Commodities of the Abstract Sort

a hopefully-less-pretentious-than-other-pretentious-music-blogs music blog

Album Review: Headlights Some Racing, Some Stopping Wednesday February 13, 2008

Filed under: album review,misc. good non-local music — Kayla @ 10:06 pm

headlights.jpg



I can’t tell you how excited I was to see this album sitting on the shelf last week at the station after a thoroughly frustrating day full of broken computers and broken dreams of seeing Barrack Obama. I’ve been waiting (not so) patiently for this album since I got Headlights’ first album Kill Them With Kindness last spring and proceeded to listen to nothing else for weeks on end.


This one is different however, it’s not as unabashedly happy, it evokes fewer images of puppies running through fields of daises while being chased by blonde children. Or, in more eloquent record-label language it “purposefully lack[s] much of the spacey atmospherics that define the band’s earlier work.” Right. I think what they mean is this is more of a solid pop album with standard pop instrumentation: drums, guitar, bass, people singing. Unlike KTWK there are no string quartets, very little piano and accordion, and more boy vocals. While I like this album and think it’s better than some of the other stuff I’ve listened to recently, it doesn’t have the intrigue or (I suspect) staying power of KTWK. Anyone can make a standard pop album with drums, guitar, bass, and people singing and that’s not terribly exciting. What made Headlights exciting to me in the first place is that they were taking the standard pop album and making it exponentially more interesting by using weird instruments and, to use the world’s corniest phrase, “making it their own.” Some Racing, Some Stopping has its moments though, “Cherry Tulips” is most reminiscent of KTWK with dual vocals and organ, the title track is a beautiful and sparse arrangement with only Rhodes piano, a click-track, tambourine, and Erin Fein’s faraway-sounding vocals. The final song is my favorite, it’s a waltz and brings in the accordion and glockenspiel more prevalent in KTWK. It is also the perfect concluding song, the slow tempo and soft ending let you down nice and easy. Even though this is not the best album of all time Headlights are still one of the best live bands of all time and I strongly suggest seeing them on their upcoming tour.

[mp3] Headlights-Cherry Tulips

 


Myspace | Official Site | Buy Some Racing, Some Stopping

 

Time for an obligatory year-end list Friday January 11, 2008

Filed under: album review,best-of list,Local,misc. good non-local music — Kayla @ 12:07 am

Edit: MediaMax decided to mysteriously delete every single one of my files. Awesome. So none of the links in here were working, but I uploaded everything else to another, hopefully less crappy service so they should work now. Anything previous to this post won’t because it’s over 2 months old anyway and I’m not going to go back and find/upload everything again. AND WordPress deleted all my pictures. Thanks, The Internet for continuing to make my life exponentially more difficult than it needs to be.

You know what I always say, “why do something in a timely fashion when you can do it a week late.” Also, “why update your blog when you can…not update your blog.” Yeah, sorry about that. In other news, would anyone like to help this blog be not so sad by writing for it with me? Requirements: know about music that doesn’t suck and be able to form complete sentences in regards to that music. If you fit these requirements leave a comment or email me at commoditiesoftheabstractsort [AT] gmail [DOT] com.


Now, without further ado, my purely subjective list of the top 15 albums of 2007:

16. Writer's Block


15. Peter Bjorn and John-Writer’s Block

 

The world was introduced to Peter Bjorn and John in a big way this year. Had you heard of them before Writer’s Block? Yeah, me either. Now they’ve played a show with Kanye and I’ve heard them multiple times on main-stream radio. If this were a top songs of ’07 list “Amsterdam” would be in the top 5 and “Chills” would be up there too.

[mp3] Peter Bjorn and John-Young Folks

Buy Writer’s Block


15-in-camera.jpg

 

14. Arthur & Yu-In Camera

This is one of the most underrated albums of the year. Arthur and Yu have managed to take the cliche “let’s sound like we’re from the 60s” sound and make it interesting unlike the 7,000 other bands out there doing the same thing. They are a Seattle band on the new Hardly Art label.

