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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, July 10, 2005 :::

Illinoise by Sufjan Stevens

Why I bought it: You gotta be kidding. I heart sufie.

What I think about it: By far the best CD to be released so far this year (well, with the exception of The Decemberists, but otherwise...), Illinoise is 22 tracks of post-modern folk songs that somehow manage to be simultaneously sincere yet flippant, heavy yet breezy, fun yet disciplined. It's basically an exhaustive tour through the emotions and the geography of the Prairie State (yes, it's called The Prairie State - I looked it up), with plucking banjos, chirping horns, and harmonized falsettos. That might sound like a school assignment to some people, but the genius of the whole project is that he's able to coax some of the most vivid imagery and some of the most identifiable thematic concepts from some of the unlikliest sources. It's so brilliant that I don't even think I could conjure up a hyperbole that would be exaggerated enough to really do it justice. It might take a few listens to really get on his wavelength, but once Sufjan gets his hooks into you, you'll never look back. Trust me.

BTW, there was a snafu with the original cover artwork, so pick up a copy with Superman on it while they are still available. And if you like the CD, hunt down the B-sides. They are just as good.

Song(s) worth a listen: UFOs ; C'mon, Feel the Illinoise ; John Wayne Gacy, Jr. ; Jasksonville ; Chicago ; The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades ; They Are Zombies ; The Seers Tower

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:44 PM :: #

Lost and Safe by The Books

Why I bought it: It seemed interesting from the songs I downloaded.

What I think about it: Quiet, experimental, and overboard in its minimalism, The Books pluck strings, sample dialogue, and tap drums until everything blends together and nothing stands out. What's left over seems more like an art school project than an actual CD, and although some of the outside-the-box experimentation pays off in the end, most of it doesn't. Some of the results not only sound pretentious, but almost unlistenable. On the few occassions when the band drops the constant dialogue sampling and obscure references and buckles down with their instruments, something great happens and actual songs (with melodies!) begin to emerge, but these moments are few and far between. So while alternating between inventive and irritating, The Books seemingly have a long way to go before realizing their full potential. They need a solid pop song producer to slap the silly art-school tendencies right out of their heads. Normally I wouldn't be in favor of suggesting that an experimental band go mainstream like that, but I really would like to hear what The Books would sound like if they didn't try so hard to be unlistenable.

Song(s) worth a listen: An Owl with Knees ; An Animated Description of Mr. Maps ; Twelve Fold Chain

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:31 PM :: #

Nashville by Josh Rouse

Why I bought it: It was highly praised by Erik at Playing Doctor.

What I think about it: At first I was worried that this CD teetered a little to close to the "adult contemporary" side of the listening spectrum, which can often be okay since even the adult contemporary stations have to get it right sometimes, but it was all too easy to imagine Josh Rouse playing along side John Mayer or David Gray at the Grammies. Turns out that doesn't matter, because the more I listened, the more I started to appreciate the finely-tuned craftsmanship with which he writes his songs, and the fact that I was singing along with them after just a few short listens. Sure, some varied instrumentation or sonic experimentation might have made the CD seem a little less safe and sterile, but it's amazing how each and every song on the CD is enjoyable and the hooks are irrepressible. Some more so than others, but we all know how rare it is to find a CD where you'll never need to use the skip button even once.

Song(s) worth a listen: It's The Nighttime ; My Love Has Gone ; Sad Eyes

Listen at amazon.

::: posted by dan at 10:18 PM :: #


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