Snap Judgments

Categories: CD Review

In which I open some promo packages and, without looking at the CD cover, listen to one song (track one) and jot down my first impressions. After listening and writing, I check out who it is (noted in parenthesis).

1. Freak folk for hipsters or regular folk for hippies? Seems like the former. Singer, a man, very earnest, breathy, presumably under 30. Also a fan of vibrato. Singer doesn't know when he'll return, or so goes the lyric. Singer not likely to return to my CD player in a hurry. Not awful, though. (Syd Matters, "City Talks," from Someday We Will Foresee Obstacles.)

2. Mandolin intro. "At Last," as made famous by Etta James. Singer, a woman, overemoting, which is easy to do on this song. Singer accompanied by acoustic guitar and mando. Now the mando player is getting a solo--pretty good. A few sour notes, and all around overcooked and square. Might sound okay at an outdoor folk festival with a cold can of Bubble Up. Not particularly useful, though. (Monroe Crossing, "At Last," from Somebody Like You.)

3. Still more folksy stuff! Sounds pretty good. Singer authoritative, band loose. Reference to elephants. Dan Zanes? Song about going to see a traveling show that features elephants. Doesn't quite sound like Dan Zanes. If it's not Dan Zanes (guy from Del Fuegos who now makes hip kids' records), it might be someone taking cues from him. I should fact check this, but elephants must be one of the largest land mammals in the whole world. But what if this isn't kids' music, then how good is it? (James McMurtry, "See the Elephant," Childish Things.)

4. Slick cosmo beat-pop, the type played in tapas bars, perhaps. Female singer. Brazilian Girls do this stuff quite well. This is sub-rate, pointless. Must have taken a full eight minutes to compose, and way too long to record. Chorus features word "shake," but I'd rather not. (Kudu, "Hot Lava," from Death of the Party.)

5. Breathy male singer singing romantically but insincerely, presumably a power pop band is about to enter. No, maybe not. Yeah, here they are. Descending Beatles change. Lots of different part. No way will I remember any of them. (the City on Film, "Anticlimactic," from In Formal Introduction.)

6. Brazilian? Cool falsetto. Sprightly. Kind of a Nascimento vibe. Definitely Brazilian. Old-school MPB-meets-samba sound, probably someone older. Gravity of singer's rough-hewn-but-pretty voice nicely offsets effervescent rhythms. Cool backups. No rhythm section, but they're not missed. Yeah, this is pretty good! (Seu Jorge, "The Razao" ("I Was Right"), from Cru.)

7. Muslim call to prayer, apparently. Field recording of muezzin or record in which beatmakers sample international folk musicians in hopes of being applauded for postmodern kitchen-sink aesthetic. The latter, of course. Monotone singer. Haven't made out many lyrics yet. Pretty boring and old hat. (Del Ray and the sun Kings, "Intro" and "Blood Doesn’t Like," from I Am the Light.)

8. Old-timey, early 20th century chord changes, tuba bass, banjo. Froggy singer. Might also remind folks of Mungo Jerry. Well, I don't know. Harmless and fun, I guess, but who gives a fuck. I take it all back if it's local. (Danny Barnes, "Get Myself Together," from Get Myself Together.)

9. Parody of "It Was a Very Good Year." Remembers hearing the Jackson 5 and deciding to be a singer. Not quite a parody after all. Must be an intro. Whispering. Yes, it's an intro, so I'll listen to the next one, too. Nice enough tenor, very Marvin Gaye influenced. "Caressing and undressing," oh brother, that's an old one. Singer so into woman he feels like he's on a drug. Another fresh idea! Telephone voice comes in. Snore. I have a feeling that nothing more is going to happen but the track is going to go on for another two minutes anyway. (The Revelation Is Now Televised, "Intro" and "Confess," from self-titled album.)

10. Industrial guitar or guitar-synth thing. Vocalist comes in screaming. Sounds like Ministry. Repetitive riff. Samples political speech or perhaps drill sergeant--I didn’t catch the words. Now faster. Tinny sound. Yeah, it's a drill sergeant. Possibly an anti-war song but I can't tell on first listen. Yeah, it is. Not really my bag, but I'm kind of in favor of it. (Ministry, "Thieves" [1990], from Murderball: Music from the Film.)

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