This week in rock: Calexico + Final Fantasy

As a way of correcting my tendency to go weeks without writing anything about music, I’ve decided to report on my last.fm tallies each week. I figure Thursday’s a good day to do this since my choice of weekend music often ends up setting the trajectory for the week to come.

This week was a pretty solid mixture of mainstays and one-offs. Also, I’m not reviewing anything at the moment so nobody’s freakish dominance needs to be controlled for. Spoon, Explosions in the Sky, David Bowie ,and the Arcade Fire are always prominent, but this actually something of an iconoclastic set for me: there’s no Bjork, no Rolling Stones, and a measley 5 plays for Sleater-Kinney?

The scoreboard:

1. Calexico – 28 plays
2. Spoon – 21 plays
3. Final Fantasy – 15 plays
4. Fugazi – 12 plays
4. Explosions in the Sky – 12 plays
6. David Bowie – 11 plays
7. The Field – 10 plays
8. Torche – 9 plays
9. Arcade Fire – 9 plays
10. Broken Social Scene – 8 plays
10. Belle and Sebastian – 8 plays
10. Camera Obscura – 8 plays
13. Mogwai – 6 plays
14.  Sleater-Kinney – 5 plays
15. The Replacements – 4 plays

The surprises this week were the amount of Calexico I listened to, and the resurgence of Final Fantasy and Fugazi. Calexico’s mariachi-infused melodrama has always been striking for me, maybe because I grew up in the southwest. Both last year’s Carried to Dust and their venerable Feast of Wire have plenty of horn and string saturated pop movements that recall those old Ennio Morriccone soundtracks. My favorite song of theirs is certainly “Black Heart”, a chilling bit of champ\ber pop that sounds like it could be transplanted from a spaghetti western or an Italian horror flick. It’s all searing, weepy strings and coolly determined vocals: the lyrics are about a prisoner facing down a life sentence without remorse.

Speaking of strung-out string pop: Final Fantasy. I’m always impressed by how well Owen Pallet does on my play counts, given that I own one ten-track album from his group. But this is simply one of my favorites, one of the criminally overlooked albums of the last few years. The lyrics are dense servings of domestic unrest, references that run from Yukio Mishima to D&D, spiritual ruminations on atheism, suicide, and mythology – the whole album is defined by the tension between realism and fantasy, as it details the disintegration of the illusions, lies, and stories that one man has told himself to make his emotional and spiritual life seem satisfying. But even if you didn’t care to read your lyrics inserts, the album is a real joy. Pallet plays beautiful violin melodies, ususally acocmpanied by pianos, cellos, and in one song, a clamorous percussive choir. None of the songs run over five minutes, most stay around four, preserving their intensity through brevity and meticulous craftmanship. I could go on, but I’ll leave at this: if youhaven’t hear He Poos Clouds yet, you ought to.

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~ by staticandme on February 19, 2009.

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