk You Home" (from their self-titled debut EP), and "The Idea of Growing Old," which features the line "You roll your eyes/ I make you smile/ We can make origami with the kids for a while/ You. . . turn me on. . . to the idea of growing old." Nobody I know sings better rock songs about domestic bliss. Can't wait to hear the new CD, although I'm guessing that we've already heard a lot of it played live.

In the meantime, I've had three CDs in the slots of my changer. First, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Show Your Bones, which is great, even better than their breakthrough from a couple of years ago, Fever to Tell. Karen O is the real deal, a wierder Chrissie Hynde, all squawk and gawky posing, but surprisingly moving when she slows down a bit. The last song, "Turn Into" may be even better than "Maps," the song from Fever that has be one of the two or three best rock songs of the last decade. Second, for a chage up, I've got Neko Case's Fox Confessor, which is haunting in an alt country way. It sounds like music for an old movie set in the western desert. The songs are more striking on radio, where they contrast to everything else currently played, than on CD, where they blend together. Still, worth a listen. Finally, I've been listening a lot to Josh Rouse's latest, Subtitulo. Rouse used to be Nashville's best singer-songwriter before he moved to Spain a couple of years ago. His last three CDs (Under Cold Blue Stars, 1972, and Nashville) are all brilliant and distinctive. He's got a really warm but understated voice, and aspires for what might be described as alt rock meets adult easy mix. Subtitulo is not quite as compelling as the last three--it seems even lighter, as if it could just drift away. But it gets better every time I hear it.

What about the rest of you? I can bet that dk is hearing waaay hipper stuff than I am. What's out there?

[Postscript: Checking up on the Features via their website, I've discovered that they've just been dropped by their record label. They were supposed to be recording their new CD this week, but, as they tell the story, their label asked them to record a cover song for use in a corporate commercial, then to be the first single on their album. (One unconfirmed rumor on another cite said it was the Beatles' "All You Need if Love" for a credit card company. If true, this would be a bizarre choice of band and song, although one of their own songs was used by NBC to promo some sit-coms a few months back.) When they declined, they got dropped. Here's hoping that someone picks them up, quick.]


At 11:25 AM, Blogger Rebecca said...

Sam and I saw Kings of Leon open for U2 and it was incredibly, viscerally painful. In fact, there have been few opening acts for U2 that we've seen that have been good. Exceptions: Public Enemy, Garbage. That's pretty much it. We were very sad not to have seen them in Europe this past tour, where the Killers opened for them.

we are exploring new musical arenas through pandora, which OaO recommended to us.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Paul said...

Since I do not recognize Features or Fountains of Wayne, or Kings of Leon, or Sum 42... I cannot offer an opinion. I will say, however, that you've succeeded in reminding me that I'm getting old. Like the generations before me, something inexplicable happened to me when I hit 40 a few years back (maybe, Tmcd, you've already hit that mark, but I’m assuming you are Emery's age; if you're over 40, my hats off to you for keeping up). It's not that I dislike the latest stuff when I have the occassion to hear it, but I just don't have any time to keep up with that scene anymore. It gets worse. After collecting music in 45s, LPs, 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs, I don't even want to contemplate downloading music online, even if its free.

At 1:13 AM, Blogger DK said...

I will have to check out the Features. The new Tool and Prince are quite good; the new Flaming Lips is somewhat disappointing, at least in comparison to the previous two. Also, I hate to admit it, but I like the new Death Cab for Cutie.

I still really dig the last Interpol (Antics). On a mellow vibe, Iron and Wine's "The Creek Drank the Cradle" and "Quite is the New Loud" from the Kings of Convenience are brilliant.

If Radiohead meets Pink Floyd with a small dose of prog metal sounds appealing to you, the you will love Porcupine Tree's "In Absentia."

And, yeah, the new Yeah Yeah Yeah's is awesome.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

Paul, I am roughly Emery's age (a year older, actually), but I look MUCH younger and sound less like an old lady on the phone.

Rebecca, I can imagine seeing the Kings of Leon before U2 would not go well. They're a Nashville band, and I very much like their first album, Youth and Young Manhood (the follow up, Aha Shake Heartbreak, is mediocre)--they sound like the Allman Brothers playing with the speed and energy of the Strokes. YYM is a great driving CD. But they're not nearly as good in concert. Partly, it's because they're sooo young and got discovered by the national music media before they had established themselves as a band in the bars and clubs. For this reason, Nashvillians tend to be lukewarm on them.

DK, good list. I keep meaning to check out the Kings of Convenience and Iron and Wine (especially because of the latter's collaboration with Calexico, from whom I've never heard a bad song). I also find Death Cab strangely compelling on radio, but I don't ever know that I want the extended dose of a CD. On another note, have you listened to My Morning Jacket much? I don't know that they're your bag, but their last two albums are great, and Z breaks their southern rock mold by mixing in a lot more Kinks and Radiohead touches.

At 7:15 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

The Great Lake Swimmers.


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