A sampling of what we’ve been spinning lately. Before we get started, let’s revisit Ben’s favorite retail moment from the past month:
BEN (standing at music counter at place of employment): Hi, can I help you find anything?
CUSTOMER (going straight for the Enya display): Is this the new Enya??
CUSTOMER: Do you have any place I can listen to this?
BEN: (in head) Because you don’t already know exactly what it sounds like? (in head) Because you think maybe Enya’s experimenting with trip hop or doing a duet with Kanye West or something? (in head) Because you can’t wait to hear the single, “Ethereal Moaning That Sounds Identical To The Previous Eight Songs”? (out loud) Yes, you can hear it on any of our listening stations.
Ryan Adams & The Cardinals, Cardinology. Did you know that Adams’s first solo album, Heartbreaker, was inspired by/named after Mariah Carey?* This is true. It is just one of a thousand bits of trivia Erin will gladly tell you about the prolific Nashville-bad-boy-turned-mature-songwriter, or so every new album review would have us believe since the Adams-is-a-slightly-less-self-destructive-male-equivalent-of-Amy-Winehouse storyline has been beaten to death. Musically Adams has matured, in the sense he’s stuck with a consistent backing band (The Cardinals) which has pushed him in new directions, primarily classic rock. Cardinology starts strong and finishes less strong. It’s good but is it essential? You will get a different answer depending on which Vore you ask. (Hint: The one who has ganged up with her sisters and tried to seduce Mr. Adams and his bandmates over a game of pool likes it more.)
Belle & Sebastian, The BBC Sessions. For the Belle & Sebastian completist only. Those happy few of us will enjoy the essentially identical versions of early B&S standards, particularly if you misplaced your copy of If You’re Feeling Sinister several years back and were pleasantly reunited with a bouncy version of “Judy And The Dream of Horses.” The four previously unreleased tracks are a mixed bag. Two are so-so, but two are a kick: the sunny sing-along “The Magic of a Kind Word,” and “(My Girl’s Got) Miraculous Technique,” with its scratchy percussion samples and off-beat piano chords.
Beyoncé, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” Erin will gladly perform the dance to this insanely catchy song if you ask nicely. Do not ask Ben to perform it. You will cry.
Duffy, Rockferry. Our guilty pleasure. Judge us if you will. But I’m beggin’ you for mercy (yeah! yeah! yeah!).
Ray LaMontagne, Gossip In The Grain. The great bearded one delivers his most polished album, which sounds very good but doesn’t have the same pull on us that either Trouble or Till The Sun Turns Black did. Ray does lighten up a little to pen an ode to Meg White but it includes the dopey lyrics, “Meg White, you’re alright / Fact: I think you’re pretty swell / Can’t you tell?”
Mount Eerie, Lost Wisdom. A recommendation from Eric Bescak. It sounds like it was recorded in an outhouse using a four track. (Eric informs us that the Lost Wisdom tour has included venues like abandoned old churches.) We like it. It is sad. Someone hold us. (Note to Ray LaMontagne: Put down your drippy love poems to Meg White and study this lyric: “With your hand down my throat/You held on to my heart/And pumped the blood through.”
TV On The Radio, Dear Science. Fast becoming one of our favorites this year. We’ve always liked TV On The Radio more in theory than in actuality — sort of like, Let’s just admire one another from afar instead of doing the whole relationship thing. But we’re ready to go steady after this one. Poppier and hip-shakier than Return to Cookie Mountain, Dear Science rewards multiple listens as we’ve cycled through three or four different favorite songs (currently the rousing opener “Halfway Home” for Erin and the rousing closer “Lover’s Day” for Ben). Who wouldn’t love the lyric, “Swear to God it’ll get so hot/It’ll melt our faces off”?
Lucinda Williams, Little Honey. Lucinda is the daughter of poet Miller Williams, whose poem “Love Poem With Toast” was given to us (framed) as a wedding gift by Eric Bescak. It came with a cassette tape which included a full 90 minutes of commentary from the men of 113 Bexley, ranging from a critical analysis of the poem to cryptic metaphors involving men in a boat casting about for fish, which served as an analogy for men seeking relationships with women and which may or may not have worked on at least six different levels. It was later presented in abridged form by Eric himself during a toast at the rehearsal dinner, when he used the phrase “we’re all in the boat holding our rods” in front of our immediate families and loved ones. For an actual review of Little Honey, we encourage you to read Mark Hoobler’s take here, with which we concur.
Rachel Yamagata, Elephants … Teeth Sinking Into Heart. A fitting album to close on, as Yamagata has previously performed with Ryan Adams and Ray LaMontagne (who cameos here). We find it a little bit indulgent to make this album a double disc for thematic purposes when disc two has just five songs. We can name several single discs that have twice as many songs as this double album. (And not all of them are by Guided By Voices!) Aesthetics aside, Yamagata brings out the sensitive (yet feisty) female side in both of us, especially Ben, as his sensitive female side is buried quite deep and needs sweet, soft, intimate crooning to bring it out. We’ve listened to this album numerous times and still can’t figure out why it has a “Parental Advisory” sticker on it. Is there some secret track with Insane Clown Posse or something?
* = This is a real quote from Mr. Adams regarding Ms. Carey: “People need to reinvestigate Glitter. I’m settled enough in my masculinity to say I don’t see anything wrong with Glitter.”