Nothing?

Concept: Blunt, feel-good tunes with bare-bones instrumentation and production.

Sound: The low-quality fuzz of the recordings serves the tone of the songs well. It’s a good bet you’re getting a canned version of their live show, and that’s exactly what this music would be good for. Having the leisure to sit back and focus on the songwriting doesn’t do the album any favors. Both the songs themselves and the course of the album are very repetitive, and it’s hard to sit through the whole luminous shebang, however warm the first impression is. For the most part, the songs trade off between bright, affectionate acceleration and 90’s-style jams. The biggest hook of the album is its variety of small touches: abrupt cuts and joking re-hashes. A summary of their bag of tricks can be found on The Boys Are Leaving Town.

Lyrics: You’ll get your fill of ‘together/forever’ junk, but the duo is never terribly serious. They’re just seriously upbeat: inclusive and wistful.

Quick And Dirty: Solid proof of a worthwhile show, but it’s probably a good idea to just keep the CD on reserve as background music for your car. (♦♦♦½)

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I think I remember fighting this guy in Super Mario 64.

Concept: Surfer jams with a touch of the macabre…I guess it’s the musical equivalent of an attempt at intellectualizing Scooby-Doo. No matter what you do, you can’t exactly fail.

Sound: This is in fact good music to play at a Halloween party, as the cover might suggest. Bleary, rusted production quality with harsh echoing yelps, rolling drums, and rigid guitar makes for something both amusing and at least go-go danceable.

Lyrics: The important edge Thee Oh Sees have is that they aren’t trying too hard; maybe they aren’t trying at all, but that’s beside the point. Their lyrics are occassionally nonsense and always silly, but there are a few especially quirky or subtle lines that can really stick to you, as surely as you remember Itsy Bitsy Spider. “It’s so easy to fall/ like an unfurling flag/ it’s so easy to fall down in the courtyard.

Quick And Dirty: Quick and dirty. (♦♦♦½)

Artist: The Decemberists

Album: The Hazards of Love

Released: 2009

Reviewer: Jake Sieve

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Since their last release nearly three years ago, the Decemberists have created yet another twisted story, filled with danger and adventure. Released as a concept album, The Hazards of Love tells the sweet and bizarre tale of a young maiden impregnated by a shape-shifting beast, who might someday become her husband. The Hazards of Love explores a new territory with heavy metal guitar riffs while also staying true to their folk rock roots.  In A Bower Scene, guitarist Chris Funk dabbles with a slamming guitar reminiscent of Jack White’s Icky Thump.  To add depth and character to the album, the raspy tones of Shara Worden in “The Queen’s Rebuke/The Crossing” are soulful and soaring.  Yet again, Colin Meloy’s narrative draws the listener into a story filled with uncertainty and passion.  The Hazards of Love works as a wonderfully creative concept album, and rekindles the lost art form that is storytelling in song.

Rating: (♦♦♦♦)

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Getting knocked up by a magical deer and drowning.

Concept: Folk rock heartthrobs release their fifth album, originally intended as a rock opera. A young woman falls in love with a forest spirit, and is pursued by its vengeful mother when she becomes with child.

Sound: The strongest parts of the album are the guest vocalists, particularly Becky Stark and Shara Worden, which better evoke the spirit of the album than the lyrics themselves. Somebody should tell Meloy to stop singing now, but instead he voices the narrator and two other characters. The melodic themes stay put, and the album as a whole is quite scatterbrained, but the themes are well chosen and pleasant. People who cite ‘metal’ influence in this album probably aren’t big fans of metal…basically, Funk turns his guitar’s distortion on for the first time in his career. The alternating movements of character’s dialogues are less than fluid. The Decemberists make up for what they lack in musical talent with the size of their assembly.

Lyrics: Rumors of the band’s eloquence have been greatly exaggerated. ‘Vocabulary’ should not be counted as a lyrical strength, but that’s the appeal The Decemberists seek. Actually listening to the narrative reveals all sorts of vestigial passages, grammatical errors, and thematic inconsistencies. There must have been a script to accompany the music at some point, or maybe they never got around to it. As far as I know, ‘mistle thrush’ is used here only because it rhymes with ‘underbrush,’ and ‘whistle’ to match ‘thistle,’ and so on. The fundamental fairy tale is interesting in an Oedipal way, but there are too many insipid elaborations resulting from a crossword puzzle intelligence.

Quick And Dirty: A good example of how fanboy b.s. can swing both ways. I’d see the live show to hear the ladies sing, but then again I’d rather observe their solo careers. (♦♦½)