Monthly Archives: January 2008

Me too me too me too: GRC Favert* Albums of 2007

andrew bird

1. Andrew Bird – Armchair Apocrypha: The first four songs on this album are damn near perfect and the rest is consistantly nice, including the iTunes add-on “Sick of Elephants”. I played “Plasticities” for my English 112 class and they used these words to describe it: inspirational, dynamic, relaxing, mellow, fantastical, Beatles, Guster, Dave Matthews (because freshman year of college, everything’s Dave Matthews), and one of them made a good case for the lyrics being about fighting death. Big year for Bird: He also did a great Daytrotter session and put out an EP featuring an acoustic demo of “Heretics”.

2. Arcade Fire – Neon Bible
3. Radiohead – In Rainbows
4. Once Soundtrack
5. Modest Mouse – We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank
6. Wilco – Sky Blue Sky
7. MIA – Kala
8. Josh Ritter – The Historical Conquests of Josh Ritter
9. Iron & Wine – The Shepherd’s Dog
10. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Raising Sand

Nothing too surprising, here, but I stand by ’em. I’ve spent a lot of time this year listening to older stuff (as in any year older that ’07), especially since the move. Stuff includes: The Beatles – “Love,” Bjork – “Medulla,” Bruce Springsteen – “Nebraska,” Bob Dylan – “Modern Times,” Elliott Smith – “From A Basement On A Hill,” Gillian Welch – “Soul Journey” and “Time (The Revalator),” Nick Drake – “Way to Blue.” I also dig the Michael Ocean album and the Good Cheer recordings on their dot com. Special thanks to Forbes Library for their decent, eclectic music collection.

* That’s web-cute for “favorite”. My sponsors have been asking me to throw more of that crap on here. Personally, I hate it.

Baby Baby Baby Baby Baby

Nathan Rabin just semi-finished his excellent My Year of Flops series at the AV Club. (He’s going from twice a week to once a month.) I’ve spent hours reading his posts. The man’s output is maddening.

It’s sad that Heath Ledger died. He was a good actor. I’m looking forward to “The Dark Knight.”

Coming Soon:

– A review of the Flight of the Conchords Season One DVD

– A “Best Albums of 2007” list

Show me forlorn. No, no, that’s dejected, I said… There! Keep doing that!

graveyard

Graveyard by Graveyard

I don’t spend a lot of time listening to bands that sound like Led Zeppelin and when I do, I listen to Led Zeppelin. But if Robert Plant’s album of gorgeous duets with Alison Krauss doesn’t quench your thirst for gritty classic rock, Swedish band Graveyard will do about as well as any.

Graveyard’s influences are narrow enough that their self-titled debut could have come out anytime between 1972 and today. That includes their straightforward production and arcane lyrical content, which boasts Spinal Tap titles like “Right is Wrong,” “Evil Ways,” and “Satan’s Finest.” As near as I can make out, the band doesn’t reference cultural touchstones from any decade. The semi-recent exception is the vocal style, which emulates Chris Cornell as much as Plant.

Imitation aside, this band rocks. Most of these songs are built around classic rock riffs in which the guitar doubles the bass line while the other guitar wails. They’re capable musicians, so I’m rarely disappointed when the inevitable instrumental break shows up two-thirds of the way through each song.

This isn’t an album to listen to all the way through, so I find myself coming back to “Thin Line” as my favorite go-to Graveyard song for it’s heavy lead riff, rock-out chorus and vocals doubled on the octave. In case you forgot that rock and roll is a lot of fun, Graveyard is here to remind you.

Graveyard MySpace

Graveyard Site

Zip It, part 2

Best of Improv

“Gather Round, Children: The Best of Improv” is now available as a zip file! We make it so easy.

Download: Gather Round, Children: The Best of Improv

Another Reason I’m Unsure of Whether Sam Goody Still Exists

cyanide

The Three Sides of Cyanide Valentine reviewed by Gabe Durham

The name Cyanide Valentine makes me think of a muscled skinhead screaming “Pull the trigger / Pull the trigger / Stick it to ya head / and pull the trigger” in songs with titles like “Final Solution” and, uh, “Pull the Trigger.” So when I downloaded The Three Sides of Cyanide Valentine, my expectations were way down there.

They exceeded them in the first few seconds of “MegaFauna”. “Hey,” I said to my wife. “This doesn’t suck. Plus it’s free.” Free! Let’s not give Radiohead too much credit. Just because they released the best free album, they didn’t release the first.

The Three Sides alternates between dreamy, psychedelic pop and electronica, sometimes in the same song. They mention Flaming Lips’ Soft Bulletin as an all-time favorite, and I think that’s a pretty good touchstone. I’d throw out the names Pink Floyd and Massive Attack.

The album delivers some great pop moments. “Neanderthals,” with its big, ah-filled chorus, march drums, and steady build, sounds like Blur at their more melodic. “Nosferatu” is a sleek single with a chorus (“Inside your heart you’re dead”) that works better as a comment on Jim Jones’ suicide cult than a no-brainer observation about vampires. The song is best heard in tandem with its music video/Jonestown mini-documentary on the band’s blog.

The downside to free is that the band probably doesn’t get the diversity of instruments they might like and have to lean a bit to heavily on ahs, guitars, beats and tricks. A bass guitar would give “Neanderthals” the muscle that a programmed bass can’t deliver.

Some of the instrumentals are skippable. “Neon Skyhustler” would be more comfortable on the soundtrack to a spy videogame than here. “Kate” is the album’s best instrumental, as it offers something different, whereas the others sound like they’re just unfinished songs.

Valentine saves it’s best material for last. The pretty, acoustic guitar driven “Milk in the Gutter” deftly transitions into the electro-rock of “The Reprise,” which features the best studio noodling on the whole album while maintaining its emotional core.

Still, The Three Sides is a cohesive, homespun-in-the-good-way effort by a band that is serious about production and songwriting. See how this works? As long as we eschew the economy and share our work, we’ll all be happy if a bit hungry.

The Album: The Three Sides of Cyanide Valentine

The Band Website

GRC: The Lost Episode

During our time in LA, Alex and I met up with Darnell Brisco in the radio studio and recorded what many of our live listeners reported to be the awesomest thing ever. We fought, made up, fought again, and played a bunch of great tunes along the way. Unfortunately, we lost the whole thing due to a technical malfunction. Luckily, I videotaped one minute of the beginning:

This post marks the first release by Gather Round Moving Pictures, a subsidiary of Gather Round, Children.