Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Music Reviews: Pete Yorn's Back and Fourth; Gossip's Music for Men; Music from the Films of Johnny Depp

In addition to screenings, DVDs, and Blu-rays-- I've been fortunate to receive some great albums recently via Digital Download over the past several months. And while I haven't been able to review everything I've liked due to time constraints and an over-abundance of titles to review-- this time around and to give myself a much needed day off from film writing-- I wanted to at least try and write some shorter reviews of a few recent great music titles I've been spinning in my disc player and on my iPod on my way to summer movies. So here's a trio of titles for your listening pleasure:

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Pete Yorn:
Back and Fourth

A fan since I actually broke my first copy of 2001's Musicforthemorningafter from way too much insertion and ejection in my old Apple computer to make habitual mix CDs (this was pre-iPod and my switch to PC)-- while I enjoyed the follow-up title Day I Forgot-- it didn't have the same instantly seductive hooks as the first album.

Needless to say I was thrilled when Columbia Records offered me the chance to give Back and Fourth a listen. As the name implies, it's Yorn's fourth effort-- following a trio of records he considers a musical trilogy. Moreover it was crafted in an entirely different fashion with the musician writing the lyrics beforehand and then composing music to augment what he meant to say after to an intensely personal effect that sounds very different than the catchier rockabilly opener to Musicforthemorningafter but much more confessional than we're used to hearing from the man.

Apple iTunes

He's still out in full-force with the drive-with-your-windows-down sound yet far more contemplative which is evident in his "got what I wanted/but it's never enough" lament in "Paradise Cove" when he discusses a lover whose conversation makes him cringe due to her emptiness despite her need to have meaning. However, he hides the angst of the lyrics in the beat-- a trick he manages to do repeatedly throughout.

You get the sense you're hearing a world weary Yorn who's been through a romantic battlefield and may be shielding a few injuries with hooks and gorgeous accompaniment (most evidenced in "Close") or the tragic romance "Social Development Dance" about "something missing in us/we long to make it whole" when he recalls a past love whom Yorn "never learned how" she had died when he Googled her "in quotes" and came up with no results other than knowing how his friend had lived.

While it isn't all the stuff of Morrissey, The Smiths, or The Cure despite his first single entitled "Don't Wanna Cry," we hear an older, wiser, and far more upfront Yorn who's no longer contented to dress up relationships by bluntly saying "we were not each other's truth," and moving to that part of his life where he might be ready to start looking for whomever that truth may be. Of course, luckily for his listeners, that's probably an entirely different album altogether.

And as he sings "no, I cannot do it all again," we're glad that he's begun to evolve, stretch and try new musical techniques like songwriting first-- digging deeper for however painful or true the source material may be to release what is a strong, yet multifaceted, textured and still logically optimistic record that finds him acknowledging that some of these experiences may make him laugh in the future but admitting that for now that he "can't go back again."

A beautiful portrait of a sensitive, talented, confident, and increasingly daring artist-- Yorn's fourth album-- Back and Fourth is his best achievement since the debut disc that I must've played-- as he romantically proclaims on this disc-- "the fifty-seven thousandth time" before it finally gave out.

Buy It Now


1. Don’t Wanna Cry
2. Paradise Cove
3. Close
4. Social Development
5. Shotgun
6. Last Summer
7. Thinking of You
8. Country
9. Four Years
10. Long Time

Music for Men

My receipt of Gossip in the inbox from the kind folks at Columbia Records seemed at first to be an accident-- kind of like when I was asked to review that super hip documentary about mash-ups and mixing featuring Girl Talk and had the impression I was in way over my head.

A natural born square-- I wasn't sure why I'd been invited to the party of a group that's quickly become one of England's most coveted groups since their 2006 breakthrough of "Standing in the Way of Control" which has found the trio (consisting of
Beth Ditto on lead vocals, Brace Paine on guitar, bass, and keyboards, and drummer Hannah Blilie) touring with Le Tigre, Sonic Youth, The White Stripes, Cyndi Lauper, Rufus Wainwright, The Dresden Dolls, Debbie Harry, and others. Yet, I wasn't about to question this decision in the slightest so did a little digging to be better informed.

When "Control" became an instant hit after being featured on the BBC UK smash series Skins-- the described "DIY post-punk" indie rockers set out to take their time in the craftsmanship of their debut major studio album which they dubbed Music for Men as a wry feminist joke. A ha, my kind of group indeed!

Pulsating tracks that seem to evoke the dancability of '80s new wave and the all-important hook along with the sporadic girl power moments laced throughout the past few decades from Patti Smith's Horses (given a Jennifer Beals in Flashdance makeover) with Cyndi Lauper's desire to have fun (yet with the warning that at times and even on a Bangles-like "Manic Monday" love can be a "Four Letter Word")--upon a first, passive casual listen Gossip's Music sounds like a night out at a club with one song flowing into another but the more I listened to it, the more I realized that I was simply unable to take the album out of my car.

