Sunday, May 25, 2008

Death Cab For Cutie - Narrow Stairs

Artist: Death Cab For Cutie
Album: Narrow Stairs
Released: May 2008
Label: Atlantic
Style: Umm...Corporate Indie? I think they call that Alternative..
Buy From: Anywhere, it's not like they're on an indie label or anything.

Track List
1. Bixby Canyon Bridge 5:15
2. I Will Possess Your Heart 8:25
3. No Sunlight 2:40
4. Cath... 3:49
5. Talking Bird 3:23
6. You Can Do Better Than Me 1:59
7. Grapevine Fires 4:08
8. Your New Twin Sized Bed 3:06
9. Long Division 3:49
10. Pity And Fear 4:21
11. The Ice Is Getting Thinner 3:45

Ok, since I had such harsh words for the new single off Death Cab For Cutie's new album, Narrow Stairs, I decided I should say some nice things about the album overall. Despite the bands inevitable fall to a major label, abandoning their former Barsuk in favor of an international contract with Atlantic (read: CHING CHING MOTHERFUCKERS $_$), they are still very talented musicians, and no amount of corporate influence can take that voice away from Ben Gibbard.

Though I must say, the money's got some strange things coming out of his mouth these days. Narrow Stairs has got to be one of the most emotionally charged albums I've heard from them, and that's saying a lot considering the content of most of their earlier albums. Considering Gibbard is making more money now than he ever has in his whole life, you'd think he might start writing happy songs finally. Or maybe even a cool, kind-of-jammy singalong like Transatlanticism turns into at the end of the title track. Anything, but I guess that emo stuff sells, so what can you do?

This one hits those heartstrings heard though. I think it's probably a combination of a few things for me. First, this album is so epic. There's all kinds of build-ups that end in a capella, Gibbard hooks, or the 6-minute lead in on Possess Your Heart. I know I already talked extensively on that lead in, but seriously it doesn't get any more epic than that. And to seal the deal, the production crew at Atlantic is flawless; they really know how to make those notes hit home with ringing clarity.

Still though, it's all about that voice. I've been listening to all their older material and the new album on shuffle, just to try and pick out the differences, and really..I don't hear much besides the production quality and some major label garbage that just has to be there - e.g. the breakdown on Possess Your Heart; why does that part sound so horrible to me? Anyway, my point is I don't care what the albums sound like from now on, it's not bad and all I care about is Gibbard's voice. As long as he keeps singing, I'll keep listening to their albums. Case closed.

Edit 5/27/08 : Ok, so I continued my DCFC-discography, shuffled playlist and I decided that this is definitely not the most emotionally charged album I've heard. It is very well engineered, and those emo hooks are quite..emotional, but nothing compares to the raw power of Tiny Vessels and the rest of the tracks on Transatlanticism. Perhaps my pain, reminiscing of my teenage years first hearing that album, is blurring my judgment. I'm glad they didn't have emo when I was a teenager. We were all indie kids, united under one name! Now there's a million tiny scenes to be part of - screamo, emo, hardcore, grunge, grindcore, diy punk, no wave etc - some of which have just been re-adopted by todays youth. Unbeknownst to them, they're not doing anything new or unique. Just dividing themselves up into different categories, further separating themselves from one another by drawing imaginary lines in the sand based on what bands they like. Then they all talk shit on each other, that's the worst part. The state of "the scene" today is weak, man. Where is the love?

In closing, I just want to say this: I think emo is an attempt for music corporations to recover from the idea of naming a genre (indie, short for independent, as in independent label) based on the fact that the music isn't released on a major, or even well-known, label. Now, instead of indie-kids, they're emo-kids. All the music being released on Atlantic, and other big labels, that would normally have been classified as indie, is emo. The connotations are sickening though. I mean, seriously, what band isn't making music that is emotional? That's why we make music; we're emotional creatures, and we need to express ourselves. It's just ridiculous to say "These people over here are emotional." What does that mean for the rest of us? It means nothing, because emo is a made-up term (bastard step-child of the old punk scene, and I won't get into that but you can read about it elsewhere) that has been capitalized upon by music corporations. It means nothing now, and I wish all the black-haired, hoodie-wearing, myspace-supporting youths of our nation would wise up to this, and stop lining music corporation pockets with their misguided emotions.

