This might be a 100 parter. Or, per usual, I’ll get bored after Part 10 and call it quits.
Music I Enjoyed in 2007, Part I (that may or may not have come out in 2007)
1. Queens of the Stone Age, Era Vulgaris
There’s always trepidation when your favorite band puts out a new album. All the anticipation you’ve built up makes you almost not want to listen to the album when you finally get it in your hands. Or maybe that’s just me. I just hate being disappointed by bands I love. So when I sat down to listen to Era Vulgaris for the first time, I remembered how I felt upon first hearing the previous album, Lullabies to Paralyze. I hated it. It was missing the decadence of Nick Oliveri. But, I grew to love it eventually. I guess it’s like having an ugly baby. At first you’re horrified, then you learn to find the beauty within it.
At first I was ambivalent about Era. I didn’t know if I liked it, hated it, loved it. I put it away after the first listen and let it soak in. Then I put it in the car and listened to it over and over again while we drove around Long Island one weekend on a photo taking/authentic Mexican food finding spree. There were songs that I kept repeating: Suture up Your Future, 3′s & 7′s, Into the Hollow. And I loved the rendition of Make it Wit Chu, a song previously heard on Desert Sessions. More importantly, there were no songs I skipped.
Each QOTSA album is completely different from the others. I know that sounds like a “no shit” statement, but with a lot of bands, you get the same sound, different lyrics on their albums. With QOTSA, each new effort is like discovering a new genre within one band, or a new band within that band (which sort of holds true as the lineup for this band changes so often, and there are so many guests artists on each album).
Era Vulgaris is deeper musically than any of the previous titles. While lyrically it’s not as tight as some of the earlier work, there’s a lot of introspection here and enough thoughtfulness to keep the words as interesting as the music. The music itself is full, broad and encompasses so many different styles that it’s hard to get sick of this album; even after a hundred repeated plays over a two day period, I was still hearing things in songs I didn’t hear previously.
It’s not my favorite album of theirs, but it is a great album, and my favorite purchase and listen of the year.
2. Brand New - The Devil And God Are Raging Inside Me
While this album came out in late 2006, it wasn’t until late 2007 that I really got into it. I had so much loved their previous album, Deja Entendu, that, to be fair, I never gave Devil and God the chance it deserved because I just assumed that nothing was going to hold up to the brilliance of that.
People tend to lump Brand New into the “pop emo” category with bands like Taking Back Sunday and maybe if you only listened to their first album (Your Favorite Weapon), I could see where one would get that idea. But Deja Entendu and Devil and God are so much more than pop music. They are full of deep, meaningful songs and beautiful music and the band exhibits much more emotion and maturity than their contemporaries.
It took me months to finally give Devil and God the listen it deserved. When I finally gave the album my full attention, I was pretty much blown away by what I had been missing the whole time. This album is dark and morose, but not in a “woe is me, my life is a black hole” kind of way; it’s the themes visited here, the allegories and the context that give this album the maturity and depth I find missing from so many bands today.
From the Rudyard Kiping references on Sowing Season, to the biblical connotations of Millstone, Devil and God is filled with lyrics that make you think, make you feel and make you want to know more about the world around the songs. Limousine is a heartbreaking tale about drunk driving, inspired by a limo wreck on Long Island where a 7 year old girl died on the way home from a wedding*. This album plays like a disjointed novel, like reading someone’s deepest thoughts but not being able to reach the core of those thoughts. This is a good thing. The songs leave you thinking, wondering and asking yourself a lot of questions.
Devil and God is not an album to party to, it’s not a record to throw on when you’re looking to perk your day up. It’s one that pulls you into its world and holds you there, sometimes against your will. If you think of music as food for thought, Devil and God is a veritable buffet.
*(At first I didn’t realize that was what the song was about. When I put it together, I did a little research and found an interview in which songwriter Jesse Lacey talks about the drunk driver and the little girl. I remember when this happened and the judge I was working for at the time was working arraignments the day the drunk driver was brought in. We talked a bit about the case and the details of the accident [which were soon made public] and I spent the day at my desk with nothing in my head but the image of a mother sitting on the side of a highway, cradling her seven year old daughter’s head. Just her head. I can’t listen to this song anymore. It makes me sick. Drunk driving makes me sick.)
Anyhow. That’s part one of Entertainment I Enjoyed in 2007. I wasn’t going to end it here, but I ran out of time. Hopefully the next installment will end on a lighter note.