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I buy a lot of CDs. And I live under the misconception that people care about my opinions. And I like to catalog things. Therefore I've decided to keep track of all the CDs I buy and what I think of them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008 :::

Daughters and Suns by The Owls

Why I bought it: The Owls remind me of being young and innocent and easily pleased.

What I think about it: The Owls music seems very understated, innocent, and breezy. Their delicate melodies and lilting harmonies are almost childlike. They write and perform songs that seem to represent the perfect definition of "pop" music. They manage to be catchy without being annoying, simple without being boring, and unassuming without seeming trite. What more could you want out of your music? Maybe something a little less wussy? Maybe something your mom wouldn't enjoy? Shut the hell up, snob.

Song(s) worth a listen: Way On ; Peppermint Patty ; All Those in Favor ; Black Hands of Time

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 5:11 PM :: #

Asleep at Heaven's Gate by Rogue Wave

Why I bought it: I like Rogue Wave, especially Descended Like Vultures.

What I think about it: Rogue Wave is an underappreciated pop band that puts out solid albums that are chock full of good songs, with the sporadic great song thrown in for good measure. The sounds are laid back, easy to digest, tuneful and melodic, although the lyrics are often disappointingly inscrutable. But never mind that flaw, because you can easily interpret them to mean anything you want, making incredible songs like "Lake Michigan" seem all the more timeless.

This is not their best album, though. It seems unfocused and unedited, and some of it would be best suited as innocuous background music. But still, when Rogue Wave gets it right, they get it very right.

Song(s) worth a listen: Lake Michigan ; Chicago x 12 ; Christians in Black

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 5:03 PM :: #

Thursday, October 25, 2007 :::

In Rainbows by Radiohead

Why I bought it: Radiohead is awesome.

What I think about it: From the production, to the songwriting, to the technique, to the length, to the method of release... In Rainbows is awesome. Radiohead, in general, is awesome. Expounding on that statement is pointless. It's a near perfect release. And to think, we still have another EP of an additional eight new songs being release in December... ahhhh 2007 rules.

Song(s) worth a listen: 15 Step ; Nude ; All I Need ; Reckoner

Download it for cheap.

::: posted by dan at 10:06 AM :: #

The Shepherd's Dog by Iron & Wine

Why I bought it: I like him lots.

What I think about it: Iron & Wine's older CDs are low-fi gems, rarely consisting of more than a single guitar strumming behind a couple harmonizing vocal tracks. Although I appreciated the simplicity and the resulting product, I always thought it would be interesting to hear him break out of that style. After he released the fantastic Woman King EP last year, which included some actual drums and bass work, I patted myself on the back for being so astute and correct in thinking he could benefit from some varied instrumentation. The Shepherd's Dog continues on in the same new vein, with more beats, more drums, more guitars, and just more overall production. And even though it's good, and I appreciate it gratefully, I'm already longing back to the simpler times when just a guitar and a voice would do, because it seemed to push him farther to focus on the melody over the production. But still, Shepherd's Dog is a great CD, full of mood and beautiful harmonies, so it's all good.

Song(s) worth a listen: Resurrection Fern ; Boy With A Coin

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 9:59 AM :: #

Challengers by The New Pornographers

Why I bought it: Pressure from the cool music blogs.

What I think about it: I've never been a huge New Pornographers fan. I prefer their solo releases (A.C. Newman and Neko Case). But their last release, Twin Cinema, had some really amazing tracks in spite of the chronic overproduction and ocassional shrill orchestration. Challengers, however, is pretty subpar on all counts. Even after repeated listens, I have failed to latch on to even a single song. It's not awful, and it doesn't make my ears ring like a lot of their earlier releases, but it might even be worse to be so mundane.

