Monday, June 22, 2009

Music Library: Death of Samantha, Deathray Davies, Decemberists,

Death of Samantha - Where the Women Wear the Glory and the Men Wear the Pants. Death of Samantha was a Cleveland band that later contributed members to GBV and Cobra Verde. This is a great twin-guitar album, but the highlight is the cover of Peter Laughner's "Sylvia Plath."

The Deathray Davies - various tracks from Drink With the Grownups And Listen to Jazz, Return of the Drunk Ventriloquist, and Midnight at the Black Nail Polish Factory. S'okay. Indie rock.

The Decemberists - 5 Songs, Castaways and Cutouts, Her Majesty The Decemberists, Billy Liar EP, The Tain, Picaresque, The Crane Wife, Picaresquities, and "Clementine." Notice that the new one isn't on this list? That's because I heard it streamed on NPR (if I recall correctly) before its release and realized that I really despised it. However, I quite like the bulk of Mr. Meloy & Co.'s output. I think (and perhaps this dates me) that the less the Decemberists try to rock, that the less they try to match Meloy's ambitious lyrics with ambititious-but-deathly-dull prog(gish) rock, the better they are. In fact, one of the Decemberists' best tracks is the rapturous "Los Angeles, I'm Yours," which recalls the lazy, glistening cocaine-rock of Southern California's mid-70s heyday. But Meloy's best hat is when he makes fake Brit-folk, something like a more polished Fairport Convention. Picaresque is the shaggiest dog in their collection, a full head of greatness over the very good likes of Her Majesty. The Tain, which I quite like for all of its silliness, was the first step towards the Decemberist's ugly prog side, but it had the benefit of not really trying to rock. The Crane Wife is another step down the road, more rock-ish sounds that are far to fussy to ever approach rock (and, god help us all, long sections that sound like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer outtakes), but Meloy's pop skills (mostly) save the record. Picaresquities is an EP of B-sides and "Clementine" from an album of Portland musicians recording Elliott Smith songs. I will go a step further and say that I actually like Meloy as a person, at least as he has revealed himself in interviews and in his excellent 33 1/3 book on Let It Be, and I seriously hope that his future music appeals to me more.


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