Yo Gabba Gabba: Music Is…Awesome! Volume 2


RIYL: hipster bands, watching your kids dance

Landing a cool 10 months after the release of Volume I of Yo Gabba Gabba’s Music Is…Awesome! series, this set rights some of the wrongs of that first album by including some of the bands they overlooked the last time (Jimmy Eat World, MGMT, Datarock, and thank God they finally released the Ting Tings’ cover of “Happy Birthday”). The catch with this set is that the songs by the contributing rock bands are much better, but the songs from the show are, well, not. Yes, “Hold Still” finally makes an appearance, but it’s the lesser of the two versions that have appeared on the show. Meanwhile, the “Freeze Game” song here does not measure up to the ‘you can’t catch us!’ ‘Freeze’ song from another episode. (Perhaps they chose the version they did so they didn’t have two songs that featured Brobee whining about not being able to keep up.) Alas, the Aggrolites’ song “Banana” is still nowhere to be found, nor is GOGO13’s song “Pick It Up” which, years after their debut on the show, are still the two most commonly sung “Yo Gabba Gabba” songs in this writer’s household. Their exclusion from these sets is bordering on comical, if it weren’t so tragic. Still, the Weezer song (“All My Friends Are Insects”) is great, as are the songs by Hot Hot Heat (“Time to Go Outdoors”) and the Apples in Stereo (“That’s My Family”). In the end the album, much like the show, has some moments of genius, surrounded by stuff that you merely tolerate for the sake of your kids. No excuses, guys: put “Pick It Up” and “Banana” on the next set, or there will be hell to pay. (Filter 2010)

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Click to buy Music Is Awesome! Volume 2 from Amazon

  

MGMT: Congratulations


RIYL: The Beach Boys, The Beta Band, The Flaming Lips

With “Time to Pretend,” MGMT crafted a brilliant piece of pop that detailed exactly why they were destined for obscurity. Of course that song ended up being an underground hit of sorts and skyrocketed the band to an appeal that wasn’t exactly mainstream, but was definitely above their original low expectations. And while the band will never attain the stereotyped superstar status that will bring them heroin, models and international fame detailed in that song, they have managed to achieve one rock cliché with the release of Congratulations; the mediocre and needlessly complex second album.

The band has gone out of their way to describe this album in interviews as a cohesive work that should be listened in its entirety, and that it’s not a “singles” record. That’s a lie. This is the definition of a singles record, with the singles being the only worthwhile tracks on the album. Psychedelic freakouts “It’s Working” and “Flash Delirium” stand out so high above the sonic wallpaper they surround that they almost sound like they were recorded by a different band. This rings especially true with “Flash Delirium,” a piece of Beach Boys-inspired psychedelia that Brian Wilson might have written during one of his more manic phases. Another Brian supplies inspiration for the album’s third and final stand-out track; “Brian Eno,” a fast-paced romp of glammed power pop that should please fans of Eno-era Roxy Music.

mgmt band

The rest of the album is just so dull and forgettable that it’s not even worth complaining over, but I’ll try anyway. “Someone’s Missing” is an apt title for a track so incomplete, as it sounds like a half-finished idea that someone forgot to produce, while the bloated “Siberian Breaks” is a 12-minute journey into ambivalence, devoid of anything resembling a hook or memorable riff. The duo’s attempt at slowing things down, like on the tepid “I Found a Whistle” and the instrumental ‘Lada Dada’s Nightmare” are where things really fall apart into a sea of somber banality. Yikes, maybe there is some stuff here worth complaining over after all.

Download “Flash Delirium,” “It’s Working” and “Brian Eno,” because they are amazing tracks. But avoid everything else that Congratulations has to offer. Until then, here’s hoping that MGMT’s third album is the stereotypical “comeback” record that brings them back to form. (Sony/Columbia 2010)

MGMT MySpace Page

  

Passion Pit: Manners

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room, shall we? Manners, the debut album from Cambridge quintet Passion Pit, sounds a hell of a lot like MGMT. This is not to say that Passion Pit are thieves, mind you; with three keyboard players, a bass player and a drummer, there are only so many ways your band can sound, especially when your singer has a helium-soaked voice like Passion Pit’s singer and songwriter Michael Angelakos. So yes, the band sounds like a streamlined version of MGMT (a.k.a. they don’t dabble in psychedelia), but let’s not throw the book at them just yet. Indeed, Manners is a rather impressive melding of ’80s synth-pop with modern-day technique. Lead single “The Reeling” is stunning, a pop makeover of the Chemical Brothers’ “Star Guitar” with a monster cut & paste drum track. “Folds in Your Hands” has its roots in early ’90s house music, and “Sleepyhead,” with its fairy princess backing vocal line, is insidiously catchy. Whether or not it falls in another band’s shadow, Manners is a good first step; it will be interesting to see where they go from here. (Frenchkiss 2009)

Passion Pit MySpace page

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Staff Writer Ed Murray’s picks

Perhaps due to the waning days of the mortifying political regime we’ve been burdened with for eight years, not to mention ongoing economic palpitations that finally erupted into a full-blown global meltdown, 2008 turned out to be a pretty fantastic year for music. Classic R&B/soul sounds seem to be making a comeback, the indie kids have finally figured out how to absorb ’80s music influences in a more meaningful, less derivative way, pop music (whether or not it’s actually popular) is everywhere, and hard rock is finally seeing something of a resurgence (albeit only slightly at this point). Maybe it has more to do with the death knell sounding for the record industry? It’s pretty obvious at this point that while the CD business is pretty hurting these days, the music business is doing just fine, thank you very much.

