Saturday, December 31, 2011

End of 2011 Friday Five!

Happy last Friday of 2011! I wanted to do a year end list, and I also wanted to do a top albums of 2011. I honestly tried to do both of these things, but I feel like all of my lists are biased in some way. However, I decided to come up with a non hierarchical list of my favorite tunes from this year. Enjoy! Have a Happy New Year!

Ringo Deathstarr - Chloe
CSS - City Grrrl
St. Vincent - Cruel

Feist - How Come You Never Go There

Anna Calvi - Suzanne & I
tUnE-yArDs - Bizness
PJ Harvey - On Battleship Hill
Pictureplane - Real Is A Feeling
Wild Flag - Romance

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

St. Vincent - Strange Mercy.

Fall 2011 was quite the time for music. We had releases from Bjork, Feist, Wild Flag, and St. Vincent. Unfortunately, I'm still buying or trying to acquire music from Fall 2011. This week, I was finally able to get a hold of Strange Mercy. I've listened to all of the songs on this album before I bought it (thanks to another wonderful NPR streaming concert), but while I was listening, I suddenly realized that this would be one of the better albums of the year. I did not know it then, but this album is extremely well crafted. Although the album is somewhat sort at 40 minutes, all eleven songs flow very well into one another. The lyrics are all outstanding, and once again, Annie Clark delivers. Strange Mercy is not quite a departure from her past two albums, but Strange Mercy is very consistent, and that is always welcome in the music world.

Track By Track Review.

Chloe In The Afternoon
The first thing that I notice about this song is it's similarity to some other songs that Clark has worked on in the past, but at the same time, this song is entirely new and refreshing to listen to. I only wish that this song was a little bit longer. Although it is a great lead track, this song could easily been extended by another minute or two. Despite that, I like it.

Cruel starts as soon as the last song ended. The opening is somewhat strange transitioning from the last song into this one, but the awkwardness wears off about a quarter way through. Cruel also gives us the first taste of of the signature St. Vincent guitar sound. The solo about halfway though is just enough to keep me listening and just short enough to flow into the next verse. This song is very danceable, and that is interesting. You wouldn't really expect to dance to a St. Vincent song, but I guess the danceability creates some variety.

Again, the opening is strange flowing from the next song, but again, it really does not matter when the song progresses. This song starts off slow, but it creates the prefect mood for this song. The lyrics really stand out on this song in particular because, of the tempo. It isn't necessary a slow song, but it isn't a fast song, this is why I like it so much. It has just enough of a leeway to keep me listening and at the same time, it holds my attention and keeps me from skipping to the next song. 

Surgeon was the first single from Strange Mercy. When I heard it this summer on the local indie radio station, I thought “ I know this voice, but who is it? This can't be St. Vincent. This really isn't her style” After a short web search to confirm my examination, My instincts were in fact correct: it was St. Vincent. This is a pretty good pick for a single, it has the good pace, fascinating lyrics, and a really amazing solo near the end. I really didn't expect it the first time I heard it. And right when it gets good, it ends and slows down for a second or two. An even better transition into the next song. I wish this was done earlier in the album.

Northern Lights
Again, I really don't like the first :25 seconds or so of the opening, but everything else in this song is pretty solid. I really don't know why the opening is so strange to me, the rest of the song is really amazing in fact. The lyrics are very interesting, and the drum repetition gives this song character. Another really good quick solo and then a fade out to the next song. This time it is even better than the first songs with this effect.

Strange Mercy
I also heard this one on the local indie radio station really late at night. I really liked it when I first heard it. Thinking to myself again, I got it right “Now, this is St. Vincent. Fatigue can't trick me this time, this hast to be St. Vincent. The style and everything is just like her past albums”. And that was correct. This is one of the slower songs on this album, but at the same time it has an almost “glossy” character to it. On this song in particular, I can really hear the influences of Clark's label mates (Side note: 4AD is know for their ethereal musical work. Think Bauhaus and the Cocteau Twins) After a short solo/outro this song is over and we are into the next song, just like that.

Neutered Fruit
This is another one of my favorites from this album. It could be because I connect to the lyrics, but it could also be because this song is composed very well. This song is around three minutes, but it still has that glossy quality to it that the previous song has. I also really appreciate the bridge near the middle of the song. It is light, and consistent, but again, it doesn't divert my attention to something else. The electric part that comes in in the second half of the song make this a very captivating listen. I feel like this was a little too short, but I never want the good songs to end anyway.

Champagne Year
I haven't had this album for very long (its only been a day since I bought it) and I already have the lyrics stuck in my head. It isn't very long, but it flows very fell from the previous song. Its very light and airy, and I enjoy it.

Another one of my favorites from this album. I also heard this one on the local indie radio station when I should have been asleep (I listen to a lot of indie radio, we have a pretty good station here in town). I would have switched this song with Cruel, but even without my edit, this song is in a pretty good place on this album. It is just slow enough to listen to, but well crafted.

Hysterical Strength
Hysterical Strength breaks up the metonymy of the previous four or songs, and brings back the danceable qualities of Cruel and combines them with the glossiness of the the previous songs. The ending really picks the speed back up, and provides a good pathway into the final song.

Year Of The Tiger
Clark said that this was about the year of the tiger, or in other words 2010. Basically it was a bad year for a lot of people, and it is loosely based around that notion. You don't have to think about a really upsetting year to enjoy this song though. I think Year of The Tiger combines the best of each song on the album, and creates a really nice ending.

Overall, this is a really great album. It is basically everything that I wanted to hear from Indie Rock raped into one album (well except Wild Flag, that is a story for another day...). Strange Mercy is well crafted and very enjoyable to listen to. I'm still kind of upset that I missed Clark's Boulder concert, but the album is so well crafted, it is fine if I did. If you find this album on a end of the year chart, don't be surprised, it deserves to be there. This is another album that I recommend, go buy it now!