I haven't had much to say about music lately. I listen to music constantly, but I've been fairly blah on the subject lately. I've mostly had the iPod on shuffle working my way through the Never Played playlist, so I haven't concocted new mixes to blog about. I downloaded a bunch of Ben Folds after the concert, but I already wrote about him. I don't listen to the radio much, but when I do it's usually while I'm in the shower, and it's usually a "mix of the 80s, 90s, and today!" station that I used to like as vapid background very much. Lately though I've been hating pop music (or at least this station's bland light pop music). The appeal of Maroon 5, Scissor Sisters, John Mayer and Jason Mraz eludes me completely. Maybe it's just because they're so overplayed I want to kill myself. But I don't know, pop music used to be fun. I guess I'm too young to officially pine for the 80s (and, hello, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" trauma!), but I miss the fun. Or at least grunge, which was a) in response to a decade of bad (but fun) pop, and b) often had something to say. It all seems to labored now, like everyone's trying to be arsty or sell a song to a car company. I guess "Take Your Mama" is supposed to be fun, but all I can hear in it is how hard they're trying to sound like Elton John. And failing. It takes work to be more boring than Elton John.
So I was kind of excited to discover The Polyphonic Spree. For one thing, I love the truth in advertising of their name. It's a 25 member conglomeration featuring an orchestra and a choir. That's the polyphonic part. And they're goofy and fun, so there's your spree!
I was already a big fan of "Light And Day (Reach For The Sun)," which was featured in Volkswagen and iPod commercials, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but based on the iTunes samples of the album I wasn't really into anything else. But I recently checked out their new album, and downloaded the whole thing, plus a live single of Bowie's "Five Years" that totally rocks.
The orchestral element sounds, true to their name, very much like Sgt. Pepper era Beatles. But this doesn't seem like the throwback you might expect. The lead vocalist has that very modern, sort of whiny delivery reminiscent of Coldplay or Ben Folds. There's a sort of neo-hippie element (they always wear sort of clerical robes, and the music tends to lean towards "everyone love each other" sentiments), but without being all annoying like Phish.
Most of all I like how much fun they seem to be having. It all sounds very spontaneous, as if any band that requires a harp could ever be spontaneous. For all the arranging and harmonizing that has to happen, it never feels like they're working nearly as hard as the singer-songwriter-guitarists who are trying desperately to show how arty they are.
True, all the spreeing can result in lyrics that seem more at home on a bad morning cartoon than a serious rock album (eg, "Hail to the sky / hail to the sky / it's time to watch a show / it's time to watch a show / the trees wanna grow / grow grow grow"), but I'll still take that over all the whining on my radio any day.