For more than a year, some of my friends and former coworkers have been sharing music. The idea is that we’re supposed to review/rate what’s shared with us, then share those reviews with the group, but that doesn’t always happen.
The Decemberists – The Crane Wife (2006)
I’ve been listening to these guys for a long time, and I really like them. And I think this is their best album. Although I think the album artwork is a little creepy.
I feel like they’re a lot like Arcade Fire, but maybe more acoustic. But both The Decemberists and Arcade Fire are the kind of band I have to mix in with other bands. For something like this it’s fine, because it’s been a while since I’ve listened to just them in one sitting and I’m really focusing on the music, but I think because I’ve been listening to them so much over the past 10+ years, I get a little bored with the just alright stuff. Does that make any sense?
I don’t always focus on a band’s lyrics. I mostly listen to the music and melody first and lyrics second. I think part of it is that a lot of modern music from my high school-ish years seemed to have lyrics that didn’t mean anything. They were just words that fit the rhythm of the melody. Or there were classic bands like Simon and Garfunkel who had very poetic lyrics, but since they weren’t straightforward, I didn’t try to figure them out. Anyway, I feel like The Decemberists have great lyrics. I don’t know that they’re particularly clever or anything, but songs like Yankee Bayonet have some great imagery.
Some of my musical highlights are The Landlord’s Daughter (the middle section of The Island) for its prog rock qualities and The Perfect Crime for its dirty white boy funk qualities. They’re just different from how I’d typify The Decemberists’ music, which I’d do with Sons and Daughters. Although it will always remind me of Dwight Schrute’s family band.
But I think my favorite is Shankill Butchers. It’s has great, almost macabre lyrics and simple, melancholy music. I didn’t know (at first) that it was a reference to The Troubles in Ireland. It seemed like it was referencing stuff that happened a hundred years earlier. O Valencia is a close second, with its more upbeat coverage of a more tragic story. Another excellent song is Culling of the Fold, which is a bonus song on Spotify. It’s another kind of macabre song, but the music feels very gypsy-like. Maybe it’s because of the Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes movies, but this kind of music is the darker half of what I would imagine steam punk music would sound like. And I like it.
The one lowlight for me is When the War Came. Most of the song just has this grinding guitar and organ playing the same chord in the same rhythm. And sometimes there are some more etherial instruments noodling around on top of that. The chorus is alright, but not enough to save the song as a whole. It’s just discordant and repetitive.
Even then, I’d give this album a 4/5.
The Ditty Bops – Moon over the Freeway (2006)
I was introduced to these ladies by one of Chris’ old co-workers and have actually been on my list of bands to share. So I’m not surprised that Chris beat me to the punch. I actually suggested our former contributor Kari look into these girls before we started this little game. I have no idea if she did or what she thought of them.
Generally, I’d say their music is a sort of vaudevillian folk. Angel with an Attitude is a perfect example of this. I think it’s a little on the ragtime-y side of typical. Chris almost had it when he said they were a mix between Nickel Creek and Squirrel Nut Zippers, but I’d add in some other bands to that mix. I could hear Norah Jones doing Fish to Fry. It sounds like something she’d do. In the Meantime is a lot like Angel with an Attitude, but I feel like it also has some Quintette du Hot Club de Jazz to it, too. And some music box, which is weird and cool at the same time. It’s a Shame feels very much like a Joan Baez song with superb harmony – something Joan was often missing and is one of my favorite things about The Ditty Bops.
There are things that are kinda different, too. Aluminium Can has always reminded me (musically) of a train. It just has this driving earnestness about it. And then there are songs that are totally different. Fall Awake is like a ’60s bossa nova. Something João Gilberto would do. I would expect the music video for this (if there is one, I haven’t looked) would be like the cool psychedelia of the opening credits to a James Bond movie. I think you know what I’m talking about.
A kind of short review for a kind of short album, but it’s another great album. 4/5
Flogging Molly – Within a Mile of Home (2004)
Sometimes these guys are punk (as witnessed in the first couple of tracks), sometimes they sound very traditional (as in Factory Girls and Don’t Let Me Die), and sometimes they blend the two (Tobacco Island and Wanderlust). And I like it all. Well, I don’t really like the guest vocalist smoker on Factory Girls – it’s better live when they just have their fiddle/tin whistle player sing it.
This album feels a little more deliberate and a little more mature than their album from two years earlier, Drunken Lullabies, which I shared (at least with Chris and Tim) a long time ago. I know I’ve already shared these guys once, but none of the guys gave me a review in return. When I pulled a FM tee-shirt out of my drawer on Monday morning, I figured it was time to revisit them, albeit with a different album suggestion.
You’re always welcome and encouraged to leave your thoughts in the comments below. Until then, here’s what my friends had to say about Flogging Molly:
“I’ve never really gotten into Flogging Molly even though several of my friends are fans. Its just too loud all the time. But lets give this a real chance.
Screaming at the Wailing Wall – Its definitely that same FM sound. If the guitar would do something besides the constant strumming it would do a lot for them. THERE! At the end he changed to a more reserved pattern. Best part of the song.
Seven Deadly Sins – once again, cool intro, but the guitar… Thats really what ruins this music. There’s no respite. No variety and the guitar really dominates the sound. They actually have a lot of cool stuff going on in the accordion, fiddle, etc. They have the instrumentation, they could make some awesome music. And honestly I LIKE the singer’s voice, but it ends up sounding like he’s just shouting to be heard over the guitar the whole time. If you can just basically ignore the guitar it is awesome music. I’ve never actually recognized that before, but I just have a hard time doing that.
Factory Girls – great change of pace. This is nice.
Whistles the Wind – I like this one a lot too, the quieter verses make the rousing chorus more rousing than the constant punk sound.
Rest of the album carried on similarly. My favorites are their “ballads” or basically anything aside from the punk like stuff. Really though this was good to give them a serious look because there’s a lot more good in their music than what I had noticed before.” 2.9/5 – Spencer
“Flogging Molly is a band I always appreciated, but never took the time to really get into. In high school I had quite a few friends that liked them a lot, including one of my very best friends, so I heard their music off and on while riding around with the boys.
This album is enjoyable. I love the energy these guys have. Their Irish-punk “shtick” could easily be passed off as gimmick if they weren’t so sincere and talented. That’s what really sells it. My favorite moments are in songs like “Seven Deadly Sins” that juxtapose the pure folk with pure punk right next to each other to the extreme. In fact, as short and sweet as it is, that might be my favorite song on the album. It’s a perfect example of what this band represents. I also really liked the ballad “Whistles The Wind.” Again, it’s the group’s sincerity that really sells these songs that might otherwise sound a little cheesy if you didn’t know they were 100% serious.
Overall, it’s a fun listen. I kind of have to be in the mood for it, but when I am, I enjoy the journey.” 7/10 – Chris