Sunday, October 07, 2007

Three Follow-Ups

Sigur Ros, "Heima". This is the title of their new DVD, which they've been screening all week. If the trailer is anything to go by, it's going to be spectacular. My voice is cracking into falsetto just thinking about it. It's looking like a two hour love letter to Iceland, a series of breathtaking postcards, which all in all, composes the best propaganda film that the Icelandic Tourism Ministry could have ever hoped for. All this, plus some new music!

I must say that I feel vindicated when it comes to Sigur Ros. I praised the Untitled album at a time when most others had stopped fawning over their music using a generous array of cryptic glacier references, and had switched to descriptors like "boring", "coma-inducing", "unbearably pretentious", while making fun of lyrics sung in "Hopelandish" (fine, that last one still kind of applies). Now they're encroaching on a spot as the heartstring-pulling, symphonic Pink Floyd that it's OK to like. Yay!

The Go Team, "Proof of Youth". As follow-ups go, this one is as indistinguishable from its predecessor as any album I can remember. Sure, there are general similarities between "Proof of Youth" and "Thunder Lightning Strike" (length, pacing, production, etc.) but one can easily trainspot on a song-by-song basis too. It's almost as if they simply sat in the studio with the latter album, went through it track by track, and for each one they said "let's write another song just like this". Most notably, "Patricia's Moving Picture" with it's bittersweet, dewy optimism, succeeds in 1) closing the album, 2) feeling quite out of place with the rest of the album, but a perfect chill-down, album closer all the same, 3) being probably the best track on the record. All of these qualities can be applied to "Everyone's a VIP To Someone", the closing track on "TLS". Even the basic structure of the songs are almost xerox copies of each other, right down to the double-repeated big finish.

The only meaningful difference between the two albums, at least to my ears, is that "PoY" is even goofier and more playful than "TLS", as implausible as that might sound. In parts, I feel that I'm nodding my head to a segment of a "Sesame Street" soundtrack, particularly during the jump rope-ing, singalong chorus of "Doing It Right". The other difference, unfortunately, is that "PoY" isn't as good as "TLS", which was the catchiest thing since chicken pox and became embedded in my head right from the first listen.

On an opposite tack, PJ Harvey usually pulls an about-face with each new album, and "White Chalk" is no exception (and thankfully so, considering the horrible quality of her career nadir, "Uh Huh Her"). It's mostly claustrophobic piano-led ballads, with PJH channeling a fair bit of Tori Amos but also the angel-haired folk weirdness of Joanna Newsom. In fact, if I'm reading tea leaves for 2007 Pazz and Jop, I'm thinking that the combination of PJH name recognition (not to mention her high status among the votership as a two-time album of the year winner) plus spin-offs of the 2006 "Y's" vote could add up to a high showing for "White Chalk" in the poll.

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