Saturday, June 17, 2017

Short, Sharp Shocks, or Smaller is Better:

As you might recall (no, you don’t. Who’s kidding who? Only I’d recall something like this.) vinyl albums held about forty minutes worth of music. You could fit up to an hour or so, but forty was the average.

So my natural skinflintedness meant that, if for no other reason (other than not having to get up off my ass every 20 minutes to flip it over), I’d love the CD format (about 80 minutes of music per), even if they cost a bit more than vinyl.

Ah, but what if the music is there just to fill up the space? Whereas before artists had to pick and choose only the best of their new songs to fit on vinyl, now they could spread out like those guys sitting on the subway train, with results that could be just as uncomfortable.

So I eventually came to “appreciate” (ie, respect and even enjoy, while still writing to my congressperson about instituting unit pricing on albums) the "short album".

Early rock n’ roll albums were pretty short, mainly because the songs were short. Even twelve of them wouldn’t always hit thirty - let alone forty - minutes.

Songs are just longer now.

Now, if I were to fully embrace my inner (and soon to be outer) grumpy old man and combine it with my natural nerdiness...well, for one thing, I’d end up with one hell of a super-villain.

But I’d also endlessly debate the merits of musical unit-pricing based on songs per dollar vs. minutes per dollar.  I can just see the entire Marvel and DC Universe surrendering to me, on the one condition that I just shut the f*ck up. Now that’s winning, baby!

Anyway, last year’s Puberty 2 by Mitski was pretty short (about 31 minutes) but didn’t feel that way. Not sure if that’s a compliment, but it’s probably because there are eleven songs on it

And this year, I came across a few records that come up short timewise, but not aesthetics-wise.


Cloud Nothings.jpg
The Cloud Nothings: Attack on Memory (2012)

Although it only has eight songs that run 33 minutes it feels complete, and even generous. Now that’s intensity!

This foursome plays aggressive-to-harsh electric guitars a la Parquet Courts but change tone often enough - and add melody enough - to keep it all from beating you down.

There’s even a burst of Feelies drone-guitar in the cheerier-than-average “Fall In”.

The mid 20s singer complains a lot, but his gravelly voice sounds old and vaguely threatening, verging on ugly. And when things get out of hand, they careen out of control and crash.

But they pull themselves out of the ditch and start up again, with guitars propelling them along the way.


"Fall In"

The Harsh Mirror:

Death Cab.jpg
Death Cab for Cutie: The Open Door EP (2009)

Damn, I lost focus again and forgot to keep it in the decade!

I have a hard time even saying their name, both for silliness and sheer mechanics. (You try saying it fast.)

And, admittedly it's an EP, not an album. But, like with the Germans bombing Pearl Harbor, just let it go.

I had already gotten a taste of Ben Gibbard’s songwriting from Postal Service. And like on that album, his melodies can seem a bit mechanical, as if he plotted them out on graph paper.

What works for it, though - like the atmospherics of Give Up - is the sturdy rocking band behind him.
So the outcome is a little more organic.

And the lyrics are filled with painful self-examination. Not the physical kind.  That comes later in life, boys!


"My Mirror Speaks"

Sweet (and Weird) and Lovely:

King Creosote and Jon Hopkins: Diamond Mine (2014)

 I’ve only had this for about a week, so I should really wait to digest it, but I just don’t want to.

Nutboy recommended this to me a while ago, but I immediately lost his email.  Well, I finally dug it up, and I'm glad I did.

Sweet, quiet, with odd and everyday sounds mixed in. King Creosote provides the former, with a voice so fragile you think it’s going to shatter. Jon Hopkins, who I will talk about in another post, provides the latter, and helps to keep this from going down too easy. Together, they make a Scottish Neil Young.

But you’d better play it early, before the neighborhood noises start to drown it out. Yes, it's that fragile.

But well worth it.


"Your Own Spell"

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