Blackout Beach - Skin of Evil (listen) John Darnielle says what he says about this album so well like he always does, and Carey Mercer blurts out all he blurts so well like he always does. Blackout Beach doesn't have the wild-eyed Rimabaud-on-a-tear sheen that Frog Eyes has; instead it is anxiety with all the nervousness drained out of it, and anxiety is left to sit in a lounge chair it forgot it had (because it spent so much time being nervous that it could never get comfortable) and gaze at its own reflection in the pool of nervousness shimmering below. Anxiety realizes that without nervousness, it has capabilities that were heretofore unrealized. Its crisp analytic lens can be repositioned for solving problems rather than exacerbating them; it can be used to pinpoint the dry, crackly tinder in the woodpile rather than ignite it at first glance. It is not a soothing realization exactly, but it is a bit of a relief.
Also, there is a bit of Peter Gabriel in this thing that I find comforting, having spent much of my formative years in that catalog. I turned a friend off of TV on the Radio with a similar comparison to the Gab, but with this shaping up to be the New Year of Art-Pop, we just might want to get used to St. Peter's looming shadow.
Nadia Sirota - First Things First (listen) Nico Muhly lauds this solo viola CD on which two of his pieces are performed, in his most recent blog entry. Before I get to the disc, let me just say Muhly is one of the finest young composers operating, inheriting the crossover king mantle that Philip Glass once held, but truthfully, Muhly embodies it better. His contributions to the Grizzly Bear ballyhoo machine provide that album's best moments their spine. Muhly is also one of the more eloquent and impassioned voices for This New Music. I agree with a lot of what Ben Ratliff had to say about Grizzly Bear in his ruthless live review in the New York Times (granted I have only listened to the album and not witnessed the concert to which he is referring) , perhaps because I heard my own semi-indictment of precious echoed therein, but Muhly's yanking the rug out from under precious rang has proven to be more valuable to this reviewer
Words like fey, twee, and precious have become these little nuggets of coded disdain, but they are really just useless self-congratulatory gestures on the part of the reviewer. What is the opposite of twee? Muscular?Duly noted.
All that said, Sirota's disc is a cleansing experience. It doesn't hit you as a lush virtuoso demonstrations as it does a pointed instrument with clear goals. The wildly varying commissions like Muhly's hypnotic maypole daydream "Étude 1A" and the shuddering tremors of Marcos Belter's "Ut" each fire a thin needle of a laser, powered by just those four strings into your body, frying off some ailing portion of your soul like the latter, or opening up the passages through which life can more easily flow in the former. For what it's worth, she appears on the Grizzly Bear album, with which I continue to wrestle without the aid of preciousness.