Monday, September 25, 2006


Yo La Tengo
I’m Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass

Somewhere along the way, in the past year or two, indie rock stalwarts Yo La Tengo must have become conscious of their diminishing fan base. Since their exceptional record I Can Hear The Heart Beat As One, the band had switched into experimental mode recording self-indulgent, somewhat-uninteresting sound collages informed by ambience and jazz. Yo La Tengo was an established brand name for years but the trio was doing very little in defending it. Now, with I’m Not Afraid Of You And I Will Beat Your Ass, Ira Kaplan, James McNew, and Georgia Hubley produce their most arresting record in nine years. Despite the aggressive title and the noise-rock opener “Pass The Hatchet”, their twelfth album of original material is dripping with sweetness. Had Stuart Murdoch guested on vocals for “The Weakest Part”, “Beanbag Chair”, or “Mr. Tough”, they could have all been Belle & Sebastian songs. Overall, the gentle pop of I’m Not Afraid Of You… definitely won’t beat your ass but it will make a convincing argument for your attention.

Badly Drawn Boy
Born In The U.K.

Badly Drawn Boy’s newest record starts with the spoken words, “you think it matters where you’re born?” Considering the record’s entitled Born In The U.K., the answer is presumably “yes.” Damien Gough, the Boy behind the Drawing Badly, is an unabashed and lifelong Springsteen obsessive and recorded his fifth release as a patriotic and self-critical (yes, you can be both) political statement in the contextual likeness of Born In The USA. But lest you think Gough is looking to usurp the Boss’s mantle, BITUK is a mature effort rather influenced by Burt Bacharach. The first single “Nothing’s Gonna Change Your Mind” is violin-strings aplenty and comes dangerously close to being over-the-top schlock, and like the rest of the record, feels incredibly sappy. Or maybe the album wasn’t intended to translate on this side of the Atlantic therein proving that, yes, it does matter where you’re born.

Nina Simone
Remixed and Reimagined

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. That’s what they say. Well, Nina Simone was one of the most arresting vocalists of the 20th Century, so it’s probably best to leave her exemplary discography alone, right? Wrong. Remix and Reimagined is exactly what the title suggests: thirteen DJs lovingly deconstructing classic Simone songs and giving them a thrilling new life in the process. Projects such as these are usually met with cynicism and/or cries of heresy but the reinventions on this record serve as a homage and dedication to Simone’s unique vocal talents. Jazzeem makes “Funkier Than A Mosquito’s Tweeter 3”, well, even funkier and Grooverider injects vibrant 3-dimensional Technicolor into “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life.” The participators of this project truly appreciated the songbird’s gift and each track reflects that deep-rooted connection. It’s telling that this is not a “various artists” compilation but rather credited as a Nina Simone record because, after all, it ain’t broke.


Blogger youthlarge said...

diminishing fan base? are you sure? summer sun was a clunker but and then nothing... (admittedly not a favorite) sold pretty damn well if i recall.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Arye said...

I don't know...they just kinda lost me with all this wanky jazz/experimental soundtrack stuff. I was a huge YLT fan after I Can Hear... but little by little, I found my circle of friends just not interested anymore. In fact, a couple years back, when I saw the band play at Town Hall, I almost feel asleep.

5:15 PM  

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