Song(s) worth a listen: My Rights Versus Yours

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 9:52 AM :: #

Sunday, September 09, 2007 :::

Plague Park by the Handome Furs

Why I bought it: I like that dood from Wolf Parade

What I think about it: It took a few listens, but I ended up appreciating the sparse drama of "Plague Park", including the dark guitar riffs, the subtle electronic flourishes, and the short running time. It seems lo-fi and minimal, but somehow it avoids being boring. It almost feels like post-apocalyptic rock and roll, only not in a dire way. A lot of it tends to blur together, especially after the first couple listens, but I'm glad I stuck with it.

Song(s) worth a listen: What We Had ; Sing! Captain

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 7:30 PM :: #

Friday, September 07, 2007 :::

Beauty & Crime by Suzanne Vega

Why I bought it: Suzanne Vega is awesome. If you only know her from "My Name is Luca" then you have been missing out.

What I think about it: Suzanne Vega is a genius and you should respect her as such. She doesn't get too much attention, and her albums often go under the radar, but they are all fantastic. She's probably one of the main reasons that I tend to gravitate toward folky pop music in the first place, and if her early-nineties album 99.9F doesn't make it into the top 100 Greatest Albums of all Time list then there is no justice in the music industry. Having said all that, she doesn't release albums too often, and her last CD, Songs in Red and Gray, wasn't exactly the high point of her career. This new release, though, is a strong return to form. She's an efficient singer, a smart lyricist, and a sharp, catchy songwriter. What more could you want? A better title and album cover? Yeah, I agree with you there, but oh well.

Song(s) worth a listen: Zephyr & I ; New York is a Woman ; Bound ; Angel's Doorway

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 12:17 PM :: #

What is Free To a Good Home? by Emily Haines

Why I bought it: I liked her last CD

What I think about it: This six-song EP is really just an extension of her previous solo CD Knives Don't Have Your Back, but it takes the songs and style on that CD even further stylistically and with even greater success. I don't know why I'm so pleased by pop songs that sound like funeral dirges written by barbiturate-addled poets, but there is something intriguing about her simple keyboard-based compositions and her fearless experimentation. And on one song in particular, she gets close to creating a song that might even be considered "radio-friendly" in some circles. She's definitely a musician I'll be keeping my eyes on.

Song(s) worth a listen: The Bank ; Bottom of the World

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 12:11 PM :: #

Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon

Why I bought it: I've always liked Spoon

What I think about it: I've always liked Spoon and their minimalist pop songs. Each one is a little nugget of pop perfection. They are sublimely succinct and always know when to quit, meaning they always leave every song, every album, and ever performance on a high note. That being said, I think Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has less standout moments than most of their previous CDs, but then again it does contain what must surely be one of the finest pop songs ever written: "The Underdog". So it gets many extra points for that. I never thought hand claps could me so happy.

Song(s) worth a listen: The Underdog ; Eddie's Ragga ; Finer Feelings

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 12:04 PM :: #

Cassadaga by Bright Eyes

Why I bought it: He's got a good song or two every once in a while

What I think about it: I think Bright Eyes is too topical and political to be worthy of all the hype he gets. Sure, his country-twang pop style is often fun, and he's got a good ear for catchy melodies, but I don't want to hear about the state of the country or the failure of leadership or the apathy of America anymore. Bright Eyes is at his best when he lays down his intellect and his opinions and just writes for the sake of creating a good timeless song. There are definitely a couple standout tracks on Cassadaga, and there are some rather large clunkers as well, but at least it's better as a whole than his last two simultaneously-released CDs (which didn't even have enough good songs between the two of them to create a single good album). All in all, I still think Bright Eyes is someone worth paying attention to. He'll get the formula right someday.

Song(s) worth a listen: Four Winds ; Cleanse Song

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:57 AM :: #

The Reminder by Feist

Why I bought it: I listened to it online.

