Posts Tagged ‘album reviews’

Ben Folds Five: The Sound of the Life of the Mind (2012)

March 18, 2013

A quick scan of the KMA archives suggests that I haven’t posted an actual album review in two and a half years. It’s only fitting, then, that when I finally do write one up, it’s for an album that came out months ago. Of course, it’s also for a record that took months longer to get shipped to me than it should have, so I guess we’re all at fault here. Share the blame. Or at least my part of it.

To briefly recap the necessary history, Ben Folds Five (Ben Folds, Darren Jessee, and Robert Sledge) was together for roughly seven years before separating in 2000. They reunited for a one-off show in North Carolina in 2008 (one week before I was in the area for a wedding – boo!) but had otherwise gone their separate ways until late 2011 or so, when I first started hearing rumblings of a new album and tour.

Sure enough, in the spring of 2012, Ben Folds Five launched a campaign via MusicPledge (basically, it’s like Kickstarter, except… well, it’s exactly like Kickstarter) where fans could fund the recording of the new album. Rewards for backers ranged from MP3s to a custom version of the song Do It Anyway rewritten to be about you. At $2,500, that one was sadly out of my price range (this did not stop me from considering it, ever so briefly, but I did not Do It Anyway). Instead, I opted for a signed vinyl record (I’m not really into autographs if I didn’t get them personally, but I bought in early and initially, there was no unsigned vinyl option) and a CD. These came with a digital download as well.

Due to some sort of snafu, my copies of the record and CD were months late. I hadn’t even thought of it since I got my digital download as soon as it was available. The first time I realized that I was still owed my rewards was when I got a very apologetic email from Ben Folds Five’s manager, offering me a CD or a t-shirt as a make-good. I opted for the extra CD (which showed up before the CD and signed record I’d initially ordered), which I gave to a fellow BF5 fan.

At any rate, my CD and record finally showed up!


Isn’t that lovely? And as an added bonus, all people who contributed to the campaign were credited in the liner notes as Vice-President of Promotion. This was a running theme throughout the promotion of the record, with fans encouraged to use the hashtag #ImADamVP when tweeting about the record. I’m guessing that I bought in fairly early, given my early placement in the liner notes (two rows under Promotion):


So after all that, is the record any good? The first thing I note is that the album, as a whole, sounds more mature than earlier efforts. The first song, Erase Me, is a breakup song in the vein of 1997’s Song For The Dumped. It almost works as a sequel of sorts; while Song For The Dumped takes place immediately after “you dumped me on your front porch,” Erase Me is a few weeks removed from the split, after the singer’s ex “turned around in two weeks’ time, replaced me.” Erase Me doesn’t have the out-of-control anger of Dumped, but there might be even more bitterness.

Similarly, I have no reason to think that the Sara(h?) in the title track is the same Sara-spelled-without-an-H that Ben Folds introduced on 2001’s Rockin’ The Suburbs, but I like to think that she broke up with Zak, grew up some, got her shit together, and is looking forward to moving on with life. This song was written by Nick Hornby (who also collaborated with Folds on the album Lonely Avenue) and I highly doubt he set out to write a sequel to Zak & Sara but I am not about to let “facts” stop me.

I think the best song on the album is On Being Frank. I generally prefer the faster, catchier songs, but Ben Folds does have a knack for writing some nicely depressing songs when he sets his mind to it. This one is written from the perspective of Frank Sinatra’s long-time assistant, who finds himself directionless after Sinatra’s death:

I shook the hands 
Of mafia dons and presidents
And though they always smiled politely
With a measure of decorum
Still their eyes would scan beyond me
For a glimpse of something more
But now he’s gone
And now they’re gone

Frank doesn’t make good driving music and I can’t see it being a hit single – but then, I didn’t think I’d hear a ballad about a teenaged couple’s abortion on the radio either, so what do I know? Compared to Brick, “I don’t know where I might be going / I rode the wind; the wind stopped blowing” is pretty tame.

