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Best of the 00s: Boards of Canada, Brendan Benson & Bruce Springsteen

Posted by June 13th, 2010 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 9: Boards of Canada, Brendan Benson & Bruce Springsteen

Nada Co-founders Matt and Gabe are listening to 197 of the music press’s picks for “best albums of the 00s” for a series called Gabe Joins the 21st Century.

Boards of Canada – Geogaddi
#30 on Pitchfork

Gabe: Geogaddi is labeled “ambient,” “electronica,” and worst of all, “IDM,” which apparently stands for “Intelligent Dance Music.”  As far as I can tell, what these terms mean is that there are basically no lyrics on this nearly 70 minute album. Geogaddi would make a nice soundtrack for a film adaptation of one of J.G. Ballard’s dystopian novels like Cocaine Nights or Super-Cannes. The music conveys a sense of modern horror that I could totally dig if it was coupled to some kind of tangible plot. Lacking such, I can’t imagine every actively listening to this album again. Grade: DO NOT LIKE.

Matt: The glacial shift in my music tastes toward the more subtle and textural feels like it should have landed me squarely in love with Geogaddi. The album – now considered a classic of the ambient genre – creates a dark, intriguing atmosphere well suited for a movie score, but there are not enough big payoffs for this impatient listener. The recognizable “Julie & Candy” is the most notable one, though, with a gorgeous child-like melody and lilting drums. Grade: LIKE.

Brendan Benson - LapalcoBrendan Benson – Lapalco 
#47 on NME

Gabe: I’m a notorious sucker for power pop singer songwriters. I’ve got albums by Freedy Johnston and Duncan Sheik for fuck’s sake. So it took me a good six or seven listens to realize that I don’t ever need to listen to Lapalco again. The music provides a proper Big Star-ish power pop buzz, but the singing and lyrics can come off as cutesy. Not that Brendan doesn’t have some good lines, like the following from “Folks Singer” – “Every single day at eleven, I’m home in bed in sleep heaven/Alone cuz my girl leaves at seven/Ain’t got time for my bed in, she said stop pretending/You’re not John Lennon.” I’d say that Benson seems to have many of Elliot Smith’s gifts, but without the heart. Grade: LIKE.

Matt: Lapalco seems like a perfectly competent collection of power pop songs. The opening track “Tiny Spark” might even be good enough to occupy space typically held by Matthew Sweet or Graham Parker on one of my future mixed tapes, and “You’re Quiet” gets a nice little Kinks groove going. Unfortunately, there aren’t any other memorable moments on this whole album; Benson’s thin vocals don’t help matters. He and Lapalco were both around long before the formation of Midwest supergroup the Raconteurs, of which he is a part, but that doesn’t keep the record from sounding like a first solo album from a beloved band’s lead guitarist. It doesn’t suck, but it doesn’t stand out either. Grade: DO NOT LIKE.

Bruce Springsteen - MagicBruce Springsteen – Magic
#24 on Rolling Stone’s List

Gabe: Magic is probably Springsteen’s best album since 1987’s Tunnel of Love, and the first single “Radio Nowhere” rocks harder than anything Bruce has release since “Born in the U.S.A.” dropped in 1984. It is remarkable that 29 years after releasing the monumental Darkness on the Edge of Town, Springsteen & the E Street Band can capture some of the same disillusionment and longing without sounding like they are just rehashing their own history. Whether or not you think you like Springsteen, you should probably take a close listen to “Girls in Their Summer Clothes” turned up real loud and see if it doesn’t scratch an itch you may not even know you had. Grade: LOVE.

Matt: I’ve long acquiesced that feedback and that-good-old-DIY-spirit don’t always make music better, but holy dog shit if Magic isn’t a victim of good old fashioned over production. Everything’s perfectly smoothed out and sanitary, and the whole thing plays out like a bunch of songs perfected in an expensive studio rather than on the road. That’s a shame, because there are some great tracks here. Opener “Radio Nowhere” is a rockin’ guitar tune that sounds like it would tear ass live and “I’ll Work for Your Love” is a lovely little love song built around a simple sentiment. I don’t fault The Boss for having the resources to create something this polished, and I certainly won’t mind hearing this on the radio or at a friendly gathering, but there’s no “magic” on this record and there’s no way I’ll ever play it again.  Grade: LIKE
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