What I think about it: I didn't expect this from Feist. Her last CD was OK, and yeah she's got a great smokey voice that instantly draws you in, but I had no idea she was capable of anything like The Reminder. From start to finish, The Reminder is a fun, fresh, instantly likable collection of pop song bliss. I'm not sure I understand some of the lyrics, or perhaps I'm just over thinking tracks like "Sealion", but if you don't like this album on first listen, then you should just go ahead and poke out your eardrums with Q-tips right now because nothing is ever going to please you anyway.

Song(s) worth a listen: I Feel It All ; My Moon My Man ; Sealion ; 1234

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:52 AM :: #

Planet Earth by Prince

Why I bought it: I'm stupid.

What I think about it: Prince sucks. He tricked me with his last CD, 3121, by putting a couple tracks on there that didn't totally blow. "Lolita" and "Black Sweat" were exciting because they sounded like old-school Prince, fun and sincerely funky, full of spunk and invention, just like in the 1980's when he was continuously blazing new territory in pop music. Then came 1990. It's all downhill from there.

Planet Earth is awful. There is not a single stand out track on the entire album. It's lame, preachy, and decidedly unfunky. It's painful to listen to. He's still a master performer, a shrewd businessman, and no one can ever erase the brilliance of his past, but the dude seriously has to stop listening to his own hype, take a breather and re-evaluate the last 15 years of his career, and start from scratch. Right now. Before it's too late to redeem himself.

Song(s) worth a listen: none

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:45 AM :: #

New Moon by Elliott Smith

Why I bought it: :(

What I think about it: Elliott Smith was awesome. These simple acoustic pop songs about love and drugs were never officially released until now. They were assumedly his "throw-away" songs or future B-Sides, but they are still more interesting, more honest, and more awe-inspiring than almost anything released by any other popular musician in the last twenty five years. Too bad he's dead. Brilliant is brilliant. There's not much more to say about it.

Song(s) worth a listen: High Times ; New Monkey ; Big Decision ; Almost Over

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:40 AM :: #

American Doll Posse by Tori Amos

Why I bought it: I still like Tori. She makes me wish I had a vagina.

What I think about it: For some reason, it's become really unhip to admit to liking Tori Amos. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because she hasn't had a true hit in quite a while, or maybe it's because her personality is so strong and distinctive that she almost seems like a parody of herself sometimes. But damn if that girl can't write a catchy tune. American Doll Posse is nowhere near her Under the Pink zenith, but it is miles above her last release (titled something something Butterflies something Fairies something). I admit I have a soft spot for piano ballads, but honestly, Tori has still got the chops to write a good tune. I kinda wish she'd stay away from the costume play she's got going on here (different female "personalities" represent each song on the album) - save that for the stage play adaptation, please - and it might be a few songs too long when all is said and done, but if you judge American Doll Posse just by its songs alone the results are mostly positive. So I'm going to go against the grain and admit that I still love Tori in all of her eccentric menstruating piano-humping glory.

Song(s) worth a listen: Big Wheel ; Teenage Hustling ; Girl Disappearing

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:30 AM :: #

Release the Stars by Rufus Wainwright

Why I bought it: He is one of my top five favorites of all time.

What I think about it: Rufus likes orchestral pop. It's kind of his niche. And on Release the Stars, it sounds like he employs a gymnasium full of string musicians to fill each and every nook and cranny of empty space until there is no room left to breathe. Don't get me wrong, I still like the style, and his songwriting talents are nearly unsurpassed and always intriguing, but part of me just wants to grab him by the shoulders and scream "Take it down a notch with the violins and horns already!" His previous CDs worked better as a whole because they were better balanced, juggling pared-down ballads with ballsy up-tempo pop numbers. Release the Stars is almost entirely over-orchestrated bombastic ballads that blend into one another way too easily. It's good stuff, sure, but a tad over the top.

Song(s) worth a listen: Do I Disappoint You ; Going to A Town ; Rules and Regulations

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:23 AM :: #

Armchair Apocrypha by Andrew Bird

Why I bought it: Andrew Bird is a genius and you can't convince me otherwise.

