BUY IT, BURN IT, SKIP IT: Fennesz, Death Cab For Cutie, Trentemøller

[Photo by Andrea Amadasi]

By Andrew Parks

With far too many new releases vying for your dwindling dollars, self-titled presents the following every week: an album actually worth owning (Buy It), something to share among friends (Burn It) and a disc that disappointed–or infuriated–us in some way (Skip It).

Simple, ain’t it?

Buy It
Fennesz, Black Sea (Touch)
Take a long, hard look at Black Sea‘s record sleeve. Looks pretty majestic, doesn’t it–like a moonlit walk along Montauk’s frostbitten beach in the middle of winter? Sure enough, that’s exactly what you’re getting here: the kind of imaginary soundtrack cuts we’d love to hear while watching Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on mute. Rather than simply rely on his trademark blend of fluttering, fuzzy chords and distorted Eno-isms, Christian Fennesz makes his first official full-length in four years his most classically-inclined to date. While all of his sonic touchstones are here, they’re delivered with a great deal of patience–a dynamic mastery of movements and emotive electronics.

Simply put, this release is as essential as a decent cardigan in the early winter months, fulfilling all the security blanket needs that set in as the nights get longer and the air gets colder. Using an arsenal of “acoustic and electric guitars, synthesizers, electronics, computers and live-improvising software,” Fennesz has created something that sounds more human than that Fleet Foxes record your friend won’t stop yammering about. And like its song titles (“Vacuum,” “Glide,” “Glass Ceiling”) suggest, Black Sea is majestic and effortless, something you’ll stare at for hours without realizing you hit replay three times already. Us, we’re already on spin number four.


Burn It
Death Cab For Cutie, Something About Airplanes: Deluxe Edition (Barsuk)
Well before their major label deal and string of love-or-hate LPs, Death Cab For Cutie was an eminently likable college rock act–something anyone with thrift store threads and prescription-free Buddy Holly glasses could agree on. Nothing more. Nothing less. Something About Airplanes is one of the modest masterpieces from Death Cab’s early days, off-setting sprightly synth pop (“President of What”) and ragged riffs (“Fake Frowns,” “Amputations”) with a decidedly dark collection of diary entries. Not of the emo variety, either. We’re talking some hopeless shit, here, from the dire after-school special opening of “Champagne From a Paper Cup” (“I think I’m drunk enough/To drive you home now”) to the shaky mess Ben Gibbard becomes amid the candied chords of “Pictures in an Exhibition.”

All and all, Airplanes makes us want to re-evaluate Death Cab’s entire back catalog, sifting raw and rewarding listens (like this 10th-anniversary reissue) from periods of overly-processed pap. To distinguish between the two, be sure to catch the priceless moments in Barsuk’s bonus disc: Death Cab’s first Seattle show, a seven-song set recorded way back in February of 1998. Back then, the group was hawking $3 demo tapes and supporting Harvey Danger. Speaking of “Flagpole Sitta,” vocalist Sean Nelson guests on a cover of the Smiths’ “Sweet and Tender Hooligan.” Paranoia, paranoia, everyone’s coming to get you, indeed.


Skip It
Trentemøller, Live In Concert E.P. – Roskilde Festival 2007 (Poker Flat)
There’s a twist to this week’s “Skip It” selection. And it has nothing to do with music. It has to do with this ‘EP”s bloated price tag. While a pared-down MP3 version can be scored for just $3.52 on Amazon, the addition of two forgettable remixes and one Nouvelle Vague-esque cover to the CD pressing is somehow worth another $13. That’s alright; we’ll pass and simply buy the vinyl or MP3 version of The Last Resort instead. Aside from including 23 absolutely stunning Trentemøller tracks, it’s still one of our favorite living room-friendly electronic LPs of the past five years.

Hey Trent; go make another record, please. Or at the very least, a full live album. Until then, we’ll be waiting patiently, repeating the words “always something better.”