Thursday, May 22, 2008

Two Reviews I Did Not Intend to Write

Mason Jennings - In the EverTwo Hundred Ninety-Four Words: Mason Jennings caught my attention on a forgettable Parker Posey romantic comedy with the memorable "Lemon Grove Avenue". I don't mean to say that Parker Posey could ever be forgettable, but Jennings' infectious groove was/is. Then his name popped up again when Isaac Brock announced he had signed the Minneapolis singer/songwriter. Jennings' legend continued to grow when he contributed two excellent tracks to the Bob Dylan "bio-pic", I'm Not There.

Even with all this history, I didn't want to buy this record once I discovered Jennings had left Brock's vanity label for Jack Johnson's vanity label. This situation actually describes Jennings' aesthetic quite well. He lies somewhere in between the experimentation and shape-shifting of Brock's work and the suckiness and lame-ass-Dave Mathews-like sound quality of Johnson. Either way, I bought the record to see where on this spectrum he lies.

What I discovered is that In the Ever should be compared to other folky singer/songwriters and not indie rock weirdness. Sure, there's one end that's populated with the likes of Johnson and Mathews while the other is home to the freak-folk of Devendra Barnhart and mashup mishaps of Beck Hanson. Mason Jennings resides somewhere in the neighborhood just west of Iron and Wine and east of Jose
González, which isn't a half bad spot to find one's self. He also has a voice and singing style that makes me think of a smoother, more pleasant Bob Dylan.

As far as musical content, Jennings falls short of the Dylan comparison, but who doesn't? He does write songs about love and love lost without much social commentary. Jennings' easy going delivery soothes and lies just outside the mainstream of the backwards hat crowd. Modest Mouse endorsement or not, Mason Jennings deserves some attention.

The one song that is most like a Bob Dylan track: "Memphis, Tenn "

Pitchfork Says: ???

Flight of the Conchords - Flight of the Conchords
Three Hundred Twenty-Five Words: I am really distrustful of satirical rock records. "Weird Al" Yankovic made me giggle at eight and Adam Sandler was funny the first time I heard the "Chanukah song", but since those rare moments, I have strongly disliked satirical rock. When Tenacious D's self-titled release came out, I had hope that I would be able to reclaim my youthful love of satirical rock. However, this release, as well as several others, were great disappointments.

My hopes were not high for The Flight of the Conchords when I discovered it already in the used section of a local record store. Solely based on my sister's recommendation (and my appreciation of the HBO series), I bought the CD at a reduced rate.

It was the best $9.98 (+ tax) I've spent in a long time.

The songs stand well on their own without odd-ball Jermaine and Bret (not Brent) wearing robot suits or strutting through Williamsburg streets. The subtlety of the New Zealand duo's lyrics left my belly aching while making me wonder what jokes I missed and will catch the next time around. Additionally, the way in which the Conchords move between genres is impressive. They make believable electro-pop, acoustic approximations of hip-hop, and a seventies soul that only add to the back story of the hipsters they play on TV. Their use of minimalist instrumentation keeps the focus on the comedy. Conversely, Tenacious D's penchant to load their recordings with a who's-who of alt-rock royalty caused their music to lose some of the gusto created in their Mr. Show days.

This release marks a moment when Sub Pop's comedy sector finally meets the music department. Always one step ahead of the game, the label finds new ways to reinvent itself while never losing touch with its base. Flight of the Conchords attain the heights of other such Sub Pop comedians such as David Cross and Patton Oswalt while staying true to the label's indie rock roots.

The one song that makes it worth $9.98: "Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros"

Pitchfork Says: 7.2

Once again, I was unable to buy the albums I intended. Sometimes I loath this place so much. Look for me to celebrate a delivery from Insound much the same way this guy keeps an eye out for a fresh shipment of beer.


Kate said...

I think Flight of the Conchords actually takes place in Queens, New York. And that comment in no way reveals how many times I've watched the dvd's.

Kate said...

Crap! Master Wikipedia says it's around Chinatown.

comoprozac said...

I knew it couldn't be Queens. I was for sure it was Brooklyn, though. Damn!

GE said...

Williamsburg hipsters would probably throw eggs at FoC. Funnily enough, I recently wore a Conchords T-shirt while in Williamsburg. I was unharmed, but if I hadn't been with 2 small children there may have been a confrontation.

Thanks for the Mason Jennings heads up.

Kate said...

Oh, I know why I thought Queens...the episode where they have a picnic with Coco is in front of that big globe thingy in Queens.

Anyway, your review of the Mason Jennings album kind of makes me not want to get it. I might still see if the library has it, though, for curiousity's sake.

comoprozac said...

Don't wait for the library. Go here and check it out for yourself. I would understand if you didn't like it. It's not usually my cup of tea, but there's something about his voice and delivery that I like.