Saturday, October 08, 2005

New Favorite Album

Well, this should asuage my pal Lappster, who's been itching to get the Bread album out of the right navigation column for some time. There have been a lot of great new releases that I've been digging a lot the last couple of weeks, so it's kinda tough to choose just one.

I just picked up the new Franz Ferdinand--You Could Have It So Much Better--from the iTunes music store, and it's a raver--great angular, guitar-based new wave with a sense of caustic dread, perfect for the Ought decade. I can't get the first single, "Do You Want To," out of my head, and the song "Fallen" has given me my new credo: "You are the word, that word is DESTROY." I'm also liking some of the Bowie-esque mid-tempo numbers (hear that Torkelson?), but I could do without a couple of the noisier tracks with sloppy, overly loud guitar (which treads too close to Strokes territory for me). Overall, it shakes my rump while I'm working in my office chair.

I'd been really looking forward to the new David Gray album,--his last album, A New Day at Midnight has been an enduring favorite of mine--and for the most part Life In Slow Motion doesn't disappoint. It's still chock full of reaching, plaintive harmonies and an interesting hybrid mix of folk sensibility with subtle electronic filler in the corners. But its sound is a bit more expansive in its sonic reach, perhaps more stadium ready (where his growing popularity is driving him for his current concert tour; see this review at the NYTimes), which took some getting used to. I'm still more of a Midnight fan, but this has been getting to me more and more.

After Mrs. F's and my recent trip out to the North Dakota prairie, it seemed a natural to pick up Neil Young's newest, Prairie Wind It's the first Neil album I've bought in a long time, and it's fitting in quite nicely with my recent return to folk artists like Bruce Cockburn and new explorations of country music (which I used to call "chuckwagon music" until Mrs. F set me straight). There are a number of of acoustic-based wistfully nostalgic elegies to the simple praire life that's slipping away, as well as a couple of bluesy numbers--and the politically ripe tune "When God Made Me," which Neil played on the Shelter from the Storm concert benefitting the Red Cross's Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

Speaking of Cockburn, I picked up two of his releases from the 70s--Sunwheel Dance and Circles in the Stream--from the recently reissued Rounder remastered series. If you're a Cockburn fan, these are must-haves--and they weren't always very readily available in the US previously. If you're interested in learning more about the man, Sunwheel is a great starting point. It's quietly contemplative and nicely melodic in its acoustic environment, and it captures Cockburn in one of his most spirtual moods. I also picked up his recent Speechless compendium of instrumental pieces (he's one of the most fantastic acoustic guitar players you'll ever hear), but was a bit disappointed as I already own most of the material. Still, it's great for putting on while cooking on an autumn's eve.

But my New Favorite Album of the moment is Love Kraft by Super Furry Animals. While this might seem a no-brainer since they're one of my Four Pillars of Pop Perfection (along with Paul Weller, Neil Finn, and My Friend the Chocolate Cake), I didn't think much of it at first listen. I had even been a little turned off when first hearing the cacophonic, initial single, "Lazer Beam," on BBC radio back in August. But I kept putting it into my iTunes rotation and I soon realized the brilliance of that song (which fully encompasses everything you need to know about SFA in one song--pop melodies, wacky sci-fi fantasy, Welsh folkiness, electronica flourishes, 70s guitar riffs) and the album as a whole. It's not quite as in-your-face oddly psychedelic and rocky as some of their previous releases--in fact, it's downright mellow. But their highly crafted sonic production and buckets of pop hooks remain intact. I was over at their official site the other day checking in on US concert dates (I'm just going to miss them here in Seattle right before Thanksgiving--nuts!!!!), and noticed that a lot of fans on the message board were dissing the album. I disagree wholeheartedly, and would recommend it to any SFA newcomer as a great starting point.


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