 

[mp3] Arthur & Yu-There are Too Many Birds

Buy In Camera

 

14-paper-television.jpg

 

13. The BLOW-Paper Television

The only reason this album is on here is because she has the same name as me. That’s a joke, but she does have the same name as me only spelled crazy weird-like. No one else has made sappy love songs sound so awesome this year. For a while there I was hearing “Parenthesis” on KUPS every single hour which speaks to how insanely catchy both that song and this entire album are.

[mp3] The BLOW-Pile of Gold

Buy Paper Television

 

13-our-ill-wills.jpg

 

12. Shout Out Louds-Our Ill Wills

Oh Sweden, how many more amazing bands can you possibly produce? This album is perfectly dancey while at the same time not being so over-the-top that you can’t even listen to the whole thing in one sitting. It came out at an unfortunate time for college radio play–the middle of the summer, but in the few weeks that we left it up after school had started again it was at the top of the chart.

[mp3] Shout Out Louds-Tonight I Have To Leave It

Buy Our Ill Wills

 

12-cross.jpg

 

11. Justice-Cross

This was a last-minute addition, as in I didn’t realize the brilliance of it until after I had made the list and then had to rearrange some things (sorry The Shins, everyone else still loves you). This album is effing amazing. Everyone has heard D.A.N.C.E. (whether you know it or not, it’s EVERYWHERE) but the rest of the album is so much more than that. I love it when albums sound like the band really put thought into what songs when on and what order they are in. This album is like that, it flows so perfectly that it almost sounds like one really long song. Normally I can’t handle entire electronic albums because I don’t like feeling like I’m at a rave when driving to work/making dinner/staring at the walls in my apartment, but this is just the right amount of rave…like baby’s first rave*. Also, I totally respect the fact that “Genesis” is a theme and variations and I’m really proud of myself for figuring that out. Go go 15 years of music education.

 

[mp3] Justice-Genesis

Buy Cross

*don’t take your baby to a rave.

 

11-heaven.jpg

 

10. Mobius Band-Heaven

Can we just talk about how much I inexplicably love this album art for a minute? I have a giant poster of it in my bathroom. This is another underrated one. Actually this entire band is underrated, I had never heard of them despite the fact that they have like 4 other equally good albums. The thing I love most about this album are a) their rock/electronic instrumentation wherein they don’t put too much emphasis on either aspect and thus succeed at both where other similar bands fail at one or both and b) the fact the songs don’t all sound the same but don’t sound so different that I’m jolted by some weird piano/banjo honky-tonk number in the middle. In conclusion, this album is the perfect mix of everything.

[mp3] Mobius Band-Friends Like These

Buy Heaven

 

10-leaves-in-the-river.jpg

 

9. Sea Wolf-Leaves in the River

I had been waiting for this album since the beginning of time after hearing a couple songs on YANP while I was still in High School. To say the least, it didn’t disappoint. It’s full of perfectly constructed, laid-back indie pop/rock. I would really love to see them live, but oh wait, every venue in Seattle that ever has all-ages shows has closed. Time to move.

[mp3] Sea Wolf-Middle Distance Runner

Buy Leaves in the River

 

9-ga-ga-ga-ga-ga.jpg

 

8. Spoon-Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

Spoon had a tough album to follow up with Gimme Fiction which is in my top 5 albums of all time. I’ve listened to that album more times than is healthy or sane. I like Ga x5, but it is not as meticulously crafted or put together as Gimme Fiction. It’s not as cohesive, there are more singles rather than one really great album unit. Even so, I love anything Spoon does so logically this is in the top 10. It also helps that I saw Spoon live 3 times in 2007 and every single one of them was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Britt Daniel is an incredibly charming and charismatic lead and their music takes on a new level of awesomeness when surrounded by hundreds of sweaty, screaming strangers.