Top 10 Albums (New Releases)

Deerhunter: Microcastle/Weird Era Cont.
Most mature effort yet from this Atlanta-based five-piece, blending their shoegazer-noise art-rock into a more melodic and much mightier mix. It’s a two-fer as well, seeing as their third album Microcastle was co-released with the bonus Weird Era Cont., a move which, with all the drama surrounding this band, should surprise no one.

Airborne Toxic Event: Airborne Toxic Event
This band’s been compared to everyone from Springsteen to Franz Ferdinand, and I’m usually turned off by bands who sound like they’ve dug no further into rock history than 1983, but there’s something about this debut that keeps me coming back for more.

MGMT: Oracular Spectacular
Joyous, hypnotic, neo-psychedelic and catchy-as-hell. It’s pure ‘80s-influenced indie dance rock, but beyond the sheer grooviness of it all, MGMT is deeply experimental and hard to pin down (in a good way, of course).

The Black Kids: Partie Traumatic
Beyond the vibe – a Robert Smith meets Tom Tom Club kind of thing – it’s the songs that stand out on this fun and highly danceable album. Anthemic sing-alongs either work or they don’t. Here, they work…despite the occasional inane rhyming couplets.

The Hold Steady: Stay Positive
Craig Finn, Tad Kubler & Co. just keep getting better – and achieving ever-bigger heights – with each new release. Okay, Springsteen comparisons still abound…but those only pertain to the lyrical nature of the songs and Finn’s vocal delivery. The music is riff-heavy cock rock most of the time…and if anything’s desperately missing from a lot of new music, it’s that classic rock connection. “Our psalms are sing-a-long songs,” indeed.

New York Dolls: Live at the Fillmore East – December 28 & 29, 2007
Fully expecting to dislike this live set from late last year because it wasn’t the “real” Dolls, I think what I like best about it is hearing all these tunes with an updated sound, a sonic blast of power that the originals just never had – at least as you hear them on the original band’s scant recorded output. Whatever Johansen’s motivation, I only wish there were more than 10 songs!

Clinic: Do It!
Maybe these guys aren’t doing anything differently because…they don’t have to! Their retro fuzzed-out garage vibe just plain works. Still. Though I am a little tired of the surgeon’s masks, heh-heh.

Helio Sequence: Keep Your Eyes Ahead
A hell of a lot of noise for just two guys. Equally epic and spacey, they’ve actually achieved new heights with their blissed-out melodies, layered sonic wash and experimental but grounded approach. Beauty abounds here, even an acoustic side not always apparent on previous albums.

The Walkmen: You & Me
A great album from a great band. Softer than Bows + Arrows, but no less powerful. In fact, tempering the anger and bile (as in “The Rat”) has allowed them to find new depths in their fairly eclectic songwriting.

Spiritualized: Songs in A & E
Jason Pierce’s best since Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. Blistering, blissful and beautiful. Welcome back.

Best Reissues of 2008

Bob Dylan: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8: Tell Tale Signs – Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006
Forget about all that folk-rock protest-song ancient history. And don’t even mention the mid-period born-again Zimmerman. Late Model Dylan is where it’s at, as this awesome volume in The Bootleg Series proves.

Various Artists: Love Train: The Sound of Philadelphia
Oh yeah. This one was long overdue.

The Eels: Meet the Eels – Essential Eels 1996-2006, Vol. 1 and Useless Trinkets – B Sides, Soundtracks, Rarities and Unreleased 1996-2007
A decade of genius, really. Newbies should stick with Essential Eels, diehards can jump on Useless Trinkets.

Top 10 Songs (NOT featured on New Releases list)

In no particular order:

“The Legend of the Last of the Outlaw Truckers AKA the Ballad of Sheriff Shorty,” Dandy Warhols
If you think you’ve got this band pegged, one listen to this epic tale will set you straight.

Surprise,” Gnarls Barkley
Upbeat, but with a definite ‘60s surf-vibe. Not as instantly classic as “Crazy,” but what is?

Sure Hope You Mean It,” Raphael Saadiq
The opening track off this phenomenal album will blast you right back to Detroit (or Memphis) circa 1963.

You Don’t Know Me,” Ben Folds w/ Regina Spektor
Perhaps the best song on this uneven set, it’s more touching than bitter, which is probably why it rises above most of the rest. Regina doesn’t hurt, either.

Crawl,” Kings of Leon
A blistering slab of riff rock. Very nice.

Right as Rain,” Adele
Lots of great cuts on this New British Soul chanteuse’s debut, but this is the one that does it for me every time. A unique and amazing voice.

Dance with Me,” Old 97s
It’s been a while since I listened to Rhett Miller’s work. I guess it took amping up the volume, guitars and energy a bunch to do it for me again.

“Business Time,” Flight of the Conchords
This song about the monotony of married sex cracks me up every time I hear it, and it’s a good, well-played and -produced tune in addition to the laugh-out-loud funny.

“Wreck My Flow,” The Dirtbombs
Perhaps the best song on this not-their-strongest effort.

Salute Your Solution,” The Raconteurs
A powerhouse of a jam, it’s a gritty sonic blast that’s better than anything on Icky Thump, that’s for sure.

  

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