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.

Fall 2006 Record Reviews
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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.

Alright, Still 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.

Boys and Girls in America 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.

Ta-Dah 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.

Control 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.

The Crane Wife The Decemberists

The Crane Wife (10th Anniversary Edition)

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.

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