Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Music Reviews

A brief review of two groups I like because of their recent CDs...

Back in college at the suggestion of my sister, Elizabeth, I purchased a CD called Hopes and Fears by the British group Keane (I'm sure I've mentioned it here before, but Liz and I started an annual tradition of buying one new CD each on our trip back to college for second semester). I absolutely loved the original piano-driven rock melodies. I became an instant fan. When their second CD, Under the Iron Sea, was released, I bought that one too and while it didn't hold the same pleasure as the first album, I still loved it. Perfect Symmetry came out sometime in the midst of wedding planning and well, it got bumped to the wayside until I checked it out of the library some months later. Still a great group, but the songs didn't catch and hold my attention quite so completely. Recently while perusing new books and music being released, I noticed Keane was releasing an album, Night Train. I immediately put a hold on it at my library and eagerly brought it home a couple weeks later. I was disappointed. I think I listened to it maybe three times before returning the CD. Not only were the songs rather forgettable, but also at least two tracks were collaborations with a Canadian rapper. I don't like rap, period. But when combined with a favorite group, it's just plain unfortunate. And the songs sounded nothing like the Keane I knew and loved. I hope Keane returns to it's roots in Hopes and Fears when I couldn't get enough of the lyrically haunting melodies, supported with some gorgeous piano. (As an aside, I was looking on Amazon to see what sort of reviews the album received, and well, from the looks of it, I'm not in the minority at all!)

Around the same time I introduced myself to Keane, I was introduced to another guy, Jack Johnson. It was some time before I acquired any of his CDs and listened to them thoroughly, but I was hooked. Brushfire Fairytales and On and On released in the early 2000s are laid back albums filled with Johnson's unique acoustic style and original songs. I find his music difficult to describe, so here's a quick bio quote from Amazon, which sums it up quite well, "Former pro surfer turned singer-songwriter Jack Johnson is a native of Hawaii, and his music reflects the laid back surfer attitude and crystal clarity of the water. Sweet, simple, acoustic surfer-rock is Johnson's specialty." His next albums, In Between Dreams and Sleep Through the Static didn't disappoint. Johnson's style is very consistent and if I have a complaint, it's that many of his songs sound similar, so there isn't great variety. But when I played his recent CD, To the Sea, I was reminded again how much I enjoy the simplicity of his sound. I will admit that two songs on this newest album stick out to me as I listen, and I mean more in a jarring sort of way, like they don't fit in quite as well (Red Wine, Mistakes, Mythology and People Taking Pictures). That is not to say, I don't enjoy the songs, but more find the flow of the CD is slightly disrupted. Regardless, Jack Johnson delivers a solid sound every album and that's something I appreciate. Johnson also did the soundtrack to The Curious George movie...though more childlike, still good stuff there too!

Have you listened to any of these albums? What did you think? Also, I'm always up for new music suggestions!


jeremy said...

I wouldn't mind listening to the first Keane album...Have I heard Mr. Jack?

stephanie said...

I don't know if you've listened to Jack Johnson before...I have most of his CDs if you'd like to give a listen. And, Keane's first album is awesome! Definitely listen to it.

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