Under-appreciated Albums: “The Hazards of Love”, by the Decemberists

A few weeks ago the National played at the Ryman, and fellow staff writer Nick Kline and I happened to meet up there. We talked about music, favorite bands, past concerts, and then we hit upon The Decemberists — we’d both seen them live, on their 2009 A Short Fazed Hovel tour, where they played the entirety of their recent album The Hazards of Love. Nick mentioned as an aside that HoL his least favorite Decemberists album, and conversation moved on.

Perhaps this (and, admittedly, a bad case of writer’s block) is what motivated me to write this. While I don’t necessarily know why it’s Nick’s least favorite, nor do I even know if he likes or dislikes it, the general opinion developed since The Hazards of Love‘s release is that’s it’s overwrought, weird, has too many guest vocals, is too repetitive, and too metal. By the time of the release of The Decemberists’ next effort, the superb The King is Dead in 2011, frontman Colin Meloy admitted “Even I’m starting to believe it, like, ‘I guess The Hazards of Love did kind of suck, didn’t it?’”.  By 2013, it’s largely been swept under the rug, left hiding under the skirt of the bigger and strong releases in their six-album catalog. Yet, I can’t help but love this album.  [Read more...]

Arcade Fire – Reflektor

Day late and a dollar short, perhaps–this song came out eight whole days ago. In today’s hyper-consuming, Facebook-addicted, Reddit-ing generation where one week becomes one month and a year compresses into a day, a dream that flies past while we watch our lives unfold on our phones’ camera app–I think of Modest Mouse’s song “Heart Cooks Brain”–where was I? I get so flustered with all these lenses obscuring my view–wait, I remember–eight days is a long time. Don’t you know that one of my old high school friends has made 21 new posts since “Reflektor” released? Don’t you know that twenty-one important, life-changing things happened to them in that span of 8 days? I read it, too, all of it. Yet, a year from now, they won’t remember what it was all about. And I won’t remember it, either. They’re someone that I knew but not anymore.

We live now in an embattled state, where social media and self-absorption has blurred and obscured the line between friend and stranger. This is the world that Arcade Fire’s new single, “Reflektor”, inhabits, questions, and condemns. [Read more...]

A Modest Proposal in Defense of the EP

I’m a Modest Mouse fan–more or less old news, for those who know me–and my recent fixation has been a revolving cycle of classic Modest Mouse songs: “Night on the Sun,” “Here It Comes,” “King Rat,” “All Night Diner”. Except these aren’t classics. In fact, they’re relatively forgotten because none of them is featured on a single LP. Nor is the National’s excellent “Sin-Eaters,”, nor Interpol’s darkly seductive “Specialist,” nor The Decemberists’ 18-minute epic “The Tain.” These are songs that too few people have, because they were relegated to the lowly EP.

In an era in which music is increasingly consumed by either buying single tracks on iTunes or shelling out $25 for an album on vinyl, the half-length EP is often forgotten.

It shouldn’t be. [Read more...]