Quick reviews: R.E.M., Aimee Mann, Dubstar

I don’t usually apologize for being absent from the blog — most of you know this is always going to be a poor third on the priority list behind the family and the job. But I’ve taken on too many projects at once this month, and so I must blame my own time management for being slack in these parts.

Somewhere along the way, I had time to cash in some gift cards and pick up three CDs. After listening to roughly half of each one, here’s what I have so far:

R.E.M., Accelerate

The critics have been gushing over this one. They’re right.

I remember listening to Lifes Rich Pageant for the first time with my high school friend Todd, driving down some winding road between Athens and Watkinsville. The first three songs blew me away. After the folkish Fables of the Reconstruction, R.E.M. cranked it up a bit with Begin the Begin and These Days. Listening to Accelerate is a similar experience.

If you had asked me a year ago to see R.E.M., I surely would’ve been hoping to hear some of my old favorites. If I had tickets to an R.E.M. song tomorrow, I’d be pumped up to hear Living Well is the Best Revenge, the searing opener propelled by Michael Stipe’s firm, inspiring voice of reason and Mike Mills’ active bass.

Aimee Mann, @#%&*! Smilers

I had always thought critics viewed Lost in Space as a brilliant album, but the reviews gathered at Wikipedia are lukewarm. That’s a pity, because I enjoyed that approach far more than what I’m hearing on this one. So far, I’m finding this one just a little too cutesy in the instrumentation and a little too subdued in the vocals. I give Mann the benefit of the doubt, though, and I’m sure a couple of songs will grow on me.

Dubstar, Stars – The Best of Dubstar

Can someone explain to me why this band wasn’t huge? Why didn’t any radio programmer or megamogul listen to one of this band’s thoughtful songs with layers of hooks in the keyboards, all behind the lovely voice of Sarah Blackwood, and drive up to Newcastle with bags full of money?

I bought it just because Stars and Just a Girl She Said haven’t been available at iTunes or anywhere else, and I simply couldn’t stand carrying around an iPod without those songs. Now I’m uncovering a treasure trove of gorgeous songs. Possibly the best synth-pop you’ll ever hear.

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One Response to Quick reviews: R.E.M., Aimee Mann, Dubstar

  1. Brian says:

    I saw them at Merriweather. The opening trio of Worksong, Living Well and Bad Day was like an explosion. They didn’t play some of the gems other cities are getting, but they were amazing.

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