Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Dodos - No Color

I don’t know how to write objectively about music. So I’m not going to try especially hard to.

There’s this new-to-me band out right now called The Dodos. Last week they released a new album called No Color and it’s fantastic. I have been playing it nonstop this past week and talking about it to every person who will listen to me. It was slow to grow on me, it took me about one and a half listen throughs before my attention was grabbed, but I’m not sure how it took me that long. The album begins with some loud, insistent, guaranteed-to-grab-your-attention drumming. This insistent drumming, it turns out, is one of the main characteristics of this band and I love them for it. Mainly comprised of just two guys who share a crazy love of West African Ewe drumming and some guests depending on instrumentation needs, the Dodos play with form and rhythm and timing. The complexity of the lines happening and the way they interweave completely blows my mind. There is no bad song on this album, although there are three standout songs that I will skip to almost every time. The track that closes the album “Don’t Stop” has completely won my heart. It has this driving, striving sound through the verses and bridges – repetitive, fast drumming rhythms, distorted guitar, frantic guitar-picking – but when it hits the chorus, it’s like a ray of sunshine has just come out. The rhythm cuts to a half-time feel, the electric guitar has this bright melodic riff which gives you the same feeling you get during early summer days when the sun has reminded you why you continue to breathe every day and you are certain that you can rule the world without even trying. The chorus only happens once, making that breakthrough moment just that much more special. I have no idea what the lyrics are for the majority of this album; the vocal element just isn’t that commanding with this band and that may be part of the draw for me – I think it’s really challenging to have a really compelling sound without using the natural power of the human voice and the instinctive effect that poetic lyrics can have. These guys are just solid solid musicians. The drumming is unlike anything I typically hear in popular music today – it’s innovative, risky, difficult, progressive and the guitar technique is incredible! No one picks like that anymore.

You can download the track "Don't Stop" for free here!

On a day when the sun is shining and you have the opportunity to do some really fast-paced, high energy activities (like driving down the highway, running or riding a bike) listen to this album. It will prove to be a fantastic companion. But know, it is best listened to loud and fast.

For fans of: Panda Bear, Animal Collective, The Shins, Local Natives

Friday, March 11, 2011

Towards the Sun

Alexi Murdoch
Towards the Sun

2011 is proving itself to be quite the year for high quality music. We’re only one quarter of the way into the year and I have at least three albums vying for “album of the year” already. This album by Alexi Murdoch is one of those. Towards the Sun is Murdoch’s first release since 2006’s Time Without Consequence. Although it’s been five years, the albums sound like they could be twins. Murdoch’s creamy voice is unchanged and his rich, simple orchestration continues. The lyrics are thoughtful and deep. It makes you wonder why it took so long. The album can be described in one word: warm. If you have the luxury of a few more words, “beautiful,” “honest,” “intimate” come to mind. Everything about it is warm, from the vocals, to the mixing and balance, to the lyrics. For most of the album, it seems to be Murdoch’s voice and his guitar, but at no point does it sound sparse or empty. The whole of the production makes it clear that this quality of music-making comes naturally, but not easily to Murdoch, making it all the more precious. It’s like a blanket for your soul. Murdoch's music is the sort you're likely to hear in the background of some show like Grey's Anatomy, or One Tree Hill, but if you're a purist, don't let that dissuade you from investigating this artist. It's downright great music. Pure and unadulterated by commercial influence. Although just released this week, there's a sense of timelessness when you listen to it -- like you've uncovered/rediscovered some great treasure in your grandparent's attic. Some may say the album is monotonous, but it’s the good kind of monotony … like the ocean is monotonous. My only problem is it’s only seven songs long; but even that length might be just perfect, keeping the whole on the beautiful side of monotony instead of the exhausting. Whatever the length, I love Alexi’s music and I love this album.

Music to … exist … by.

For fans of: Nick Drake, The Civil Wars, Ari Hest, James Taylor

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


My grandmother, Dodie, passed away in her sleep early this morning in her bed in Muncie, about the time that I was getting up to go to work in Cleveland. She was 96 and sharp as a tack on most days and not much duller on the rest. We're doing okay. It's hard to believe, and it took us by surprise. We were ready a couple of weeks ago when she went to the hospital, but she bounced back and was back to her normal self rather quickly. I think it's really hard on my parents and my dad's brothers and sister, especially.

I grew up with my grandma. She moved into our house when I was 8, after her husband died and she no longer desired to keep up the farmhouse where she was living by herself. We used to celebrate the anniversary of her move-in, every year with Fazoli's for their garlic-soaked breadsticks ... those really aren't fair to anyone in the world ... breath or bowels ... but they're so good.

The strangest thing for me right now is that life is continuing on as normal. I took a nap today after I found out, I finished the book I had been reading, I went for a run, I made dinner. I've cried a few times; I've chosen to do things in a different order on account of how I feel ... but mostly I feel numb. And sad. And weird. And normal. Which feels abnormal.

My mom told me I didn't need to come home, which is better for me because I have a busy week ... but I should've known she was lying ... because I'm pretty sure she is. I'm pretty sure I needed to call work, find someone to work for me tomorrow and drive home so I could be there tonight and at least tomorrow morning before coming back to go to Erie. I think this was a character defining time for me, and I blew it a little bit. I'm still thinking about finding someone to work for me Friday, so I can at least be home Thursday night and Friday morning before returning to Erie Friday night. But I think I've already missed a really important time.

Erie's playing Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem this week. Which is completely appropriate, but I don't know how I'm going to make it through. I'm about to try to do some score study and I'm almost fallen apart. Lord, give me strength.

The first words of the Requiem are "Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted." from Matthew 5:4
and the last words are "...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their words do follow them." from Revelation 14:13

I don't think I will ever forget this concert.