Rock & Roll Report Card

Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi, Rome

B

Producer extraordinaire Danger Mouse and film score composer Daniele Luppi collaborated on the new spaghetti western inspired album Rome. They channeled the style of legendary composer Ennio Moricone, the man responsible for the iconic music of films like The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and A Fistful of Dollars. They even used his old studio. The end result is an interesting but unfulfilling sonic experience.

Rome was designed to feel like the music of a film score, but without the accompanying movie, its full effect is absent. Song titles like “The Gambling Priest” produce a vague impression, but are ultimately unable to tell the story their titles suggest. The songs give a feeling of a setting, but don’t create the distinct images they’re meant to.

Where the album succeeds are the songs featuring Norah Jones and Jack White. Jones’ voice is smooth on “Season’s Trees.” It’s a sexy croon that perfectly captures the essence of the project, and is well accompanied by a thumping bass and a delicate celesta, which is a mix between a piano and a xylophone.

White’s track “Two Against One” is the other highlight of Rome. Flowing harmonies compliment the twisting rhymes of White’s vocals. It’s a gunslinger’s boast about being unafraid of bullets.

Rome is a hybrid soundtrack and pop album but doesn’t stand alone as either one. It works best as background music. You won’t imagine lonely hills and horses cantering through a wasteland but Rome still deserves a good listen.

Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys

C+

Codes and Keys, Death Cab for Cutie’s seventh album has lost a lot of the things that made them great.

Frontman Ben Gibbard is arguably one of the greatest lyricists of our generation and his lyrics are consistently intimate and insightful. This time around, he’s swapped his honest lyrics for vocal effects and echo. It’s cold and distant, which is a disappointment for the Death Cab fan.

The only excuse for this departure from Gibbard’s celebrated style is on “Monday Morning.” It’s a song about being physically and emotionally distant from someone, so his effect-laden voice is appropriate. The rest of the time, the vocals are only alienating.

To be lauded on the album is Jason McGerr’s drumming. “Some Boys” opens with heavy panting before McGerr’s stick work takes over, seamlessly launching into almost constant fills. His percussion weaves its way through every song, always managing to give a rhythm that’s just right.

Many of the songs are fairly experimental, like “Unobstructed Views,” which has a three-minute instrumental opening and is blanketed in gentle noise. But these experimental tracks are counter-pointed by “Underneath the Sycamore.” It sounds like Death Cab’s older songs but is missing their particular feeling and identity. Instead, it comes across generic.

Codes and Keys is wholly unimpressive and its few good qualities fail to compensate for its shortcomings.

City and Colour, Little Hell

A

Dallas Green has returned with his third studio album, this time with a bluesier feel than his previous Sometimes and Bring Me Your Love.

It opens with the optimistic “We Found Each Other in the Dark,” a lovesick, folksy track with a catchy and repetitive chorus.

The album’s title is its main theme; looking for simple ways to live through the little hells of day-to-day life. The lyrics are mostly autobiography from Green. On “The Grand Optimist,” he struggles with his dreary personal outlook and contrasts his father’s optimism. He admits, “I guess I take after my mother.” The album’s first single “Fragile Bird” tells of his wife’s screaming night terrors. The rhymes are trite, and don’t flow or fit particularly well. Given the originality of the subject matter, it’s a little disappointing the rhyme scheme didn’t follow suit. Near the song’s close, a distorted guitar breaks in for a short solo before launching back into the chorus. It was clearly written to be a single and lacks the honesty of much of the rest of the album.

Despite the minor pitfalls, City and Colour has created another great collection of alt-country
folk-rock songs. Little Hell traverses through personal doubt, mental illness and a slew of other intimate issues, and does it genuinely.

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