Now that we’ve had some nice grown-up songs, the chorus of the song after On Being Frank is “If you can’t draw a crowd, draw dicks on the wall.” This is by far the silliest song on the record, and after dozens of listens, I’m still not entirely sure what it’s supposed to be about. It’s fun to sing along to, so I don’t really care. And like most songs on this album, there’s a hint of something darker lurking underneath: “Is it all in my mind? I could have sworn I saw it / I thought I was fine, ’til ‘fine’ was what I called it.”

The first single off the album is Do It Anyway, a song that Folds basically wrote on the spot in the middle of a live show. He played the original recording during an interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q and it was amazing just how much of the song sprang to life fully formed (you can hear it about 14:45 into that video clip). Folds recorded it on his phone, I believe, and I’d pay $1.29 for the iTunes download, just because it makes for such a neat b-side. Most of the song is about facing and ignoring your fears, not letting “good” judgment keep you from great experiences (I’ve already talked about what a questionable decision it may have been to write and release that song, given that Folds may never again be allowed to wisely decline any offer). And much like Draw A Crowd, this is a fun number that takes a melancholy turn: “It’s gonna be so very hard to say and watch the trust and joy all drain from her innocent face, but you must do it anyway / It sucks, but do it anyway.”

Michael Praytor, Five Years Later is a about those people that you never quite shake from your life, even though you never do anything to keep them around. The titular Praytor comes back every five years, “in film, divorced, inspired, engaged, in chemo, born again, and fired.” He also showcases a Ben Folds trademark – the dude loves to use proper names in his songs, and if they ever-so-coincidentally rhyme with what he wants to write about, so much the better. I find this affectation grating in some of Folds’ weaker songs, but I am perfectly fine with it here.

There are also a handful of slower songs on this album that didn’t really stand out as much to me. None of them are bad; just not as noteworthy. The album closes with three straight, and when driving around, I find I skip past them to get to some of the faster songs. This isn’t really fair – I especially enjoy Hold That Thought when I actually listen to it – but so it goes.

I was concerned about the Five three would come up with for their first album in over a decade. They’ve made some of my favourite records and I didn’t want anything that would tarnish their legacy. I’ve often said that Ben Folds is a great songwriter who would benefit from occasionally having an editor. He’s written some of my most-loved songs, along with a handful that I just can’t stand. And while there’s nothing here that will displace my very favourite BF5 song (Philosophy, if you were wondering) (or indeed if you weren’t), The Sound of the Life of the Mind doesn’t have anything that I really don’t care for; we get one classic, and a number of solid additions to the band’s repertoire. Folds has said that the recording sessions left them with enough material for two more albums, and I’m looking forward to them.

Crash Test Dummies: Oooh La-La!

July 6, 2010

I can’t go so far as to call Oooh La-La a return to form for the Crash Test Dummies. I loved their 1993 album God Shuffled His Feet about as much as I’ve loved any album ever. It turned me into a fan of the band immediately; to give you the short version, I became friends with lots of other CTD fans online, I took over a CTD fan site that one of my friends had started, and eventually turned it (with lots of help) into the Crash Test Dummies’ official website. So it’s a bit of an unfair comparison, but regardless, Oooh La-La is not going to set me back on the webmastering path.

The primary appeal of GSHF (we had lots of acronyms back in the website days) was the witty, quirky, intelligent lyrics that were unlike anything else I’d ever heard. I have no idea what I’d think of that album if I heard it for the first time today, but when I was 17, it was fantastic.

Given my personal involvement with the band, I’m a bit leery about publicly admitting that the more recent CTD releases (which were really Brad Roberts’ solo albums) just didn’t do it for me. The witty lyrics were gone, replaced with short little rhyming couplets about nothing at all.

I’ve often thought that Roberts’ songwriting was the victim of its own success. The simplest song on GSHF, lyrically, was Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm, their biggest hit (or, if you’re American, their only hit). Their follow-up album, A Worm’s Life, was full of structurally and lyrically similar songs. Give Yourself A Hand was their next album, and it was the first to feature the lazy, cut-and-paste songs about nothing that would dominate their following records. The lead-off track, Keep A Lid On Things, was their last major Canadian hit.