[mp3] Spoon-My Little Japanese Cigarette Case

Buy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

 

8-le-loup.jpg

 

7. Le Loup-The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly

This is the most tragically underrated album of the year. It’s original, beautifully orchestrated, and well concieved. It sounds like nothing else that is out there right now but at the same is not weird just for the sake of being weird. I can’t explain it, you just need to listen to it. If you buy one album off this list, make it this one because then you will be able to say that you liked them before they were popular. Don’t lie, I know you people, that’s the most convincing argument I could possibly give. This is the only other band currently on the Hardly Art label (along with Arthur & Yu). Both of Hardly Art’s 2007 releases are among the best of the year in my opinion and I can’t wait to see what they come out with next.

[mp3] Le Loup-We are Gods! We are Wolves!

Buy The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations’ Millennium General Assembly

 

7-saltbreakers.jpg

 

6. Laura Veirs-Saltbreakers

My love affair with Laura Veirs began last year while sitting in the Minneapolis airport for an obscenely long time and Saltbreakers only intensified it. This is one of the few albums released this year by an artist that I already loved which I thought was better than their previous album. While I love the stripped-down, less produced sound of her previous album I think that her music has gained new life with the complexity of this album. Let’s be honest, I just like the piano.

[mp3] Laura Veirs-Pink Light

Buy Saltbreakers

 

6-emerald-city.jpg

 

5. John Vanderslice-Emerald City

I really don’t know how I missed the John Vanderslice boat. I saw his last 2 songs at Capitol Hill Block Party and then proceeded to stream this album all day every day until it came in the mail (sorry about that Barsuk) while reading every interview JV has ever done. I’m still amazed that it was recorded on tape and not a computer, there are so many instruments and it’s so complex and I imagine it would have been exponentially easier/cheaper to do digitally but I don’t think it would have been the same album if he had done that. It would have been cheapened somehow and it wouldn’t have had the timeless quality that it does.

[mp3] John Vanderslice-White Dove

Buy Emerald City

 

5-our-love-to-admire.jpg

 

4. Interpol-Our Love to Admire

Before you make fun of me for a) still liking Interpol even though they “sold out” to a major label and b) still liking Interpol so much that their album is #4 let me just add more wood to the fire and say that I like this album WAY better than anything else they’ve done. I honestly can’t explain why, but I will outline things that helped. 1. “Pioneer to the Falls” is probably the best album opener of all time, it starts out spartan and creepy and slowly builds into this great epic ending with driving 8th notes in the drums and strings/brass bringing in a new melody right at the end. Brilliant. 2. There is piano. Everything is improved with the addition of piano. 3. This picture 4. The songs on this album sound less the same than their previous albums. Admit it, every single song on Antics is exactly the same. 4. This is the best driving music ever and I got it on an actual CD right in time to drive my boss’s giant/terrifying industrial van around every square foot of the Seattle metropolitan area. I think this made me give it more of a fair chance than I would have otherwise

[mp3] Interpol-Pioneer to the Falls

Buy Our Love to Admire

 

4-friend-and-foe.jpg

 

3. Menomena-Friend and Foe

Menomena is on here purely because they have figured out how to use sax in their music without sounding like Kenny G. I can’t tell you how many bands try this and FAIL miserably. In fact, Menomena manages to pull off all kinds of things that most bands try and end up making incredibly corny and cliche: far-away/echoey vocals and instruments, weird drums, piano in octaves, etc. Their videos are the coolest, their album artwork is the the most confusing and awesome, they had a full choir when I saw them at Bumbershoot, you can totally tell they would be awesome people to have a theoretical beer with, what’s not to love?

[mp3] Menomena-Wet and Rusting

Buy Friend and Foe

 

2-new-moon.jpg

 

2. Elliott Smith-New Moon

I don’t even know what to say about this album. Elliott Smith’s music is so intertwined with my life, it’s almost like a soundtrack at this point and now my soundtrack has gained another album. That is an incredibly corny and “sad emo girl” thing to say and I feel kind of gross about it, but it’s true. I feel like everyone has their own association and thoughts about Elliott Smith and it doesn’t matter what I say about this album, if you like him, you like this album and if you don’t, you don’t. I’ll just let it speak for itself.

