Bye-Bye Lala: Albums I’ve Listened to on Lala.com, part II

Well, there are five days left.  And I’ve got three posts, including this one, to still get done.  So let’s not waste any time.

One of the things Lala has been great for (and I think its primary function for most users) has been checking out new music.  Hear of a band?  A band you kind of like have a new album out?  You can do more than listen to their first single, you can listen to their whole new album.  These are some new albums which I listened to recently on Lala.

1. Fang Island–by Fang Island.  HOLY CRAP!  My wife recommended this band to me after hearing them on the radio (or on NPR’s site, I’m not really sure) and thought I might like them.  She knows me very well.  This group is so incredible.  They’re mostly instrumental, but I guarantee you’ll hardly notice.  They have an indie-rock sense about them in their song structure and vocalizations (kind of reminiscent of groups like Fleet Foxes), but their guitar work is big, powerful, and very happy.  In fact, all of their songs are very happy.  They’re cheerful, victorious, excited, and clearly having fun with every note.  I really can’t put my finger on it, but the guitar work does sound like some group or something I liked when I was younger.  Maybe that’s a mystery best left unsolved.  According to their Myspace page, they describe their own sound as “everyone high-fiving everyone.”  I really could not have said it better myself.  If you want music to make you happy again, check these guys out.

2. The Monitor–by Titus Andronicus.  If you look up Fang Island on Amazon, you’ll find that other users who viewed that band also bought this album, by Titus Andronicus.  So I listened to them.  I’m glad I did, but I don’t think I’ll return.  They aren’t remotely bad, so don’t misunderstand me.  More than one Lala user described them as a cross between Connor Oberst and Bleach-era Nirvana.  That’s fair, as long as you understand that the Bleach part of that comparison really means dirty, over-distorted guitars and an unpolished, garage-type feel.  While I wasn’t in the prime mood for that kind of sound yesterday, I can easily say that I liked the music, for the most part.  Many songs have a lo-fi recording of a guy reading excerpts from poems or famous speeches as intros or outros, and it gives the listener a strong sense that they’re listening to more than just a collection of music.  That is really the stand-out feature of this album, and it’s really the main thing that made it so I don’t really care to listen to this group again.  It’s very angry, very dark, and at times depressing.  Since I have no doubt that was intended, and since I know some people like that sort of thing, I can’t knock them for it.  But I can say that I’d rather not listen.

3. Drip Drying with The Two Man Gentlemen Band–by The Two Man Gentlemen Band.  I just learned of these guys this morning via a Mental Floss article on them, and found them to be hilarious and insanely clever at the same time.  So I looked them up on Lala and tapped my foot to them as I edited some spreadsheets.  My end verdict is that, yes, these guys are worth listening to, and are a kind of fun that no other group around today really are, but I got tired of songs rife with sexual innuendos and endless droning about getting drunk.  To their credit, they do use innuendo rather just outright graphic detail, but it’s still tiring to me.  I’ll be checking these guys out more, but I’m going to be very picky about my song selection.

4. The ArchAndroid–by Janelle Monáe.  I don’t listen to a great deal of modern R&B, or *cough* pretty much any modern music made by *cough* African-American artists (at least within African-American-dominated genres).  I love old Motown, 70’s disco and funk, and even enjoy early day rap and hip-hop, but the divide between current stuff and my tastes as they are is usually too wide for me to traverse.  That fact usually (and unfortunately) keeps me ill-informed about artists like Monáe, who, in addition to using a lot of R&B and hip-hop in her songs, also draws from blues, jazz, and even classical.  Combine that with sci-fi concept, and I’m sucked in.  As I was writing this, I went and listened to her debut EP, Metropolis: The Chase Suite, and I didn’t enjoy it as much–it felt small, and the style seemed limited (on a single listen, that is).  But this album is massive, and is intriguing at its lowest points, and mind-blowing at its highest.  I’ll be listening to it again, more in-depth, very soon.
5. Fruit–by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour.  I’m not sure how to describe these guys.  The music has strong elements of electronic and dance beats, but there’s also a lot of utilization of horns and guitars and piano.  Lead vocalist Mette Lindberg has a higher-end, mousey voice that really works when combined with the very catchy vocal rhythms and layering.  All of the songs feel big and full, despite all of it being under echo and reverb effects and (what sounds to me like) a turntable sound, resulting in something of an old-timey feel.  It’s not one singular element that can take credit for what makes this album work, it’s just everything working together perfectly. I can’t get over how fun this album is.
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