Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Music: Okkervil River, Marnie Stern, Jay-Z, Emiliana Torrini, Bodies of Water

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Several MP3s have been released in the past few days, and most of them have been of a uniformly excellent quality. So I composed a playlist of these songs, and will now briefly write them up.

Okkervil River

Download:Okkervil River - "Lost Coastlines"

Continuing with breakout LP The Stage Names' theme of regret faced by the creatively ambitious, their loved ones, and the journeys of the hangers-on who come and go, "Lost Coastlines" features Okkervil River's Will Scheff and Jonathan Meiburg (now solely devoted to Shearwater) trade vocal leads over a deceptively merry blast of doo-wop and Motown soul-influenced orch-pop. I don't know when Will Scheff decided he was Ben E. King, but anyone who so clearly declares themselves a musical descendent of Berry Gordy and his minions needs as much praise as can be possibly given. The horns, though brief, are heartmelting, beautiful, and life-affirming in the most joyous of ways.

Grade: A

Jay-Z

Download: Jay-Z - "Jockin' Jay-Z" (via)

A supposed leak from the in-progress The Blueprint 3 (produced by Kanye and No ID?) "Jockin' Jay" begins with a beat and a vocal hook refreshing reminiscent of golden-age era hip-hop before launching into a "99 Problems"-esque statement of purpose. The pseudo-feud with Oasis is getting a bit old, but Mr. Carter still manages to freshly diss the UK group with their biggest hit. Even though Jay takes on his critics on this track, I doubt he'll have any haters left if Jay keeps the quality of his work this high. Dope Boy Fresh indeed.

Grade: A-

Marnie Stern

Download: Marnie Stern - "Transformer"

Van Halen have stated in the past that their classic song "Ain't Talkin' About Love" was written originally as a parody of punk's supposed simplicity (perhaps Ed never got around to London Calling?). Now, let's for a minute pretend that EVH had a daughter, who, for one reason or another, was called Marnie Stern. Marnie shares Ed's guitar talent and gift for shred but, like most adolescents, she has a hard time believing in herself. Zen Arcade then changes that. She plays it over and over again, much to chagrin of papa Eddie. But it's an earlier Husker Du song, "Real World", that Marnie takes the strongest liking to. She attempts to write a song that will split the difference between Dad's virtuosity and Husker Du's anthemic, whiplash inducing punk frenzy. "Transformer" is that song. She succeeds beyond her wildest dreams.

Yeah, it's really fucking good.

Grade: A

EmilĂ­ana Torrini

Download:Emiliana Torrini - "Me and Armini"

The Icelandic singer-songwriter with an eclectic resume (writing songs with Kylie Minogue, Bill Callahan, singing a song for the Lord of the Rings soundtrack) returns with a track from her upcoming fifth album. The immediate notes of "Me and Armini" strikes one as the songstress attempting to ride the electro reggae-pop coattails of one Lily Allen. They'd be mostly right, but Torrini throws in just enough curveballs (a smoky, jazz-lounge vibe helps, as do a few flourishes of synthesizer) to make things interesting.

Grade: B

I'm From Barcelona

Download: I'm From Barcelona - "Music Killed Me"

Like Broken Social Scene and Grandaddy having a baby, and then having it grow up to be not nearly as interesting as its parents. Still, a lush production atmosphere, Moogs a-plenty, and a creative epilogue help to make "Music Killed Me' get a passing grade.

Grade: B

(Jonathan Graef)

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