Ditto's range and versatility is impressive to say the least as the CD is not just club but runway ready as I found myself repeating certain ultra succinct yet instantly catchy tracks like the opener "Dimestore Diamond" about a woman who rocks everything from "a homemade haircut" in a way that makes her "shine like the real thing, real thing, real thing," complete with a killer guitar riff that takes the pseudo Dolly Parton-esque lyrics of "everybody knows the thing she does to please."

Then she suddenly goes all Irene Cara meets Donna Summer on us a la synth backing by belting out the "looks like it's gonna rain again" in the "love is a four letter word that should never be heard" before Ditto begins spelling out L-O-V-E and what the letters translate for her particular brand of heartbreak complete with a snappy beat that I'd defy anyone to listen to without moving at least one body part.

Indeed Gossip's Music for Men can best be appreciated as delicious guilt-free pop largely created in the same Malibu location that was built by The Band in '76 complete with Bob Dylan's old tour bus out back. Moreover it's a terrific blend of decades past and present as aside from the impressive locale, the trio still utilized Garageband software throughout and the same simplistic style to make the type of music they prefer as opposed to over-produced studio noise. And this benefits the work considerably in the very same way that even hearing the breath patterns and "ah ah ahs" in "Heavy Cross" make it unlike most music you'd be tempted to classify it with and instead with its smart, sunny, bubble-gum style-- at times they reminded me of Yeah Yeah Yeahs crossed with The Ting-Tings.

While there are a few slight stumbling blocks as to be expected on a first studio release as again, some of the tracks blend together a bit too well-- the one thing that Gossip manages to do to dig them out of any trouble spots or overly familiar sounds is provide an unlikely lyric or hook like "it's a long, long way to February" or something that catches your ear in a unique way.

A fun disc that I'd highly recommend and proof like Glasvegas' recent release and The Rumble Strips' title last year that some of the strongest material is coming out of the UK-- Gossip's Music for Men is currently only available as a digital download before it hits shelves as an official CD on October 6.

Buy It Now

Download on iTunes



1. Dimestore Diamond
2. Heavy Cross
3. 8th Wonder
4. Love Long Distance
5. Pop Goes The World
6. Vertical Rhythm
7. Men In Love
8. For Keeps
9. 2012
10. Love And Let Love
11. Four Letter Word
12. Spare Me From The Mold

Music from the Films of Johnny Depp
Performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra

Align CenterOriginally released to tie in with Oscar nominated actor Johnny Depp's performance for filmmaker Michael Mann as the notorious '30s outlaw John Dillinger in Public Enemies-- not to mention endless speculation and gossip regarding Depp's possible future attachment to an upcoming Scorsese helmed biopic about Sinatra as either Ol' Blue Eyes or Dean Martin-- this wonderful compilation essentially needs no review.

The composers whose work is represented in the selections including longtime Depp filmmaking collaborator Tim Burton's go-to guy Danny Elfman and others is solid from track one all the way through the finale. In fact, the only complaint is that sometimes as-- par for the course with instrumental work-- you must crank the volume for certain tracks to hear the strings from time to time but with music this good, that's hardly a flaw.

Additionally the spirited epic beauty played with the full support of one of the world's top orchestras makes the album sell itself. Normally I'd just go ahead and use the cliche by saying that the songs sell themselves but as it's an instrumental (aka classical or soundtrack) compilation and there are no words so the audience is limited from the start-- it's being released purely as a digital download so there's no box to look at for consumers.

However, have no fear as aside from a couple of sound distribution problems which you get on any orchestral album CD or MP3-- the MP3 quality is magnificent throughout-- right from the opening work that puts us back on the pirate ship in Depp's acclaimed, intriguing take to play Captain Jack Sparrow as though essentially he were Rolling Stones' Keith Richards.

While of course, all of the individual soundtrack albums and the films themselves including the picturesque beauty of Sleepy Hollow (of painterly elegance), the brilliant humor of Ed Wood, dark fairytale morality play of Edward Scissorhands, and the underrated rock opera Sweeney Todd deserve your consideration and attention as well-- for those who, like this reviewer, maybe weren't the greatest fans of the entire Pirates trilogy-- it's nice to hear choice cuts from the soundtracks.

An engaging album that alternates between lively, adventurous selections to more romantic and light fare such as Chocolat and of course, the remarkably haunting Elgar track "Adagio for Strings" which was used to memorable effect in Platoon-- it's a great achievement that should also interest those who've explored the likewise highly recommended, stellar digital releases of both The Music of Batman and Music from the Films of Paul Newman from UK's Silva Screen label (which you can listen to below).

Buy It Now

Download on iTunes

James Fitzpatrick & The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra & Choir - Music from the Films of Johnny Depp


1. Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End - Drink Up, Me Hearties
2. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street - Main Titles
3. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - Jack Sparrow
4. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory - Finale
5. The Corpse Bride - The Piano Duet / Victor's Piano Solo
6. Finding Neverland - Impossible Opening
7. Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl - The Black Pearl / Will and Elizabeth
8. Chocolat - Main Theme
9. Sleepy Hollow - End Titles
10. Ed Wood - Main Theme
11. Edward Scissorhands - Main Title / Ice Dance
12. Platoon - Adagio For Strings
13. Nightmare On Elm Street - Main Theme

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