Monday, November 3, 2008

SCQ Wishlist 2008

Few customs or strategies in the trade of music criticism are impenetrable, or faultless by design. With a worldwide blogger community that introduces music trends like wine bottles christened against ships, latches on in numbers that weigh a trend into soil, then swim for another band to buoy them, the tendency is to review new music at an insanely quick and irresponsible pace. As such, some albums are overly praised or criticized, and once it’s out there, it’s there for good.

The elusive bulls-eye of music appreciation can even dodge hindsight, supposedly 20/20 but susceptible to bloating “classic” albums beyond their worth or instilling them with an outsider aura dependent upon one of several factors: correlation to historical or sociopolitical events, correlation to trends or movements that happen to occur decades on, or most famously, the death or downfall of a principle songwriter. These factors seem to overshadow or completely negate an album’s flaws and flukes, enveloping the work into a league of “classics” that should truly be considered “nostalgics”.

So a lot of music criticism, and whether it proves itself as bold or spot-on as its album in focus, comes down to luck. As a blogger who actually buys the records he reviews, instead of getting early promo copies or downloading month-in-advance leaks, SCQ takes a considerably longer time digesting these records but, as the short history of music criticism indicates, extra time with an album doesn’t mean I’m any less likely to screw up.

Growing up, early November was a time for sibling gatherings when we’d choose a bedroom and begin outlining the first drafts of our Christmas Lists. In an attempt to amend some poor conclusions made over the past ten months, I’ve compiled the SCQ Wishlist; a once-a-year chance to alphabetically remedy four records I’ve done wrong by.

Enjoy my wayward judgements!

Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings – Counting Crows

Original SCQ Rating: 89%
Revised Wishlist Rating: 79%

A rookie move, make no mistake. For someone who had been blogging for approximately two months, I should’ve shown more patience and restraint with an album I’d been waiting six years for. That isn’t to say that Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings ended up a letdown by any means; simply put, I wasn’t abiding by my own rating value system. Judging each band’s album by their fellow releases, I now realize that the Crows’ four preceding LPs are of such quality, that this latest offering (which is slightly substandard in comparison) couldn’t possibly carry an 89%. The reason for this second-rate impression lies in the sequencing; the record feels too long, and with filler like ‘Hanging Tree’ or ‘On a Tuesday in Amsterdam Long Ago’ hanging tight, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings could’ve been a more poignant weekend trip.

Original Review here.

Ringer EP – Four Tet

Original SCQ Rating: 83%
Revised Wishlist Rating: 74%

Four Tet going techno was a dream in theory, and like always (at least under the Four Tet name), Kieran Hebden delivers with a mini-album’s worth of 4/4 beats and strange digital landscapes. Yet whereas before his albums were helplessly addictive, Ringer EP ended up being that dream you woke up from just before things started happening. Hebden constantly hints at directions he could take, but rarely deviates in any forceful manner. An easier record to admire than to love.

Original Review here.

The Devil, You + Me – The Notwist

Original SCQ Rating: 78%
Revised Wishlist Rating: 84%

Probably the best-layered record of 2008, The Devil You + Me finds The Notwist at their cerebral peak, morphing the glitch-rock tricks they learned on Neon Golden into swelling symphonies of mood and anxiety (fortified by the 21 member-strong Andromeda Mega Express Orchestra). It wasn’t until a trip out East that I finally explored this record on headphones, and the experience leaves no doubt that I underscored its importance and ambition.

Original Review here.

April – Sun Kil Moon

Original SCQ Rating: 72%
Revised Wishlist Rating: 78%

What a dense record to get into… and my first Mark Kozelek experience to boot, Lord help me! April has been one of the strongest growers of 2008; with each month and every listen arrives new subtleties and patches of acoustic loveliness. Even his voice, which at first felt passable for a man of such rustic, folky intentions, has blossomed with his songs, admitting a mournful tenor that initially came off as bland. Few records balance the lilting acoustic with Crazyhorse-era, full-band electric as well as Sun Kil Moon, and April is one of those wise and understanding records to grow old with.

Original Review here.

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