Fall 2006 Record Reviews

Fall 2006 Review Roundup

This week Jim and Greg will take a look at a whole slew of new fall releases including albums from the Scissor Sisters, the Hold Steady, The Decemberists and Janet Jackson.

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Music News

YouTube made news again this week. Founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen sold their video site to Google for $1.65 billion (in stock). To Jim and Greg, and many fans of the free-for-all nature of YouTube, this deal is one of many signaling the end of the Internet's Wild West era. YouTube was not simply a place to see wacky videos, but also a place for music fans to seek out hard-to-find concert footage or discover new artists. Now, the fear is that the site will become corporatized and exist only for major-label artists to promote themselves. And as we know, some“musicians”will promote just about anything.

reviewAlright, StillAlright, Still available on iTunes

Lily Allen Alright, Still

This week, Jim and Greg wanted to review a whole bunch of new fall releases. The first is by British songstress Lily Allen. While her album Alright, Still is not yet out in the States, Allen is already receiving a lot of acclaim. Her grassroots success can be mostly attributed to her MySpace page, which allowed curious music fans to give her music a listen for free. So, while you cannot purchase Alright, Still in the States, Jim and Greg felt it deserved a proper review. Both critics highly recommend this album for its clever lyrics and unique reggae sound, but mostly for Allen's biting humor and breezy attitude. As Jim explains, it's hard not to smile when you listen to a song like "Smile." This set of reviews gets kicked off with a double Buy It for Lily Allen.

JimGreg
reviewBoys and Girls In AmericaBoys and Girls in America available on iTunes

The Hold Steady Boys and Girls in America

Next up is the third release from New York rock group The Hold Steady. Boys and Girls in America continues the band's streak of "bar band" music, but our hosts disagree about this record's big musical influences. Greg hears a lot of AC/DC and '70s hard rock in the songs, but Jim really only hears one thing: Bruce Springsteen. As Sound Opinions listeners know, for Jim, this is not good. He calls The Hold Steady's music“lousy,”and finds their blue-collar lyrics really put-upon. Greg doesn't think that Jim is giving head songwriter Craig Finn enough credit. He finds his storytelling smart and very believable. Boys and Girls in America gets a Trash It from Jim and a Buy It from Greg.

JimGreg
reviewTa-DahTa-Dah available on iTunes

The Scissor Sisters Ta-Dah

Next up is the sophomore effort from The Scissor Sisters, Ta-Dah. It's a common misconception that this quintet hails from the U.K. While they have received most of their success across the pond, this gender-bending pop group actually hails from New York City. Scissor Sisters had hits the first time around with singles like "Take Your Mama" and "Comfortably Numb," but the question was whether their schtick was too schticky to last. Greg, for one, really enjoyed Ta-Dah. He thinks that the music is fun and upbeat and perfect for singles play on your iPod. But he thought Jake Shears' (get it? "Shears!") falsetto was difficult to take for an entire album and can only give Ta-Dah a Burn It. Jim liked the album a bit more than Greg. He described it as an amalgam of the best glam, pop, and disco music that you would've heard on '70s AM radio. However, like Greg, he only recommends listeners Burn It.

JimGreg
review20 Y.O.20 Y.O. available on iTunes

Janet Jackson 20 Y.O.

Janet Jackson ("Ms. Jackson if you're Nasty") has a new album out this week as well. Its title, 20 Y.O., comes from the number of years that have passed since Jackson's seminal hit Control. Janet is back with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis as well as boyfriend Jermaine Dupri, and she uses the first track of this album to remind the listener of the tough topics she's covered in the past 20 years including,“racism, spousal abuse, empowering women.”Of course, 20 Y.O. isn‘t really about any of these things. Rather, it’s only about one thing: sex. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but Jim and Greg expected more creativity and more of a statement from a woman who was essentially demonized by many following the now-famous wardrobe malfunction of 2004. Boring production + boring lyrics + boring singing = a double Trash It for Ms. Jackson.

JimGreg
reviewThe Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition)The Crane Wife available on iTunes

The Decemberists The Crane Wife

Finally, we move to the literate, fantastic world of The Decemberists. Lead-singer Colin Meloy (a former guest of our fair show) has always been wordy, but with lyrics like“affix your barbs and bayonets, the curlews carve their arabesques,”and song titles like "The Island: Come & See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel The Drowning," he is taking it to a new level. The Decemberists' new album, The Crane Wife, is based on a Japanese folk tale — but despite these lofty inspirations, both Jim and Greg love this album. Jim has never denied his fondness for epic prog rock, but commends Meloy for taking the genre into the present, without sacrificing the hooks. Sound Opinions can vouch for Jim's praise of this record; he beams every time he mentions it. In the past, Greg has given the Decemberists (and Jim) a hard time for being too“twee.”But, he found this album to be the most ambitious of the band's career. He compares much of Meloy's writing to that of English bands like the Fairport Convention and explains that he is“developing into one of the most important songwriters of our time.”So this episode of Sound Opinions ends on a high note (literally, if you listen to Jim's sing-a-long). The Crane Wife gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg

Featured Songs

  1. OK Go,“Here It Goes Again,”Oh No, 2005
  2. Aimee Mann,“Way Back When”Whatever, 1993
  3. Lily Allen,“Smile”Alright Still, 2006
  4. Lily Allen,“LDN,”Alright Still, 2006
  5. Lily Allen,“Not Big,”Alright Still, 2006
  6. The Hold Steady,“Stuck Between Stations,”Boys and Girls in America, 2006
  7. The Hold Steady,“Chips Ahoy”Boys and Girls in America, 2006
  8. The Hold Steady,“Citrus”Boys and Girls in America, 2006
  9. Scissor Sisters,“I Don't Feel Like Dancin”Ta-Dah, 2006
  10. Scissor Sisters,“Comfortably Numb,”Scissor Sisters 2004
  11. Scissor Sisters,“She's My Man,”Ta-Dah, 2006
  12. Scissor Sisters,“Kiss You Off,”Ta-Dah, 2006
  13. Janet Jackson,“20 (Intro)”20 Years Old, 2006
  14. Janet Jackson,“This Body,”20 Years Old, 2006
  15. Janet Jackson,“Control,”Control, 1986
  16. The Decemberists,“The Crane Wife,”The Crane Wife, 2006
  17. The Decemberists,“The Island: Come and See/The Landlord's Daughter/You'll Not Feel the Drown,”The Crane Wife, 2006

Footnotes

myspace.com Lily Allen on MySpace wikipedia.org Jake Shears wikipedia.org AM radio? lyricsdownload.com Ms. Jackson if You're Nasty cnn.com Janet's wardrobe malfunction blogspot.com Japanese folk tale“The Crane Wife”