I've picked up two new CD's (and by picked up, of course I mean downloaded) over the last two weeks. While I feel they are both amazing, and destined to be among my favorites of the year, they are quite different. I have what could best be described as erratic taste in just about everything, which may arise as much from my need to be contrary as it does from a wide and varied palate. Since I began DJing at my alma mater's radio station again, I've been reminded of how genre specific people can get, enveloping themselves in one scene and rejecting everything that falls outside the boundaries of their chosen niche. That state of mind, as we age, usually gives way to a desire to see it all, hear it all and do it all, which to be fair is the mind set of more than a few college age kids.
That desire to sample from the buffet table of life is my default setting these days. It's with that mind set as a back drop that I am happily bouncing back and forth between the works of a teen DIY punk band and a indie movie star, turned indie music artist. I am speaking of "Get Awkward" by Nashville punks Be Your Own Pet and "Volume One" by She & Him, which is composed of actress Zooey Deschanel and iconic indie guitar player M. Ward.
I fell hard for BYOP back in 2006, when I played their freshman effort over and over during my third shift jam sessions. The second disc features all of the breakneck pace of that first record, but also features a bit more sophistication. I mean that not as a slight to a group who may wish to submerse themselves in their rough around the edges presentation. If I were being over simplistic, I may draw comparisons to Green Day, who's first recordings were great to bop your head to, but at the start, the subject matter wasn't always of a serious nature. As time passed Green Day began to write fantastic songs with more poignant lyrics culminating in "American Idiot" which I think is a modern day masterpiece. Jemina and the boys are well ahead of the curve with this record, and would be more so if their Label hadn't censored the.
The US release of "Get Awkward" includes only 12 tracks because Universal pulled the songs "Becky" "Black Hole" and "Blow Yr Mind" because they perceived them to be too violent. The first two are amazing tracks, that do make illusions to stabbing and boredom induced murder, but are not in anyway close to some of the other violence glorifying acts Universal has distributed in the past. Even without them, the record is a tremendous step forward for a group with boundless potential, and years ahead of them to fulfil it.
After the fist pumping listen that is "Get Awkward" my transition is about as smooth as one of those college DJ's going from New Order to Lynard Skynard - don't laugh, I've heard it. I wait a moment to cleanse my palate, then I put on She and Him. For those of you who think you don't know Zooey Deschanel, you do. She was the big sister in Cameron Crow's "Almost Famous" and first tipped her hand to her talent as a singer as Buddy's love interest in "Elf."
Deschanel has a versatile voice that ranges from cool and smokey to sweet and perky. The She & Him release features a number of her own songs that show real tallent in both arrangement and lyrical content. She also takes on the Beatles and Smokey Robinson, covering "I Should Have Known Better" and "You Realy Got a Hold on Me" and she does a masterful job with each. M. Ward (who needs to knock off this whole whole "m" thing, your name is Matt, deal with it) is beyond reproach with a six string in his hand, and makes the whole record a multi layered pleasure. But, it's Dechanel's vocals that steal the show, making you all at once fall in love with her and hate her for being able to be both a singer and an actress.
I highly recommend both records to anyone who wants to hear some of the best music out there right now.