A Writing Exercise: The Day the Carnival Came to Digby
The Genius of Nature

Traffic and Weather

61cixturbkl__aa240_Though we are only a little over four months into 2007, my current favorite for album of the year is Fountain of Wayne's new release, Traffic and Weather. FOW has brilliant penchant for writing the infectious pop song, and while they are not alone in this, there are a couple things that make this a standout album. For one, lyrical narratives here --- stories of love and loneliness --- are rich with such specificity of character and place. For example, in "Someone to Love," we meet Seth Shapiro, the lonely lawyer who calls his Mom in the evenings and eats alone, and Beth MacKenzie, who retouches photos for a magazine, two young professionals who almost meet and yet don't. (By the way, you can check out the video for the song here.) Or there's Yolanda Hayes, who works behind a window at the Department of Motor Vehicles, an object of affection for our narrator, "behind Window B, explaining patiently how she needs to see six forms of ID." Or even "Michael and Heather at the Baggage Claim," exhausted, waiting, wondering if they'll ever get home again. Mundane yet particular, the lyrics offer a slice of authenticity from modern life. Listening to this cross-section of stories, it's refreshing not to hear any obligatory political statements or heavy-handed philosophizing. And yet I can't help but feel the album is pregnant with a big albeit unstated question: Is this all? Is this all life is? Isn't there more? In post-modern terms, is there a meta-narrative, an overarching story that gives mening to it all? That's a great question for a post-modern album to ask. And yet I love the great mix of affection and parody for the characters, served up with wit. In other words, I love that it makes us ask the big question.

The other thing that makes for a great record is the musical range of it. There are all kinds of tempos and forms of instrumentation, and yet it all hangs together as one. As their press bio truthfully says, in the new record FOW covers "early 60's jangle, late 60's psychedelia, 70's classic rock, 80's New Wave, 90's alt-rock, and contemporary pop in their own inimitable style — this time against an even richer, more varied sonic backdrop of lush harmony vocal stacks, staccato horn blasts, pulsating analog keyboards, slinky bass lines, and deep grooves. There's even some banjo in there somewhere, just in case. And, of course, lots of guitars...chiming, crunching, strumming, and occasionally twanging." For once, a band bio is exactly on target.

I suspect Traffic and Weather is one album that will remain in my Current Listening List in the Sidebar for quite some time. Give it a spin, will you?