November 01, 2006
The Decemberists, the Crane Wife.
Ships, babies, butchers, feathers, waves. Gymnasts, brides, chimneys, sailors. The list continues; these are just some of the topics covered by the Decemberists, a Portland quintet, throughout their four-album career. It is the Decemberists' contemporary mythic lyrics, which lend their albums to be tagged under the category "Magical" (as well as "Indie-Rock" and "Storytelling") on various music websites.
Their latest album, the Crane Wife, is the band's first release on Capitol Records, and naturally seems far more produced than their previous ones. The disco beat, occasional pop synth effects, and more structured songs steer their folksy musical caravan out of one era and into the 21st century. Yet the Decemberists still maintain their old-world charm; listen to "The Crane Wife 3" and "The Crane Wife 1& 2." I'm pretty sure they're the only band on Capitol to rewrite and sing about a Japanese folk tale (which involves a magical bird marriage to a man) in three parts.
Oneida, Happy New Year.
Oneida is an interesting choice in name for the four Brooklynites who this summer released their eighth full-length album, Happy New Year. It is not just the name of the American Indian tribe, Oneida, that the band borrowed; they were clearly influenced by the Indians' marriage to the earth. Happy New Year is lyrically and musically cyclical; it is a poetic album about blooming and dying.
While the lyrics are rather depressing, mostly about the realms of death, the sounds, produced by a plethora of instrumental and vocal layers, are rather uplifting. From monastic chants to Middle-Eastern sounding sitars to antique keyboards, it is impossible to categorize the album into one genre. However, there is a folk-electronic coherence to Happy New Year; mimetic of nature, there are trails of melodies and controlled drumbeats. Like American Indian chants, tracks such as "History's Great Navigators" are hypnotic and blend right into the earth.
Too Busy Being Bored.
What were you doing when you were 13? The band Too Busy Being Bored makes all of us at 13 look like childish slackers. Too Busy Being Bored, which is made up of five 13-year-old Sag Harbor boys, has played at the knitting factory and P.S. 122 in New York City; and they opened for warped tour band Patent Pending, who also hail from Long Island, at Beach night in September. The crowning achievement was winning the Suffolk County Battle of the Bands this June. Even more so of an achievement since they were the youngest band in the competition and the only one to play original songs. That's right, they also play original songs, in addition to a slew of covers, like The Strokes' "Juice Box" and New Order's "Blue Monday."
Their music has been dubbed "punky Rolling Stones" by the Red Hook Brooklyn blog. They draw inspiration mainly from New Wave punk bands like New Order, but you can hear traces of contemporary low-fi band Sonic Youth and indie rock band Whirlwind Heat. Their original tunes show budding musicianship and promising musical craftsmanship, with many of the songs focused on the slick electric lead guitar carrying their infectious melodies.
The real magic of Too Busy Being Bored is its live shows. Lead singer Peter Landi howls his lyrics like Johnny Rotten and dances around the stage like Mick Jagger, with his array of jumping jacks and mid air splits. He does all this while wearing his signature schoolboy jacket, like AC/DC's Adrian Young. Forrest Gray, the lead guitarist, has a Zen-like transformation during his solos in which he completely loses himself in his rapid head jiving. Too Busy Being Bored will leave you riveted and writhing in your seat. If this is boredom sign me up for ennui.