Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard - The Flaming Lips

This week I’ve gotten two new albums I’m pleased with:

Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard
One Fast Move or I’m Gone

For me, Jay Farrar is the most infuriating figure in contemporary music. I think he’s the best songwriter of his generation, and yet, his performances of his songs leave a lot to be desired, mostly in the fact that he sings EVERYTHING the very same way. His phrasing is predictable and monotonous.

If Farrar would get (or would have gotten) the covers treatment Dylan and Leonard Cohen got back when they were starting out, I think he’d be a household name in both Country and Rock circles.

One Fast Move or I’m Gone is a great example. Farrar, from what I’ve been able to find out, wrote 11 of the 12 songs on this album (Gibbard wrote one, and all the lyrics are derived from Jack Kerouac), though he and Gibbard trade off on the vocals. And the expressiveness of Gibbard’s delivery makes his tracks stand out, sounding at moments like lost acoustic tracks from The Grateful Dead, and, freshening Farrar’s vocals, making the album simply beautiful. This album is better, in similar ways to the wonderful Monsters of Folk album, than albums by its individual members (Death Cab for Cutie which mostly gets too sweet and pop for me, and Son Volt, which I love but find monotonous by turns).

Stand out tracks: California Zephyr, One Fast Move or I’m Gone, These Roads Don’t Move, Big Sur, Sea Engines, Breathe Our Iodine

The Flaming Lips.

It’s too long, of course, which seems to be part of the project. As well, it’s quite aggressive in its arrangement and production – a lot of furious drums that come and go, along with a buzz-saw guitar and heavily-processed vocals. And then, for all that (in spite of? Because of?), it’s quite effective, by turns. It seems like an intentionally imperfect album, which fascinates me.

Stand out tracks: Convinced of the Hex, The Ego’s Last Stand, Silver Trembling Hands, and Watching the Planets.

Quick Top 10 Recommendations (so far this year):

1. Monsters of Folk – Monsters of Folk
2. Jay Farrar & Benjamin Gibbard – One Fast Move or I’m Gone
3. Neko Case – Middle Cyclone
4. Son Volt – American Central Dust
5. Clem Snide – Hungry Bird
6. The Flaming Lips – Embryonic
7. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
8. A Camp – Colonia
9. Jason Lytle - Yours Truly, the Commuter
10. Danger Mouse & Sparklehorse - Dark Night of the Soul


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