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It’s taken them four albums to get noticed, and on listening to this, their fifth album, The Hazards of Love, I was wondering ”“ why? Hailing from Portland, Oregon, and led by vocalist Colin Meloy, The Decemberists are a folk-rock styled storytelling-themed band, hugely influenced by the British folk revival that happened in the Sixties. […]

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Luke Kenny May 21, 2009
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It’s taken them four albums to get noticed, and on listening to this, their fifth album, The Hazards of Love, I was wondering ”“ why? Hailing from Portland, Oregon, and led by vocalist Colin Meloy, The Decemberists are a folk-rock styled storytelling-themed band, hugely influenced by the British folk revival that happened in the Sixties. The album tells us the story of a woman called Margaret who is tormented by her lover William, who is actually an animal shapeshifter (a werewolf maybe). And lurking in the shadows is the villain of the piece, the cold-blooded lascivious forest queen. A high concept there, that leads to very complex arrangements. In fact the various ”˜characters’ are also voiced by various singers and not just one lead vocalist. It’s a unique mix ”“ a folk-rock-opera album that has kinda got everyone to sit up and take notice. I have always been a fan of seamless conceptualised compositions, so this is a welcome change. This one goes into the best albums of 2009, so far.

It’s nice to see Starsailor pick a different direction to go to in after their earlier sombre efforts. Although the songwriting does not differ much, one can tell when the self-conscious effort has become a little more subtle. The guitars are vamped up and the melodies are more soaring, which put them in a nice place to listen to. I found that singer James Walsh brings a Neil Diamond-esque quality to his singing, which enhances the feel of the song uniquely. The opening track, ”˜Tell Me Its Not Over,’ which talks about the disintegration of a relationship, starts the album off on a bright, yet dark note and continues the mood in a similar vein. This is their fourth album after 2005’s On the Outside, an album which did not do much for them as a band, but this fourth outing brings back the ”˜band’ as a whole and keeps their plans for a brighter future afloat in the rock universe.

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Oh what a find this next one has been! Ohm: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music ”“ proof that electronic music is as old as 1937! Throughout the history of popular music, many have laid claim, directly or indirectly, to being the pioneers in the usage of electronics in modern pop music. Erase those claims. These three CDs of pure electronic blips, clicks, echoes and sounds emanating from what sounds like other worlds, are but the products of intensely fertile minds working decades ahead of their time to create a template, primitive yet modern, for all contemporary sounds. The earliest piece dates from 1937, Olivien Messiaen’s ”˜Oraison,’ which is a slow drone rising and falling in avant garde notes, sounding like an alien’s respiratory system. Herbert Eimer’s ”˜Klangstudie II’ an underwater odyssey in a tin drum from 1952. Raymond Scott’s ”˜Cindy Electronium,’ Charles Dodge’s ”˜He Destroyed Her Image’ (superb electronic vocal manipulation), Klaus Schulze’s ”˜Melange,’ Brian Eno’s ”˜Unfamiliar Winds’ are among 42 other sublime electronic manipulations and mutations that amaze, astound and invigorate.

Chris Cornell’s new album, Scream, is hilarious; banish all thoughts of Soundgarden and Audioslave before you put this one on. I was jolted out of my seat when I read that the album is produced by Timbaland. Of course, by now I believe that all Timbaland produced albums are actually Timothy Mosely (his real name) solo albums that happen to feature other artists like Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado etc. This ones no less, either ”“ more Timbaland than Cornell but yet, I decided to sit through it and you know what, I did not have a problem with it. Who am I to judge if that artist wants to change the genre of his/her expression? Did it matter to us when Bob Dylan went famously “electric,” or when the Beatles went “progressive?” Here, then, are 14 songs by a veteran rock artist produced by a veteran pop producer ”“ both in complete control of what they are doing and what they’re putting themselves up for. So, while I have mixed reactions to the collaboration, I definitely support the deviation in musical direction in the hope that I come away with good songs, regardless of how they’re produced. And that my dear music maniacs, is how I dig my scene. Keep listening.

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