Sunday, March 13, 2011

OneRepublic's sophomore album Waking Up: pretty good!

 First, let me say that I hardly ever *get* popular music. I've tried listening to albums such as Coldplay's Viva La Vida, which many called one of the best of 2008, and apart from one or two decent tracks , was befuddled by the general mishmash of sound. I tried the Black Keys' album Brothers, and the songs, while quite listenable, were virtually indistinguishable. The AV Club gave British Sea Power's latest a B+, so I gave that a spin, but heard very little beyond ultra-loud screeching.

Because I don't much watch TV or listen to the radio, I was vaguely aware of OneRepublic's "Apologize", but didn't think much on it. Then, a while back, I heard their "All the Right Moves" in a Safeway (I know, I know, I'm super-uncool, music-wise), and thought it was pretty good, so I gave the album a try. And while it's full of the same sort of musical wanderings as Viva La Vida, and thus took me a couple spins to really get into... well, I did get into it.

I then gave their first album Dreaming Out Loud a try, and wasn't impressed - it was much flatter, back to the random noise stuff, and when contrasted with Waking Up, I really appreciated for one of the first times the role of production in album-making. Consulting some critics, I was heartened to find myself vindicated in this:

Much of that [first] record and Tedder's outside writing were a weak broth of dorm-room-canoodling ballads and R&B with very little rhythm or blues. Fortunately, on OneRepublic's second album "Waking Up," they've internalized a lot of the things that made Timbaland such a compelling producer -- that good sounds are paramount, songs should move in odd directions and many different ideas can constitute a hook.
OneRepublic's sophomore disc, Waking Up, reflects that studio experience with loads of sleek synth licks and juicy percussion tricks; it's much more flavorful than the band's Fray-like debut.
Unlike recent Springsteen albums, Waking Up isn't all winners - I skip all four tracks from the deluxe edition as well as the closer "Lullaby" - but while Slant may hold that "if anyone's ever complained about Coldplay being too edgy, Waking Up could be their dream come true", I at least can "get with" most of its songs, as kids like to say. Liked to say. Back in the 70s.

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