What I think about it: I really love Andrew Bird and all of his violin plucking, guitar strumming, whistling eccentricities. Armchair Apocrypha is a harder nut to crack than his last CD, The Mysterious Production of Eggs, which surprised and delighted at each and every turn, but it still has its share of inspired brilliance. The production here is a little more sparse or loose, and there are decidedly less hooks to get your fingers snapping, but it's a different tone altogether, and it works well, especially after repeated listens. He can sometimes intimidate, seeming smarter and deeper and more well-read than his peers, and he projects an almost mad-genius-like aura, but there is a lightness to his songwriting, too. It's too hard to describe. Forget it.

Song(s) worth a listen: Imitosis : Scythian Empires ; Plasticities

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:15 AM :: #

Wincing the Night Away by the Shins

Why I bought it: Who doesn't like the Shins? Even your mom would like the Shins.

What I think about it: There is little else that can be said about the Shins that hasn't already been said. They write consistently good, easy to absorb pop tunes that would make even Dick Cheney tap his foot. This CD is no exception. They honestly haven't written a bad song yet. Although they suck live and I hate the album cover.

Song(s) worth a listen: Australia ; Phantom Limb ; Turn On Me

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:11 AM :: #

Post War by M Ward

Why I bought it: It grew on me.

What I think about it: M Ward might really sound like stripped-down and over-simplified adult pop folk music at first, but that's just a trick. The more you listen, the more you hear. The sweet yet clever lyrics start to emerge, the catchy hooks get their grip, and before you know it you are singing along at the top of your lungs. Plus, his captivating voice, which hovers in a strange place between "raspy" and "like butter", doesn't hurt much either. It's short in length but long in staying power. These tunes will never sound dated or old, they are instantly classic.

Song(s) worth a listen: Poison Cup ; Right in the Head ; Magic Trick ; Requiem

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 11:05 AM :: #

Neon Bible by Arcade Fire

Why I bought it: I really enjoyed Funeral

What I think about it: If you like earnest modern rock tunes that sound like the Talking Heads merged with a gospel choir, then there's a lot of good stuff on here that will be right up your alley. I, on the other hand, prefer their organ-less last release, Funeral, with its brilliant opening track, its profound lyrics, and its ability to give me goosebumps with each and every listen. But to be honest, this CD really didn't catch my interest enough during the first couple listens, so repeat listenings have been few and far between. If I gave it more time, I'm sure I'd grow to like it more, but that instant sense of connection just wasn't there, and I don't know if it can ever recover. The opening track is a dud, which doesn't help, and it takes a few tracks before the first true good song appears. I hate to start a backlash, but I think this is what happens when a band gets overhyped, too quick, too soon.

Song(s) worth a listen: Intervention ; No Cars Go

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:58 AM :: #

Phantom Punch by Sondre Lerche

Why I bought it: I like him lots.

What I think about it: Sondre Lerche was one of those young pop music prodigies who could play guitar like the devil and who also happened to be a pretty strong song writer. His lyrics often don't make too much sense, probably because English isn't his first language, but the hooks and the energy are always there, and he definitely has his own unique style. He's a little older and a little wiser now, but Phantom Punch takes off where his last true pop CD, Two Way Monologue, left off, with more great hooks, catchy pop songs, and ebullient guitar strumming. This time the songs are shorter and the entire experience is over way too soon, but it's still enjoyable from start to finish. My only real complaint is that some of the quirkiness and experimentalism is gone, but it's still great stuff.

Song(s) worth a listen: Airport Taxi Reception ; Phantom Punch ; Well Well Well

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:51 AM :: #

Ecdysis by Miho Hatori

Why I bought it: I'm desperately waiting for a Ciba Matto reunion

What I think about it: Ciba Matto was an awesome band, especially after Sean Lennon joined the ranks and the three created Stereo Type A, which is easily one of the best pop records released in the last decade. Now gone solo for reasons that I've never bothered to investigate (although I like to imagine a Sean Lennon love triangle explosion), they just aren't the same. The new Miho Hatori solo CD has some nice subtle electronic flourishes and some catchy pop beats, but it never really takes off. Most of the songs fade from memory way too quickly, and the insanely catchy pop hooks that were elemental of Ciba Matto have been replaced by some rather boring electronic meanderings. Oh well, I can't long for the glory days forever. It's time to move on.

