CD reviews for April 15


"Garden State"


Available at All That Jazz for $14.98

Movie soundtracks are dangerous things.

I am still traumatized by the soundtrack from "Singles." During the early 1990s, that album blasted out of countless car stereos, allowing people to pretend they were into the "Seattle grunge scene."

I am still traumatized by the soundtrack from "Pulp Fiction." It was pumped through the sound systems of every restaurant the summer after that movie came out. It was such a great mix of music. But after hearing "Preacher's Son" too many times, I felt a little like Alex from "Clockwork Orange."

But despite my need for therapy, when I listen to those soundtracks, I can hear markers from along the road of the past. I hear the people I knew. I remember the late night nachos at Mad Mex in Pittsburgh where the "Pulp Fiction" sound--track always was playing at 10 decibels. I remember the way "Singles" made me feel.

And as I listen to the soundtrack from "Garden State," I see another milemarker passing by. Not only was this a great movie, but it's also a good mix of melancholy music a la 2004.

This album feels more like a mix a friend -- be it a very, very sad friend -- might make for you, rather than an easy way for Miramax to scrape more money out of a movie.

A track by The Shins and Thievery Corporation's "Lebanese Blonde" are probably the most upbeat on this disc.

I'm sure if I were living in a city right now, some cafe or coffee shop would be overplaying this disc right now. Until then, I like it.

Rated: Experience sound track dualism.

Elvis Costello

& The Imposters

"The Delivery Man"

Available at All That Jazz for $16.98

There is an edge of mad man in "The Delivery Man" as it opens with the musical temper tantrum, "Button My Lip." And for a moment you think, this isn't the Elvis Costello I know. This is loud and weird. I like it.

And then comes the second track. It's country song complete with slide guitar and Costello singing slowly into the microphone. If you're attached to the Costello of past albums, you'll be confused at first by "The Delivery Man."

This is Elvis Costello meets the South. He takes his black square glasses to Oxford, Miss., for this disc, and the result is a musical journey that skips from genre to genre, track by track. Held together with Costello's recognizable voice, the listener is dragged from gospel to honky tonk to blues -- sometimes willingly, sometimes not so much.

And because he was down there (in the South), Costello threw his net out to bring in some voices he might not find hanging around Manhattan. Emmylou Harris harmonizes on "The Scarlet Tide" and "Nothing Clings Like Ivy," and Lucinda Williams makes a cameo on "There's a Story in Your Voice."

Rated: Is that a ukulele?

The Decemberists


Available at All That Jazz for $16.98

This is one of the most visual albums I've heard in a long time. As I listened, I could picture each song as if it was being performed before me on stage, by a full cast.

The Decembrists have a knack for theatrics.

The music reminded me of something called "rebel music" that I heard in an Irish truck driver's tape player one summer.

Although the message is different, the music has the same mix of sadness and passion, anger and fight.

The feeling of listening to a noble album shifts a bit, however, when you actually concentrate on the lyrics in certain songs.

"The Sporting Life" is well-written but gratingly modern against the backdrop of Old World music. In it, the band tells the story of an athlete disappointed at the end of a bad game. He sees his father and his girlfriend on the sidelines, and the music sounds like a marching band tromping over his body as he lies in the middle of the field.

They've included the requisite protest song that started appearing in alternative music just as prolifically as American flags appeared in country music. "16 military wives" is a cynical mathematical portrait of wartime.

They sing, "15 cannibal kings/Wondering blindly what the dinner bell will bring/15 celebrity mimes/Served on a leafy bed/This 16 military wives .... And the anchor person on TV/Goes la di da di da da da."

Rated: La di da di da la di da.


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