Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dr. Estranged Love or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Best Coast

Los Angeles's Best Coast are the latest beneficiary/victim of the buzz/backlash cycle that's become standard procedure in the web's music covering sector. As such, they are generally met with either ejaculatory praise or total disdain and dismissal. Both views are inherently suspect and depressingly predictable. Whether one is swept up by the hype or acrimonious toward it, the reaction is to the coverage rather than the music, and therefore of little value. (A little tip for the contrarians: listening to music with hostile ears doesn't do yourself or the act in question any favors.)

Best Coast's debut album Crazy For You was released yesterday on the Mexican Summer label. Rather than drown ourselves in positive or negative hyperbole, let's try and take a balanced approach, shall we?

It's easy to hear why people are excited about this band. Singer/songwriter Bethany Cosentino's melodies are infectious and instantly memorable. They evoke the affable West (if not best) Coast tunefulness of everyone from Phil Spector to the Bangles. The band's sunny hooks are tempered with a C-86/K Records-style naiveté, both in lyrics and production. Songs like "Goodbye," "When The Sun Don't Shine" and "Each & Everyday" work as both expertly crafted pop and bedroom-recorded intimacy. It's an effective, borderline irresistible mix.

On the other hand, there's also sound reasons for why one might be less than impressed with Best Coast. While individual songs are undeniably affecting, taken together they begin to feel more affected. I'm not necessarily doubting Ms. Cosentino's sincerity but "girl pines for boy" is Best Coast's only subject matter, and their take on it isn't particularly nuanced or revelatory. After a while, the songs on Crazy For You play less like genuine longing and more like what one is supposed to sing about for pop songs such as these. Between this and general lack of sonic variety, the album summons redundancy at a scant 31 minutes.

Ultimately, Crazy For You is a record that offeres easy pleasures. It's just that those pleasures aren't particularly deep. However, Best Coast make pop music, in the classicist sense. And whoever said that pop music has to strive for depth or significance? Probably the same type of clod who'd tell you that U2 is better than ABBA.


Monday, July 26, 2010

The Unblinking Ear Podcast: It's All A Dream

This podcast was made inside a dream. which was inside a dream, which was inside another dream. And my dead wife was there.

Was does it all mean?

I think means there are times when ambiguity is intended by the artist and you can't spend forever arguing over what the "right" answer is because isn't supposed to be one. You can, however, enjoy a tightly constructed action movie with a novel structure that becomes more silly the more you think about, so you'd better not.

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Unblinking Ear Podcast: The Power Is Back!

(Above: mankind's greatest invention)

New York City went through a pretty rough heat wave this week. One couldn't be blamed for looking over their shoulder to if a Yautja was hunting the urban landscape for Earth's deadliest game. ("Only in the hottest years this happens. And this year, it grows hot.")

A more pressing matter for me was the 12-hour blackout my block suffered through on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. This not only meant that I was unable to DVR the third episode of Louie but it also prevented me from assembling this podcast in as timely a manner as I wanted. My apologies but you can see the situation was out of my control.

As for what happened the prior 6 weeks since I presented my last podcast that prevented me from making a new one... um... hmm. Would you believe that fantasy baseball is a highly-stressful, time consuming activity?

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