Young Adults – Demo

May 26, 2010

Young Adults are a sort-of-new local band, with an excellent 5-track demo already out and a full-length due out soon. You can download the demo for free from the band’s Myspace page. If you love Fugazi’s “13 Songs” you’ll love this new one too.

And while you’re listening, check out this interview with the band from the On a Friday site.

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I liked this new album by LCD Soundsystem way more than I thought I would. And I like it more and more the more I listen to it.

The big problem was that I didn’t hear the lp until it was actually, officially released. And, in the weeks leading up to that, I heard the first single, “Drunk Girls,” too many times. That’s an ok track, but falls well short of the highlights like “Somewhat Great” and “All My Friends” from the previous album “Sound of Silver.” But since it runs only 3 1/2 minutes, it got played on commercial stations that can’t play longer tracks because then it’s too long before they can get back to playing commercials, which is really what they are in business to do. So the whole thing came off like the “hit” that, later on on “This is Happening,” James Murphy assures us he doesn’t do.

So all of that lowered my expectations. But, as it turns out, I shouldn’t have worried, because the rest of “This is Happening” is absolutely fantastic. In fact, if you start with “One Touch,” and play it though the end, you essentially have a 7-track, 53-minute album that may not reach the peaks achieved by “Sound of Silver” but which, on the other hand, is probably more consistent and may be just as good.

I’ve read that Murphy plans to make “This is Happening” the last LCD Soundsystem record. If so, that’ll make a total of three pretty close to perfect lps. Not a bad run; and kind of classy to go out on top. Even the most dubious characters from Murphy’s songs would see the virtue in that. Certainly, I do.

I picked up this cd because I liked the cover, and put in on because I recognized and admired many of those who contribute vocal performances — more on that below. It’s a tribute album, but one of a very different sort, honoring Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers. The full story is as follows.

Ashley Beedle and Darren Morris were apparently listening to records late one night and, inspired by Mavis Staples’ performance of “A House is Not a Home,” composed a bare-bones instrumental track that they sent to Kurt Wagner of Lambchop, who added lyrics and a vocal performance before returning it to the two producers for further embellishment.

Delighted by the result, Beedle and Morris repeated the same experiment with a number of other artists, including Ed Harcourt, Sarah Cracknell, Danielle Moore, and the always wonderful Candi Staton. What is amazing is how each of these performers turns the same basic track into a totally unique composition; not knowing all of these details until after listening to the entire album a couple times through, I didn’t even realize what was going on until I read about it.

And as a tribute to Mavis and the Staple Singers, this all works surprising well. Much better, in fact, than the usual routine of having a bunch of people cover songs that were basically done perfectly the first time around. Think of how “I’ll Take You There” would go, for instance. Maybe — maybe — you could find someone who would dare to “reinterpret” the vocals without too much embarrassment (Dave Longstreth?). But what, then, to do about Pops’ guitar solo? That’s like a Picasso drawing — just perfect, with nothing more and nothing less than what’s needed to make it perfect. You could trace a Picasso drawing and come out with something that sort of looks like a tracing of a Picasso drawing, but why would you even want to? Same with that guitar solo, it seems to me.

Instead, Beedle and Morris have assembled a set of originals that pretty much do begin to capture the integrity and soulfulness of Mavis Staples and the Staple Singers, coming up with something that’s truly rare: a tribute album that’s worthy of and stands up to repeated listening.

Why couldn’t they leave us where they found us,
When we were neither one the wildest,
We’re taken along, is it timeless?
Shouldn’t we keep it as a promise?

“Tomorrow, In A Year” presents music by The Knife in collaboration with Mt. Sims and Planningtorock, commissioned for an opera about the life and work of Charles Darwin.

The two cds run for an hour and a half in total. And something’s clearly lost in listening to the music by itself, without seeing the performance as a whole. This seems especially true for the opening tracks on the first disk, which are the most spartan and experimental. But the momentum builds gradually, and by time disk 2 hits is stride with tracks like “Colouring of Pigeons,” “Seeds,” and “The Height of Summer,” the work is truly astonishing both in its beauty and intensity.

As great as “Silent Shout” and “Fever Ray” turned out to be, “Tomorrow, In A Year” is clearly The Knife’s most ambitious work to date — and it may also be their best.

But so long as we’re talking about ambition: my true dream would be another opera, also scored by The Knife, on the life and work Norbert Wiener. That would be truly amazing. Maybe next year ….

The Knife and Mt. Sims – “The Colouring of Pigeons” – From “Tomorrow, In A Year” – Rabid Records, 2010.

Great live version of the best track from their excellent new lp, “Grey Oceans.” out this week on Sub Pop Records.