Monday, June 21, 2010

Album Review: The National-High Violet

I have a problem with traditional reviewing processes for music, simply because sometimes it takes a while for an album to brew away on the back-burner before you start to get a sense of what the artist is doing. I've noticed this a lot while doing this series of album reviews. Some of the albums are things that I caught onto immediately, but some of them have taken me a while to get what the band is doing. The National's lates album "High Violet" is one of those albums.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to listen to this album a few times before it was released on the New York Times website and I felt like it just wasn't the kind of album a band like The National would make. It sounded too mellow and understated for a band who's known for being a stadium rock band with no stadium.

Fortunately I took my chances, went ahead and picked up the album when it was released, and after a few more listens I think I finally got it. They don't seem to be interested in yelling or even grumbling about the way things are going. With the weight of a few more years behind them, the lyrics and the music now turn to an acceptance of the way things are and possibly even an embrace.

This means that instead of Matt Berringer screaming "I won't F--- us over" we hear him quietly reflecting "Sorrow waited, sorrow won". It's a sad line, but it's sung in such a way that makes it seem like he's accepted the sorrow of life and has learned to see its beauty. This also means that the guitar parts have been scaled back to create quiter sonic surfaces like the ones on the aforementioned "Sorrow" (my favourite track on the album) or on "Conversation 16" where you can just barely hear the strumming in the background, but you can fully understand how it lends itself to the lyrics.

High Violet is probably not one of the years greatest albums. The albums tone is too narrow to appeal to a wide array of people. But in the right setting, under the right mood, the album couldn't be more perfect.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Show

Yesterday I went to see a concert. Starting a post like that makes me feel like a first grader. It's like, where do you go from there? "Yesterday I went to see a concert. It was fun. I had a hot dog. There were a lot of seagulls." I've spent a lot of time thinking about how I say things lately jut because I find that there are certain phrases that I say and it bugs me that I say them or I feel like they're wearing out or they're somewhat juvenile. Things like inserting the word "like" as a substitute for many other words, starting a sentence with the phrase "it's funny how", or a number of other things that I repeat a lot. This has nothing to do with what I wanted to post about though.

I went to see Broken Social Scene yesterday. Every year (almost) they play a show on Toronto Island with some other band. One year it was Modest Mouse, another year it was Bloc Party. This year they were playing with a band called "Pavement" who can supposedly be considered the fathers of college rock. I was in attendance with my girlfriend and a friend from school and we had a sweet time. Getting to the island is always a chore and because the show was sold out this year it made it even more difficult but we got on in reasonable time and managed to get in.

The set that BSS played was so calculated it was incredible. They're a band with a number of members who have become too big to keep touring with the band regularly, but because this was a special show, they were able to get these members back. They started with their normal touring lineup but a few songs in they revealed that Feist was there to sing some songs with them, then a few songs later Emily Haines appeared on stage to sing, and the two ladies joined regular member Lisa Lobsinger for some vocal duels. They were also backed by a full six or seven piece horn section and two string players.

The set list was well constructed, containing most of the songs from their newest album "Forgiveness Rock Record" and having some choice cuts from their older material. The only complaint I had was the lack of a piano from "Lover's Spit" but that's a really minor gripe.

The weather was perfect, the lineup was well constructed to allow for easy exit from the island (BSS played second last which helped to reduce major ferry congestion), and the only hiccup was the fact that the beer tent involved an obscenely long wait with limited success. It was another great show on Toronto island.

P.S. Thanks for all the complements on the layout. Google added some new layout features that make everything look more like tumblr so I took advantage of them and produced what you see here.

Monday, June 14, 2010

In The Bush

It's been a little while, mostly due to a combination of sickness, a fishing trip, and general lack of motivation. I'm finding my head is more empty nowadays because there are other things to take up my time and energy.

I just spent 3 days in the woods and I'm sort of recovering from the isolation. This involves babysitting for three days followed by a concert in Toronto. I like to pack in my civilization into large chunks for general goodness.

Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever become the kind of person I want to become. The more things change, the more they stay the same but I'm different now than I was so maybe I just can't see the change. In the bush you can see the change in me. I'm definitely less whiny than I used to be. I guess I am changing, just very very slowly.