Thursday, May 26, 2011

myPod: Da

[myPod is an attempt to edit down my CD collection as I import my music on to my brand new 160 GB iPod.]

Daft Punk

I got into the French techno robot duo Daft Punk in high school via the anime music videos for their second album Discovery. I’ve even got the collected film Interstella 5555 on DVD. Discovery remains my favorite DP record, a joyful blend of dance-friendly hooks and up-with-people lyrics. It’s a pick-me-up for sure, but it also kept me from checking out the rest of the band’s discography, as most writers agree that Discovery is far and away the best DP release.

While I agree with that conventional wisdom, I have been surprised and delighted by the group’s other records. Homework’s songs are a little bit longer and more repetitive, but it’s another party starter. Human After All, meanwhile, gets a bad rap. Released after the critically and commercially successful Discovery, Human was a 180 that alienated many. Where Discovery was a lush, intricate, warm work, Human was recorded quickly in six weeks with just guitar, keyboard, and a drum machine. It’s a very retro-minded, minimalist electronic record, and it’s not nearly as bad as reviews suggest. But it’s still a bit of a disappointment after Discovery, something the group rectified with its live show.

Alive 2007 captures an amazing Daft Punk set that remixed the first three full-lengths to great success, and proves that Human wasn’t so bad after all. The Tron: Legacy soundtrack followed a few years later, and it’s another stylistic departure, taking the original Tron score and streamlining it with a digital cool. It’s not a party record, but it combines orchestral and electronic music beautifully. It was actually one of my favorite albums of 2010.

Verdict: Keep.

Damn the Lions

Adorable, acoustic indie-pop from New Jersey’s beloved Robb Masters. RIYL Elliot Smith and Bright Eyes.

Verdict: Keep.

The Darjeeling Limited

I love Wes Anderson’s movies, and Darjeeling Limited might be my favorite, although The Royal Tenenbaums is obviously up there too. The soundtrack follows some of Anderson’s twee conventions – like half of The Kinks’ Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround shows up – but it also includes some neat French and Indian tunes. And the movie ends with “Les Champs-Élysées!” How cool is that?!

Verdict: Keep.

The Dark Knight

I am all about Hans Zimmer’s work with Christopher Nolan. His work on The Dark Knight actually holds up outside of the film, especially his riveting theme for the Joker. That song communicates a reckless danger so beautifully. I can’t wait to hear what he comes up with for The Dark Knight Rises.

Verdict: Keep.

Dashboard Confessional

As an American youth, it’s important that I define myself through the pop culture I enjoy. Hence, I have, at various points in my life, been emo. It’s kind of like being Catholic, where you know a couple cool acts like Sunny Day Real Estate and/or Jesus Christ but mostly just apologize for all the dumb shit other emo kids/Catholics do. Dashboard Confessional’s Chris Carrabba has always been a controversial figure despite his seemingly innocent songwriting. The dude writes sappy love songs and bitter break-up ballads. That’s all he does, but DC continues to draw criticism for…

  1. Sucking.

  2. Being one of the first emo figureheads to really reduce women to the Madonna/whore status emo took on during the ’00s.

  3. Sucking.

I’m not going to apologize for the second allegation. Yeah, DC doesn’t offer much insight into women. But when I was 14, DC gave me a place to hide out in. Swiss Army Romance was a collection of raw, acoustic love songs that I used to defend for years. So Impossible was even better, a mini-concept album about one really good date. In between the two came DC’s big break, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, which added a full band and fleshed out Carrabba’s songs. This was the period people my age might call “the good years.”

2003’s A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar had bigger pop rock aspirations, which means emo kids hated it even though it took DC’s best song, “Hands Down,” and made it better. Everything after that was intermittently good (“So Long, So Long!”), but generally speaking Carrabba has been stuck in an adolescent holding pattern. Still, I held on to the early years.

Then a funny thing happened. I actually put the old records on and found out that Carrabba’s lyrics were clumsy and cliché and always had been. While I can still get behind other sad sack acts like Bright Eyes and The Cure, I have aged out of Dashboard Confessional’s demographic. Part of me can’t let go of So Impossible, though. It’s an emo touchstone and the songs remind me too much of who I was. I’m not ready to erase that just yet, but let’s see where I’m at in five years.

Verdict: Sell everything besides So Impossible.

Miles Davis

One day I bought Birth of the Cool for the heck of it. It’s one of Miles Davis’ first albums, and while it’s pretty tame compared to what he achieved in jazz in the decades to come, I still think it’s a really good starting point (Aside from maybe Kind of Blue), in that it’s a pleasant-sounding record that mellows me out. The two albums that made me fall in love with Davis’ work and jazz in general (at least potentially, since I really only know Davis and Charles Mingus at this juncture) are Bitches Brew and A Tribute to Jack Johnson. Bitches Brew is this otherworldly cacophony that makes most experimental records sound stupid by comparison. Johnson skews more towards jazz/rock fusion, which works even though it shouldn’t. The album is only two songs long, but opener “Right Off” is an amazing James Brown-indebted rocker. I think of Johnson as more of a guitar album than I do a trumpet one, as John McClaughlin’s raw playing carries the record. I still have a long ways to go in Davis’ discography, but so far it’s been a rather rewarding journey.

Verdict: Keep.

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