And The Hits Just Keep On Comin': December 2007

And The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

A Music Journal Collective Effort

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Matty's Top 10 Picks of 2007

10. Smashing Pumpkins - Zeitgeist
Many critics called this album a moneygrab but by listening to
tracks like 'Thats The Way (My Love Is)', it is evident that the
heart of SP is in this production, even though James Iha and
D'arcy didn't make the reunion. Highly touted and advertised
through MySpace blogs, this album actually has some depth
and as the term 'Zeitgeist' defined tells us, the Pumpkins are
back and not so introspective; they are taking notice of the
cultural climate of the United States.

9. Feist - The Reminder
Leslie Feist follows up her first major release by topping her
sundae of success with a cherry of musical delights. Though I
wish some of the tracks were less effects-heavy (i.e. sounding
like Feist is singing under a tunnel through a cardboard tube),
The Reminder shows us that Leslie is out to remind us about
the meaning of love, sacrifice and truth.

8. The New Pornographers - Challengers
Though Vancouver natives TNP struggle to make true art in
the face of critics wanting so eagerly to define them as a
'supergroup', this album's climaxes seem a little premature
at times. Overall though, there are few on the market who
can construct such humm-able melodies as The New Porns.
This album also showcases the talent of Neko Case a little
more effectively than Twin Cinema.

7. Kevin Drew - Spirit If...
I can't even count the number of times I have read reviews
where critics (especially in Canada) complain about the
Arts and Crafts label having 'carte blanche' on Canadian radio.
My response is simply 'Show me another musical troupe that
rivals the passion and creativity of Drew and his band of
Toronto nomads'. Though Drew tends to drool on himself
with his stream of consciousness drivel, the end result of his
solo effort is satisfying and bright.

6. Foo Fighters - Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
Davey G and the crew are back for another multiple guitar
track laden effort...and it's really friggin good. Though SPIN
Magazine panned this newest offering and actually referred
to Grohl's career as 'fantastically average', I beg to differ
and suggest that SPIN needs to hire some new writers.
Dave bookends his passion on every corner of this album,
breaking away from the ultra-personal 'In Your Honour' to
more universal themes and never apologizing for rocking
the way he does.

5. The Weakerthans - Reunion Tour
It's really hard to hate a band from Winnipeg. It's even
harder to hate a hyper-talented band from Winnipeg who
can release albums almost four years apart and still command
such a massive listening audience. Reunion Tour is more
of the same from Stephen Carroll and the lads - vocal and
guitar-driven hooks framed around interesting character-based
lyrics - but still somehow oddly different. That's the magic
of The Weakerthans.

4. Eddie Vedder - Into The Wild Soundtrack
Though I'm not an Eddie fan, my wife asked me to download
this album and its bare-bones creative spool is incredibly hard
to resist. The simplicity of the songwriting makes you
understand the characters of a film without actually seeing
the end product (although I did see it). Songs like 'Rise Up'
pull you into the instrumentally eclectic and ever contemplative
feel of this hats-off creation from Vedder.

3. The Apostle Of Hustle - National Anthem Of Nowhere
I don't know if there is a band as original sounding as The
Apostle, these days, in ALL of music. I'm actually not kidding. I
just got a chance to see these guys live in the Nation's Capital
(that's Ottawa...not Vancouver or Toronto, folks) and they blew
the stage to bits with just three performers. Half Cuban and
Half Canadian, Andrew Whiteman writes songs that harness
latin rhythms and blend them into an indie soundscape. No
matter who you are, Whiteman will have you singing his national
anthem by the end of this disc.

2. Bright Eyes - Cassadaga
My friend Jon Adams can attest to the fact that even my
placing Bright Eyes on a list of favourites is a testament to
Conner Oberst's genius. Determined to hate them from the
get-go, this LP won my soul over and displays the simple,
clairvoyant sounds of a man trying to change his way. The
arrangement is nothing short of epiphanal.

1. Stars - In Our Bedroom After The War
Of course I HAD to end on another album from Arts and
Crafts (that's 4 out of 10 if you're counting. And NO - I do
not work for Arts and Crafts. They are hypnotists. I want
my brain back.) Torq Campbell and the lovely Amy Millan
pull us through the fourth major offering from Stars. Based
on fictional caricatures of a war-torn city, the listener is
drawn into an ethereal world of riots, bomb threats and
people just trying to define their existences. Stars have
managed to take steps where other musicians don't dare
and for that, I salute them. This album does not disappoint
from beginning to end.

Monday, December 03, 2007

In Our Bedroom After The War

Lately, it’s been somewhat bothersome to me that many
music reviewers are either washed-up, bitter ex-musicians
or elitist scene-kids. Let’s take a look at a recent review
from Pitchfork by one Ryan Dombal, shall we? This review
charts and graphs the newest offering by Stars (In Our
Bedroom After The War) at a meager 7.4/10. Without
getting too far into the semantics (and the idiocy) of rating
systems in and of themselves, I think it is urgent that we
delve into the currency of the actual review. Without
spoiling the cinematic ending, Dombal’s lengthy review
goes on to basically yawn over the newest Stars album,
criticizing it with containing ‘overt dramatic airs’ and
‘blubbering melodrama’. This is evident right out of the
gate as Dombal claims the title track ‘suffocates under
its own ticker-tape parade epic-ness’. Right. And…you
don’t see any hypocrisy within the very unglamourous
writing of your review, Ryan?

Before any further desecration of Dombal, the actual

album in question needs some simplistic framework with
which to level the critical playing field. Torq Campbell
and Amy Millan have led Stars through four major full
length albums in just under six years. What sets IOBATW
apart from their former works (including the 2004
overnight indie masterpiece ‘Set Yourself On Fire’),
however, is its devotion to theme, plot and character
through all thirteen tracks. The stage is a non-descript,
war torn city that reveals an array of inhabitants who
are all trying to survive and seek the true essence of
their beings. From Torq’s drugged-out prostitute, living
for the pulse of excitement, in ‘Take Me To The Riot’ to
Amy Millan’s optimistic gleam in ‘Today Will Be Better,
I Swear!’, IOBATW is an homage to an all-too familiar
scene that is universally relatable. The splendid and
varied instrumentation is really only the canvas for each
song, splaying everything from horns to driving beats
and airy synths. Although the eccentricity drips from
every piece of album artwork, Stars have released a
work that will rival many forms of art for ages to come.

Any integrity within Dombal’s anti-glitz, anti-Campbell

review is really laid to waste in its length: almost 900
words – all of which utterly contradict what I squeaked
out in half of that. Really? Is this the sum of modern
art and music reviews? Never amazed, luddite writers
who formulate inaccessible, lofty pages of jargon that
an English major will need a dictionary to sift through?
Dombal even goes on to pan Campbell’s acting
background (which he probably googled quickly and
found on IMDB), inserting a jab about a made for TV
movie involving a sea monster and a boy in his early
acting career. What happened to just letting the
listener know what the album is all about? Despite
endless critical fallacy, there really is no substitution
for the genuine article and Torq, though soap-boxy
and breathy at times, sells himself and his band in the
urgency of every lyric of every song on this album. And
so, ending with the words of Dombal himself: ‘as any
Hollywood-type will tell you, an actor is only as good
as his script.’ I guess I’ll shop around for some more

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