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Archive for the ‘MGMT’ Category

endofloveSOUNDTRACK: BECK/RECORD CLUB-LEONARD COHEN: Songs of Leonard Cohen (2010).

leonardcohenI won’t say anything because no one ever listens to me anyway. I might as well be a Leonard Cohen record.

-Neil from The Young Ones.

This second recording from Beck’s Record Club is, indeed, a Leonard Cohen record.  I like Cohen and have a bunch of his stuff.  Although he’s never been a huge favorite, I find his songwriting to be top notch.  And, since his arrangements are usually pretty sparse, it’s easy to cover his songs in a myriad of ways, which these artists certainly do.

But just to catch you up to speed about this whole Record club business:

According to the Beck/Record Club website:

Record Club is an informal meeting of various musicians to record an album in a day. The album chosen to be reinterpreted is used as a framework. Nothing is rehearsed or arranged ahead of time. A track is put up here once a week. As you will hear, some of the songs are rough renditions, often first takes that document what happened over the course of a day as opposed to a polished rendering. There is no intention to ‘add to’ the original work or attempt to recreate the power of the original recording. Only to play music and document what happens. And those who aren’t familiar with the albums in question will hopefully look for the songs in their definitive versions.

Introducing this second recording, Beck explains:

This time around the group includes Devendra Banhart, Ben, Andrew and Will from MGMT, Andrew from Wolfmother, Binki from Little Joy, and Brian and Bram returning from the first Record Club.  ‘Songs Of Leonard Cohen’ by Leonard Cohen was chosen by Andrew from MGMT. For those interested, our close second choice was Ace Of Base, which we’ll keep on the list for next time.

So, here we have Cohen’s debut.  I own it and am familiar with about half of the songs, but I didn’t want to listen to it before hearing their covers.  And so, the track listing and comments:

Suzanne (4:54)–A classic song, here given respectful treatment.  And yet they’re not afraid to play around with it, so they give it a dance beat and group vocals, all of which sound great.
Master Song (6:37).  I don’t know this song, and I don’t recognize it from this cover which is perhaps the greatest twist of a Leonard Cohen song ever. They sample Metallica’s “Master!” every time they sing the chorus.  The song is done as a rap with the voices pitched differently in every verse, there’s also a great funky bass throughout.  I assume the lyrics are the original, but I’m not sure.  The only problem with it is that it goes on for way too long.  But otherwise this is what record Club is about–having fun experimenting with songs.
Winter Lady (2:46). This is done as a pretty folk song, the way Leonard intended.
Stranger Song (5:26). This song is also dancey (with MGMT, that makes sense).  It has big drums and cool harmonies.
Sisters Of Mercy (4:36).  This is also pretty, done on an acoustic guitar with multiple singers taking turns.
So Long, Marianne (6:54).  This is also pretty faithful (of another classic).  There’s a group chorus which again sounds great.  The one difference is buzzy guitar solo.
Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye (4:27).  This has a cheap Casio vibe, yet it still sounds good.  Beck sings and the whole things is quite nice.
Stories Of The Street (5:06).  The songs starts with a simple bass and xylophone, but it gradually builds into a full band song which sounds great.
Teachers (4:04).  This is an insane punk version of the song.  It is super fast with a crazy guitar section and shouted vocals.  It shows just how adaptable Cohen’s music is
One Of Us Cannot Be Wrong (5:42).  This is a pretty, slow version of this song with keyboards as the main instrument.  It’s a very nice song until it nears then end when the singer just starts screaming and going nutty  Which is okay, but that goes on for too long at the end.

So overall, this is a very enjoyable collection of covers.  The faithful ones sound wonderful and the silly songs are, yes, silly, but they are not just tossed off (except maybe Master Song.  This must have been a lot of fun to record.

[READ: March 14, 2014] The End of Love

The End of Love is four long short stories.  Each one is about the end of a relationship.  Even though I enjoyed all four stories quite a lot, the book was a lot slower to read than I would have anticipated from its scant 163 pages.  And surprisingly, the stories weren’t sad or mopey–rather, they looked at the relationships via a slightly distant narrator who was engaged and engaging.

I have been reading a lot of Latin American writers, but this book, which was written in Spanish and translated by Katherine Silver, was written by a Spanish writer.  So that’s a little bit different in feel.

“We Were Surrounded By Palm Trees”
This story is not set in Spain. It is set on an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Africa.  It is about a man and his girlfriend, named Marta.  They have gone to this remote island for some secluded time alone.  But it turns out that they have to share the small boat (and therefore the small island) with another couple.  Christine and Paul are a German couple who are not outgoing and friendly as the narrator fears (he doesn’t want to spent his romantic vacation with those two), but are cordial and looking to share some of the troubles of their vacation.  One such trouble is meeting with the village elder and the chief, which Paul offers to do.

