January 16, 2007

Delayed Reaction

My multi-week odyssey to find a brick-and-mortar store with a copy of Ys to sell me came to a close yesterday. The album is no revolution or revelation, just ("just") very honest and well put together. The symbolism (or would it be allegory?) is rather heavy, but the core is a confessional treatment of a romance. I'm still waiting for my decoder ring to arrive in the mail, but the music is very affecting, clear in its own way.

I don't buy into the criticisms of Newsom's singing. She sounds very in control of her instrument, carefully choosing when it cracks and flutters. She's able to conjure a sound which I can only compare to a squeaking rubber balloon, but for some reason sounds quite beautiful to my ears.

The main thing I was left wondering about after my first listen was the album's extreme "consonance." Her words are mellifluous and consistently rhymed, the orchestral backings are always lush. It's a choice, but I'd be curious to hear some of the songs with a little more grit .

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DJA requests that we abolish the use of the adjective "pretentious" in our critical discourse. I agree, and myself would add "twee" to that list. I can't read about Belle & Sebastian's latest without getting hit in the face by this one. It's certainly apropos for much hipster-friendly music, but can we nip this one in the bud?

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I feel I should toss in a few words on why I bothered reacting to an album that's already been heavily lauded and desired. I'm usually suspicious of reviews that appear too soon after a new product enters the marketplace. They feel too attached to the PR mechanism of the vendor. In the rush to get the first review on the block, publications are just handing out free publicity. I'd prefer that critics take as long as they want to publish a piece, even passing on something if they don't feel like anything should be said. If I "have" to know how good something is as soon as it's available, I'll buy it myself (or make friends with someone who feels that same need). When we live in a society that's trying to sell us something at every street corner, do we really need to contribute to the problem?

1 comment:

DJA said...

Thanks for the link, Adam. By the by, you're not by any chance related to Chelsea Baratz, are you?