Music reviews and other assorted silliness

Haven't been around for a while. No real reason for it. I've been in one of those swings wherein I will form a post in my head while wandering around, but I never actually get around to writing it. No real urges to update this space with anything pertinent to my life, just random silliness.

For a while, I gave up my mp3 player. I didn't use it from the flight to Vancouver (June 18th) until two days ago (July 9th). I sort of got bored with the music that was on there and I had no way to change it. Also, I wanted to give my brain space to breathe. I had been habitually listening to music any time I went anywhere and was effectively blurring out most of my thinking time. In the musical lull I started writing again, put together a piece of a story, came up with a story idea that I really like and wrote a bit of journal-like material in my new Moleskine with my new fakie-fountain pen.

I brought back the music for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I was able to get things going with my computer, so I dumped about 6 gigs of music from it and replaced it with 6 gigs of new music. The other reason was that I think I need to play this in waves. Sometimes it is good to give my mind quiet time to think, but music is a great inspiration and motivator.

Anyway, over the past 2 days, I've been listening to 3 different albums: Mika, Sean Lennon, and Prefuse 73. Prefuse 73 is fucking brilliant and I gotta thank Bruno from Van-city for putting me onto them. They are a sweet hip=hip group that also does a bunch of Kid Koala type sound effect music, but leaning more towards the music than Kid Koala does. As for Mika and Sean Lennon, I had an idea to write a battle-review of those two albums. Here we go:

Okay, maybe it is a bit unfair to pit these two albums against each other, but my reasoning is that they are both albums from British singer-songwriters and it's my right to go just based on that peripheral connection.

"Friendly Fire" is Sean Lennon's second album and is a solid effort; or, at least, it starts out that way. It seems that Sean is trying to find his own sound, which is nice, because I always felt that he was trying a bit too hard to do an impersonation of his father with his first album. He often sites the Beach Boys as a bigger influence on his music than his father and the Beatles, and while I wouldn't dispute that claim, I do feel like he was listening to a bit of Sargent Pepper while in the production booth on this disc.

At first, I was going to give Sean Lennon the nod as being a better lyricist, but on closer inspection, he really isn't. He is simply lazy and falls back on simple lines and cliches. The first handful of songs on the disc are solid and have some touching lines, but then it seems like he just wanted to finish out a full album if only so he wasn't releasing an EP. The songs get lax and start to blend together. To an extent it sounds like Sean was trying to create an album, have some unification in his songs, but unfortunately he ended up achieving that through homogeneity. Again the first few songs feel separate, but put in context of the album as a whole, they get washed out as everything begins to call back on itself and sound the same after the title track "Friendly Fire".

Mika on the other hand, has put together a true album. It is not just a collection of songs as so many discs are these days, and it is not a mash of similar sounding tracks. It is a true album that moves organically from one song to the next. You can feel the waves and the journey of the album as you listen. Some spots have sound-clip interludes to aid in the bigger transitions between songs, but it all comes together as a whole.

Mika may not be the best songwriter, but he has been smart enough to partner himself with a producer, Greg Wells, who can not only cover up any lyrical flaws, but can create a diverse range of songs that still feel like a whole. Even as Mika changes personalities from song to song it seems natural to ride the progression from Freddie Mercury in "Grace Kelly" and "Big Girl" (speaking of which I'm not sure why Mika didn't just do a cover of "Fat Bottom Girls"), to Scissor Sisters/Elton John nods with "Relax" and "Stuck in the Middle", to sounding strangely like James Blunt in "My Interpretation" and "Any Other World", and even a seeming nod to Jeff Buckley in the final track "Over My Shoulder". Yet, with all of these different faces, Mika finds a voice of his own.

Every once in a while with Mika, I can't tell if he is being serious, or as the Brits say, he is taking a piss. For example, in the track "Any Other World" part of the hook is, "I tried to live alone/But lonely is so lonely, alone" and upon hearing it, I wanted to call up Mika and simply ask, "Are you fucking serious?" At the very least, Sean Lennon always sounds sincere. Perhaps he loses steam, but the heart is still there. So, I can't be sure that Mika isn't simply trying to take the piss out of his fellow Brit James Blunt with lines like that, but even if he is, they detract from the album after the first listen or two.

Lyrically, Mika wins because he gets a few extra points for originality. His songs are still just pop songs at heart, but they are catchy and memorable. Sean Lennon's songs are a bit bland and forgettable. Musically, Mika wins hands down. Sean Lennon rarely strays from his basic guitar setup, but Mika has a wide array of sounds coming in each track, and if nothing else, the child rapping on "Lollipop" and the chorus on "Happy Ending" win this category for him. Then, the final matchup is in listening to the album as a whole, which of course goes to Mika. Overall, that gives Mika a clean sweep for this album battle. Mika wins the battle simply because his disc has more life in it. Sean Lennon's disc falls asleep half way through.