Headphones and Records

Fall 2007 Review Roundup

It's a classic Sound Opinions debate: To Springsteen or not to Springsteen. This week on the show Jim and Greg will continue that discussion with a review of Bruce Springsteen's latest album, Magic. Then they'll sound off on other big fall releases from PJ Harvey and Joni Mitchell.

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reviewShine

Joni Mitchell Shine

The first album up for review is folk legend Joni Mitchell's first release in over nine years. The singer/songwriter famously quit the music biz in 2002 and criticized the record industry, calling it a“cesspool‘”full of“pornographic pigs.”So it’s surprising she's back at all, let alone with a Starbucks deal. For the album Shine, Mitchell has joined Paul McCartney on the Hear Music label, owned by the coffee chain. Jim is shocked by her choice to associate herself with such megalithic corporation, but Greg understands why someone who doesn't get commercial radio play would go this route. The music itself is another story. Jim absolutely“hated”this record. He realizes that dissing Joni Mitchell might get him kicked out of the critic's club, but after seven listens, he found no reason not to Trash It. Greg thinks Joni's harmonics, chords and voicing are as good as ever, but he doesn't find many traces of the great songwriting fans heard with "Big Yellow Taxi." He wished the lyrics had a little more poetry and a little less-finger pointing. That said, according to Greg Joni's always worth hearing, so he gives Shine a Try It.

JimGreg
reviewThe Real Thing - Words & Sounds, Vol. 3The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3 available on iTunes

Jill Scott The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3

Next up is another female singer/songwriter, Jill Scott. After her successful 2000 debut Who Is Jill Scott? Words & Sounds, Vol. 1, Scott established herself as one of the most powerful voices in R&B and soul. Now she's back with The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, which Greg describes as having two stylistic poles, strong and sassy and soft and soul-searching, with a whole lot of“boot-knocking”music in between. Both Jim and Greg are fans of Scott, but wish there was more spunk and more hooks on this record, since they know she is capable of it. The Real Thing is a real Try It.

JimGreg
reviewProof of YouthProof of Youth available on iTunes

The Go! Team Proof of Youth

Brighton, England sextet The Go! Team also released an album this month called Proof of Youth. Jim and Greg first became aware of the group after they performed at the Intonation Music Festival in 2005 and released their debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike. This sophomore effort follows the same exuberant formula, pairing cheerleading-style vocals with samples and horns. Greg thinks they borrow much of their aesthetic from Public Enemy, but the key difference is production. While the hip hop group provided great beats and a heavy bottom, the Go! Team album was very hard for Greg to listen to — very tinny, no bottom, and like a second rate Public Enemy recording. He gives it a Trash It. Jim couldn't disagree more. He finds their high-energy performance totally fresh and irresistible. Proof of Youth has been making Jim smile since the first time he listened to it, so he gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
reviewMagicMagic available on iTunes

Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band Magic

Jim and Greg have been arguing about the merits of this next artist for what seems like a lifetime. And, luckily for us, they aren't tired of it yet. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band are back together for a new record called Magic. The Boss and his band haven‘t always had an easy relationship in their 33-year history, but they decided to take another go at it after 2002’s The Rising, although as Jim explains, the singer/songwriter and the E Street musicians didn‘t spend any actual time together in the studio. And that’s part of the problem for Jim. The effort feels very contrived to him, and he just doesn‘t buy the Springsteen“schtick.”As with most of Springsteen’s songs, the ones on Magic express nostalgia for a golden age that was never that golden. He wishes Bruce had followed suit with his peers, Neil Young and Tom Petty, and expressed political feelings in a bold way. This critic gives Magic a Trash It. Greg thinks Jim completely misunderstood the songs on this record. He prefers not to be“bludgeoned”with ideas, and finds this release to be one of Springsteen's best records in over 25 years. He gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
reviewEchoes, Silence, Patience & GraceEchoes, Silence, Patience & Grace available on iTunes