Nothing against Death Cab though, it sounds like they're doing the same thing they have been all along, except now they're getting paid what they deserve for it. Cheers guys, the new album sounds great to me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dibidim - Riders

Artist: Dibidim

Album: Riders

Released: January 2007

Label: Protest Recordings

Style: SynthPop



  1. (4:42) Flagel Flygel
  2. (4:11) Gefeeling
  3. (4:26) Don't Play With the Gun
  4. (4:32) Sailor
  5. (3:50) I Woke Up
  6. (4:09) She Turns to Gold
  7. (3:59) If I Were a Cowboy
  8. (4:23) Lifeguard
  9. (4:54) Angelhorns
  10. (4:52) By the River

Playing Time : 43:58

Dibidim is Jeron and Jonas, two guys apparently from Badminton Bay in the UK. From what I can gather, which is very little, they're on this really rad label called Protest Recordings, which is a netlabel whose motto is exactly what I've been saying all along. I'll quote:

"Protest [Recordings] was borne out of a desire to set straight the shortcomings of the existing music industry, which has let down music lovers all over the world by placing undue emphasis on sales, and manipulating tastes by means of mass media - overpricing music whilst the artists themselves are left with potentially tiny royalties and little scope for creative expression."

Need I say more? Major labels are ruining the music industry, and stifling true creativity. You need look no further than The Mars Volta on that one. I remember the haydays of Cedric and Omar, in a band called At The Drive-In. And what are they now? They can't even release their albums on their own record label anymore. And for what? That damn, major-label check. Consider this: Is the music made inside your own space, when you had nothing better to do than express your emotions musically, the same as the music made in a studio, that you go to as a job, with the expectation of a paycheck at the end of your session?

Enter Dibidim, netlabel and all. No PFM review, no flash website, no tour. Just good beats and a myspace page. Now that's how you start a band these days. Just make some goddam music, then give it to everyone for a while. If it gets good response, you should probably cut a record. These guys needed to cut a record, this is mind-blowingly good material. Imagine, if you can, Air. The Air we remember from Moon Safari, the feeling that album gave you, then continue through the years with 10,000hz Legend and on through the discography until you come to Pocket Symphony. As an Air fan, I was a little disappointed with Pocket Symphony. It didn't have that same pop-sensibility that I remembered, nor the Brazilian influences (Azymuth in particular) that heralded them such a wide spectrum of fanship in the first place. It seemed very technical to me. Riders is a lot like what I would have expected Pocket Symphony to sound like, based on the sound of Air's previous albums, and the challenge of coming up with something enjoyable and engaging for new and old listeners ten years later. It's not exactly like any one Air album, it's just a sound that I could picture them coming up with on their own; I don't know why they didn't, but you could probably consider my question posed in the previous paragraph for some insight.

Riders starts slow, and stays that way aside from a few songs. It's nice though, because it builds a lot. You can tell that they worked on it through the winter. It just has that wintry feeling. The pace is really mellow. Most songs don't start with the hooks, you gotta wait for it. Also, it's pretty soundscapy, like lots of dream rushes (like where the drum goes whooshhhhhhhh, If I Were a Cowboy is the one I'm listening to now) and echoey space sounds, and of course it's all synth. The guys harmonize so nicely though, you wouldn't expect it from the beards. The whole album is pretty much synthy goodness and the guys' beautiful harmonies. Lifeguard sounds a lot like Kraftwerk, though. And on Angelhorns they use an Accordion, which makes me feel like I'm in Italy for some reason.

All in all, this is awesome. I'm going to be listening to it for quite a while, I'm sure.

UPDATE: I talked to Jeron via the MySpecs and he says, "we are making our second album early next year followed by a gigantic world tour with a massive psychedelic pop big band." I'm so excited! FTR, the psychedelic pop big band is NOT The Flaming Lips, despite my initial enthusiasms upon reading that.