Friday, November 28, 2008

Review, The Killers, Day & Age

First of all, The Killers was probably the first indie band that I was really into, so obviously it's such an important moment when they come back with their third studio album. But, being a huge fan of their earlier work, specially Hot Fuss, I'm a bit disappointed with the new album.

On one side, they stepped back a little bit from the arena rock style of Sam's Town, and incorporated more elements of their debut, which was a nice movement, especially because the U2 inspired Sam's Town pissed a lot of people. Plus they expanded their sound, having different rhythms such as salsa, samba and afro beats. They are an ambitious band and pay close attention to what's going on the pop world. Thus, they write a chorus a la MGMT ("Neon Tiger") and incorporate African influences like Vampire weekend did ("This is your life"). The final result is a record with a lot of different sides, one that shows a band with a strong will to grow. How can someone be pissed by things like that? No wonder, most reviews have been positive. The killers became very mature, everyone says. But I say there's no real passion here.

Yes, it's true that most reviews have been positive, but no one is really saying that this is the album of the year or something like that. Why? Simply because it's not! It's not even close. Sure they show a lot of faces, but the final product is more like a collection of songs than an album. There's too much variation. They don't show exactly what they want to be. Trying to be different things, the band manages to be almost nothing.

Another problem is the lack of guitars in the record. At many points, everything seems too slow, too pop, too... Coldplay! This is not necessarily a bad thing if you like Coldplay, but isn't having Keane bad (good?) enough?

Not everything is bad news, thought. The best moment is easily "Spaceman". With a great chorus and high speed, this is one of the greatest tracks of the year. Lead single "Human" delivers a very nice dance feeling and, even thought it could be faster, it's almost instant pleasure. A plus here is the non sense phrase "Are we human or are we dancer?". The simple fact that a lot of people cared about the meaning of this makes it pretty cool. "Neon Tiger" is sure a bit weird and may not please in the first listen but it grows a lot on you once you give it enough time. It has the potential to become a very good single.

"A Dustland Fairytale" revisits Sam's Town being one of the best songs in the first listen, but even after sometime listening to it, I still think it's a good song. "Losing Touch" is a bit slow and has some weird instruments. It's not a bad song but it sounds so small compared to their past works. Finally, bonus track "A Crippling Blow" is one of the best surprises. How could this be out of the album if it's better than half of the tracks?

Songs like "Good night, travel well" and "Joy Ride" are simply horrible and it can be a challenge to hear them more than once. "The world we live in" and "I can't stay" are not bad, but are easily forgettable and it's hard to see how can they could be better than the tracks in Sawdust. More or less the same is true for "This is your life". With an afro beat that reminds me of The Lion King, this could fit in a Disney movie but common! We're talking about The Killers here!

My grades for each track: (out of 10):
Losing Touch 7
Human 8.5
Spaceman 9.5
Joy Ride 3
A Dustland Fairytale 7.5
This Is Your Life 5.5
I Can't Stay 5
Neon Tiger 8
The World We Live In 5.5
Goodnight, Travel Well 2
A Crippling Blow 6.5
Forget About What I said 5.5
Tidalwave 5

To sum up, there is an outstanding single ("Spaceman"), two very good songs ("Human" and "Neon Tiger") and more two or three good songs. Thus I would say that they released an album that is half good, half very bad.

So what's the big deal? Many bands around don't have even half an album that is good right? Yes, that's right, Day & Age is tolerable, but it's still far behind their previous stuff...

Final grade: 6 (out of 10)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 10 best songs of 2008

Lists are one of my favorite things to do when I don't want to work but yet can't stand to be busy getting depressed. And you know, the year is ending, and the temptation of making "best of" lists is growing. Ideally, I would like to wait for the end of the year, but given prospects for the end of the year (and most notably, the fact that the new Franz's album comes out only next year), I thought it was safe to do a list of my most favorite tracks of the year. 

It wasn't an easy job and I had to exclude amazing tracks from acts that really impressed me during 2008 such as Metallica and Katy Perry. But the final result is a good summary of my preferences and you can see it below. Later I'll possibly do lists of best concerts and albums, but you can get some hints from below. In particular, it's not hard to imagine that MGMT will score pretty high in the other lists also. It's hard for me to describe how much I like their debut album. It's probably true that I listened to The Subways All or Nothing more this year, but MGMT touches me in a deeper sense. it's fun and danceable like other bands that I like, but it gave something new, that basically nobody else is doing, while The Subways album wasn't really a big surprise, given their debut album.  

