New Music That Doesn’t Suck

Although I recently wrote a diatribe against the void of any original ability in today’s excuse for recording artists, I wasn’t content with this view; who proudly holds a lack of faith in their own generation? Hoping for a renewed faith in my generation, putting an ear to the ground in search of sounds of life proved to be an educational experience. Here’s what I found that didn’t make me want to tear my ears off and pray for the souls of us all tragically born at the height of REO Speedwagon’s reign:Sufjan Stevens’ Come On Feel the Illinoise. The album has titles like “They Are Night Zombies!! They Are Neighbors!! They Have Come Back From the Dead!! Ahhhh!” If that’s not enough, the album is a 22-track epic ranging from joyful noise to somber lullabies honoring the multi-faceted (who knew?) state of Illinois. Instead of delivering an oral history of the Land of Lincoln, Sufjan confides that he cried himself to sleep last night, identifies with serial killer John Wayne Gacy, and in the sweeping “Chicago,” which is alone worth the price of the album, that he has made a lot of mistakes. If the album causes you to cry yourself to sleep and realize that you too have made a lot of mistakes, remember that misery loves Sufjan, Sufjan loves Illinoise, and if you have ears you’ll probably love this album. Everyone wins!Architecture in Helsinki’s In Case We Die. Anyone has a right to immediately pass off a band who lists instruments used on their album as a marimba, bass recorder, bassoon, theremin, musical saw, kontakt sampler and hand and power tools as pretentious in a way only indie-rock can be. But In Case We Die stirs all that and more into a pretty sweet mess of sound that you can’t help but enjoy for its bite. It’s stylized (calculated?) in the way that is now the rule rather than the exception for “arty bands”(Of Montreal, Fiery Furnaces) and at some points loses some of its luster while it tries to think of something mildly meaningful to say and laughs self-consciously. If the album seems a little sincere and over-consumed in its coy if not desperate attempts at cuteness and originality, who isn’t these days? This band won’t start a revolution, but they’ll have fun at the party; Architecture in Helsinki would perfectly symbolize our generation if there weren’t hundreds of other bands just like themMaximo Park’s Missing Songs: Finally, a band that lives up to the British music hype machine. When the Arctic Monkeys came to the U.S. and turned out to be less than the Second Coming (not even of Oasis, much less the Beatles or Jesus) it seemed life might be one huge lie-or at least that the British Musical Empire had finally come to a Coldplay-dead-end. Fear not; All Hail Brittania! Missing Songs is only a collection of B-sides off of Maximo’s debut, A Certain Trigger; the album is better than almost anything popped out of the “punk” mold today (as Joe Strummer turns in his grave.) Without going into the usual inaccurate comparisons, Maximo Park is thankfully giving us faith again- hopefully the band won’t pull a Libertines and robbing each other for coke money before their second album. God Save The Queen!