[mp3] Elliott Smith-Angel in the Snow

Buy New Moon

 

1-in-rainbows.jpg

 

1. Radiohead-In Rainbows

I would have thought that this would have been at the top of more year-end lists, but it’s conspicuously absent. I debated about leaving this to next year because the actual physical album didn’t come out until Jan. 1st, but then I realized it would be kind of depressing for next year if I pretty much already knew what my #1 was going to be on Jan. 1st, so I decided to let it be tied with Andrew Bird. This is kind of a big deal because prior to October 10th of this year I could not stand Radiohead, which I now realize was just that I can’t stand “Creep” and that’s the only Radiohead song you ever hear. Ever. Above everything else this album is brilliantly arranged, the perfect entrance of strings and piano just before 3:00 in “All I Need”, the slightly out of time drums on “Videotape”, there are a million little moments like these and I find more every time I listen to it.

[mp3] Radiohead-Videotape

Buy In Rainbows (like you haven’t already)

 

1-armchair-apocrypha.jpg

 

1. Andrew Bird-Armchair Apocrypha

This is one of 3 albums that I’ve successfully listened to on repeat for an entire double-shift at work (14 hours). The other two are In Rainbows and The Mysterious Production of Eggs. I don’t like this album as much as MPE because it’s not as cohesive (similar to Spoon’s album), but the individual songs are just as good. The addition of Martin Dosh on drums and other miscellaneous electronic things definitely added to this album. I saw Andrew Bird 3 times in 2007 and one of them, the one at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland was the best show I’ve ever been to. Period. Andrew Bird continues to be one of the most musical indie artists of our time and it really shines through on this album.

[mp3] Andrew Bird-Heretics

Buy Armchair Apocrypha

 

So I guess there’s a new Radiohead album or something…. Thursday October 11, 2007

Filed under: album review,British,misc. good non-local music — Kayla @ 4:31 pm

radiohead

 

I’m sure you’ve heard about it and have probably listened to it 392,304,294 times already and have read 40 other blogs about it, but I’m going to add my obligatory OH MY EFFING GOD NEW RADIOHEAD ALBUM!!!!1!!!!! post to the mix.

 

Radiohead and I have a checkered past. And by “checkered past” I mean that I don’t like them (here, here is my hipster membership card…just take it….). I like Fake Plastic Trees and that’s pretty much it, I don’t really care for Thom Yorke’s voice most of the time and I don’t like how experimental they are, which is kind of the point of Radiohead. Mostly, I like my music to have a melody. All of that being said I LOVE THIS ALBUM. I walked into the music director office at the radio station yesterday and it was playing despite the fact that the only people in there were the hip-hop MD and the weekend MD (weekend is jazz, blues, funk, etc.). I gathered that it had been playing all day because people were afraid to turn it off. I wasn’t going to be that person so I went about my business sorting the mail and found myself actually kind of liking it. And then I was there for 3 more hours and by the time I left I was ready to name my first-born Thom. I’ve since talked to several people in my same boat, people who are not really Radiohead fans but are oddly drawn to this album. I think a lot of this has to do with the way they hyped it.

 

You can’t deny that leaking your own album is brilliant and the way they led up to doing it created an incredible amount of buzz that even the most hardened Radiohead hater, such as myself couldn’t help but be sucked in to. When was the last time people stayed up until 1 am to get an album? Probably 10 or 15 years ago because these days they just appear on the internet at some random time anywhere from 3 to 6 months before the release date. That is no fun, especially for people (like me) who don’t believe in downloading leaked albums because by the time it actually comes out everyone is already done talking about it. This way everyone is talking about it at the same time and you know that every person you see with headphones on on your college campus is listening to it. It’s nice to know that people can still be brought together by something as small as the release of an album. It’s also nice to know that “the entire world just got a little happier together,” as You Ain’t No Picasso so eloquently put it.