I remember reading somewhere that Brad found songwriting to be very challenging, so it’s hard to blame the guy for taking shortcuts when there’s almost an inverse relationship between effort and reward.

Point being, I went into Oooh La-La with low expectations. But that’s okay, because they were delightfully exceeded. And I can’t take all the credit; I went into the last few albums with low expectations too, but that didn’t help.

Oooh La-La sounds like Brad actually had a good time making it. Working with different songwriters and composing the whole album on toy instruments has resulted in songs that don’t feel as constrained as those on the past few records. There’s no forced genre or theme, and the album as a whole benefits for it. It’s lyrically stronger than its recent predecessors, and the musical variety helps to keep things interesting.

After spewing out way too many words to set the scene, I really don’t want to torture you further by going song-by-song through the whole record. It shouldn’t take as long to read an album review as it would take to listen to the album. So quickly, the highlights include Songbird (though I don’t agree with Brad’s statement that it’s the best song he’s ever written), And It’s Beautiful (complete with chanting – presumably related to Brad’s Satang Circus side project), and Ellen Reid’s closing track Put A Face. My least-favourite tracks are Not Today Baby (if there’s one word that should be banned from any future CTD songs due to overuse, it’s “baby”) and What I’m Famous For (“you can go to hell while I comb my hair” – I get distracted by lines that are obviously written just because they rhyme).

In a ranking of all of their records, Oooh La-La lands in the top half. If you’ve never been a Crash Test Dummies fan, this won’t do anything to change your mind. And if you’ve never heard them at all, just start with God Shuffled His Feet and go from there. But if you’re familiar with their music and liked it, you would do well to pick this up.

Danko Jones: Below the Belt

June 17, 2010

About two years ago, I picked up Danko Jones’ Never Too Loud and, well, I didn’t care for it. I don’t think I’ve listened to it since then. Since then, I ordered his b-sides collection (named, creatively, B-Sides) and enjoyed it, but I still wasn’t holding out a lot of hope. And yet, when I was surprised to find Below The Belt at the record store – seriously, I need to start paying more attention to release dates – I decided I’d give it a chance. I never learn.

Sometimes, it’s good to not learn from past mistakes.

Danko Jones is one of those acts that does one thing really well – in his case, it’s loud driving rock songs about sex, rock, personal awesomeness, and the non-awesomeness of others – and Below The Belt is a return to form. Really, I could go through the whole album and assign each song to one of those categories, and I am perfectly fine with that. Before the first song is over, Jones is threatening to “fuck you up.” On lead-off single Full Of Regret, Danko doesn’t bother mourning lost love, so much as a lost evening. Although… I can’t quite figure out the symbolism behind the song Magic Snake – whatever could that mean?

The highlight might be the album’s closer, I Wanna Break Up With You. If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d draw a pie chart showing that this song was 10% about sex, 25% about personal awesomeness, and 65% about the non-awesomeness of others. What starts as a spirited list of grievances leads into the chorus, a lilting choir of Dankos declaring their intentions of moving on. The happy Danko choir also sings “I hate you” at one point, which I shouldn’t find as funny as I do. There’s no self-pity here and this is is not Song For The Dumped – this is Song For The Dumper Who Has Been Waiting A Bit Too Long For This Moment And Is Going To Make It Count. Eventually, the song breaks down (breaks up?) into an army of Dankos leading a chant of “break up, break up, everybody break up.” This should be a single.

I love you, Danko Jones. Let’s never fight again.

(P.S. I totally gave in and I’m listening to Never Too Loud now, and, yeah, it’s still nothing special. Sorry, dude. We cool?)

Tory Cassis: The Saturday Night Function

September 19, 2008

You know those friends that you really like, but you never seem to stay in touch with? For me, Tory Cassis is one of those people. Except, of course, I don’t, y’know, KNOW the guy or anything.

