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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Full-length CD reviews are for suckers

So here are our short takes on noteworthy discs from the past several weeks...

Scott: "These sing-along songs will be our scriptures," yelps Craig Finn in his sing-speak manner, and he couldn't be more true. "Sequestered in Memphis" might be the best song of 2008 - if "Stay Positive" isn't. Both are vintage Hold Steady, with the detailed plotlines, riveting piano melodies and soaring choruses that makes us love them. Those were the first two tracks I heard off this record, and that led me to believe this was an early contender for Album of the Year. The rest of the album isn't quite that good (if only "One for the Cutters" was as awesome as its title...) but this is still a terrific effort.

Deena: The predictableness of most Weezer albums has pleasantly lessened on their sixth record. Each band member sings lead on at least one track, which provides nice variety; some fun white-boy rapping shows up on a few songs; and several tracks meander away from the traditional 3-minute disposable pop song formula, with great success. Often the complaint about Weezer is that their lyrics haven't been as emotional or personal since Pinkerton, but the Red Album might actually deliver on that as well, particularly the deluxe edition, which contains some equally good tracks that didn't make the final cut.

Scott: My favorite here is "The Greatest Man That Ever Lived," Rivers Cuomo's most ambitious song ever. Rivers channels Kanye West's ego for a masterpiece that might be the band's best since "Only in Dreams." The spoken-word bragging is the high point, with Rivers claiming, "If you don't like it, you can shove it. But you don't like it - you love it."

Scott: A brilliant disc. Gone (for the most part) are the plodding 9-minute epics; instead, more than half the songs clock in at 4:15 or less. They are also much more lively, starting with the opener "Gobbledigook", while the last two minutes of "Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur" are as perfect as pop music can get. Sigur Ros also throw in their first-ever English song, "All Alright," which ranks up there with "Heysatan" and "Samskeyti" as one of their most beautiful tracks.

PRETTY. ODD. Panic at the Disco
Scott: This is better than it has any right to be. Panic sets out to make a record that the Beatles would make if they recorded in the year 2008, and remarkably, they come close to succeeding. "She Had the World" and "Beyond the Sea" wouldn't be out of place on Sgt. Pepper. This is one of those records that's a major artistic step forward, even though it's not likely to match the commercial success of their debut.

Deena: Even though I bitched that Panic abandoned their original producer, Danny Elfman, on this album, I really can't complain about the end result. Like the new Weezer album, most of the band gets a shot at the mic, especially lyricist Ryan Ross, whose voice is a pleasant departure and yet a great complement to lead singer Brendon Urie.

NO, VIRGINIA Dresden Dolls
Scott: This collection contains most of the songs the Dolls have performed in concert over the years but never put to tape. "Lonesome Organist Rapes Page Turner" is an intense track that is so fun and upbeat you almost don't realize Amanda Palmer is literally singing about a lonesome organist raping his page turner. "Night Reconnaissance" is another standout, Palmer speaking for outcasts everywhere when she sings, "Nothing is crueler than children who come from good homes."

ROBOTIQUE MAJESTIQUE, Ghostland Observatory

Scott: GLO is a favorite of mine, but this one doesn't live up to their previous efforts. "Dancing on My Grave" is a quirky electronic pop tune that stands out from a batch of unremarkable songs. Singer/snakedancer Aaron Behrens has given up the guitar on this record, and while I didn't think that would be a bad thing, it ends up leading to a lack of variety on this disc.

Scott: As a huge Kathy fan, I have to say this CD is a bit of a disappointment. Her stories aren't as compelling as usual. Instead of giving us behind-the-scenes stories from award shows, she talks about what she's seen lately on Oprah. Lame! Her stories about Marie Osmond and Stevie Wozniak aren't terribly exciting either, but there are still plenty of laughs, particularly when she talks about her 88-year-old mother randomly discovering new reality tv shows - "Kathy, I just don't want you to end up like those goddamn Kardashians!"

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