>> Featured Artist: The National
Since "Mr. November" took The Toaster Talks by storm a year an a half ago, I've been a little eager to hear if The National's next effort would would live up to its anthemic beginning. After all, they did promise pretty clearly not to fuck us over.
I found myself stumbling on a track from 2004's EP Cherry Tree that caught my ear first. While I promise to double back and cover the band's May 22nd release Boxer in the coming weeks, I wanted to give credit first to a song that truly wowed me.
ON "All Dolled Up in Straps," the band shows some impressive depth - and not just in its lead vocals. The low-voiced verses are almost menacing, considering the repeated line is "Don't interrupt me" - and the bridge that finds its way into the song about a minute and half in is doubly so, with a breathy, creepy harmony. The chours - sigh - the chorus is as pretty as indie rock songs come these days. The chord change catches you off guard and as it switches into a major key. And, as a subtle piano part and simple lead riff bring the song to its intended fruition, the melody is conservative and intelligent. It's near perfect.
With these high expectation, I look forward to reporting on Boxer.
Speaking of high expectations, I believe I referred to Voxtrot's self-titled debut LP as one of the most anticipated albums of 2007. The much-celebrated EPs the band peppered the blogs with over the last few years have whetted everybody's appetite. Oops.
Initial response to the leaked MP3s from Voxtrot did not necessarily get the glowing reviews the previous songs had. Some of the less-polite bloggers actually seemed disgusted by the band's alleged downturn.
I dug in prepared to be disappointed, and - to be honest - I too wasn't impressed. Initially, that is. One song in particular sounded a little too easy (and maybe a little too precious) and some of the lyrics failed to wow me in the way I've come to expect Voxtrot songs.
Still, this band has never been about the details - at least not to me. They've been about excellent - and interesting - song structures, propelled by an excellent ear for melody and a consistent, cohesive sound led by the front-and-center vocals of frontman Ramesh Srivastava. The songs, they grow on you.
On "Introduction," I found the band in what I imagine is an intentional growth mode, starting from the introspective simplicity it had always been successful with - and growing into steady rock song. I really love the lead guitar work here, and I'm comfortable issuing an endorsement of this track - no matter what those other bloggers say.
It's that time of year again. Kickball season is off and running, and I find myself wanting to hear the songs I always liked to mock. Back in the weight rooms in my high school baseball days, Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" - a song that already had been abused and correspondingly mocked for 18 long years THEN - became an ironic anthem for me. I'd listen to it before final exams just to get a good laugh in to shake off some of the stress.
At some point, my sense of irony became ironic (or something else philosophical-like) - and it actually started to work.
And so now, as we head into Week Four of the DC Kickball season, it'll once again be all about the eye of the tiger.
It's a sad existence, indeed.