I was introduced to Tory Cassis when he opened for Moxy Früvous at Louis’ in Saskatoon in 1999. A singer-songwriter with jazz influences, I quite enjoyed his set and bought Anywhere But Here, his debut album. The next day, I drove to Regina to check out Früvous again (they would change up their sets a great deal from night to night), and I listened to Cassis’ album on the drive up. It’s quite good and I told him so, as I had the chance to chat with him after his set in Regina. He seemed very appreciative and just a genuinely nice guy. I don’t demand that artists (athletes, actors, coworkers, whoever) have to be nice people for me to appreciate what they do, but it does help. I’m kind of a jerk like that.

After those two shows in two days, he kind of fell off my radar. I’d drop the CD in every so often, and I’d still enjoy it, but I never heard about anything new coming from him. Web searches indicated he was playing gigs around Toronto, in the scene that seemed to include Big Rude Jake and (ex-Früvous) David Matheson, among many others. And so it went – think of the album, listen to the album, like the album, look him up online, nothing, repeat.

I should mention at this point that when writing for KMA, I usually listen to music by the artist I’m writing about. I have, however, paused the Tory Cassis album to listen to an MP3 Rob set me of some kind of Ethel Merman dance remix. I have no idea why he sent this or why I am listening to it. Just thought I’d share.


I had wanted the new Novillero CD and unable to find one locally, I hit MapleMusic. Since I was ordering something ANYWAY, this was a great excuse to poke around and see if there was anything else that interested me. And a new Tory Cassis album? Definitely interesting.

I should qualify that by saying I have no idea how new it actually is. Nowhere on the album art or liner notes – which I would kindly describe as “minimalist” – does it actually say the year. CDDB (via iTunes) says 2005, so that’s what I’m going with. Either way, it’s still new to me.

The new album is called The Saturday Night Function, and I can imagine this is what a Saturday night with Tory and a small band would sound like. It sounds less produced than his first album, and I would describe it as more of a jazz album as opposed to being jazz-influenced. I don’t know if that was an artistic choice or if budgetary reasons made the decision for him; either way, the two albums complement each other nicely. The voice and the style carry over from one to the next, and that’s reason enough for me to recommend it.

Truthfully, I couldn’t tell you why I like Tory Cassis as much as I do – his style of music isn’t one that I’m overly familiar with or one that I’ve sought out in the past. But for whatever reason, I keep coming back to his music and I hope it won’t take another nine years between albums.

BUY IT: MapleMusic

Danny Michel: Feather, Fur & Fin

April 10, 2008

I found my first Danny Michel album during my first trip to the Vinyl Diner. Aaron – who, it should be noted, had lived in Saskatoon for something like 24 years less than I had at that point – had discovered the place and took me there on one Monday afternoon. He introduced me to Stu, the proprietor, who was a very nice guy who (mostly) suppressed the eye-rolls brought on by the stack of CDs I was trading in.

With a pile of store credit, I plowed through the used CD racks and took a stack of discs home. Truth be told, most of what I picked up that day eventually found its way back to Stu’s, but Danny Michel’s album Fibsville has a permanent home in my CD collection. Sometimes, you hear an album and it just instantly appeals to you; this was one of those for me. Since then, I’ve picked up the rest of his records, the live DVD, and I’ve seen him in concert three times – but I’ve always held a soft spot for Fibsville.

Which is why I’m surprised to say that Feather, Fur & Fin easily tops it.

The press release touts Feather, Fur & Fin as Michel’s first truly independent release since 2001. From the very first listen, it’s clear that this (new? familiar?) arrangement suits Michel well. I don’t know if its the lack of record company interference or just the freedom that comes from making all your own decisions, but the ten songs here all count among the strongest that he’s ever written. The album trends towards longer, slower tunes, but there’s still the one-two punch of I’m ‘a Love You Anyway and Sweet Things, two of the more energetic songs in Michel’s catalogue. And topics like religion and the environment (and, uh, Mexican wrestling) creep into Danny’s lyrics for the first time, giving the album a bit more of a personal feel than long-time listeners would be used to.