 

I’m not going to post tracks from it because you already have them, and if you don’t you can download them for free if you so choose directly from the band. I will tell you that my favorite song is the last one, “Videotapes” followed by “Faust Arp” and “Reckoner” though.

 

Note: I did not make the picture above and I don’t know whose baby that is, but the world really needs more pictures of babies in rainbow shirts. That is why I’m using it as the album art for In Rainbows on my itunes and I encourage you to steal it and do the same.

 

This concludes the obligatory HOLY SHIT!!! RADIOHEAD!!! post. We will now return to your regularly scheduled program of…not updating.

 

Mass Album Review Extravaganza! Thursday August 2, 2007

Filed under: album review,misc. good non-local music — Kayla @ 3:32 pm

An overflow of ridiculously good music has been released in the past several weeks and you and I both would get sick of me blathering on if I did a proper review for all of it, so here are a few mini-reviews.

 

Interpol-Our Love To Admire

interpol-our love to admireI was really surprised by my love of this album.  Sure, Interpol is good in small doses, but I have trouble making it all the way through their other albums because all the songs are EXACTLY THE SAME.  This album is…different from all the others, it still sounds like Interpol but the influence of a major label (Capitol) is very apparent.  The songs seem more “radio friendly”  and although they all sound similar they don’t all have the exact same bass and drums like their previous albums.  I don’t say this in the derogatory way that is usually associated with hipsters such as myself talking about “selling out” to a major label, for Interpol I actually like their major label sound better.  Can I just say that “Pioneer to the Falls” is possibly the best album opener of 2007?  Because seriously…it totally is, you guys.  Also, does anyone else think this whole album sounds a little bit like Coldplay?  Maybe if Carlos D joined Coldplay and Chris Martin was a little more metaphorical and a little less British?  Maybe?  Now please excuse me while I am tarred and feathered by the emaciated, argyle-wearing masses.

 

[mp3] Interpol-Pioneer to the Falls

Myspace | Website | Buy Our Love To Admire

 

Bishop Allen & The Broken String

Bishop Allen-Broken String

Bishop Allen has really grown into one of my favorite bands with their EP-a-month antics and this album does not disappoint as a follow-up to that daunting project.  Some of the songs on here are directly from the EPs or are re-recorded versions of songs on the EPs, but there are also several new gems.  This is one of those few albums where on first listen I was listening to the lyrics as much or more than the music because their lyrics are so engaging and at times quite witty, like this line from Chinatown Bus: “his gloves were pristine white just like the girls I used to know would wear to dance their first cotillion/Every single one of them named Jennifer.”  I must advise you to do yourself a favor and get the January EP for “Corazon” because the version on there is much better than the version on this album.  That being my only quip with this album it is the perfect summer pop album, it’s light and happy and at 40 minutes just the perfect length for listening to while cooking dinner with all the doors and windows open so as not to succumb to the ever-present threat of heat-stroke.  Also, BA is playing what is sure to be a fabulous show with Page France at the Crocodile this Saturday August 4th.

 

[mp3] Bishop Allen-Rain

Myspace | Website | Buy The Broken String

 

Spoon- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

OOCD09

From the Merge website: “First off, about the title: it’s pronounced ‘chk chk chk.’ Ok, not really?actually, it was inspired by the piano sound that pulses over Britt Daniel’s triple-tracked vocals on the exposed and sinuous ‘The Ghost of You Lingers.'” So that explains it.  This realization is actually kind of unfortunate because I really don’t like “The Ghost of You Lingers,” but I love the rest of the album.  Not quite as much as Gimme Fiction–it doesn’t seem as cohesive as an album, but the songs individually are simply fabulous.  In addition to a string of quality albums, Spoon is one of the best live shows out there right now. Britt Daniel is such a charismatic and passionate lead singer that it is impossible not to enjoy a Spoon show.  They are playing at The Showbox September 5th and I highly recommend forking over the $20 to see them.

