Makeup For The Silence

The digital home of music writer Jesse Richman

Makeup For The Silence

Tag: death cab for cutie

#10 Album of 2013 – All There – All There

#10 – ALL THERE – ALL THERE [spotify]

(feat. track – “The Road” [spotify])

Apparently, I had a thing for concept albums in 2013. All There’s self-titled debut (and, quite possibly, only) [I’ve now been told there will be more!] release follows the dramatic arc of Jon and Emily, strained lovers voiced by co-vocalists Maxton Stenstrom and Pilot Chmielarczyk, as their relationship crashes and burns, both literally and figuratively, over the course of a full year divided by seasons. Gorgeously crafted and produced, as well as smartly plotted, it’s one of the must fully-realized concept pieces I’ve heard in a long, long time (and, thus, one of the most compelling).

All There isnt without its flaws – for one, the lyrics get awful dodgy on the album’s latter half*. But the steadily increasing emotional heft of the tracks that surround those lyrics more than pick up the burden. For an album that tells a linear story, a surprising amount of the heavy lifting on All There is done by the ambient/experimental soundscapes that undergird the lyrics – the story could likely be told without words at all, though that would deprive us of Stenstrom’s baritone anguish (which would be a real loss). So much is carried in the details – spliced bits of ambient sound, wooshes and blips that add both depth and context, digital drumbeats that quicken and slow like pulses. Snippets of voice mails from the characters’ acquaintances fill out an otherwise insular world, painting Jon and Emily as people with external lives, almost literally fleshing them out, making them feel like real people in the middle of real lived human lives. The result is rich and inviting; I find myself pulled into their world as I listen, the awkward backseat passenger passively suffering their breakdown.

The result is a harrowing but compelling listen – I’ve seen The Antlers’ Hospice mentioned as a comparison, and while that’s not really on point sonically**, it speaks well to both the album’s nauseous themes and its quality. All There is a dark, almost desolate, listen, but its one that kept compelling me to come back in for more.

*Though you could probably argue that they’re true to the characters who, like most of us, aren’t nearly as inscrutable and unknowable and different as they think they are – which, in many ways, is what makes them relatable. There’s something that feels true, if unsettling, in seeing my own emotional banality reflected back at me.

**What is? I hear a lot of Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile and The Downward Spiral – imagine an album-length version of “Hurt” – along with a solid dose of Death Cab For Cutie at their mopey-est, plus a dash of darkwave.

Now Playing: X – “The World’s A Mess It’s In My Kiss”

now playing: X – Los Angeles [spotify] – The World’s A Mess It’s In My Kiss [spotify]

I don’t really feel like going to tonite’s show (Glassjaw/Sparta/Hot Water Music). My brain feels kinda fried, and the show’s gonna be a lot of loudness and 13 year olds throwing spin-kicks.

I spent more money I don’t have on CDs I already had on MP3 this weekend. Is this me being supportive of artists I enjoy or simply poor fiscal planning? Regardless, Death Cab For Cutie’s “The Photo Album” and X’s “Los Angeles” are as wonderful when their bits are splattered on disc as they are spread across a hard drive. (At least the X disc is remastered with bonus tracks; that’s a good excuse, right? Right?)

2, 2, 2 hours to go… I feel like I’ve been fucking sedated all day. RIP Joey Ramone, you made it through 50 years without having to get a real job, well done!

originally posted 2/18/03

Noise Rachet / My Chemical Romance Live Review

now playing: American Football – American Football [spotify] – Stay Home [spotify]

Death Cab for Cutie’s “The Photo Album” is fantastic make-out music.

[…]

Last nite’s concert was fucking weird. The crowd was absolutely stone dead for My Chemical Romance, Minus the Bear and Piebald. Like, nobody was even bopping their heads. Then Noise Ratchet came on and everything just went fucking insane – the entire audience was singing along to every word, to the point that during half their songs the singer would just stop singing at random times and let the crowd carry it. I’d never heard them, and while they were pretty standard heavy emo stuff (think Juliana Theory) they were VERY tight, and their drummer was a fucking monster on the kit.