Of course, anyone who knows me would suspect that I’d give a positive review to any album featuring a track about lucha libre (The 14 Masks of Danger). This is possibly true. I especially appreciated the reference to El Santo, as I wasn’t expecting the song to mention any actual specific luchadors. And I checked with Cubs, and the other wrestler mentioned – The Black Tornado – was a real guy too. I thought that the name might have been a reference to Danny’s song Black Tornadoes from his previous release, but Cubs says that Santo won the mask (“or his hair or something”) of Tornado Negro way back when. Though ultimately, I suspect that Danny Michel just knows a few names and is not exactly a die-hard lucha fan; I’ve listened to Fibsville a fair bit, and the song Souvenir indicates that Danny and pro wrestling don’t see eye-to-eye (A shiny gladiator cage / for pay-per-view and caveman rage / it’s the ultimate bullshit parade). But hey, I could be wrong. Maybe he just doesn’t like MMA.

As mentioned, Feather, Fur & Fin is an independent release, and the problem with doing everything yourself is that you have to do everything yourself. This includes distribution, which means that you might have a hard time finding it. As of this writing, the album is only available online, at shows, and in select independent music stores. Sure, it’s easy enough to order CDs online or buy digital downloads, but will people take a chance on it? It would be a shame if this album didn’t find an audience.

That was a pretty gushing review, complete with blatant plugs. I’ll balance it out by saying I could have done without the backing vocals in If God’s On Your Side. I’m all about being fair and responsible.

Danko Jones: Never Too Loud

March 19, 2008

One of my great joys is finding new musical treasures. Today, I stopped in at the local HMV on my way back from lunch. I was already running late, and I was certain they wouldn’t have anything I wanted, but HMV keeps doing this bastardly thing of finding one new release that I really want, and dropping the price to $9.99 so I can’t say no. It’s just so… reasonable! And lo and behold, I found a new Danko Jones album! I love Danko Jones! What a surprise treat for me! I had heard rumblings that a new album was being worked on, but I had no idea when it was coming out. A happy day! My ignorance paid off!

So I took the album back to work with me, tossed it into the ol’ corporate laptop, plugged in my earphones, and prepared for the full-on aural assault that I have come to expect and love from Danko Jones. And I’m still waiting.

I don’t review a lot of albums on here because I am no good at actually describing music. I can post concert reviews because I focus on all the extracurricular activities that surround the show itself, but I don’t really know from music. I don’t know when someone is or is not in tune. I don’t really understand what “pitch” is. I know only a limited number of adjectives and I beat them all into the ground. I can’t play an instrument at all and I don’t know when someone is or is not playing theirs well. As such, I will defer at this time to Chart’s review of Never Too Loud, where it claims that:

Never Too Loud sounds like an album, rather than a close approximation of the real thing. The songs feel more finished here, unlike some found on previous discs where emotion, rather than articulation, was key.

Interesting. So the album is more polished than his previous albums (and the live shows), but that polish has come at the expense of emotion. This is much more explanatory and articulate than my email to Mika, which summed up the entire album like so:

When did Danko Jones get so pussified?

I bought a new car, and just yesterday, I was thinking that a Danko CD would be great driving music. I still think that – just not THIS Danko CD. Indeed, this album has done a great job of making me want to listen to his other albums.

There were actually two sentences in that email to Mika. The other was:

This album is barely about fucking or touring at all!

I see now that this is not entirely accurate. I can’t really find fault in the lyrics on this new record, since Danko’s songs have always been… single-minded? I guess that’s a good way to put it. A bunch of songs about girls and another bunch about the power of rock. And these themes are still explored on this album. Girls = hot, rocking = awesome. Fair enough – a good scientist always repeats his experiments to ensure consistent conclusions. It’s just that the passion isn’t there. The fury isn’t there. Ravenous is almost sweet. And the song Never Too Loud just kind of made me feel sad for the old man who’s losing his hearing.

