Welcome to Check Your Mode

The all-inclusive, ever-changing, and uncomfortably flexible guide to all things music in the 2010's.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What Is The Great Catch-Up?

Since the year started, I have been embarking on an enormous project that will prove to be extremely trying and, at this, point, I'm not particularly sure if I will be able to fulfill. As of now, the mission of Check Your Mode is this: to be your extensive guide to everything related to the music of the 2010's.

That's right. If all goes well, Check Your Mode's archives and activity will end at December 31st, 2019 (but, more likely, January 31st, 2020), with more music reviewed and ranked than any person concerned with this decade will ever want to contend with.

However, unfortunately, the time when I was to begin Check Your Mode was in the middle of college application season, and I just didn't have the time to do anything concerning music other than listening to and rating. Still, I desperately wanted to launch Check Your Mode, so The Great Catch-Up was conceived.

From now to the end of March of 2011, there will be FOUR Great Catch-Ups. The first, of which we are entrenched in right now, will be the recollection of the albums that I failed to review in the first six months of this year. The each album will be posted on the exact date they were released, just six months later. In this fashion, Vampire Weekend's Contra was posted on July 12th, and Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti's Before Today, the final post of The Great Catch-Up, will be posted on November 30th. For any album that was released in between those two, check its release date and check in with Check Your Mode for a possible review.

The Second Great Catch-Up will take place in January of next year and will chronicle the albums released in June, 2010. If all goes as planned, the dates they will be posted will be in concurrence with the date they were released, just seven months later.

The Third Great Catch-Up will take place in February of next year and will feature all of the music of the month of December, 2010. Now, the general layout of the next decade will be that December will feature no reviews (more on that later) and the releases of that month will be posted in January of that next year in the same way that the releases of The Second Great Catch-Up will be posted. However, due to all of the scheduling conflicts, those releases will be posted one month later than usual.

For however well planned out the first three Great Catch-Ups will be, the fourth will be far less calculated. At pretty much random points in the month of March, 2011, I will post all of the reviews of the albums that I missed in the First Great Catch-Up. And if that little bit annoys you, then fuck off. Nobody's perfect.

Now, I want everyone to keep in mind that, during the first three months of next year, new releases will be reviewed and posted in much the same way I post new releases with the Great Catch-Up albums. I plan to branch out as Check Your Mode progresses into writing articles and musical essays, but, for understandable reasons, that may not be feasible for the first couple months of 2011, but, as the site progresses and matures, I hope to create as extensive of a guide as my readers deserve. Thanks to all who have been following, and I hope I can keep this going for as long as I possibly can.


Lower Dens - Twin-Hand Movement: B

Lower Dens don't know how to end a song, nor do they really know how to start one. Nothing on Twin-Hand Movement, the band's debut album, is particularly satisfying, and I believe that is because Lower Dens has very little regard for following any real convention of songwriting. Although I can be quoted as regarding this quality as good, the result of Lower Dens' salutary neglect is a patchwork of decent to great ideas, but that's all they ultimately become: Ideas. A bassline usually sets the groundwork for the guitarists to noodle at their free will in individual speakers while the singer enunciates unintelligible phrases. Before you know it, the song's over without so much as a heed for dynamics or purpose. Take the song "A Dog's Dick" for example. My thought is that Lower Dens jammed around two and a half minutes of a repeating phrase and, during Twin-Hand Movement's mixing, the band decided, "Aww fuck it. Call it 'A Dog's Dick'" to make up for the fact that listeners will never again see those two and a half minutes of their lives.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Still, I think that Twin-Hand Movement shows Lower Dens has the potential to make material of better quality. The album's production is impeccable, allowing every instrument just enough sonic room to breathe and perform, however misguided or meandering those performances may be.

So this is the part when I tell you that I would recommend this album if you wanted something decent to fill silence while you read or ate cereal, but I could name you ten albums from this year alone that could do that job to a much better degree. Twin-Hand Movement receives a rating of above average by the sole virtue that it sounds quite nice; not that it adds anything remotely interesting to your life.


Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back: B

Oh dear Lord. Peter Gabriel's coming out of the musical woodwork to release an album of covers that is musically nothing more than the man's voice, a piano, and a full orchestra? Sounds to me that Mr. Gabriel is doubling down, going all out to try and seduce my heart to the point that it will be wanting to pull on its own heartstrings for mercy.

When It Works:

Even though Gabriel completely misses the cheekiness in the lyrics with his delivery, his rendition of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love" is Scratch My Back's highlight. Of course, he uses the aforementioned strategy to try to get my heart's guard down, but, in this case, the swelling strings surrounding his subdued verses can bring premeditated tears to my eyes. If all of Scratch My Back was made up of songs like that, then there was a pretty good chance my heart would have put out.

When It Doesn't:

Woah, there, Peter. You're coming on a bit strong. I mean the whole point of Scratch My Back is to conjure the sappiest of the sap, but either your cologne is far too pungent, or that final orchestral stab at the end of your cover of "My Body Is a Cage" is a shameless ploy to make one more pass at my heart on an already failed endeavor. Honestly, you had a better chance if you showed my heart your stamp collection on the first date, and everyone knows that stuff's reserved for at least the third.

With the inclusion of those opposing ends of the quality spectrum, Scratch My Back throws almost a perfect game in supplying hit after dud; flirty come-on after slap in the face. I mean did you really think that you needed to throw your hat in the ring by recording the billionth and a third cover of "Heroes"? It's the same cheap thrills that my heart's seen countless times before, and you're going to need to try harder to get in its pants. Then again, that cover of "Apres Moi"? Oh I do declare I can feel my heart getting hot just thinking about it.

So the ultimate question is: Does Pete succeed? By Scratch My Back's end, is Mr. Gabriel sitting at the edge of a proverbial bed smoking a cigarette while my heart recuperates from a night of intense lovemaking? The short answer is no, but Scratch My Back does such a decent job of pulling those heart strings in the right places, my heart might just let Pete get a ground rule double. Key word: MIGHT. My heart is no whore, Pete.