Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Currently Playing

Sufjan Stevens -- Illinois

I'm still enthralled, enamored, and utterly smitten with Sufjan Stevens' new album Illinois. I liked it a lot on the first couple listens, and, if anything, it's unfolding in deeper and better ways with successive listens. "John Wayne Gacy Jr." and "Casimir Pulaski Day" were immediately memorable and startling, and still are. But I'm drawn more and more to the intricate arrangements, especially the one on "The Predatory Wasps," which has to be the most beautiful song I've encountered in ages. It will take an amazing effort to supplant this one from the top of my Best of 2005 list.

What is more remarkable to me about this phenomenon is that Sufjan has all the basic ingredients that normally make me want to retch. He's the epitome of the wimpy, sensitive artiste who goes all aquiver over sunsets and pretty flowers. As Tonio K. once wrote of the sensitive, navel-gazing Jackson Browne, "Fountain of Sorrow, my ass, m***** f******/I hope you wind up in the ground." But his songs are brutal, in amazing ways, and his arrangements and instrumentation are nothing short of brilliant. And the girl backup singers end up functioning as a Greek chorus, by turns funny like Aristophanes and tragic like Sophocles, all the while still sounding like escapees from a Phil Spector girl group. In the end Sufjan sounds like no one but himself; a true and original talent.

The Pernice Brothers -- Discover a Lovelier You

I like this one quite a bit. It's Joe Pernice's strongest batch of songs yet; sprightly pop tunes and shimmering, chiming guitars that belie a depressive personality. My kind of guy.

Milton Mapes -- The Blacklight Trap

That's a band name, by the way, not a person. The Blacklight Trap is currently meeting my everpresent need for Neil Young and Crazy Horse/Uncle Tupelo soundalikes. Now that Jay Farrar has released a new Son Volt album (which I have yet to hear), Milton may be moved to the back burner. We'll see.

Dar Williams -- My Better Self

This one isn't out yet for a couple months yet, but it's quite good -- folk music with an edge, featuring some pointed political commentary without the usual accompanying foul-mouthed polemics (see Steve Earle, the left's response to Toby Keith, which makes him just as obnoxious and stupid). It's nice to hear Bush bashing done intelligently. Plus you get great covers of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb" and Neil Young's "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere," two songs that fit the overall tone of the album perfectly.

Danny Cohen -- We're All Gunna Die Someday

Tom Waits protege Danny Cohen's album "We're All Gunna Die Someday" is weird and wonderful. He sings about the Summer of Love, Baba Ram Das, organically grown zucchini, power to the people, and then bleats like a sheep. All in the same song. And let me give a shout out to Anti- Records, Cohen's label. Waits, Cohen, Joe Henry, Merle Haggard, Nick Cave, Neko Case, etc. Are you kidding me? It's like somebody woke up and formed Andy- Records.

Martin Sexton -- Wonderbar

This one isn't new (it was released in 2001), but it's new to me, and it's spent a lot of time in my CD player. Martin Sexton is a terrific songwriter with a supple, soulful voice. And he has more worthwhile things to say about what it means to live as a Christian in the modern world than any 10 CCM albums of your choice.

10 comments:

danthress said...

Andy, I'm relieved to see your regular typeface back in action. No this is not a metaphor. The Van Morrison post uses a sans serif, helvetica perhaps, and it made my head spin.

Your friend,

Easily Distracted

Karen said...

andy, good to see you posting again. i was getting concerned....;)

dan...you need help. i know a good therapist...

danthress said...

Karen, does your therapist specialize in font issues?

Andy Whitman said...

If he's the same therapist I know, then he's managed to keep up with the Times. And the Times New Roman, in case you're concerned about how he well he would do in Italy.

Font puns. Wow. How low we will stoop.

Josh Hurst said...

Gosh, Andy... you need to hear the new Andrew Bird record. Foks keep telling me that Illinois is untouchable, but Bird gives Sufjan a run for his money.

Pop perfection, dude... pop perfection.

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Karen said...

font issues, including type and size. she'll cover it all for you...including OCD....;)

or we could just pray for you on friday and get you healed of your font issues...

mg said...

hmmm

i prefer 'arial' myself. i think it is just beautiful.

KarlandBethany said...

Fonts Schmonts! fonts don't make sound so as long as I can read them I'm cool.

As for Sufjan, I'll have to admit that I have yet to listen to a CD of his. Itlooks like its about time. There's enough buzz here to warrent at least one listen.

I've downloaded "The Man of Metropolis" and "Casimir Pulaski Day" Don't have an educated opinion on it yet but I do have to say that is the sweatest trumpet recording I've heard in a long time.

I'll post more about adventure into Sufjan S. on karlandbethany@blogspot.com

teddy dellesky said...

you're preaching to the choir when it comes to mr. stevens. as for what john hurst said about andrew bird i totally agree...to a point. while his new album is a great sophomore effort and continues to be one of the great albums this year on my list (maybe top 10), he is no sufjan stevens. check it out.