Given all the songs on this album, though, Never Too Loud was the best choice for the album title. Not once did I have to turn it down. Danko had already done that.

Modest Mouse: We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank

July 31, 2007

I bought this album this morning.  Just finished listening to it now.  My first reaction is that the whole thing may well have been just one really long song.  Sure, I was working while this was playing, but still.  Nothing stood out.  All very similar.

Having said that, it was all one very good song.  If it was all similar, it wasn’t a BAD similar.  Even when I wasn’t really paying attention, I caught myself tapping my toes and bopping up and down.  Fun times.

I am a delight to work with, as you can tell.

So what then?  Well, this nicely illustrates why I came up with this whole plan of revisiting old albums that I used to love.  Even if I haven’t heard them in years, I am very familiar with those albums.  I dare say I know them.  And that takes time.

For right now, I say that the new Modest Mouse is “perfectly fine.”  Should you buy it?  Well, I found it new for $9, and I figure it was worth that, so if you find the same deal, then yeah, go for it.

But I can’t tell you how I’ll feel about this album in six months’ time.  “Perfectly fine” is my initial reaction to a lot of albums.  Sometimes I get distracted by something else and I never wind up going back to give a CD a second chance.  Other times I play the album again – mostly out of guilt, since I spent good cash moneys on it – and after a few spins, something just clicks and it becomes a favourite.  That’s how New Pornographers albums generally work for me.  I listen, they’re good, but nothing stands out.  A few more listens and everything suddenly sounds distinct and delightful.  Maybe that will happen here?  I can’t tell you.  But I enjoy tapping my toes and bopping up and down, so I am hopeful.  I’ll make a point of giving it a second chance.

The Refreshments: Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy

July 23, 2007

It was a noble idea.  Through the power of love the iPod, I would travel backwards in time about ten years and revisit some of the albums that I loved to death. By which I mean albums that I overdosed on. 

You know the ones.  You heard them, you loved them, and then… well, it’s hard to say what happened, really.  Times change, tastes change, and some songs just have a shelf life.  I’ve thought a lot about songs and albums that love (or those that I used to love), and wondered what would happen if they came along for the first time today.  There are some albums that I really enjoyed and some that meant a lot to me, and I list them, and people say “…really? That?”  And that’s where this all began.

The idea was to pick a bunch of albums that I loved in the 90s but haven’t heard in full for a very long time.  I could do a series of reviews or just write them all up in essay format.  I hadn’t decided and as I write this, I still haven’t.  I imagine I’ll do individual album posts since there are at least a few that I could expound upon at great length – lucky you.

The first one I listened to was Fizzy Fuzzy Big & Buzzy by The Refreshments.  Around these parts, they were never that popular, and their fifteen minutes of fame seemed to last only literally that long.  If you’ve heard anything by them – apart from the theme song to King of the Hill – it was their single Banditos:

Now give your ID card to the border guard
Yeah, your alias says you’re Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the United Federation of Planets
‘Cause they don’t speak English anyway

This, in essence, was the catalyst for this project.  A friend of mine brought up the song when recalling how a sci-fi-loving mutual friend was obsessed with it.  I tried to explain that the whole album was actually really good, but stopped myself – did I really want to endorse this album from over ten years ago?  Was it still awesome?  Was it ever?

So here we are.

The first thing I noticed was that pretending that I’d never heard this album before was impossible.  The start of each song brought about a nice little feeling of recognition.  “Hey, this one!  I know this one!”  Of course I do, that’s the point, right?  But still.  Makes it hard to determine if I’d still like it if I was hearing it now for the first time.

The album is as it was.  90s rock music infused with some southwestern and Mexican influences.  Lots of songs about Mexico – enough that after a while, you might want something else.  There’s a definite sense of humour at work here, which is a refreshing change from a lot of the music coming out today, but humour in music can also limit an album’s longevity.  You can only hear the same joke so many times.

