Monday, September 22, 2008

A Series of Quick Reviews

The Review is back with three new reviews...

Mount Eerie / "Black Wooden Ceiling Opening": "What's in a name?" asked Juliet in the second act of Shakespeare's famous play. "Would Phil Elvrum's music by any other name not sound as sweet?" asked Erik as he prepared to listen to the newest release by the former Microphones genius under his Mount Eerie moniker. The answer is not as clear-cut as one would imagine. "BWCO" is undoubtedly an Elvrum work, but it never grabs the listener the way that the best Microphones albums did. Whereas with albums such as "The Glow, Pt. 2" or "Mount Eerie", Elvrum would build to his crescendos gracefully and subtly, making their impact all the more substantial, on "BWCO" he seems lackadaisical in his approach. For example, on album centerpiece "In Moonlight", Elvrum begins with an interesting anecdote of walking down a road and seeing what he thinks to be a car, before realizing "there was no car; it was me revealed in moonlight." Then Elvrum decides "what the hell, I might as well just throw a giant guitar jam in" and jerks the listener out of the story. This process of lazily and randomly placing pieces which should act as culminations might seem brave and artistic at first, but over and entire album of repeating the process (albeit only a 6 track EP) it nullifies the effect of these zeniths and leaves the listener to wonder whatever happened to Mr. Elvrum between 2003 (when "Mount Eerie" was released) and now that caused him to lose his grasp on song composition, especially when largely the lyrics are still so strong. Sure, it's a good album, but it so easily could've been great, especially for someone with the obvious talent of Phil Elvrum.
Rating: 7.5

Kingdom Shore / "... And All the Dogs to Shark": You know how someone will play an album for you, and should you dare to not find it revelatory you will be told "you just don't get it"? Well, I just don't get Kingdom Shore. Kingdom Shore, the brain-child of Mark Molnar, consists of four violins all playing separate parts at the same time. The best way to describe the sound is to take Jonny Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood" score at its most dissonant, take whatever means of rhythm still exist, remove them entirely, and then throw another violin or two into the mix each playing with no sense of timing or melody (hear a sample here). The entire thing is borderline unlistenable, and considering the average track runs well over nine minutes, only a fan of the most far-fetched avant-garde music would find this compelling. If Greenwood's "There Will Be Blood" score soundtracked a man selling his soul for oil and power, then "... And All the Dogs to Shark" is the sound of the hell he was forced to suffer in the after-life.
Rating: 0.6

Shearwater / "Rook": Shearwater could be considered a side-project of Okkervil River in the way the Silver Jews were once seen as a Pavement side-project: the two bands share members, one is better-known than the other, and the two bands sound fundamentally different. Just in the way the Silver Jews' "American Water" propelled them to being argued to be just as good as late-era Pavement, "Rook" will arouse debate that Shearwater may have surpassed Okkervil River in quality. The album is relatively slow-paced, and is carried on the strength of frontman Jonathan Meiburg's vocals, and what a voice he has! His gorgeous tenor is able to carry minimal arrangments, or accompany his band beautifully. While the band occasionally loses focus (the second half of "On the Death of the Waters", the too-fanciful "Lost Boys"), when they hit they knock it out of the park. The penultimate track, "Snow Leopard", is the current leader in the race for song of the year. Beginning with a piano line reminiscent of Radiohead's classic "The Pyramid Song", Meiburg coos "let the moon do its work on your body" and lets the mood encapsulate the listener before crying out "waa!" and letting the guitar and drum enter the picture. As the song turns its intensity up, Meiburg matches it and the rest of the song becomes a thrilling game of "let's see you top this!" between Meiburg and his accompaniment. To call it beautiful is to use lazy terms for a song that demands so much more. It's a majestic composition that leaves me no doubt that someday Shearwater could craft some of the finest music in the coming years. This is Shearwater's coming out party, and you don't want to miss it.
Rating: 8.5


royalewithcheese_ said...

I think I'll be checking out Mount Eerie sometime soon

Erik said...

You're better off checking out the Microphones first, if you haven't already.