MGMT's only real competitor would be Franz Ferdinand's Tonight, but that comes out in January... so it's time to pretend MGMT is the biggest planet on earth! Enough bullshit (sarcasm?), let's get down to business!  

And the best 10 songs of the year are:
10. Never Miss a Beat, Kaiser Chiefs:
No, this is not very deep, but Kaiser Chiefs never was and that's exactly the point. They are not the kind of band to be taken seriously and they know that. They also know that few bands are better to party and that's their strength. Plus, I keep thinking about the whole irony in taking a PHD and listening to a track that says "It's cool to know nothing". It's stupid and brilliant at the same time.

9. Discipline, Nine Inch Nails:
The weight behind Nine Inch Nails tracks always turned me on. And here they add to that weight a disco beat, something perfect for a fan of Metallica and Franz like me.

8. If You Seek Amy, Britney Spears:
After everybody tried to "kill" her and yet she's around, it became easier to like her. Plus this is surprisingly ambiguous (If you're sick of me?) and interesting. Everybody loves a comeback and I'm no exception to that rule.

7. Walcott, Vampire Weekend:
If you know me, you knew that I would put Vampire Weekend somewhere here. I just think it's so easy to like them. Like The Strokes, they are all about having fun with great pop tunes, but without being just another copycat... Why this track? Because they closed Popped Music Festival with that and it's fucking great live. A good summary of how good they are.

6. Great DJ, The Ting Tings:
They have so many hits that it was quite hard to choose which track to put here. I chose this one because it's more like the typical indie anthem, and because it was the the track that made me fall in love with them.

5. Alice Practice, Crystal Castles:
Being nice or not with fans, "stealing" or not music from other artists, nobody can deny that Crystal Castles have now their place in music history. As a sample of their greatness, this track is crazy live, it's like the world is falling apart, one of those feelings that it's hard to describe, you have to experience it yourself...

4. Time To Pretend, MGMT:
This is the kind of track that fits everywhere. In movies soundtracks, in dancefloors, at home. MGMT is the coolest band of the year and a good part of that is due to this amazing song.

3. Spaceman, The Killers:
The Killers are one of those bands that you either love or hate. I was always at the love side but the new album didn't impress me that much. However things are different with this song. The synthesizers are all over the place, the chorus is close to perfection... this is everything that puts Hot Fuss among my most favorite albums. I just wished the rest of Day & Age was nearly this good.

2. Shake! Shake!, The Subways:
This is the number one song in my It combines the energy of their first album with, say, the balls of their sophomore cd. Something, to say the least, very impressive. For sometime this year, I could hardly listen to anything else.

1. Kids, MGMT:
From the best album of 2008, comes the best song of the year. Like most of their album, Kids is simply irresistible: It's danceable, fun, original (for this decade's standards...). It's a symbol of the year when New York (more specifically Brooklyn) was put definitely back in the map of indie rock. Whether this band will still be around 2 years from now, it's not clear, but in 2008 they were THE band!



So, 10 million years later, I'm writing again here, but from now on, I promise to update the blog at least once a month. A lot of stuff happened with me since the last time I wrote here. I passed the qualifiers (YEAH!), saw Muse in Brazil, got chicken pocks (seriously, I almost died...), started to teach undergrads... Now I'm going more often to concerts and less often to dance clubs. I still like to dance but there are so many amazing bands to see at New York. Plus I still didn't find the "right" club for me. Webster Hall does a decent job most of the time, but it can suck hard sometimes and it's always the same...

As for the sickness, this semester has been very hard for me. I was always very healthy but now I'm getting sick more easily. Now I'm fine but I get the feeling things can get ugly if I get sick again. That is so because I feel it may be an allergy to my new place (or at least, that's what the doctor told me). The problem is that I don't want to move out, so I really hope it's not an allergy, that I just had bad luck and things will start to get better from now on.

Today is Thanksgiving day and I spent the day completely alone, without talking to anyone. It's surprising how that can be sad and comforting at the same time. The sad part comes from realizing that I don't have real friends here and nobody really cares if I'm dead or alive. The comforting part comes from realizing that I'm not so bad this. It's good to have a time of my own and it's good to know that I can do amazing stuff without relying on other people. Such mixed feelings pretty much sum up what I am and what inspired the title of this blog. A contradiction...

Since almost everything in my life involves music, I'm listening to Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams now. I survived a lot of challenges in my life but in the end I'm always going on, but alone. The problem is that I'm tired of that and want to make real friends. And although I'm anti-social by nature, I keep trying. The result is almost always bad but I can't help. I do have to try. Changing Green Day's lyrics, I would say that I'm still alive but I don't necessarily (don't want to) walk alone...