Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ears Wide Open

Back when the Morgue was still "Slap Pals in the Alps", I made a vague declaration that there might possibly be some music criticism espoused in these parts; 70 plus entries later and that's never happened.

Music criticism baffles me. Either something hits me or not, and writing about it is a nearly insurmountable task. With a movie or a TV show, it's much easier to figure out what was being attempted and whether or not it was achieved. Not so much with music - it seems a wholly subjective, mass-produced artform, which is why I find its criticism more unfair than most other types of pop culture criticism. (Note that even at this moment, the actual commentary is being avoided.)

Seems that just about every summer I find an album that becomes my soundtrack for three months. Last year it was Snow Patrol's Final Straw (I arrived a year late to the U.S. Snow Patrol party). This summer, perhaps predictably, it's the latest release from the very same Scottish rockers, Eyes Open. It would appear that Snow Patrol are my new "favorite" band...or maybe my favorite "new" band?

Such was my love for Final Straw that the followup was always going to be a tough sell. It took about 3 or 4 listens to Eyes Open before I declared that the Patrol had indeed topped their previous effort.

It's not that Eyes Open is necessarily comprised of better songs than Straw - it's just that the songs flow in and out of each other so much more seamlessly than Straw's. I suppose the easiest way to describe Eyes is to say that it achieves the effortlessness of Straw's biggest hit, "Run", over the course of one CD. Take that amazing tune - with its peaks & valleys...its heartbreak & hope - and imagine it spread across eleven songs like the freshest jam on a perfect piece of toast. The resulting album defies further description (well, by me anyway).

If you're looking for a soundtrack to carry you through the lazy, hazy remainder of your summer, this is what the Morgue recommends.

The final moments of track #7, "Make This Go on Forever", which singer Gary Lightbody repeats several times with only a few strokes of the piano behind his hollow voice, lyrically continue to haunt me:

And I don't know where to look
My words just break and melt
Please just save me from this darkness
Please just save me from this darkness

Here's the video for the first song on the album, "You're All I Have", which features another set of lyrics that really sing at me:

You're cinematic razor sharp
A welcome arrow through the heart
Under your skin feels like home
Electric shocks on aching bones

On the DVD front, Snow Patrol - Live at Somerset House is also highly recommended - an energetic live show comprised mostly of stuff from Final Straw (and a few earlier tunes) as well as some extras including a U.S. Tour film and the music videos for the Straw singles "Run", "Chocolate" and "Spitting Games".

And for something that's got nothing whatsoever to do with Snow Patrol, try the DVD of Gorillaz - Demon Days Live (at Manchester), which I've been spinning a fair amount over the past month. The DVD's got a swank little feature: You can choose to view the concert (the album Demon Days in its entirety), or you can listen to the audio played over trippy music vids that originally played at the live show up on a screen behind the band.

Here's an example of the latter for the title track "Demon Days":