liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,
liz_marcs
liz_marcs

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Music from the Cube: What Am I Listening To Today?

This time it's the latest CD from Blue October and some of that old-time retro-music feel from James Hunter.

As always MP3 samples under the cut.



Blue October, Foiled Rating=$$$$
[Support the Artist]
How I Got This CD: Bought wicked cheap from Amazon.

I easily enjoyed this solid CD from Blue October. It's certainly more even than, say, History for Sale, but doesn't show the genius of the live album Argue With A Tree or the originally of Consent to Treatment. Although there is an advisory on this album (as well as enhanced featuers that spin up if you slip this into the computer), the lyrics and language are nowhere near as trigger-y or as explicit as what you'd find on their earlier stuff. If anything, Foiled is probably the most mainstream album this band has ever put out.

But then again, this is Blue October. When I say "mainstream," I mean, "relatively speaking." There is the usual whiplash you get with this band as they stray from one musical style to the next, although the sharp breaks in style aren't quite as violent and most of the music is more introspective than angry. One thing that is somewhat shocking is that much of the tunes on this album bear striking similarities to other bands and solo artists — although there seems to be a lot of cross-genre going on, so it isn't like the band sounds like a Peter Gabriel or a techno band from the early 90s all the time.

The sound mix on this CD is excellent, with often subtle aural gems lurking in the background that range from gospel singers to crowd cheers. However, Ryan Delahoussaye distinctive violin is sorely missed on this album. Oh, he's there. It's just not nearly as prominent as it has been in the past.

All downloads strike me as worksafe and lacking in triggers. I highly recommend all four. 'Let It Go' has a vaguely Peter Gabriel feel about it, aided immensely by Delahoussaye's violin at the beginnig. 'Congratulations' with Imogen Heap providing the female vocals reminds me quite a bit of Toad the Wet Sprocket. 'X Amount of Words' sounds like just a techno-beat song right out of the '90s. 'Everlasting Friend' is a mellow little tune that sounds a little bit more like the Blue October I know and love.

Sample Song Downloads: Let It Go, Congratulations, X Amount of Words, Everlasting Friend

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.



James Hunter, People Gonna Talk Rating=$$$$$
[Support the Artist]
How I Got This CD: Bought on the spur of the moment while standing at the counter in the local Starbucks.

I once got into a massive fight with a friend of my brother over the merits of analog vs. digital music recording. I insisted that even through digital may have a cleaner sound, to my ear, analog simply had a better sound. The tones are fuller, the trebble end is sharper, and the base end is deeper. The philistine insisted that I knew nothing about "real sound," because, mathematically speaking, digital was superior.

Yes. You heard that right. "Mathematically speaking," as if music could and should be boiled down to an alegbriac equation.

Yet, no motter how I pointed out that natural sound is analog (not digital) and that live music is analog (again, not digital) and even though we compared vinyl loveliness with CD thinness, I was declared both "an idiot" and "a luddite" simply because I would not back down on this point.

Now, I agree that digital has its charms and offers its own set of rewards in exchange for that fat analog sound, but I confess that there are days that I miss the hiss and crack of a needle across vinyl.

Enter James Hunter with People Gonna Talk, which, according to his website was recorded using all analog equipment, from the instruments to the recording equipment. The result is a full, warm, gorgeous sound that I thought was lost somewhere in the mists of my dad's 45s and LP collection. All it's missing is the hiss-and-crack of needle on vinyl, and the experience would be complete.

It brought a tear to my eye. Truly.

James Hunter is part of the blue-eyed soul brigade and, according to his AllMusic biography, British. What I especially like about this CD is that the 1950s R&B whiteboy feel isn't played for laughs or kitsch, but with very serious musicianship and intent. That's not to say that there's no sense of fun — the CD packaging includes a look and feel right out of the '50s, complete with charicatures of the band drawn by Hunter himself. Because Hunter takes the business seriously, it allows the listener to truly enjoy the full 40 minutes on this CD in a completely guilt-free and unselfconscious way.

This CD has it all. Tight musicianship. Clever lyrics. A pop feel enhanced by the short runtime of the individual tunes themselves. A sense of fun. But most important, that analog sound (God, how I missed you!). This one is definitely a keeper. Run, don't walk, to get a copy for yourself.

Ironically, I actually got his 2001 release, Kick It Around, as a demo during my Bordersverse days. I haven't had a chance to listen to it (sadly). It appears I'll have to dig it out and determine if the earlier release is as much of a gem as Hunter's latest.


Sample Song Downloads: 'Till Your Fool Comes Home, Mollena, Watch & Chain, Talkin' About My Love

You can download all files from the project page by clicking here.


***

To find previous thumbnail reviews, go to the Review Index.

After the donwload links expire, you can listen to streaming MP3 files linked with reviews at my Vox shadow blog for media.

***


Rating system:
None = Avoid at all cost. Worth cutting your ears off to avoid if someone threatens to play it for you. When faced with even the threat of its cellophane-wrapped presence, your best option is to RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!

$= If you stumble across it for cheap in a used bin, it might, maybe, perhaps could be worth the buy, but only if you need a cheap coaster for your cold drinks or a cool-looking frisbee.

$$= You might want to give this CD/artist a try, but only if the sample track tickles your fancy. Don't bother buying this one new because the good tunes you'd get out of this one ain't worth that kind of money.

$$$ = Worth looking for on a casual basis and maybe even buying new, but no big rush.

$$$$ = Definitely worth having in the ol' CD collection and definitely worth buying new, but don't re-arrange your personal "must have" list to get your hands on it.

$$$$$ = Why haven't you bought this CD yet? Go. This is a "Want. Take. Have." situation because you so want this.




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Tags: music: download, music: music from the cube, music: review
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