POTW #3: Love These Songs Cancerously

Hello again. It’s been a while since the last time I — oh wait, I just updated this blog a few hours ago. Never mind.

Well, here I am again, ready to write another lengthy post for your reading pleasure. It’s either that or go downstairs and watch the Jon & Kate Plus 8 marathon on TLC with my sister and her friends. Can someone please explain all the buzz over this show? I’ve seen a few episodes, and it’s probably the second-most boring reality show I’ve ever seen. We get it, Jon and Kate — you have eight adorable kids, and you like to take them to the zoo and do other normal family stuff. Hooray for you. As much as I can’t stand that “Octomom” woman with the 14 kids and hate the fact that she’s famous and getting her own show, at least her complete insanity will give you something to watch.

For the record, the most boring reality show I’ve ever seen is Laguna Beach/The Hills. I’m sort of lumping these shows together because they’re basically two different boring shows about the same boring people. They sit there and talk while the cameras go back and forth between the same two camera angles and Natasha Bedingfield plays in the background. And what’s worse is that it’s blatantly scripted, so really it’s more like you’re watching a bad soap opera starring godawful amateur actors.

But anyway, I’m not here to rant about terrible reality shows (read: reality shows in general). I’m actually here to tell you all about the songs I haven’t been able to stop listening to lately. My picks of the week are coming up… after the jump!

Ludo, “Love Me Dead”

I can’t really put my finger on who these guys remind me of — Ben Folds, maybe? Or Fountains Of Wayne? Then again, I haven’t listened to enough of any of them to really be sure. But anyway, this song is catchy as hell and has a pretty oddball sense of humor to boot (“You’re born of a jackal! You’re beautiful!”). It seems to be poking fun at bands who write lots of really melodramatic lyrics about bad relationships — think of something like Hawthorne Heights’ “Ohio Is For Lovers” (“Cut my wrists and black my eyes/So I can fall asleep tonight or die/Because you kill me/You know you do, you kill me well/You like it too and I can tell/You never stop until my final breath is gone”) and you’ll have a pretty good idea.

I listened to this song about five times in a row last night. I don’t do that very often. I can’t get this song out of my head… it’s called, OHHHHHHHHHH, “LOVE ME DEAD”!

(Sorry. I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a really cheesy joke.)

British Sea Power, “Lights Out For Darker Skies”

The last British Sea Power album asked its would-be listeners, Do You Like Rock Music? Yes, as a matter of fact, I do like rock music. I like it very much, to be perfectly honest. So I listened to some of their songs to see if I would also like British Sea Power. The one that jumped out the most is the six-and-a-half-minute “Lights Out For Darker Skies,” with its gritty, jangly guitars and instantly addictive verse hooks. (Also, I ended up buying a copy of this album.)

Pitchfork gave Do You Like Rock Music? a score of U.2 out of 10. I guess that means they think British Sea Power sounds like U2. And I guess they kind of do, but when I listened to them I was thinking of more recent UK bands like Bloc Party (circa 2005) and Arctic Monkeys, with maybe a hint of Blur here and there. They do share U2’s penchant for stadium-friendly epicness, though — or at least they do on this album.

But I digress. “Lights Out For Darker Skies” is great, and you should all check it out.

Cave In, “Come Into Your Own”

mp3 sample (not the full song) available here

full song streaming here

No videos available for this one, sorry. And the Rhapsody link, while it will stream the full song, only lets you have 25 free plays before asking you to subscribe.

I just recently started getting into Cave In, who started out as a metalcore band that sounded like this and later evolved into this, which has been described as the Foo Fighters playing a Radiohead song. Granted, “Anchor” is one of their poppier songs, so it might not quite be the best description of their later sound. There’s a lot of post-rock and alternative influences in there. I’ve been trying to find something of theirs around here and have met little success. “Come Into Your Own” is a pretty cool song from the Tides Of Tomorrow EP, full of thumping tribal drumming and proggy guitar lines but still remaining accessible. This is probably a better example of the band’s later sound than “Anchor” is.

Cave In just recently got back together to make a short EP called Planets Of Old, which is going to be released on vinyl. If you’re like me and you don’t have anything to play vinyl on, well, there’s always iTunes. Musically the new songs are an attempt to combine their old metalcore sound (“Retina Sees Rewind”) with their newer prog-alternative rock sound. Very cool stuff from a very versatile band.

Radiohead, “The Tourist”

For those of you who may be frequent readers of this blog, you knew it was just a matter of time before these guys popped up.

“The Tourist” is the mellow, Pink Floyd-ish closing track on OK Computer, and I’ve been listening to this song a lot to try and learn it on guitar. It’s not easy by any means. The D string is tuned up to E, and the song is mostly played in 9/8 time with a few measures of 12/8 as well. I’m mostly used to playing in common time (4/4, which is what most songs are written in) with standard tuning (EADGBE), so obviously it’ll take some adjustment. As a result of listening to this song so much, it has naturally gotten stuck in my head. Oddly enough, it was one of the last songs on OK Computer that really grew on me. Go figure.

Kanye West, “Welcome To Heartbreak (feat. Kid Cudi)”

It’s been pretty well-documented on this blog that I’m not very fond of the AutoTune trend. When used sparingly I don’t really mind it, but when someone makes an entire album filled with AutoTuned vocals, that’s where I draw the line. If you use it too much, people are less likely to believe you when you say you can actually sing and more likely to think you’re just using AutoTune as a crutch, disguising your lack of vocal talents. The fact that it’s on just about every other pop or hip-hop song that comes out these days makes it even more annoying. Hell, AutoTune has become so damn ubiquitous that even people who are actually talented singers are using it. I am sick and tired of this damn trend and I want it to go away. It’s one of the most annoying things to happen to music in a long time.

Which brings us to Kanye West and 808s & Heartbreak.

In a way, 808s & Heartbreak is a perfect summary of everything that drives me crazy about the AutoTune trend. Kanye West is a rapper, not a singer, but that doesn’t stop him from singing his heart out — with the aid of AutoTune, of course, because Kanye can’t sing very well without it. And he uses the pitch-shifting technology on every single song. Now, 808s & Heartbreak is supposed to be a very deep and emotional album — Kanye made it in the wake of his mother’s death and his fiancee dumping him — but the AutoTune makes him sound like a damn robot. Whatever human emotion he’s trying to express in his vocals is lost, not that there’s a whole lot in his singing; his rapping is far more passionate, so I think it would have been more effective for him to express his pain that way. He’s shunning his strength in favor of a glaring weakness. Sounds crazy, right?

Now here’s the really crazy part: to a certain extent, Kanye makes it work anyway. And nowhere does it work better than in “Welcome To Heartbreak.” This song epitomizes everything that Kanye gets right with 808s & Heartbreak. The backing track is dark and moody, and even the AutoTune vocals actually help — Kanye’s voice sounds just as cold and distant as the music he’s singing over. It’s like he’s trying to express his pain while detaching himself from it at the exact same time. His name is on the record, but it feels like it came from someone else.

Anyway, that’ll wrap it up for this edition of Picks Of The Week. Maybe I’ll actually make this a weekly feature eventually.

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