Thursday, December 4, 2008

Music by Death Cab for Cutie; The Dears; and Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan

I listen to the musical group Death Cab for Cutie's album Narrow Stairs and I hear intimacy, tenderness, drama, and honesty conveyed with musical clarity, a rhythmic strength that balances light and dark, and structure with energy. I like the lead singer's slightly boyish voice, even as I wonder if it is too ideal a sound. The changes in melody and rhythm and volume in the songs actually seem to have emotional correspondents. The work, the album, which is human and artistic accomplishment, seems both natural and beautiful.

It is easier to hear human lives, not just very intelligent minds, or well-constructed melodies, in the songs of the band The Dears, in the group's collection called Missiles. There is bitterness and fear as well as a commitment to one's own integrity in these songs. The album is coherent and is perceptible as a whole, though each song is distinct and works on its own; and, there is a fulfilling variety. The work acknowledges isolation and the fact that isolation is a state of being that can be creative or destructive but is not itself a goal.

Isobel Campbell's album with Mark Lanegan, Sunday at Devil Dirt, a generous supply of songs, is sometimes spooky. The album has qualities that seem both traditional and contemporary, and its beauty, which includes unexpected harmonies, can seem elaborate.

These three albums are pleasing to listen to, and interesting to think more about: Narrow Stairs, Missiles, Sunday at Devil Dirt.