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Archive for the ‘Is That Still Good?’ Category

Music habits change in ways that are hard to track and harder to predict. Most people have only a handful of albums in heavy rotation at any given time. As weeks turn into months, some albums drop out and new albums come in. And while some albums are boon companions, most music lovers have a need for new music. It doesn’t have to be brilliant – sometimes, you just want a fresh album to get into.

The music rotation defies any attempts at logic or analysis. I used to consider Exile on Main Street to be a decent album, but I didn’t understand what the hype was about. Then one day, I noticed that it had been in heavy rotation for close to a year. What was it about that album that was durable? Why did I get tired of countless other albums, but not that one? To this day, I still can’t put my finger on the answer.

Of course, they can’t all be Exile on Main Street (although I did have a similar, “Hey, I’m still listening to this” experience with the Kelly Joe Phelps album Lead Me On). Most albums naturally fall out of rotation for a while. And with these albums – particularly with more recent releases – it can be unclear if the albums fell out of rotation because it was time for something new, or if it was because they were never that good to begin with. Will these albums hold up? Or was I listening to them only because I wanted something new to listen to?

Which leads to today’s piece, Is That Still Good?, which very well might possibly become a recurring feature. In Is That Still Good? we look releases from a few years back, which we may not have thought about recently, and see how they hold up. One point – this is not about nostalgia. I’m not talking about how much you liked the “You’ve Got the Touch!” song from the Transformers cartoon. This is about that album you used to listen to when you were hanging out with your friends that summer.

So, this brings us to Eels, and their 2003 album Shootenanny. I had just purchased an iPod, which was the first portable music player I had ever owned. Shootenanny was one of the first albums I listened to while walking, and it seemed perfect – it was springtime, I had an iPod, life was going great. It was full of bleak lyrics, but had toe-tapping beats and simple, catchy melodies. It was in heavy rotation for that spring, and stayed in light rotation for the summer after. Eventually, it was phased out as a new batch of new music came in – probably TV on the Radio, or whatever my dad happened to have sent me (look for an upcoming review on Dad Music).

The question is: Is it still good? Does this album have some depth to it? Or some staying power? Or did I listen to it because I didn’t want to listen Belle and Sebastian anymore? (And for the record – Belle and Sebastian does not hold up.)

Answer: It is still good. The sound on the album seems very 90s, despite having been released in 2003. It doesn’t sound dated, though – just pleasantly old fashioned. The songs are simple, verging on the simplistic, and the backing tracks often consist of nothing more than a few measures of music repeated over and over and over. However, this also means that there is little to get tired of. Gimmicks which sound new and exciting at first often quickly become annoying – luckily, E pretty much avoids them, writing simple songs with simple arrangements and clever lyrics. Plus, the album contains a few classics. Saturday Morning is told from the point of view of a kid who has woken up early. And Love of the Loveless is a perfect little pop rock song. And it turns out that Shootenanny is still a great album to walk to.

Eels – Shootenanny: Still good.

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