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Best of the 00s: Damien Rice, Death Cab For Cutie & Deerhunter

Posted by October 25th, 2010 No Comments »

Best of the 00s: Gabe Joins the 21st Century
Part 11: Damien Rice, Death Cab for Cutie & Deerhunter 

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.

Damien Rice –
Paste #30

Gabe: The chorus on O’s first track goes “Why d’ya sing hallelujah/if it means nothing to ya/Why d’ya sing with me at all?” That line – especially in the context of a wistful yet passionate ballad – evokes Leonard Cohen by way of the ghost of Jeff Buckley. And I’ve got no doubt that Mr. Buckley and Mr. Cohen would appreciate Mr. Rice’s musicianship and songwriting ability. But despite the fact that the first four tracks, highlighted by the magnificent “Cannonball”, are very strong, the rest of the album is just too meandering, precious and samey-samey for my taste. Grade: DNL

Matt: Like his fellow busker and Irish countrymen Glenn Hansgard (Swell Season, The Frames), Damien Rice composes careful folk songs with lush, emotional arrangements. There’s a couple of memorable numbers (“Volcano,” “The Blower’s Daughter” and “Cannonball” would all fit great in an offbeat Indie romance) on O but, for the most part, it’s a wimpy, adult-oriented snoozefest. And although it’s sonically very similar to the Swell Season stuff I adore, it’s just not as captivating or memorable. – DNL

Death Cab for Cutie: Indie Rock's Elevator MusicDeath Cab for Cutie – Plans  
KEXP #42 

Matt: I spent a long time actively disliking Death Cab for Cutie, so it seems inappropriate to pan this album, their fifth, so quickly after falling in love with its excellent predecessor Transatlanticism (which you’ll hear about later in the countdown.)  The thing about Death Cab is that they make nice, pleasant, unobtrusive music. Put on one of their records at any social gathering and it will make for nice background scoring. No one will complain. Sometimes I resent them for capturing such a large, devoted crossover following with such a tame sound. Other times I marvel at it. On Plans, unfortunately, only the catchy single “Crooked Teeth,” gorgeous acoustic ballad “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” and “badap-badap-badas” of “Soul Meets Body” are even remotely affecting. The other eight songs are so boring and innocuous that they fade from memory almost before they finish. Grade: DNL

Gabe: It took me a while to figure out what I don’t like about this album. Then it dawned on me – Plans reminds me of Christian rock. It’s full of polished and professional songs performed by obviously talented musicians, with crisp, clean production and polite instrumentation that put the lyrics front and center. Which would be fine except the lyrics are mostly vague, pseudo-profound sentiments like “I want to live where the soul meets body.”  Gee, me too. Where exactly is that again?  Give me an address or some coordinates and I’ll plug it into my GPS and meet you there. We can hold hands and talk about our feelings. Grade: DNL

Deerhunter - MicrocastleDeerhunter – Microcastle 

Gabe: I gave Microcastle a chance. Actually I gave it 10 chances because Matt blatantly ignored the rules of the project by letting it slip that he has listened to Microcastle “like a thousand times in the last six months”. If there’s a phrase that means the opposition of “poisoned the well,” that’s what Matt did. So I listened to this over and over trying to figure out what makes Microcastle so awesome. After all, if the Nada high potentate has it in heavy rotation it must be good, right?  It couldn’t be that Microcastle is just another ordinay collection of pretty boy art college indie rock, could it?  It’s not that bad, actually. The songs are pretty. The singer sounds 50% awake, but 110% sensitive. I might have liked it more if Matt hadn’t hyped it so much. Grade: DNL

Matt: My relationship with Deerhunter was just beginning when I scirbed my list of favorite albums of the past decade, but if you asked me to do it again now, Microcastle would undoubtedly make the top 20, thanks to a rare combination of musical factors.

1) It has a distinct overall vibe and aesthetic.  “Sonic Youth lite”… “Lazy, intricate space rock”…”neo-shoegaze”…call it what you will, but there’s a warm, groovy vibe to this record that’s more than the sum of its parts.

2) Within that aesthetic there is great variation. No two songs on the Atlanta band’s lauded debut are remotely similar in structure, yet it all comes together as a cohesive whole. Tune in at any point, and you are unmistakably listening to Microcastle and only Microcastle.

3) There’s a nice balance between immediate pay offs and more elaborate musical onions that reveal themselves upon multiple listens.
The first 30 times I played this I couldn’t make it through without replaying “Never Stops” and “Nothing Ever Happened” multiple times, but it took me 30 more before I fully embraced the power of awesome title track, which opens with a sparse, indecipherable vocal and gentle guitar line that the band later fills in with a big, full-instrumentation payoff. With each listen, one has more connection to the whole and can therefore fill in more of the opening on his or her own, a rare and wonderful musical feat. Grade: LOVE

More in this series:

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