[REVISED – 6/19/07]
So, in the last few weeks I have been introduced to some relatively new albums, some that I’ve bought and some that my friends have exposed me to. Here are three notables:
The Ringing Bell by Derek Webb.
Another valiant effort by our man Derek. Derek’s songwriting ability has grown by leaps and bounds since his Caedmon’s Call days and even since his first solo album, She Must and Shall Go Free. What we find in these songs is a more mature, weathered Derek, who is even more depthful in the topics he addresses (such as how social injustice will all be brought to an end at Christ’s return in “This Too Shall Be Made Right). He also has a lighter and, might we say, romantic side with songs such as “I Wanna Marry You All Over Again,” which he wrote for his wife Sandra McCracken. With songs like that, there’s no wonder Derek and Sandra will be expected their first child within a month.
This is an altogether great album. The sound is once again a departure for Derek, and I pick up elements of Radiohead, Wilco, and the Beatles in the overall feel of the songs. If you order the CD from Derek’s website, you get the special additional bonus of a graphic novel (comic book) based on the album’s lyrics.
Neon Bible by The Arcade Fire.
This is a tough one. This album is innovative, many of the lyrics are quite powerful, but all-in-all the whole doesn’t equal the sum of some of it’s parts. The feel of the music is, for the most part, postmodern, though not breaking a lot of rules. Songs like “Black Wave/Bad Vibrations” are just strange and makes one wonder what brand of hallucinogen the label execs were on to let such a piece loose in the unsuspecting world of music consumers. I liken pieces like that to the paint splattered on a canvas that somehow can be sold for $5,000. The songs that most stand out on the album do so by not fitting with the style of the rest of the album at all. The first notable exception is “Intervention.” Here accompanied by a pipe organ and chamber orchestra, the song is rather decently orchestrated and rises as the best overall piece on the album as far as sound quality goes, though that doesn’t say a lot (the song, without the organ and orchestra, would again fall flat, except for the biting lyrics). The second is “My Body is a Cage”, which, with it’s initial rawness building up to a surprising, pounding climax, may be the best song on the album. Again, the lyrics have some powerful meaning behind them, openly critiquing empty religion, and can be forgiven for sometimes being very forced in their meter. Some folks will love this album. Some will hate it. Some, like I, will appreciate it as an interesting listening experience, but it will probably not find its way into our iPod playlists anytime soon.
Sky Blue Sky by Wilco.
Wilco puts out another gem. What else can you say for this extraordinary gifted band? Though Yankee Hotel Foxtrot may be the album that overall is most enjoyable, their masterpiece and will contain the works they are most remembered for, this album, in some ways, contains some of their best work to date. They have really developed and expanded musically (check out their rocking “You Are My Face,” which harkens back to the early ’70s rock era… in a good way). It’s a CD that is full of surprises, and each one is rewarding. Keep up the good job, Wilco, and keep proving why you’re one of the best bands out there today.