If you’ve read my blog at all in the last 9 or so months, you know why I’ve been sharing what I have. Every week, some of my co-workers and I have been sharing some of our favorite music with one another. We’re supposed to review it, rate it, and share that with one another – but that doesn’t always happen.
The Strokes – Room on Fire (2003)
This is garage rock all grown up. It’s a short, controlled burst of no-nonsense rock and danceable grooves. They are one of those bands where every element is distinguishable and tight. Two guitars tag team around a very capable rhythm section, while singer Julian Casablancas’ howl matches their distortion. It’s real rock n’ roll swagger. At least most of the time.
Songs like Reptilia (which I always thought was Reptilla) and 12:51 are awesome. The latter of which sounds like a mix between the simplicity of The Ramones and the synths of The Cars.
And those are the highlights. They don’t always use that ’80s synth, but The Strokes do their one thing really well. I can’t fault them for that.
Songs like Automatic Stop and The End Has No End I only listen to when iTunes brings them up in a genius playlist. Which is how I listen to a lot of The Strokes. They are tight musicians, but the distortion of their guitars and his voice makes the whole album kind of muddy. And I can only take so much of it.
I like it, but only in doses. 3/5
When talking about their influence for writing Kelly Clarkson’s Since U Been Gone, songwriters Max Martin and Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald said they basically wanted to take The Strokes and add a big pop chorus. Next time you listen to that song, you’ll be amazed you never heard it before.
Lady Gaga – Born This Way (2011)
Ok guys. I’m going to try to be objective here, but – full disclosure here – this is one of the few albums my coworkers have shared I had to really force myself to listen to.
I’m not exactly which synth voice it is, maybe somewhere in the low-mid range, but it sounds like I’m in a car and whoever’s riding shotgun is rhythmically messing with the volume of that one track on the off-beats. And it’s driving me nuts. Other than that, it does seem to be mixed and mastered well. It still has a strong bass line, but her vocals can be heard clearly. It’s super complicated, but it’s not as muddy as, say, The Strokes’ sound.
And I do have to admit that she has a great voice. I think that if I heard acoustic versions of (most of) these songs, I think I might actually enjoy them. Especially Americano (well, maybe if it had different lyrics) and You and I. Those songs sounded like they had some real musical quality hidden by an in-human, booming beat. That’s a little harsh. It’s a fine album, but it’s not really my thing. Her antics have made me prejudiced against … well anything she does, but she does have talent. You and I felt like it was a country song played by classic rockers (apparently it does sample some of Brian May’s guitar playing) and produced by … well, Gaga’s production team.
Side note, I’m still confused about the whole meat dress thing. Especially why it’s at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The trend of the last few years of pop music is to take influence from the ’80s. Usually that means trying to sound retro. Some of the songs off this album at least has the virtue of just sounding like it was written by ’80s songwriters, but using all the latest sounds so it has a different ’80s sound than most other pop divas I’ve been trying to avoid. Others just sound like everyone else who’s trying to recapture and ride the coattails of Michael Jackson and Madonna.
Tim shared this album (and I promptly rolled my eyes) to give Chris a lesson in pop divas. While Charli XCX may be competition and may attract similar fans, I think Charli is lampooning the genre. She’s the Galaxy Quest or Scream of pop divas. I don’t think she’s taking any of it seriously. Lady Gaga, though, I think is trying to make a serious art spectacle. She’s going for the shock value. Comparing them is like apples and … well, maybe pears.
The only track of these I had ever heard before (and not even all the way through at that – I think just from commercials, etc.) was Edge of Glory. And I’m not sure I ever knew it was her song. The chorus is catchy, but the bridge is not at all something I would have ever expected.
One song that really bothered me, though, was Government Hooker. Even ignoring the lyrics. It sounds like she was listening to a cover of New Order’s Blue Monday.
I was surprised I didn’t have much to say on The Stokes. And I’m equally surprised how much I have to say about Lady Gaga (Comparing those two, by the way, is like comparing a Ruben sandwich to a Diet Coke). Again, it’s a lot of the same. And I think I could only select Gaga songs in ever smaller doses than The Strokes, but it’s not as bad as I expected. I’m giving it a 3/5 only because it does what it does very well, even though I wish it did something different. Otherwise it would have been a 2.
The Hush Sound – Goodbye Blues (2008)
I could write a little something here, but pretty much everything I have to say, I said three years ago when I reviewed this album. So check that out. Here’s what my coworkers thought:
“I can’t remember if I’ve heard this group or not. The name sounded so familiar. I don’t think I have, but I do enjoy it. She has a great voice, and I love when the dude backs her up with some harmonies or a bit of call-and-response. I really found myself tuning in to “Hurricane.” A lovely ballad that reminds me of another artist…and I can’t think of who. Oh well I guess. I do have to admit I don’t like when the guy sings lead quite as much. Something about the way he draws out his vowel sounds. It almost sounds a little 90’s, but in an annoying kind of way – Almost like Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco but without the vibrato (which made a little more sense when I noticed they’re on the Fueled By Ramen label). Still, despite that, I did enjoy the songs that featured him, especially “As You Cry.” It was bouncy and catchy enough that the voice didn’t get in the way. In fact, overall, the group has some really fun vocal arrangements and harmonies, which I’m a sucker for. Which also makes it a little ironic that the piano based instrumental loop of “Six (interlude)” was probably my favorite track. Had an almost Vince Guaraldi flavor to it! Almost made me wish more of the album had that same easy jazz feel.
I think my main criticism of the album is that although it’s very pleasant, I wouldn’t say it’s all that memorable. I’ve heard a lot of different bands that have a similar sound, some do it a lot better, some not as good. “Molasses” and “Love You Much Better” did take that vaudevillian stomp a little further, but I found myself wishing they pushed that sounds a little more… more straight up honky-tonk bar tunes. But overall, a fun listen.” 7/10 -Chris
“This album was interesting for me. I DID NOT like it at first. The first few tracks just didn’t interest me at all, but as the album went on I found myself appreciating the music more and more. Once it finished, I went back and listened to those first tracks, and found that I appreciated them more, but I still felt like they weren’t as good as the later stuff. So while I think the music itself is great, as far as an album goes, it only comes in as good but not great. But, that being said, I wouldn’t mind adding most of the songs onto a random playlist…I just wouldn’t likely listen to the album as a whole in the near future.” 3/5 -Tim
Feel free to let me know what you think in the comments below.