November 2, 2003

"we need to talk, step into my office baby" - belle and sebastian

Today I picked up what I consider to be three of the biggest records of the year. Let's begin with the first two. The straight dope: Just about every song on Death Cab's Transatlanticism is better than all the songs on the new Strokes album, Room on Fire, put together. I know there are some cost-conscious readers out there, so you need to know that the Strokes record is actually, at least after a single run through, sort of dull. The vast majority of the numbers slog by at slightly less than mid-tempo. The single and the final track are the strongest. I am sure I will eventually come to accept this record, but right now it seems like it is just a bunch of songs not catchy enough to be included on the first record. The guitar playing in many places is even more simplified than on the first record. Efforts to make the songs melodically more sophisticated are apparent, but not always succesful. Efforts at capitalizing on minimalism are never as successful as, say, those of Flin Flon's Chicoutimi.

Transatlanticism, on the other hand, is an astounding work. I've listened to it twice straight through, and it is already my favorite record of the year. The production is imaginative, though a little bleary with mid-range. The record is very atmospheric, enhanced by a great deal of ambient sound. The cuts are intermittently spiced up with Postal Service-type bleepity bleeps and more traditional instrumentation including piano and acoustic guitar. Very importantly for me, there is a lot of big fucking guitars, relative to the rest of the Death Cab oeuvre. Overall, the tunes sound like the optimal amalgamtion of the Beatles, the Connells and Buffalo Tom, but of course with Gibberd's literate vocals and Walla's dynamite production ideas. This record is Death Cab's best, and is as good as something like The Bends.

Oh yeah, the third record I got is the new Belle and Sebastian joint, which is actually a solid piece of work. Trevor Horn actually seems to have exercised some restraint and not ruined this, as I feared he would. There is a lot of AM Gold type stuff here, but it is all catchy. "I'm A Cuckoo" would even make a great Thin Lizzy song, if not a twee one. This will probably be on my year-end list too, but I will reserve judgement until I have actually heard it in its entirety.

What else is going on? We went to a rad Halloween party at Cardin's up in Salem, Mass. Met a lot of cool people, had fun hanging out with the Wathewses, stayed up late into the night like I haven't done in probably a couple years. The sucky part was the drive up to Salem, which took three hrs cause of heavy traffic. Memo to everybody else who drove to Salem that night and slowed us down -- you suck. Anyway, Cardin has a beautiful new condo up there, on a beautiful street. It got me and Lopez talking about getting down to buying a place, which hopefully we will do come spring time. Don't really know where we want to be, but Marblehead/Salem seems really nice. Lopez is pushing for a joint near work, perhaps Charlestown. Guess we need to go explore over there in the next couple months.

A final note: Bolt Upright is about to set about poring through demos I taped from March 2001 to July 2002, as I am thinking of doing a little package of about 10 cuts, just to give out. Hopefully it will inspire me to get writing. Strangely, the amount of reading I do is directly related to the amount of music I write -- it is like reading is the fuel. Sort of strange. Anyway, gotta straighten up around the house. Rock on. That is all.

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