Song(s) worth a listen: Barracuda

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:45 AM :: #

Year Zero by Nine Inch Nails

Why I bought it: I'm a big fan from way back.

What I think about it: I've kind of outgrown my angry-misanthrope-who-listens-to-hardcore-metal-techno phase, so I didn't think that Nine Inch Nails was really going to float my boat anymore, especially after they released the mediocre With Teeth a couple years ago, but I gotta admit that most of the tracks off of Year Zero are pretty damned catchy. And by creating this CD as a "soundtrack" to a movie that doesn't exist, Trent Reznor elevates his typically trite lyrics to respectable levels, injecting the songs with a new sense of purpose, rather than just simply repeating his "Life is Hell" mantra. Plus, the viral marketing campaign surrounding this release was genius in itself. It has renewed my interest in Nine Inch Nails forever, and given me hope that he can dig himself out of the "dated" hole he's created for himself. I'd call it a "return to form" but it really is more like "a surprise escape from certain death."

Song(s) worth a listen: Survivalism ; My Violent Heart ; The Warning

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:37 AM :: #

We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank by Modest Mouse

Why I bought it: I dunno.

What I think about it: Modest Mouse always underwhelms me on first listen. Then after I give it a second or third shot, a couple tunes begin to stand out. I might put them on a mix CD or rediscover the tune later when my iPod is on shuffle and think "Wow, that's a really good song" and then return to the original CD to give it yet another chance, but the result is always the same: a couple "Woah!" moments on a CD full of "Meh". But at least they are more interesting than most bands these days, and they always have great album covers.

Song(s) worth a listen: Florida ; Missed the Boat

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:32 AM :: #

Ys by Joanna Newsom

Why I bought it: I have grown to love her.

What I think about it: She's got a crazy voice and mostly plays the harp and the five songs on this CD average 10 minutes a piece, but I still can't stop listening. Her lyrics are epic, the orchestration is flawless, and in spite of their length the songs never seem to outlast their welcome. If you haven't heard her before, you might be put off at first, but give it a listen or two and you will be hooked. I can't even chose a genre to classify her. It's somewhere between freak folk and adult pop I guess.

Song(s) worth a listen: Emily ; Monkey & Bear

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:28 AM :: #

Monday, October 23, 2006 :::

Knives Don't Have Your Back by Emily Haines and the Soft Skeleton

Why I bought it: I dig her voice and piano work in Metric

What I think about it: Emily Haines is in a rock band called Metric, which I like enough but have never loved. I've always thought her voice was the highlight of the band, and the tracks based around her fascinating keyboard work were always the standouts on their albums, so I've always been secretly yearning for her to break out on her own. Her first solo CD is exactly what I was expecting: earnest, sparse but swirly keyboard-based tunes and flow effortlessly from her fingertips. Individually, each song is tight and crafty. A whole CDs worth of them is a bit much to chew on, though, and the downbeat mood is pretty heavy even if the lyrics are light. After a while the songs start to blend into eachother, but when all is said and done the experience is more than satisfying.

Song(s) worth a listen: Our Hell ; Reading in Bed ; The Lottery

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 12:26 PM :: #


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Daughters and Suns by The Owls
Asleep at Heaven's Gate by Rogue Wave
In Rainbows by Radiohead
The Shepherd's Dog by Iron & Wine
Challengers by The New Pornographers
Plague Park by the Handome Furs
Beauty & Crime by Suzanne Vega
What is Free To a Good Home? by Emily Haines
Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga by Spoon
Cassadaga by Bright Eyes

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