The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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The program for SMU Lyric Theatres performance of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, Dallas Texas, Sunday February 18, 2024
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Adventures in music: Tunes of Summer ’08

No one knows where it comes from. Maybe it’s primal, something innate; a mystical frothing fog inside every one of us. Rising ever higher to the body’s brim, exploding untamed upon entering collegiate halls. An inevitable time bomb followed by a sonic boom of Bob Dylan records, tweed sweaters and beard stroking.

And it’s been this way for 50 years. Once college begins and the need to distinguish personal identity has reached its epic plateau one in every five young people will pick up an acoustic guitar in an attempt to enhance their art, sex life, or opportunities to speak with a drawl. This summer three albums were released that did just that. Here’s a break down of which troubadours are just horny for attention, those breaking out of the minors, and the ones knocking it out of the park.

Fleet Foxes – “Fleet Foxes” 6.5

Only the brave will admit it. Even fewer of the brave can pull it off. But when a band’s authenticity is based around echoing sounds of a past era it’s difficult to escape being pigeonholed as mere mimicry. What proves harder still is building on these influences to create something unique and special. On their self-titled debut LP for Sub Pop records Seattle folk group Fleet Foxes make some impressive strides away from being labeled “just another retro act.”

Building lilting and delicate Beach Boy harmonies over acoustic finger picking and angelic keys the Foxes draw heavily on their influences to create an album at peace with its source material. Tracks like the single-ready “Ragged Wood” and the hypnotizing Southern Swan Song of “Blue Ridge Mountains” reminisce occasionally on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but rarely dwell too long. And while some tunes often rely a little too heavily on the atmospheric cuts, songs such as “He Doesn’t Know Why” hint at true potential beneath the fur in the band’s keen attention to song composition.

The Tallest Man On Earth – “Shallow Graves” – 7.5

It won’t take more than a few seconds, and then you’ll “know.” You’ll be positive you’ve heard this somewhere before. Well, of course you have. And while comparing Swedish folker Kristian Matsson to Bob Dylan may be the easiest thing you do all year, that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Both play acoustic, dip their toes in the banjo stream, and nasally croon about everything from lost love to babbling brooks. But lend Matsson’s debut record “Shallow Graves” more than a superficially focused ear and the reward is yours for the taking.

With aesthetics that recall late night attic recording sessions, capturing every single squeak and slide accenting soulful strumming, “Shallow Graves” is more at home with songwriters like Nick Drake than Dylan. And songs like “Pistol Dreams” with its desperate yelping refrain of “I said through me in the fire now, come on” don’t just wallow in the shallows of sad songs; they plunge into the depths. By exploring concepts like the contrasting of darker subjects and symbolism with often upbeat tunes Matsson pushes his craft beyond simplistic comparisons.

Conor Oberst – “Conor Oberst” 8.0

Coming to terms with Conor Oberst is a difficult task. Most either write him off for his past pretentious indulgences or worship blindly at his feet. But as the front man and main mind behind indie act Bright Eyes there’s no denying the guy’s output. Now after 10 albums under the Bright Eyes moniker Oberst has put out his first solo record in 12 years.

While releasing yet another album might just sound like another day at the office by now, this self-titled LP is anything but. Granted, Oberst picks up right where he left off continuing to tighten and tame his country-fried riffs, but this time around the horse has got a new name. Recorded entirely in a Mexico studio Oberst has never sounded like he’s had this much fun or total control in the process of making an album before.

Songs such as “I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital)” channel the midnight honky-tonk fury of Nashville but don’t alienate in their attempts to achieve an atmosphere. Other jams like “Moab” showcase this record as Oberst’s most accessible to date. But this isn’t pop just made to pander to the masses. While still gripping the reigns of arrangement Lone Ranger Oberst steers confidently into territory he otherwise would approach quite differently in Bright Eyes and it rarely (if ever) wears thin. It’s a change. But much like the world Oberst writes about it’s just as often surprisingly captivating as it is subtle.

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