Monday, June 22, 2009

Recent Acquisitions: 6-22-09 (New Music)

Deerhunter, Microcastle (Kranky, 2-LP, gatefold cover, $17). This album was on a lot of best-of-2008 lists and near the top on some. I wasn’t too impressed when I sampled it on one of those ear-germ-spreading-stations at Amoeba last year. Those germ transfer stations have actually saved me a lot of money (without costing me any ear infections). If I went by the glowing reviews in Pitchfork, Spin, Paste, et al., I’d be sitting on a lot of crap right now. One conclusion to be drawn from the last statement is that I’m hopelessly out of touch with contemporary music and what is considered good music by the youthful consumer. I find a lot of highly praised albums jejune or, worse, insufferably shitty. Believe me I don’t want it to be this way. I would love to get excited by and embrace new music. But when I hear lauded bands such as Animal Collective, TV on the Radio, Vampire Weekend and so on, the first thing that comes to mind is: I’ve heard this before, done better. So I thought the same of Deerhunter’s Microcastle until I picked it up recently when the mood was right and the earth’s magnetic pull on my medulla oblongata was such that it sounded good at the listening station the second time around. The cover pretty much conveys the spirit of the music: a head shot of a guy with long hair obscuring half his face, looking strung out on some mind-numbing drug, with a tiny skull superimposed in the eye socket. Then there was the sticker affixed to the shrinkwrap quoting a Spin review: “A disturbing plea for erotic asphyxiation.” I question the marketing genius who decided to put that sticker on the album. I would think that people with a favorable impression of erotic asphyxiation represents a really small demographic group. And an even smaller subset would actually be enticed to buy an album because it promises a disturbing asphyxial experience. Admittedly that’s a hunch on my part. Perhaps a lot of people just nodded their heads in recognition when they discovered the cause of David Carradine’s death. I don't know.

If you haven’t guessed by now the album doesn’t offer a happy listen. Nevertheless it's got its own languorous beauty; it's like slow-cooked pop psychedelia. Near the end of one song, with fuzzed out guitars and vocals, I thought, This is something Tommy James and the Shondells would have recorded if they were all on downers. Sure enough, the first word of the next song is "crimson", but there's no clover in this album. Instead, it's ennui over and over. There's one uptempo song on the album, but the chorus is "Nothing ever happened to me". It's not a new sentiment in pop music. In fact, it goes back to Chet Baker and beyond. Deerhunter gives this nihilistic sentiment new expression to the current generation of listless youths. I can't quite connect completely with this album. But if a young hipster told me Microcastle was a great album, I wouldn't argue the point.

The sound quality is good for a modern rock album. There's a lot of spaciousness in the recording, which is important in creating the trippy vibe of Microcastle.

Jenny Lewis, Acid Tongue (Warner Brothers, 2-LP, includes CD of album, $20). I'm not sure why I waited so long to pick up this album. I liked her first solo album and the last two Rilo Kiley albums. After listening to Microcastle, when I hear Jenny Lewis sing about dropping acid, all I can think is, Aw, ain't that cute. As much as I enjoy her music, I just don't think Jenny Lewis is that deep. Not all singers or albums have to be.

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthday, Rocky! I hope you get to celebrate by listening to exquisitely recorded LPs rescued from the dollar bin, or enjoying hours of consecutive Swedish pop music breaks, or doing whatever it is you audiophiles do for fun and revelry.

    PS Love the new widescreen format of the blog. Very "spacious."