 

[mp3] Spoon-The Underdog

Myspace | Website | Buy Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga |Stream Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga

  

John Vanderslice-Emerald City

john vanderslice-emerald city

More on my newly-found unhealthy obsession with John Vanderslice in a later post, but for now a review of his newest album.  I don’t actually have possession of it yet (it’s in the mail), but I’ve listened to the online stream and it is truly amazing, even with my crappy laptop speakers not doing it any amount of justice.  I predict that when it gets here it will assume Headlights-like obsessive listening status.  His music is a strange mix of lyrics about personal experience, social commentary (the title is a reference to the Green Zone in Baghdad, not Seattle), and complete fiction on top of guitar, drums, and a healthy dose of moog synthesizer (I think, I’m not really sure what exactly some of those sounds are).  Here’s the kicker though: it was mostly recorded live, and using 100% analog equipment.  Crazy.  

 

[mp3] John Vanderslice-White Dove

Myspace | Website | Buy Emerald City | Stream Emerald City (do it do it do it)

 

In conclusion, here is a picture that really just needs to be on my blog somewhere:

 

britt daniel and john vanderslice

John Vanderslice and Britt Daniel

 

Album Review: Saltbreakers by Laura Veirs Sunday April 29, 2007

Filed under: album review,Local,local-ish — Kayla @ 6:29 am

laura viers2



Yes, this album came out over a month ago. I started writing this at that time and it’s been languishing half-written in my drafts folder ever since, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Laura Veirs is a singer-songwriter who is originally from Seattle, but recently moved to Portland. She has previously performed solo, but is now working with a backing band. You may recognize her name from the duet of “Yankee Bayonet” that she did with Colin Meloy on the latest Decemberists album.

I relatively new fan of hers, I saw her open for a Colin Meloy solo show about a year and a half ago, and was not really impressed. Then one day I forgot to bring my CDs to my radio show and had to search through the thousands of CDs in the station for an hour worth of music, which ended up being pretty much everything in there that I had actually heard of, including Laura Veirs. I discovered that her music makes a lot more sense on CD, when she is not having to loop things to get her lush sound. Fast-forward a few weeks: I had to make an unplanned trip to North Dakota over Thanksgiving break and I found myself listening exclusively to her Year of Meteors and +/-‘s Let’s Build a Fire while fighting my way through airport-on-Thanksgiving insanity. Consequently these two albums have become two of my favorite albums of all time. A tough act to follow, and something that the holders of other albums on this list have not been doing so hot at (ahem…Modest Mouse, I’m looking at you), but Laura Veirs has managed to put out the first album in months that has lived up to its predecessor and I might even venture to say, eclipsed it.


Saltbreakers starts off sounding very similar to Year of Meteors with Veirs’ clear voice floating over guitar and some mild electronic beats. The third track, “Don’t Lose Yourself” is where the album really takes off. That track marks the first use of piano for Veirs and it’s a wonder it has taken her this long to realize that her music is made for piano, it fits seemlessly with the dense guitar and string sound prevalent in her music. There is also a children’s choir backing her on “To The Country”, which came off a little creepy the first time I heard it, but has definitely grown on me. “Phantom Mountain” takes a more rockin’ turn, only to be followed by the simple “Black Butterfly” with Veirs singing to a simple piano accompaniment. The concluding song, “Wrecking” includes the backing strings common to Year of Meteors and ends on a maddeningly unresolved chord, which seems an odd choice, but I guess she was going for the “leave them wanting more” effect.

In addition to being her best album yet, Saltbreakers is also Veirs’ most accessible. The songs have distinctive, catchy melodies and there are fewer lyrics about “trees and wind and rivers and fish and shit” as my music director at the radio station puts it than her previous albums. This is the perfect background music for reading boring textbooks because it is interesting enough that you break up the mundanity of reading yet another thinly veiled Russian analysis of religion absconding as a “novel” but not so manic that you can’t concentrate. If you’ve always wondered who this Laura Veirs person is, this is the album to use to find out.

[mp3] Laura Veirs-Pink Light

[mp3] Laura Veirs-Don’t Lose Yourself


Official Site | Myspace | Buy Saltbreakers