Piebald, on the other hand, were kind of a disappointment. I think part of it is that their new material, while more “mature” or some shit, just isn’t as GOOD as their old stuff, and it really showed live. Too low-energy, and with no crowd to feed off of, it just didn’t work so well.

Minus the Bear were fan-fucking-tastic. Indie rock with a lead guitarist who taps on most of their tracks. VERY cool, I bought a t-shirt and am gonna go DL some of their studio stuff right now. I was highly impressed, they’re definitely someone I’d want to check out again.

My Chemical Romance – Chris called them “very East Coast” and I’m inclined to agree. A little too much of the NYC, I’m-trying-to-be-hard thing. Decent music, though the mix was terrible. but I wasn’t particularly impressed. Perhaps I just need to see em on their own turf.

Hot Hot Heat and Cursive are both playing shows in San Diego Saturday nite[.]

[…]

originally posted 1/31/03

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2005

(feat. track – Cartel – “Save Us (Alternate Take)”)

So for the next 4 days I’m going to post my Top 10 lists from the past 4 years, along with one cut from my choice for top album of each year.  Remember, these were the lists as I made them at the time.  In retrospect, there are a lot of great albums from some of these years that I didn’t discover until later, and some of my choices haven’t held up, but that’s the danger anytime you try and make a list I suppose.  These things naturally change over time. So consider these lists a snapshot of my view on each year in music, right at the conclusion of that year.

So with that said, my Top 10 Albums Of 2005 (originally published Jan 2006)

Top 10 Albums of 2005:

10. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm
9. Mae – The Everglow
8. Gratitude – Gratitude
7. Bright Eyes- I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning
6. Bob Mould – Body Of Song
5. The Rocket Summer – Hello Good Friend
4. Fall Out Boy – From Under the Cork Tree
3. Adam Richman – Patience And Science
2. Gatsby’s American Dream – Volcano

and the number one album of 2005 is…
CARTEL – CHROMA

Honorable Mentions:
Alkaline Trio – Crimson
Coheed And Cambria – Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness
Death Cab For Cutie – Plans
The Higher – Histrionics
Marathon – Marathon
Maria Taylor – 11:11
The Mountain Goats – The Sunset Tree
Pitty Sing – Pitty Sing

Song of the Year:
(tie)
Maria Taylor – One For The Shareholder
Death Cab For Cutie – I Will Follow You Into The Dark

(I should also note, I’m cheating just a tad here.  The version of Save Us I posted was originally recorded for Chroma, but it was later rerecorded in a different key.  My understanding is that vocalist Will Pugh couldn’t sing it in the original key night after night without shredding his voice – listening, it should be pretty clear why, and also clear why this version not only destroys the album cut but might also be my favorite thing Cartel has ever done).

Death Cab For Cutie – “Styrofoam Plates”

Death Cab For Cutie – Styrofoam Plates

Death Cab For Cutie’s “The Photo Album” was a constant companion of my car stereo for a good 6 months when I moved to San Diego in late 2002.  It was that period when I had first arrived, didn’t know anyone, had not found a job or started dating my ex-wife yet, those would happen a few months later.  That whole period is kind of colored in The Photo Album, American Football’s s/t, and Owen’s “No Good For No One Now”.  Memories of foggy late night drives through the hills and canyons around the city.    Drives through unfamiliar roads, often while winding down from a long night at the poker table, or else just because I’d been inside all day and had nothing much better to do.  Lonely times.  Nervous times.  Lovely times.

It’s a great album all the way through, really one of those albums that’s best when listened to in full.  It’s not a concept album or anything like that, but it just has a perfect ebb and flow to it.  That said, if there’s one track I can listen to out of context, listen to anytime really, this is the one.  Probably my favorite Death Cab song, period.  It’s so visceral and evocative, pointed and poignant, it manages to paint the picture without being willfully obscure.  And with Thanksgiving just past, it feels appropriate.

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