Sunday, June 5, 2011

What's New?: 6.5.2011

Couple of new releases on vinyl — both of which, surprisingly, did not come with digital download redemption codes. . .

Death Cab for Cutie — Codes and Keys (2011)

Color me downright pleasantly surprised. I was very excited after the one-two combo of Narrow Stairs and the Open Door EP. I watched the premiere for the performed live 'You Are A Tourist' music video and the song did not blow me away. It was a change, because the pre-album singles for their last two albums ('Soul Meets Body' from Plans and 'I Will Possess Your Heart' from Narrow Stairs) blew me entirely away right off the bat. But, with this new material, I didn't really feel compelled to go back and play it again right away. It was "just Ok." I bought the nice double 180 gram gatefold cover vinyl edition because it just felt right. Got it home, dropped the needle and turned up my old Carver stereo. Including sounding dynamically great, the material is actually really good too. I will have to mirror the wealth of other reviews for the album that point that it's not very guitar heavy. But they've been heading this way since Plans, haven't they? Keyboards have always been a part of the band's sound, but this album finds them to be central to the melodic ideas offered up. Nick Harmer's basslines are still very prominent and Chris Walla is still around to add echoey harmonic accents to everything, so it doesn't feel —to me— like as much of a one-eighty as some of the reviews I've read would have had me believe. The tunes are all very reminiscent of 'Different Names for the Same Thing' from Plans. Very likable, melodic stuff with buildups developed in post-production. 'You Are a Tourist' sounds amazing smack dab in the middle of the album, at the end of record one and there is an undeniably positive warmth that the band hasn't possessed since Transatlanticism. Songs like the title track and the downright impressive 'Doors Unlocked and Open' feature a newly invigorated Gibbard spewing some of his most enthusiastic words ever. It's still cynical positivity. But it's positivity nonetheless. I really didn't know what to expect from this album, but it's arguably the DCFC pop masterwork. It does come off as a bit too sprightly with songs like 'Stay Young, Go Dancing' but I can't help but admire the absolutely genuine positivity in the material. It's infectious. And therapeutic. Marvelous stuff. I will be curious to see what I think of it in six months.

Crosby & Nash — Another Stoney Evening (1971)

I've always been a huge fan of this duo since I first got into the whole CSN+Y family of albums a few years ago. This was recorded in the buildup to their first album and, unlike the official live album that was released later on in the 70's, this is just David Crosby and Graham Nash performing without a band; just two guitars, two voices. It was released, for the first time, on CD in the mid-90's and was just released last month on vinyl for the first ever. I waited and bought it on vinyl. I'm glad I did. It's a very nice gatefold double 180 gram vinyl issue and it sounds excellent. I don't know why it wasn't released at the time. The version they play of Crosby's 'The Lee Shore' is practically definitive. Lots of stuff from that first Crosby & Nash album, plenty of CS+N stuff and, much to my delight, about a third of Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name. Overall, serious stuff and very warm music. I don't want to get too deeply into adjectives and stuff because music like this needs to be heard to be fully understood. There's a dichotomy and undeniable chemistry at play here that just bleeds with resonance and fertility. I am pleased that it was documented for my hungry ears to get a hold of eventually. Fantastic.


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