SOUNDTRACK: MY MORNING JACKET-Evil Urges (2008).
Looking back, I see that My Morning Jacket is the first band that I talked about. And I also see that I didn’t say anything about the CD. Which was not a criticism, it was just something I hadn’t realized I’d be doing yet. Well, now let’s make up for it with the review of their latest album, Evil Urges.
Their live album Okonokos was my first introduction to MMJ (after seeing them live on the PBS show Austin City Limits, which blew me away). This is my first listen to a studio record from them and I can’t say enough about it. I’ve been listening to it in the house all the time. What’s so impressive about Evil Urges is the utter diversity it contains, yet it also sounds unmistakably MMJ. I’m sure this is mostly due to Jim James’ voice, but I think it goes beyond that.
Quite a large majority of the album feels like, as Sarah said, songs her parents used to listen to back in the 1970s. And I can’t help but agree. The middle songs “Thank You, Too!” “Sec Walkin’” and “Two Halves” sound very much like treacly 70s AM radio, and yet, none of these songs sounds treacly, and…they all maintain enough of a contemporary feel that they don’t seem retro at all. How do you make a retro song without it sounding retro?
But really, the whole album is fantastic. “Evil Urges” is a funky opening, which segues into the almost unbelievably smooth sounding “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream, Pt 1.” This is followed by the most controversial song of the collection: “Highly Suspicious.” I’ve read a lot of reviews in which they deplore this song. It’s unlike anything else on the record: a heavy, fuzzed out, staccato guitar riff with the chant of “Highly Suspicious” and Jim James singing some lines in an insanely high falsetto. It seems to devolve into just shrieks of laughter by the end. When I first heard it, I found it somewhat unsettling, and it really doesn’t fit the album at all; however, it is the song I find myself singing the most from the album. It’s a truly unforgettable song. And, of course, I like it.
“Librarian” is a lovely, if somewhat outdated and cliched look at librarians (hey, I have to say it, I’m a librarian) but it’s ultimately a sweet, beautiful song about libraries and their employees. And “Look at You” finishes up the “soft” portion of the record. There’s about 6 of these soft/mellow songs and if “Look at You” wasn’t such a great singalong of a song, it would be one song too many, because of the anticipation of the rocking follow up: “Aluminum Park.” I have no idea what its about, but the guitar riff is spectacular, and it brings a great change of pace to the record. We finish up with two more heavier songs, and the penultimate song “Touch Me, I’m Going to Scream, Pt 2.” This doesn’t reprise the opening song, but rather adds a new dimension to it. It winds up being about 8 minutes long because the end just… keeps… getting…… slower……… and……… slow………. er……… AHHHHHHH!
Overall, a great album. I always assumed I’d get Z someday, but since almost the whole record was recorded live for Okonokos, I never did. I’m glad that Evil Urges has rekindled my MMJ fix. And Z will be coming soon.
[READ: August 23, 2008] McSweeney’s #28
McSweeney’s #28 is a beautiful creation to behold. It is designed as 8 separate small volumes. Two sets of four volumes are placed in a cardboard box (with no top). They are held in with an elastic ribbon. When all four are placed in correctly (with their backs face out) they create a beautiful painting. The next four are held in with the same ribbon to create two paintings on top of each other…suitable for mounting! (well, not really, but it would look very nice face out on the shelf.)
Danica Novgorodoff painted the two beautiful puzzle pieces that make up the back covers of the books. One (comprised of the books marked with *) is a predominantly yellow painting of a girl huddled in the woods. The second is of coal miners working in the dark. Both are evocative in very different ways.
There’s an introductory essay in the bottom of the “box.” The essay was written by Jess Benjamin, a one-time intern at McSweeney’s, whose idea it was to create this volume. Her idea was to showcase fables because:
Once upon a time, there was a simple, straightforward way of telling a story. It was known as a fable. All you needed were some talking animals, a human or two, a moral take-away, and a pithy delivery. Space out the text, include some colorful illustrations, and you were in business….
The power of the fable lies in its ability to say what it means and mean what it says. Its messages are compelling because they are not hidden, elegant because they are uncluttered, timeless because they are honest. A fable does not discriminate; a fable loves everyone equally….
And, so, what we have is 8 volumes of fables. Each volume is written by a different author. And, each volume has illustrations (by different artists) on just about every other page. As with all fables, each one is short and teaches a moral. These are by contemporary authors and have a more contemporary, yet still globally applicable message.
Overall, this issue is light on words, but it more than makes up for it in illustrations and morals. (more…)
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