The Foo Fighters Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace

Another big album this fall is Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace from The Foo Fighters. The group started off as a lark for former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, but now, six albums later, they are one of the most consistently successful commercial rock acts around. And Jim just can‘t understand why. Granted, the age-old formula of quiet verse, loud-chorus, repeat is a proven one, but he calls Grohl one of the worst lyricists in rock. Luckily he’s also good at crafting hooks. Greg agrees that this is the only reason that the Foo Fighters have any appeal — they are catchy and not that complicated. He says there's no reason anyone needs to own more than one Foo Fighters record, and encourages the listener to completely ignore this release. Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace gets two Trash Its.

JimGreg
reviewWhite Chalk (Exclusive Edition)White Chalk available on iTunes

PJ Harvey White Chalk

The final record up for review is from U.K. singer PJ Harvey. White Chalk is the first record Harvey has written using the piano as her instrument, rather than the guitar. And as evidenced by her organ-influenced 1995 masterpiece, To Bring You My Love, when Polly Jean learns a new instrument, wonderful things happen. For this album, the singer appears to be adopting the role of a ghost, telling dark and haunted tales of love and loss. Jim and Greg admit this is an album that takes some getting used to and recommend letting it creep under your skin. They both give big Buy Its to White Chalk.

JimGreg

Featured Songs

  1. Joni Mitchell, Big Yellow Taxi (2007), Shine, Hear, 2007
  2. Joni Mitchell, Bad Dreams, Shine, Hear, 2007
  3. Joni Mitchell, Shine, Shine, Hear, 2007
  4. Joni Mitchell, One Week Last Summer, Shine, Hear, 2007
  5. Jill Scott, Celibacy Blues, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, Hidden Beach, 2007
  6. Jill Scott, Hate on Me, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, Hidden Beach, 2007
  7. Jill Scott, Epiphany, The Real Thing: Words and Sounds, Vol. 3, Hidden Beaach, 2007
  8. Caribou, Sundialing, Andorra, City Slang, 2007
  9. The Go! Team, Titanic Vandalism, Proof of Youth, Memphis Industries, 2007
  10. The Go! Team, Grip Like a Vice, Proof of Youth, Memphis Industries, 2007
  11. Bruce Springsteen, Radio Nowhere, Magic, Columbia, 2007
  12. Bruce Springsteen, Last to Die, Magic, Columbia, 2007
  13. Bruce Springsteen, Long Walk Home, Magic, Columbia, 2007
  14. Midnight Juggernauts, Shadows, Secrets of the Universe, Siberia, 2006
  15. Foo Fighters, The Pretender, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, RCA, 2007
  16. Foo Fighters, Summer's End, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, RCA, 2007
  17. Foo Fighters, Ballad of Beaconsfield Miners, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, RCA, 2007
  18. PJ Harvey, The Devil, White Chalk, Island, 2007
  19. PJ Harvey, White Chalk, White Chalk, Island, 2007
  20. The Orb, High Noon, The Dream, Traffic Inc., 2007
  21. The Nerves, Hanging on the Telephone, The Nerves, Nerves, 1986
  22. Midlake, Chasing After Deer, The Trials of Van Occupanther, Bella Union, 2006

Footnotes

jonimitchell.com Joni Mitchell starbucks.com Starbucks chicagotribune.com Greg reviews Shine jillscott.com Jill Scott's homepage jimdero.com Jim reviews Eddie Vedder, The Go! Team, Jill Scott thegoteam.co.uk The Go! Team subpop.com Proof of Youth album info jimdero.com Jim on The Go! Team's live performance metacritic.com Thunder Lightning Strike on Metacritic brucespringsteen.net Bruce Springsteen metacritic.com The Rising neilyoung.com Neil Young's metacritic.com Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace foofighters.com The Foo Fighters allmusic.com Nirvana jimdero.com Jim on PJ Harvey's To Bring You My Love chicagotribune.com Greg on White Chalk