In the end, replaying this album was kind of like seeing an old friend again for the first time in a long time, only to have them overstay their welcome just a little bit.  You’re excited when they arrive, and though you secretly wind up a little bit glad when they leave, you’ll forget that feeling pretty quickly and be glad to see them when they show up again – as long as it isn’t TOO often.

Charlotte Gainsbourg: 5:55

December 19, 2006

I discovered this CD in a roundabout sort of way, and I feel that I must disclose this so you know where I’m coming from. The other week, I saw a French movie called The Science of Sleep. I knew nothing about it except that it was:

a)- supposed to be weird, and;
b)- written and directed by Michel Gondry, who also directed a bunch of cool music videos, as well as one of my favourite movies, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

It was weird, and it was pretty good. Not Eternal Sunshine-good, but that movie was written by someone else (Charlie Kaufman) who has written several great movies.

Science‘s major flaw, as far as I was concerned, was that it was a boy-with-quirks meets girl-with-compatible-quirks movie. In and of itself, I have no problem with this. I like Eternal Sunshine. I like Amélie. I like Jim and Pam. But the problem is that in Science, the boy-with-quirks, while he has his charming moments, is a bit of a sociopath. You don’t want the boy and the girl to get together in the end, or at least I didn’t. You might. But I just felt bad for the girl whenever she had to deal with the boy.

A few days after watching this movie, I was pondering this, and having decided that I liked the girl-with-quirks much more than the boy-with-quirks, I decided to see if she was naked on the Internet. She is an actress, she is French, it was a safe bet. First, I went to IMDB to find out her name (Charlotte Gainsbourg, if the bold lettering up there didn’t tip you off); then I went to Wikipedia to tell me facts about her that may or may not be true. It mentioned that she had an album out, and had provided spoken-word vocals for a Madonna track.

I assumed the album would be garbage and didn’t really give it another thought, until I noticed it on someone’s Best Albums of 2006 list. And, well, what is the Internet if not a transport system for music samples (and naked pictures of French actresses)?

So much for preconceived notions. (Of course, if I’d known she was the daughter of Serge Gainsbourg, I might have entirely different preconceived notions.) This album is great. Gainsbourg’s voice is haunting in a way that perfectly matches the lyrics. It’s trippy, it’s dreamy, it’s been stuck on repeat for a few days now. I have favourite tracks – AF607105 and Beauty Mark stand out right now – but like with any good album, they change on repeat listens until you realize that each song has taken its turn as your favourite. Get this.

Norm Macdonald: Ridiculous

November 16, 2006

I find that comedy albums have a pretty short shelf life. No matter how funny they are, you can only listen to them so often, you know? This may sound odd coming from a devotee of Weird Al, but I’ll be honest, this applies to him too. Whenever a new Weird Al CD comes out, it gets a lot of play for about two weeks, then takes its spot on my shelf. In a few years, it will get another spin, and I’ll smile, and then it’s back to the shelf.

But this is not a Weird Al review. This is a Norm MacDonald review, and Norm, I think he’s a funny guy. Or rather, I think his delivery is funny. Even if the material isn’t great, he presents it in a way that makes me laugh. Unfortunately, this is a CD of comedy skits, not stand-up, which often takes the delivery out of the equation. There’s one hidden track; a segment of stand-up making fun of Ed McMahon and Star Search. Not exactly timely, but it doesn’t need to be – it’s still funny. Arguably the funniest thing on the album.

The rest of the CD is hit-or-miss, with more misses than hits. Some of the skits just aren’t that great and they seem to drag on forever. Like I said, when doing stand-up, MacDonald’s delivery can save any material that needs it. Here, though, that trick doesn’t work. “So unfunny it’s funny again” might work with a live audience to play off of, but on a studio-recorded CD, it doesn’t fly. Maybe it would have worked better for me if I’d heard this with friends, but I didn’t, so there you go.

I don’t mean to be overly negative. The funny skits are well worth listening to. However, I can’t recommend that you buy this, since you’re probably never going to listen to it more than once.