Of Monsters and Men: My Head Is an Animal

Rating: 2.1/10
Rated as:
Album
Album Status:
of Zeitgeist Interest
Released: 2011
Specific Genre:
Indie Pop
Main Genre:
Pop
Undertones:
Indie Folk, Indie Rock, Folk Rock
Label:
Record

1 Dirty Paws 2 King and Lionheart 3 Numb Bears 4 Sloom 5 Little Talks 6 From Finner7 Six Weeks 8 Love Love Love 9 Your Bones 10 Lakehouse 11 Yellow Light
[Bonus Tracks: 11 Yellow Light 12 Sinking Man]

The son was an okay guy

How many ways are there to make a twee sort of indie folk pop epic and larger than life after Arcade Fire and Mumford & Sons? In a style where cymbal clashes, the constant excited punctations of “HEY!”-choirs and the mandatory sudden shifts in dynamic from soothingly picked acoustic guitar / accordion / glockenspiel to thunderous brass sections have become stereotypes within half a decade, the debut of this band unadvantageously plays as if they had been veterans at this game for years, shipping in another one of those sure things to please the fandom. Aside from trivial melodies, they display musical skill, clever instrumentation, impressive performances – it’s all on point and we all should wish they don’t get stuck in the corner of epic indie folksters that self-imploded some short time right before or after the release date of this.

Various Artists: The Big Lebowski [Original Soundtrack]

Rating: 6.0/10
Rated as
: Compilation / Soundtrack
Compilation Status
: of Zeitgeist interest
Released: 1998
Recorded: 1959–1997
Specific Genre: Soundtrack
Main Genre: Soundtrack
Undertones
: Singer-Songwriter, Folk Rock, Experimental Rock, Pop Rock, Exotica, Big Band, Vocal Jazz, Third Stream, Experimental, Romanticism, Lounge, Latin Rock, Electronic
Label: Mercury

1 Bob Dylan – The Man in Me 2 Captain Beefheart – Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles 3 Elvis Costello – My Mood Swings 4 Yma Sumac – Ataypura 5 Piero Piccioni – Traffic Boom 6 Nina Simone – I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good 7 Moondog – Stamping Ground 8 Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – I Just Dropped In (to See What Condition My Condition Was In) 9 Meredith Monk – Walking Song 10 Erich Wolfgang Korngold – Glück das mir verblieb 11 Henry Mancini – Lujon 12 Gipsy Kings – Hotel California 13 Carter Burwell – Wie glauben 14 Townes Van Zandt – Dead Flowers

We believe in nussing

An expectedly tasteful and quirky choice of songs by the Coen Brothers, but ultimately just that: Some songs and artists you might not get acquainted with otherwise set next to each other. Of course the film context adds a lot of consistency to the experience, but musically speaking, this playlist, say, on a mix tape would merit some respect for musical knowledge and eclectic boldness, but people would ask: Where’s the actual flow?

Admittedly, some things go together nicely, at least conceptually: Exotica-diva Yma Sumac and Mancini’s death-by-tropic-lounge „Lujon“ on the same album is a good idea, as well is one of Dylan’s greatest underrated tunes next to Costello’s very good „My Mood Swings“, surprisingly recorded for this soundtrack. Kenny Rogers and The First Edition add the nowadays monumental „Condition“, which is the best psychedelic country-rock number that I know this side of „Eight Miles High“ (even as pastiche), so this is also a good buy if you’re looking for just that (as it isn’t really representative of how Rogers would develop).

The ultimate avantgarde obscurity Moondog makes an appearance and this is the one song that sounds as if was made for the movie in a kind of prophetic move by Moondog a few decades earlier), and kudos to the Coens for picking „Her Eyes Are a Blue Million Miles“, whose inclusion here I’m sure introduced legions of teens to Captain Beefheart. That’s worth a lot.

So, while I see many good things about this as a cultural artefact, and I admire the boldness of putting a bunch of avantgarde artists next to Mancini and a piece of Austrian classical Opera (in German, nonetheless), this is hardly something you’ll listen through over and over as a musical document. It’s more like an educational effort: „Look, teenagers, you liked our movie about a stoner. Your subconscience noticed it being accompanied perfectly by the song picks. Now, learn and listen to what you’ve actually listened“, hopefully prompting further research. And why not?

Oh, and all the Creedence tracks are missing – for copyright and run-time reasons, I assume, but it’s kind of a great in-joke between soundtrack and film.

Skunk Anansie: Stoosh

Rating: 3.7/10
Rated as
: Album
Album Status: of Zeitgeist Interest
Released: 1996
Specific Genre: Alternative Rock
Main Genre: Rock, Alternative Rock
Undertones
: Hard Rock, Grunge, Alternative Metal
Label: One Little Indian

1 Yes It’s Fucking Political 2 All I Want 3 She’s My Heroine 4 Infidelity (Only You) 5 Hedonism (Just Because You Feel Good) 6 Twisted (Everyday Hurts) 7 We Love Your Apathy 8 Brazen (Weep) 9 Pickin‘ on Me 10 Milk Is My Sugar 11 Glorious Pop Song

Naa-naa. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-Naaaa-Naaa.

They do have sweeping choruses and angry anthemic songs like „All I Want“ and „Hedonism“ (a good, almost year-defining single of course) which are just made for big stages and a teenage crowd to chant along, they have pop instincts and they have a radio-friendly grungey hard-rock sound quite typical of the period – this is the politicized phase of grunge, after having gone through the horrors of adolescent angst, so to speak. Skin is a commanding singer with a supernova’s worth of charisma, but listen to this if you want to know what went wrong when the market dressed up anti-commercialism all fancy. Hard riffs and about two or three melodic ideas aren’t enough for nearly fifty minutes of music. About three songs stick – the rest gets washed down the drain by its own boring arrangement and lack of hooks.

As far as the overall attitude goes, I’m all for Rage Against the Windmills, but the lyrics here do mostly tap into protest as a performance, not as a communicative, topical form. I mean, there’s a place for that, but when Skin belts out lines like „Yes it’s fucking political! / Everything’s political!“, it’s not much of a manifest – she’s right, of course, but the performance, stressing pure attitude over ideas, hasn’t really aged well. They put words like „The poorer you are, the better / that gives me more control“ into the mouth of whatever social or political entity you want to attribute this to – just make sure that entity is part of the „establishment“. Or – alas! – is it the establishment in YOURSELF!? Beware! This is self-conscious, but non-meta. If it riled up folks back then – sure, I’ll take it.

For all the draining emotions of despair and rage here, in the very end, the band does something quite corageous by facing their actual musical forte: the fact that „Glorious Pop Song“ – no irony here – is exactly that.