Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Review: 12 Women (+ Bonuses!)

So, an insufferable asshole I know wanted me to "review" his newest CD, based mainly on the fact that I left the longest comment on his message board when he released his first album, Small Apocalypse.

I am admittedly not a "music person." My hobbies are games, books, chess, and computers. Don't get me wrong, I like music, and I listen to it a lot. I've just never had the acumen for picking out new bands and songs that several of my friends have (i.e., Chris, Melissa, and Paco). I love hearing new music (Melissa's website is great for that), but I rarely seek it out. Similarly, I tend to treat music as background noise. I can listen to a song fifty times and never pay attention to what it's about. There are songs I've heard hundreds of times over 30 years, that one day I'll actually pay attention to and be surprised by their content. So reviewing a whole album represents a unique challenge for me: I have to sit and concentrate on it. I have to close my book, turn off my game, and pay attention. I listened to 12 Women about a dozen times on the subway going to and from work over the past week and a half, and god damn me, it was only this morning, a scant two hours ago, that I finally got what some of the songs were about. I'm not implying that Oliver's work is byzantine or opaque, but that my powers of analysis are about as sharp as an Apple Mighty Mouse.

Still, let it never be said that I do anything half-assed.

12 Women takes as its overarching theme the idea of women in general, and the album examines the 'gentler' sex from a variety of angles. There seems to be a bit of a skew towards women in the late-teens-to-thirties demographic, but that's perhaps understandable. The songs:

35mm: The album's first track. Sounds like a single. Not that that's a bad thing, but it has that undefinable feel of being the song that attracts attention. Which seems to have been borne out somewhat by its appearances on Electrical Language and Pop Free Radio's top ten.

Watch the World Burn: Some of Oliver's songs remind me of They Might Be Giants, and this is one of them. Granted, I'm biased, since TMBG are my "favourite" band (as far as someone who is so musically deficient can be said to have a favourite band). It is also a good song.

Substance Abuse: Best song on the album. The female vocal backbeat is so cool, the content is edgy, and bonus points for Kate Storey's fantastic characterization of Substance with only four lines of "dialogue". The extro/lead-in to the next song is slick, too.

Pretty Girl on Roller Skates: This sounds like the second single to me. Not a bad song, but following Substance Abuse, it feels a little bland.

Mall of America: I didn't like this one at first, but it really grew on me, especially the creepy, haunting chorus (courtesy of my compatriot Lisa Gillam, I've learned). I've been to the Mall of America. It was a bit much, but for all its size it felt empty. Plus, where do they get off being such a huge mall and only having two video game stores, both of them Gamestops? WTF. That chorus sounds familiar, too, but I can't pin it down.

A Million Dollars in Her Eyes: Not a huge fan of this one. The backbeat was a little too hiphoppy for me, and the sample (David Bowie?) with Oliver's spoken addendum felt out of place.

Extraordinary Handcuffs: Sometimes, even when I'm really trying, my attention wanders. That happened with this song practically every time I listened to it. It just didn't hold me. When I finally caught hold of it, it reminded me of Oliver's older, Moonshine Flush material.

The Money: Something about songs focusing on money always turns me off. That song by Pink Floyd does the exact same thing. I think it's that cash register sound, actually, because a quick search for "Money" in my mp3s reveals many songs on the topic that I like. Anyway. Wo buxiwan.

A New Summer: Another slightly hiphoppy song, but I like it better than Million Dollars. I think because it's slower? My listening skills fail me.

Lady Liberty: The sole incorporeal woman on the album. The song interested me from the outset, because it's about New York, and I live in New York, and I like New York. The "too much, too many people" conceit in the song is a bit predictable, and seems to oversimplify the city a bit, but it's a song, what do I want? I do like the subtle "Another One Bites the Dust" bassline I keep hearing in there. I thought that was clever.

Clubmare: A song about the decadent, speed-sniffing club culture and the inherent emptiness implied by it. I think. The clubby, dancy main track is offset nicely by the folksy intro (which works really well in the context of a "this is how partying has evolved" sort of thing). I'd like to hear a full-song version of the intro. Also, nightclub, nightmare, clubmare, I see what you did there, clever boy. Nightnight would have been less effective as a title.

I'll Find You There: Again, this sounds a bit like Oliver's older stuff. A nice solid love letter of a song.

(The repeated bits of the Pointer Sisters' Sesame Street numbers song were great. This was my favourite skit on Sesame Street, along with the ladybugs' picnic and the alligator king. Oh, hell, I'll just embed them all at the end.)

I thought 12 Women was a very good album, and you should both download it and throw a few dollars Oliver's way (he has a paypal account).

Final Score: 10

Also very much worth mentioning is Oliver's Gods and Devils collection of instrumental tracks. They're of uniformly high quality, but Ganesha's Last Stand and the most recent Mars Attacks really stand out from the crowd. Good background musics! Go give them a listen!

I have work that needs doing, so I'll quickly toss a few internet things at you and go.

Funniest detention slip ever, courtesy of Arnold's gmail status message.

A graphic representation of teh sex in Marvel's X-Men universe. No, not that kind of graphic representation, you hentai-craving sickos.

DARPA's new pet is a hummingbird-sized hummingbird drone. I want one.

And finally, I can't believe I haven't mentioned Lisa Gillam before or linked to her website. It's an atrocious oversight that I am correcting as I write this. Lisa's super fantastic, and she was kind enough to put up with my utter lack of musicality long enough to stand helplessly by and watch me butcher some Irish-Newfoundland songs at a couple of St. Patrick's Day parties in Taichung.

And, as promised, nostalgia in its purest, most concentrated form:

Get in touch! I'll be home in August!

Now fuck off.

Love Adam
We all live in the Mall of America, and we are fast asleep.


Anonymous Lisa Gillam said...

Adam...you rock! (1) Substance Abuse is also my favourite on 12 Women...although I do love the two I sing on as well. (2) Thanks for mentioning my web site...you may need to put me up when I come busk on the streets of NYC and (3) "The Alligator King" IS the BEST SONG ever written.

Oh yes, I've been reading!


11:26 am, July 07, 2009  

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