Love being a losing game was a big theme back in 2003, the year of Beck’s Sea Change and its equal partner in romantic shame, Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers. So why did one become instantly lauded as one of the greatest albums of all time (Sea Change) and one fall through the cracks (Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers)? The simple answer would be name recognition, with Beck holding the obvious advantage over a Brooklyn by way of Cincinnati band’s sophomore effort. Yet Sad Songs For Dirty Lovers is the better album.
Of the many albums that have come out in my years as a music blogger, there are a choice few that really stand out as excellent albums and one of my favorites, the one that I will start with, is Big Echo by The Morning Benders.
It’s strange to realize that the album, or LP (whichever suits your preference) has once again taken a back seat to the single. Thanks to the internet’s ability to grant us instant gratification, most listeners no longer have the patience to sit through an album. iTunes and other per-MP3 vendors are in part responsible for this, as it’s a much cheaper deal to buy a single song for a dollar than a whole album for 10 or more.
But what of the exceptions? The listeners who do still crave a full album experience? It’s for them that I chose Big Echo, an album whose first 4 tracks are absolutely stellar as stand alone numbers, while the remaining tracks work more as a cohesive unit, one that rewards repeated listens.
While the previous post Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga has more of a city at night atmosphere to it, G. Love’s The Hustle and Lemonade are pure and sweet summer efforts. The vibe going in and out,bright rock to organic, and funky to campfire acoustic like waves dancing to and fro with the shore. While his pal Jack Johnson is better known for his appreciation of the laid back style, G. Love is no slouch and while his varying styles have kept his albums interesting over the years he lacked cohesion until he joined forces with Brushfire Records, Johnson’s label. G. Love (or Garrett Dutton) has since expressed that he wasn’t a fan of the mainstream record labels, saying there was too much push for lead singles rather than time to focus on albums, at Brushfire he would have ample time to produce what he wanted with complete creative leeway. The Hustle would be his first effort for the label, dropping in 2004 with radio friendly Booty Call and Back of the Bus, the former an entertaining narrative, the latter a nonsensical song with a chorus that just wouldn’t keep out of your head. Lemonade would follow two years later, filled with guest appearances that only augment the album, rather than harm its integrity, both are perfect for summer, and a little warm weather music is just what we need right now.
Astronaut is one hell of a ride, an updated blue romp, you’d be hard pressed to find any song by Led Zeppelin or the Who that matches the sheer intensity of the drumming on this one. G. Love and his boys had something to prove and their energy on this one is fantastic.
G. Love is back to his upbeat funky romp style on this one, and let me give you a hint, he’s not talking about sitting on a boat with a fishing rod. Nice guitar and organ work on this one as well as a very catchy hook (no pun intended).
G. Love has a habit of ending all of his albums with just him alone with his acoustic guitar, and often its the most endearing on the album, its just a perfect late afternoon song, when the sun’s going down and the sky is beginning to get dark.
A nice easy groove of a song that again features great instrumentation and production, the addition of a viola is a nice touch along with the guitars organ bass and drums. Love the Ray Charles styled organ solo 3/4 the way through.
This song features Blackalicious as guest rappers and it’s a great match of musical styles, almost Gorillaz-esque in how it plays out with a more organic focus, with organ, clavinet, and harmonica helping with the arrangement.
This song features G. Love with his longtime friend Jasper, a rapper who judging by this record should be well known. The organic sample is absolutely on fire, with a bouncing bass line and circular guitar licks and a nice back beat.
You can almost feel the heat of a long hot summers day listening to this song. Great production and guest appearances by Ben Harper and Marc Broussard. A nice slow burner that wouldn’t be out of place in Beck’s catalogue. Great harmonies throughout too.
Featuring pretty much the same words as The Hustle on the album previous, whats great is the instrumental arrangement and overall production. The circular guitar line, the solid drumming funky back beat, the swelling buildup of the music and the nicely placed backing harmonies.
My favorite song on the album and one of my favorite songs ever, starting with a mellow upright bass intro, the song opens up into an acoustic duet between Tristan Prettyman and G. Love whose voices match perfectly as well as their different vocal styles. A great production mix of hand drumming and standard drumming with nice string additions and warmly recorded acoustic and electric guitars. Just a song you can put on repeat for days.
Along with being a mouthful, Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga is a modern masterpiece. The oft-mislabeled as indie band from Austin, Texas managed to create an atmosphere on the album that unfolds much like its cover; unique little pieces for each arrangement culminating in a work more beautiful in the eyes of its beholders as a whole.
Spoon is headed up by the unique combination of songwriter/guitarist Britt Daniel and drummer/arranger Jim Eno and both play a distinctive part in the band’s sound. Spoon is no stranger to the headlines in the indie music scene, famously being dropped by their first major label, Spoon caught fire with their debut record A Series of Sneaks which contained two not so subtle digs at former Elektra A&R man Ron Laffitte “The Agony of Laffitte” and “Laffitte Don’t Fail Me Now”. Though they had previously echoed a sound made famous by groups like The Pixies and Wire, album by album Spoon whittled down their style bit by bit, making it into a modernist painting, an ode to the darkly tinged psychedelia that permeated The Beatles Revolver and The White Album. There’s a great argument to be made in how Spoon became more like The Beatlesthan their previous influences, there’s an equal, if not greater effort put into the song’s overall production rather than just the songwriting itself. Again like The Beatles, there are no flashy solos, no parts where the individual is recognized over the whole. This quality, most noticeable on this record, is perhaps what keeps Spoon going, there are no ego battles, just musicians focused on the music.