Sunday, July 29, 2007

Concert Review -- Counting Crows, Live, Collective Soul

Last night I saw the Counting Crows concert that included openers Collective Soul and Live. It felt very much like 1995 sitting in a baseball stadium watching the three bands.

Collective Soul: The band played for 45 minutes trying out one catchy tune from their upcoming album and getting in as many hits as they could. Lead guitarist Joel Kosche laid down their riffs and lead singer Ed Roland has great stage presence. Their songs are quite simple in structure, but Collective Soul put on a very solid show.

Live: The band stumbled through a painfully boring set where they could barely get through their own songs. It was incredibly funny when the lead singer stopped to allow the crowd to sing, but nobody knew the lyrics.

Counting Crows: As usual, Counting Crows put on a very good show. The band did not play to the crowd and just play hits, but chose a mix of songs from most of their albums. It was a weird set, as the band played a ton of songs form August and Everything After and This Desert Life. They did not play anything form their latest album, Hard Candy, until the encore. And in another weird move, they played a strange extended version of Mercury to kick off the encore. Anyway, Adam Duritz said their new album should be out later this year and they kicked last night's concert with a new song that sounded great and reminded me of a lot of the tunes on This Desert Life.

It was fun seeing Collective Soul and Counting Crows, who put on very good shows and worked great in the unique atmosphere of a minor league baseball stadium.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Update

So, I just finished the book minutes ago. Earlier this afternoon, my wife finished the copy we have been peacefully sharing. I will give absolutely no spoilers this early after the book was released, but I just wanted to say that it is another great addition to the series and a wonderful finale. Happy reading...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Music Review -- Cities by Anberlin

This is the third full length album by Anberlin and the follow up to 2005’s catchy Never Take Friendship Personal. On Cities, the band attempts to retain their catchy, intelligent punk-pop sound, and continue to tread into the same old territory.

The album focuses on guitar driven tunes with soaring harmonies like Godspeed and Adelaide. Adelaide actually sounds like it should have been on their last disc with its refrain, “Adelaide, Adelaide, you really had me going this time/ Adelaide, Adelaide, you need to quit, quit making a scene.” A Whispter and a Clamour is a great song that is unfortunately almost ruined by its sing-songy quality, but the driving chorus and lines of, “It's not the lies that you sing/ But what the silence will scream…Clap your hands all ye children/ There's a clamor in your whispering” are great. Another standout is the slower, mushier tune Inevitable. Some of the band’s solid writing is evident here with, “I wanna be your last, first kiss/ That you'll ever have/ I wanna be your last, first kiss/ Amazing how life turns out the way that it does/ We end up hurting the worst, the only ones we really love.”

Once listeners dig into this disc a bit they will realize Anberlin performs their signature style over and over again. Unfortunatley in between some of the catchy and compelling tunes are a few throwaways and this ultimately is the album's downfall. This is not all bad for fans of their earlier emo sound, but there is just not enough to recommend here even though Cities has some good moments. Fans who want another Never Take Friendship Personal will be satisfied, anyone else will not.

1.95 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.

Monday, July 16, 2007

What I’m Reading -- The Navigator by Eoin McNamee

In this fantasy novel for teens, Owen discovers that he is a Navigator and must save the world from The Harsh, who is causing time to run backwards, thus destroying the whole world. For a time travel novel, however, this is fairly uninteresting. The world McNamee creates here is too run-of-the-mill for fantasy novels. Many of the characters are quite interesting and following Owen, who begins in our world but gets sucked into the battle for time, as he tries to figure out how the world of time keepers work is interesting. This is a solid, though unspectacular teen debut by McNamee.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I'm back blogging, but I can't figure out how to use the Title bar all of a sudden. What happened while I was gone? Anyway, my wild busyness has settled down and I hope to post weekly again beginning with a couple of books and a CD review. Enjoy and see you next week.


Into the Blue by The Album Leaf

Jimmy LaValle's projects as The Album Leaf continue with last year’s release Into the Blue. LaValle combines some elements of folk and atmospheric music with his background in indie rock. Much of the album is instrumental and the songs build slowly and quietly with muted sounds. Many people compare The Album Leaf albums to Sigur Ros, but this is some much mellower and down tempo. This mostly ambient album is neat, though LaValle could add so much more to his songs as evidenced by tracks like Always for You, which is a great song with killer lyrics like, “In the air I flew/ Through the clouds I fall/ And all the things I've tried to say/ Were never easy to explain/ They were always meant for you.” I hope LaValle keeps performing as The Album Leaf, I just hope he puts more of his talent into his next effort. For fans of Sterolab, Air and Dusty Trails.

2.25 out of 4.00 on the Vin Swanson Scale.

So, my teen reading continues in full force. Here are a couple I read a while ago and pleasantly surprised me.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

This is my first Dessen novel and she has written a ton. Just Listen is about Annabel, who is popular at school and is a promising model as well. Modeling has lost its appeal to Annabel, her sisters' problems are completely ignored by her parents and an incident involving her former best-friend’s boyfriend has ruined her popularity at school. Now an outsider, she begins to notice the allegedly dangerous and brooding Owen. While this is quite similar to Speak and Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson, Dessen does a great job rounding out her main characters and this makes their connection seem realistic. Yes it is a bit mushy, but the author shows us Annabel’s transformation from someone who was taught to ignore the problems around her to someone who will be sensitive to life and bold enough to force change.

The Year of My Miraculous Reappearance by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Hyde has also written a ton of books including 2000’s Pay It Forward. This book follows 13-year old Cynnie, who begins to fall into the same habits as her mother. She becomes an alcoholic and is involved in a couple of bad relationships, though caring for her younger brother who has Down Syndrome spurs her to recover. Unfortunately some of the book seems incredibly realistic, while some of it does not seem real at all. Still, Cynnie is a great character to root for and her horrible home life makes for a gripping read.