Sunday, July 27, 2008

Double Barrel Action

Ever since I was young I always had this habit where I would go to HMV to buy one cd/tape that I had been really looking forward to getting but I always ended up walking out with a second album.  Even today it seems that I download albums in pairs.  Sometimes the one I go looking for is better than the one I get on whim and sometimes the "whim" album is far better than the one that got me into the record store/torrent search engine.  I don't know why I always bought/DL'd two at a time but it seems to be working for me.

My most recent pair was The Hold Steady and City and Colour and I got fairly lucky with both.

Is there an MP3 version of wearing out a tape or a cd from over-play?  If so my copy of Boys and Girls In America definitely is suffering from it.  The Hold Steady's 2006 album introduced me to the Craig Finn's incredible story telling and Franz Nicolay's "E-Street" piano, which elevates their "riff-heavy" rock to a new level of authenticity.  So when I found out they were releasing their follow up this summer, Stay Positive, I went trolling the torrent sights looking for "a good deal".  Once I found it the hype-level was dangerously close to "Guaranteed Let Down" but I was quite pleased to hear that it pulled through.  There are a few mis-steps on the album where they are obviously trying to grow.  The harpsichord on "One for the Cutters" sounds a little forced and a few of the guitar solos fall a little too close to Bon Jovi.  Finns subject matter has evolved into exploring the darker side of the massive nights relived on Boys and Girls.  The characters this time around are partying just as hard but have to deal much more serious consequences like stabbings, police interrogations and becoming a cougar.  There is no chill-out tent in Stay Positive's narratives.
Musically it has the same mix of "Born To Run" and Husker Du that I have come to expect from The Hold Steady.  Stay Positive is equal parts ballads and rockers.  If you liked their last album you should get this one too.  If you have no experience with The Hold Steady I will recommend one rocker and one ballad.  Constructive Summer is a quintessential Hold Steady song.  Heavy on the riff, piano and story of blue collar kids looking to have a kick ass summer a close second would be the title track "Stay Positive"
I think Both Crosses is one of their better slow songs on the album but probably not their best.  Anyway, take a listen to the album well worth it!

On a whim and on the advice of a trustworthy music fan, I gave City and Colour a chance to make it into my iTunes library.  I was once a fan of Alexisonfire and found myself wanting to hear more and more from the guy in the band who didn't scream.  Dallas Green is that guy 
he has just released his second album, Bring Me Your Love.  If i had to assign a tag line to this album it would be "Emo goes Country".  Dallas makes the same transformation that Mike Ness once made, from hardened tattooed punk rocker to tortured, introspective folk balladeer.  I would not be suprised if this album was recorded in an afternoon with one microphone.  It drips with lo-fi atmosphere a-la  Feist's "The Reminder".  Most songs Green is accompanied by his acoustic guitar and at times a tambourine or even a harmonica.  Overall the subject matter of the album is fairly introspective.  He worries about insomnia, apologizes for infidelity,  contemplates therapeutic drinking, laments waking up alone and celebrates his cool, non-gold digger girlfriend.  I could do without the one or two songs that are obviously built for Radio ("Waiting..." and possibly "As Much As I Ever Could").  Despite all the trash I could talk about this album and the joke emo has become, I find myself coming back to it.  I keep getting caught up on the "cute" track "The Girl" and the current single "Sleeping Sickness" which features Canadian Icon Gordon Downie.  The combination of Green and Downie has got me thinking about the similarities of the two.  Both apart of popular bands (in their own right) and both took time to record their solo album that strayed quite a bit from their bands material.  In Gord's case, it gained him some small time, art-house credit as a poet and musician and took him off Classic Rock radio.  City and Colour will/has vaulted Dallas Green out of the hardcore/punk/screemo scene and into the mainstream.

All together, I quite like this album and it serves as a great ying to the Hold Steady's yang.  It could serve quite nicely as the soundtrack to a Sunday afternoon drive home from the cottage,  hung-over and in definite need of a shower and an good night's sleep.

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