By Nick Romanow
Silver Jews – Tanglewood Numbers – Drag City
Four years in the making, “Tanglewood Numbers” is the type of record that seems destined to be picked apart and debated. The Silver Jews were often regarded as a Pavement side-project due to Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich’s membership, but as the years progressed and Pavement became more time-consuming, it became clear the band was led by singer/guitarist David Berman. As such, Silver Jews tended to focus on lo-fi country-influenced rock and Berman’s literate, beat-down storytelling became the focus. On “Tanglewood Numbers,” Berman is found emerging from a particularly dark period in his life, one of deep substance abuse and depression, bringing with him a slightly more rocking album than previous efforts while retaining the qualities that his fans have come to expect.
“Punks in the Beerlight” opens with Berman trying to find a bag to vomit in and when his wife and fellow Silver Jew Cassie Berman sings the open-ended line, “If it ever gets really, really bad,” Berman can only reply with, “Let’s not kid ourselves, it gets really, really bad.” While some songs are less subdued than others, Berman keeps the lyrics downtrodden and whiskey-soaked. In “K-Hole,” he willingly offers, “I’d rather live in a trash can than see you happy with another man” over a spacey guitar line.
As on many Silver Jews albums, Malkmus and Nastanovich show up on a few tracks to contribute, and a lot of the songs have their stamps all over them – particularly the numerous instances of trademark Malkmus guitar. “I’m Getting Back Into Getting Back Into You” is dominated by slide guitar which more than makes up for the slightly lackluster performance by Berman. The epic “The Farmer’s Hotel” is one of the best tracks on the album and finds the Silver Jews as tight as ever, if not more so.
Still, though, “Tanglewood Numbers” leaves a lot to be desired. Berman has a knack for painting desolate portraits of people and places, but a lot of the songs seem as go-nowhere as the characters described in the lyrics. “Sometimes a Pony Gets Depressed” is as bizarre as the title indicates, but it’s not particularly engaging. Similarly, Berman’s strong country leanings on songs like “Animal Shapes,” which features the irritating chorus, “God must be carving the clouds into animal shapes,” are bound to be a turn-off to many.
“Tanglewood Numbers” is interesting and will certainly please longtime fans, but isn’t exciting enough to bring in new fans, nor does it raise the bar for Silver Jews. After four years “Tanglewood Numbers” is a welcome return, but it’s not Berman’s finest.
By Nick Romanow
Blanketeer – Blanketeer – Self-released
There are numerous moments on Boston-based Blanketeer’s self-titled EP where the band’s combination of rich textures and big hooks make them sound like they are bursting at the seams, and that’s a good thing. The EP is the first thing that Blanketeer has released but the band sounds like the type of aged and matured band that could do well on the national scene.
With more heart then most pop/rock bands and better hooks and vocals than emo bands, Blanketeer has hit upon a striking, ear-grabbing sound. Layered with distorted guitar and piano and keyboards that add something to the sound – unlike some bands who use keys to create a thin fa硤e of maturity – Blanketeer has a vaguely spacey feel that takes off when the group explodes into huge choruses, such as on “Passing Cars.” The band maintains a similar big, sweeping sound throughout the whole EP – which only runs a tight 20 minutes with six tracks – while singer Adam Cooper’s excellent falsetto and knack for writing melodies glide through.
Blanketeer has an addictive sound, the opening track “Excuses” is an immediate grabber and the EP barely lets go of the listener after that. The six tracks breeze by like a warm gust of wind and the band maintains a mood that is just as affable. The acoustic guitar strums of “Hit From a Miss” shimmer nicely above the heavily distorted electric and the rhythmic riff that kicks off and propels. “Who Wants You Then” also stands out.
Blanketeer could definitely make an impact based on this EP; they are a very talented band and they have hit upon a type of music that is effective and very likeable. With songs like the ones on this release the band has marked themselves as a local act with a lot of promise for the future.
By Tim McCall, Collegian staff
Slowly following the release of The Postal Service’s debut album, indie kids came stumbling out of their basements thinking they too could recreate what Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello made. One of these kids is Chad Crouch. Crouch created a side project from his day job, Blanket Music, and called it Toothfairy.
Besides being in two different music projects with bad names, Crouch has a lot going for him. Toothfairy’s debut album “Formative” is at times a successful spin off The Postal Service. The music has its own original moments and its own unique samples and beats, but it also has its flaws.
While The Postal Service has a louder sound with guitar and sometimes drumming, Toothfairy doesn’t ever get too loud. This could come in handy when you want music to listen to while your roommate is sleeping. Oh, now Crouch’s band names make sense…
With another different twist than The Postal Service, Toothfairy refers back to the earlier songs in later ones on the album. This makes the album confusing because you think the album is skipping (the beats to the music don’t help that, either).
Unfortunately, the album gets boring after five songs. Maybe an entire album of a new side project for Crouch was too much; an EP would have been fine.
The lyrics are fine in small doses since they are about him as if he is still in high school trying to make his favorite girl swoon. Crouch is too old for this tirade, but he knows that since he mocks himself in the first song of the album.
Luckily for us, the album is only nine songs long and they aren’t that long so perhaps you could just fall asleep and miss the entire second half of the album. But if you don’t, the album isn’t really that bad after all, it is only a side project. But again, so is The Postal Service.
Crouch is not the first indie kid to take his laptop out of the basement and into the studio and he will definitely not be the last.
“Confessions on a Dance Floor”
Back in 1985, the year when Marty Mickfly went back to the future in a Delorean and the Boston Celtics were in between NBA Championships, a young woman named Madonna took the world by storm.
Twenty years later, Marty Mickfly is on DVD and the Celtics can’t win two games in a row, but Madonna is still around. Actually, more or less she is back with the release of her new album, “Confessions on a Dance Floor.”
“Confessions on a Dance Floor” is the follow-up to “American Life,” Madonna’s 2003 album – to make a long story short, it was below average for someone of her caliber.
“Confessions on a Dance Floor,” unlike “American Life,” is a return to form for the material girl – the 1980s material girl, that is.
The album is full of retro-sounding dance beats with plenty of loops and samples. Each song on the album even loops to the next, making it feel as if the 12 songs are really just one long song. Fortunately there are 12 different songs on the album. Who would really want to listen to one really long song like that or better yet, who could dance that long to one song?
One of the best things about Madonna is that she actually writes her own songs, unlike her clones that the ’90s spawned. Despite the fact that her songs lyrics are simple, they do carry weight. Especially the song “I Love New York,” whi
ch talks about Madonna’s love for America but hatred for President Bush. This love is kind of ironic since she no longer lives in the United States; she now lives in Europe.
One of the best things about 2005 is the fact that politics can easily be found and heard in pop music regardless of what direction the artist or musician favors.
Another standout song is “Isaac.” “Isaac” could be more controversial than “I Love New York.” Since it carries a spiritual vibe and has Jewish chants throughout the song, many people have started complaining about it. These complaints are useless in the end; the song is actually good and Madonna loves controversy so they won’t get much accomplished.
“Confessions on a Dance Floor” is one of Madonna’s top five albums of her career and might just revive her career with yet another generation of pop music fans.