Saturday, November 20, 2010

Manic Street Preachers - Postcards from a Young Man (9.6 out of 10)

When was the last time you heard legit, straight-ahead guitar solos in rock music? Or heard a genuinely great band on top of their game, playing with joy, power and utter conviction? This is that album. These rockers from Wales have been doing it for 25 years now and are always festival headliners in Britain. Unfortunately, they've never sniffed popularity here in the States which is our loss in a world of Gaga's and Katy Perrys. James Dean Bradfield's voice and guitar work give life to Nicky Wire's (as always) insightful, if not cynical social commentary lyrics. "Teenage Dream" this ain't. I haven't consistently enjoyed an album this much since Queen's "A Night at the Opera" in 1976, and I've listened to Postcards From a Young Man through at least 10 times now. Nicky Wire describes this album as Van Halen meeting Motown, or Queen combined with ABBA. Sign me up! This is a classic album and one to be treasured by all fans of rock and roll music. This is my album of the year, and definitely one of my 5 favorite albums of all-time. Tell me what band rocks with the utter passion as the Manic Street Preachers do on a song like "Auto-Intoxication"? "It's Not War (Just the End of Us)" is also the song of the year. Nobody does it like this anymore - for now, the Manics are the last of the mohicans.

Mt. Desolation - "Mt.Desolation" 8.0 out of 10

Well now, another pleasant find! 2 of the guys from the band Keane (minus the bloated lead singer) get together to make a stripped down, countrified cd that oozes with melody and authentic life...unlike, say Mumphord and Sons. Just plain enjoyable and well-done. Highly recommend.

Kelley Stoltz - "To Dreamers" 8.3 out of 10

Some may remember the song "Memory Collector" from 3 years ago that ended up on an Apple commercial. Fantastic melodies framed with occaisional retro-sounds that take you back to the late 60's. But in a good way. He makes all of the songs sound believable -a labor of love. Please do check it out! What a treat to finally be able to commend a cd. Eat your heart out Sufjan.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Taylor Swift - "Speak Now" and another rant about Sufjan's latest.

I'm not even going to offer up a score for Taylor Swift's new cd. But let me say a couple of things in her defense. First, if this had been her 1st cd, I think it would be a very nice accomplishment, and I would be hoping for more growth/output from her in the future. Also, it must be difficult and stressful to follow up the success of the 1st 2 cd's. Also, she's 20 years old. And does actually write every single song on here by herself. And she's not a ho. Kudos.
That said, "Speak Now" is boring and predictable - and believe me, I've heard it 4 or 5 times now riding around with my 15 year old daughter. Swift's melodic patterns and arrangements are getting to be very one-dimensional...except when she channels her inner Avril Lavigne on a couple of songs. Basically, if you've heard one Taylor Swift tune, you've sort of heard them all and I'm just not sure she's all that talented when all is said and done. We know for a fact that she can't sing live. We also know that her stage presence is a bit awkward - sort of this generations Barry Manilow. "But she writes her own stuff, she writes her own stuff, she writes her own stuff." So did Richard Marx.

My only question for those reviewers/people still raving about Sufjan Stevens' new cd "The Age of Adz" is this: Have you, in the past 2 weeks, actually played the cd for entertainment/enjoyment purposes, OR...have you ever played it in the car on a road trip or even while driving around town? That's what I thought. And are you really going to argue that it's better than "Come On, Feel the Illinoise?" Half as as good? If you said yes to either question, I respect you. Otherwise, there really needs to be some revisionist reviewing taking place before the end of the year IMO. Of course, people may complain about my gushing over Joanna Newsome's last cd, so that's fair.