The details of the island were a little unclear to me.  I think that is somewhat intentional, but there is some confusion about the nature of the power structure on the island and what exactly people get up to there.  So when Christine goes missing, Marta is instantly concerned.  And then when Paul and Christine don’t turn up for dinner, they decide to go and find them.  Christie and Paul are involved in something that I found a bit confusing, but which involved elders of the island.

As the story draws to a close and there is yet more confusion as to where the Germans are, Marta and the narrators are at odds with each other about what to do.  And the strain begins to form between them.   Even though the details of what happened with Paul and Christine are vague, the details of Marta and the narrator are very powerful and really tell the story.  It was wonderful. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: MGMT-Oracular Spectacular (2008).

I bought this album a few years after it was hailed as the best album by everyone.  I never quite realized that they did all the songs I knew from it, but I was pleased that I bought it.  Then I promptly lost the disc.  I found it about seven months later in another case (doh!).  And I have given it a number of listens since then.

I’m confused as to why this album was so popular.  I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just not sure why it was so hailed.  It’s a strange kind of record. There are a number of dancey hits (which aren’t really that dancey or anything), but there’s also a bunch of trippy psychedelic stuff as well.

The opener, “Time to Pretend” has a wonderfully catchy keyboard line that expands into a wonderfully simple, but catchy verse/chorus.  “Weekend Wars” reminds me of some of the weirder alternative hits of the early 90s.  The sound is kind of trebly and slightly off, but the middle of the song is full of beautiful swells of keyboards, giving it a strangely hippie vibe.

“The Youth” is a slower track which has a gentle sound and a nice chorus.  It’s pretty far from the danciness of the opener.  “Electric Feel” brings in some disco and funk.   The keyboards are very 70s trebly with a big bottom bass.

The standout track is “Kids.”  It marries the weird keyboard sound of the opener with a wonderfully catchy riff.  It also has a simple chord structure and big drums.  It’s the kind of song that sticks in your head from the first time you hear it.

The second half of the disc is where things change and the more psychedelic aspect so the band come in.  The album was produced by Dave Fridmann (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) and while that style is evident in the front of the album, it’s hidden under the more brash punk sounds.  n the last few songs the punky elements are absent and the psychedelia shines through.  “4th Dimensional Transition” is a wash of interesting sounds.  “Pieces of What” is a simple acoustic guitar with vocals that sound like they come from outer space.  “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” never really coalesces, although the parts are interesting.  “The Handshake” is another folkie kind of song with overtones of David Bowie (who is never really absent anywhere on the disc) especially at the end of the song.  “Future Reflections” ends the disc with a synthy ballad.

The disc is quite different from the first five to the last five songs.  And I find that when I’m enjoying the hits, I’m less excited by the trippy parts (which meander as opposed to the immediacy of the hits).  But I think I could find myself enjoying the vibe of the second half of the disc more if the first half didn’t prep me for that stark pop punk sound.  I guess it has something for everyone.

[READ: June 28, 2011] Slapstick

I tend to read books that are long, or at least that feel long.  So Vonnegut is like a guilty little pleasure.  I read this in three lunch hours. And it felt like something of an accomplishment.

I can honestly say I didn’t enjoy this one as much as his previous books.  It was a lot darker and felt a bit more mean-spirited than his others.  True, Vonnegut is nothing if not mean-spirited, but there was something different about this one.  Was it that the protagonists were two meters tall with six fingers and toes and for the first several years of their lives spoke in nothing but baby talk?  Was it that they were so reviled by their parents that they were sent away to the parents’ second home and allowed no visitors?  Or was it that Manhattan was now called “The Island of Death?”  Or maybe it was just the repeated use of “Hi Ho” at the end of virtually every paragraph.

Or maybe it’s that the story doesn’t really feel complete.  There isn’t a lot of story here, but as with lots of Vonnegut, there are a lot of little details that join the story together.  The novel is constructed as chapters, but within the chapters are very short almost paragraph long sections separated by dots.  These little paragraphs sort of work as small scenes, with most having a kind of punch line at the end (this is not too dissimilar from Breakfast of Champions, but the sections are even smaller here).

The two aforementioned protagonists are as described.  But although they speak in nothing but nonsense syllables, they are in fact quite intelligent.  Indeed, when they put their minds together (literally) they reach epochal levels of genius.  And when they put their heads together they write several massively intelligent treatises and the most popular child-rearing manual in history, So You Went and Had a Baby.  Well, actually, Wilbur wrote it for Eliza is illiterate (she just has most of the brainstorms).  Technically, the real protagonist of the story is Wilbur, for these are his memoirs. (more…)

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