Q-Music: Long time no see (or hear)

  • by Gregg Shapiro
  • Tuesday October 3, 2023
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Q-Music: Long time no see (or hear)

Can we all just agree the Ben Gibbard is a modern-day musical genius? Since the late 1990s, Gibbard's band Death Cab For Cutie has been amassing a devoted following, releasing ten studio albums, including 2003's acclaimed "Transatlanticism."

With too much talent and energy for one band, Gibbard also launched a few side projects including The Postal Service. "Give Up," The Postal Service's debut (and lone studio) album, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Coinciding with the occasion, the live album "Everything Will Change" (Sub Pop), recorded during The Postal Service's 2013 reunion concert, is now available in all physical formats.

Featuring original band members Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello (of Dntel), Jenny Lewis (while we're at it, can we all agree that Lewis is also a musical genius?), as well as Laura Burhenn. "Everything Will Change" is the kind of live album that proves studio-crafted electronic music (including irresistible dance numbers such as "Such Great Heights," "We Will Become Silhouettes," "Nothing Better," "Clark Gable," "Be Still My Heart," "A Tattered Line of String," "Brand New Colony," as well as covers of songs by Beat Happening ("Our Secret") and Dntel ("The Dream of Evan and Chan"), can transfer seamlessly to live performance. Need another reason to listen to The Postal Service? Gibbard has been a vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community, due in large part to his sister, who is a lesbian.

Damon Albarn of Blur is another modern-day musical visionary (right?) with talent to burn. In addition to Blur, Albarn has led a few side projects, most notably the "virtual band" Gorillaz, which has more than half a dozen albums to its credit.

Blur's "The Ballad of Darren" (Parlophone/Warner), its first new studio album in eight years, is dazzling and well worth the wait. No, there aren't any queer-friendly club bangers like 1994's classic "Girls & Boys," but that's not necessarily a bad thing. You can still cut a rug to "Barbaric," "The Narcissist," and even "The Rabbi."

What's really notable about the album is the introspection ("The Ballad," "St. Charles Square," "Goodbye Albert") and the beauty ("Russian Strings," "The Everglades," "Far Away Island"), resulting in the sound of a band embracing its maturation.

Talk about a sonic evolution. Like Blur, British shoegaze heroes Slowdive sound like they are settling into the next phase of their lives with dignity and grace. Some of the songs on the new "Everything is Alive," including the instrumental "Shanty," "The Slab," and "Skin In the Game," still have the grinding guitar edge we've come to expect. Along with that, we also hear an ethereal kind of beauty that plays out on the songs "Andalucia Plays," "The Slab," and "Chained to a Cloud." In other words, Slowdive splashes down with something for almost everyone.

The 20-track compilation "Part Time Job" (Yep Roc) by Full Time Men is the CD and digital (as well as limited edition vinyl) debut of the supergroup's LPs and EP, mostly from the 1980s. Led by the Fleshtones' Keith Streng and featuring his Fleshtones bandmates, the distinguishing part is the guest performers.

Among them, you'll find R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, Blondie's Clem Burke, The Young Fresh Fellows' Scott McCaughey, and Hoodoo Gurus' Dave Faulkner, as well as two now deceased performers — Stiv Bators (of the Dead Boys) and Pat Dinizio (of The Smithereens). In addition to the previously released material, "Part Time Job" features four previously unreleased tunes, including "TOT (Toilet of Time)."

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