Thursday, February 2, 2012

New Tune Tuesday 1.31.12 - Leonard Cohen's new album of old ideas, Jack White goes solo and more...

Beautiful Melodies telling you Terrible Things Vol. New Tune Tuesday 1.31.12

Welcome friends, to another week in which I'm a couple days late and a few dollars short. It's a rather enjoyable week to visit the record store, so if you're in the mood for fresh ear bud, head out. First, I wanna take a brief stop in the ol' news blender...

Neil Young's War against MP3
Anyone who knows me personally knows how many years I put off getting an iPod. After finally getting annoyed with carrying around 250 CD's in my car, I broke down just a year ago. I'm still a vinyl buff though, I go home, and I drop a needle. Veteran rocker Neil Young has been against mp3 as well, backing instead the wonderful sound you get out of Blu-Ray audio. Recently he talked about how he had many conversations with Apple's Steve Job's about a "high definition audio" alternative to MP3 and AAC, but that Job's death has resulted in silence from Apple. He stated that Jobs, a huge Bob Dylan fan, "was a digital pioneer, but he went home and listened to vinyl." One thing Young is right about, CD's contain only about 25% of the information of master recordings. You compress a 85MB WAV CD file into MP3 to get 8.5MB, you're getting only 10% of that. It doesn't magically stay there, compression does just that, compresses. As much as I love vinyl, the warmth and depth of the sound is the best you can get, but we really do need something better for our musical lives on the road and out of the house.

RELEASE OF THE WEEK (1.31.12): Old Ideas, Leonard Cohen
I've got no future,
I know my days are few,
Ah, the present's not that pleasant,
Just a lot of things to do.
I thought the past would last me,
but the Darkness got that too...

It was the early-mid 1980's and Columbia records took a listen to the record Canadian born Jewish poet turned poet-singer ( about 15 years earlier) Leonard Cohen had turned in, "Various Positions." The A&R team basically told Cohen that "we know you're great, but we just don't know if you're any good Leonard..." What they simply meant was as good of a songwriter and poet as Cohen was, he just wasn't much of a commercial property. It's somewhat ironic to think about now, as not only did that album contain "Hallelujah," a song (over) covered so much over the last 20-odd years that Cohen himself asked for a "memoritorium on covering it," but now, in his mid-70's, Cohen is more of a commercial property than ever. his 250-world tour garnered almost uncountable 5-star reviews (including from yours truly for a show in April 2009), the rather pricey tickets sold out everywhere and his latest live and archival releases have sold rather well. Now, after much talk about one over the last three years, he releases his first new LP since 2004, titled, rather appropriately, "Old Ideas."

I had to go crazy to love you,
You who were never the one.
But crazy has places to hide in,
That are deeper than any goodbye.

It's an appropriate title since Cohen covers the themes he never ignores yet the world likes to: God. Sex. Mortality. Alcohol. Love or Lust. Faith and Forgiveness. Apocalyptic Endings. It's all here, with a voice and ideas old yet fresh at the same time. The album opens up with "Going Home," a song in which God is looking for Cohen ("that lazy bastard who live-in a suit"), someone who God is ready to take home after one more message to give through him. After all, Cohen, a poet before he became a singing one, has always been willing to "say what I tell him/ even though it isn't welcome/ he just doesn't have the freedom to refuse." It's the long standing notion of poets being the voices of something more, being saige's for the divine, the "brief elaboration of a tube." For Cohen, now at age 77, it's the fulfillment of that notion or myth. Now it's time for him to go home, home without sorrows, to where it's better than before. He just has ten songs to get through first...

Show me the place where the world became a man,
Show me the place where the suffering began...

The Song-titles are simple, often one-word titles or ideas, and Cohen doesn't necessarily deviate much from what they sound like they'll be. "Darkness," "Amen," "Lullaby," Show me the Place." Recorded mostly in Cohen's small home-studio on Avid' Pro Tools, that set-up (featuring Cohen doing much of the instrumentation himself) adds to the late night feel most of these tracks have, both in feeling and sound, as well as lyrical content. Add in a little trumpet here, and yes, even a little banjo there, well, at least in song theme. The album has both sounds that call back to the more acoustic, almost gypsy-Cohen of the 60's and early 70's, such on tunes as "Crazy to Love You," the older deeper voices Cohen, with more synth and female backing, can be found to, for instance "Come Healing." Much of the album comes across as a world weary final statement for this life, some of is sounds like a man out to prove that age doesn't slow down anyone. All of it is good though. 'Old Ideas' is a better record than 2004's 'Dear Heather,' and stands strong alongside, personal favorite, 2001's 'Ten New Songs.' You can't complain when Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen both release their first new studio albums since 2004 within months of each other.

Available on: 180-Gram Vinyl (includes CD), CD, MP3 Download

Other Notable Releases (1.31.12)
Jack White, "Love Interruption" (single from Blunderbuss)
Our first taste of full-on solo Jack White (besides the throwaway track from 'It Might Get Loud') is this single from the upcoming LP 'Blunderbuss,' and it's rather disappointing. If this is the best the album has to offer (and an album's first single is typically the best up-tempo 3-4 minute track your album has to offer) then I'm not exactly looking forward to it. Ruby Amanfu's backing vocals come off as awkward and unneeded, and the song itself is little more than interesting. White has continued down a stretch of pretentiousness the last few years, as well as a style of quantity over quality when it comes to attaching his name to, well, far too many releases. This isn't a bad start to solo White, but certainly not a good one either. I miss Meg...
Available on: Audio Stream (now), Digital single, 45" Single
Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
I'm not sure if the album title refers to the opening track or Lana's career. This is the epitome of a career being built out of record executive offices not off of talent. This folk mixed with trip-hop album is a mixed bag at best. Is it better than her SNL performance? Sure, but it's also just as forgettable.
Available on: Vinyl, CD, MP3 Download
Wilco, iTunes Session
A classic, old-school in studio "live" set from the band, calling back to the days of in-studio performances in radio stations. Unfortunately, just as those radio performances were often rare and hard to get a hold of, this is available only through iTunes. It's a brisk 8-song set heavy on their recent LP ('The Whole Love') as well as some older favorites.
Available on: MP3 Download through iTunes

See you next week. Or well, see you when I see you.

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