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CD reviews (November – December 2009)

CD: Where the Wild Things Are Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Reviewed by Stephany Yong
15, Walnut HS
It’s hard to describe let alone capture the magical childhood spontaneity of Maurice Sendak’s book Where the Wild Things Are. Yet Karen O (of the indie rock band, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs) did a great job composing the movie’s soundtrack, combining the whimsy of the story and the wild antics of Max, the main character, and the Wild Things, a band of fierce but lovable creatures whom Max befriends.  
The album starts with a child whispering, “Hi,” and his mother replying, “I could use a story.” And so the story begins as Karen O expresses the loneliness of Max’s adventures through her soulful voice, instrumental shouts and peaceful humming. 
My favorite song on the album is “All is Love.” It’s upbeat with quick pulsing rhythms and the sound of children singing and whistling. I immediately found myself humming along to, “L-O-V-E, it’s a mystery/ Where you’ll find me, where you’ll find/ All is Love, is love.”
“Worried Shoes” is a beautiful ballad that brings out Karen O’s  voice to heart-wrenching effect. The song is simple, featuring broken piano chords and Karen O’s quivering voice singing lines like, “Every step that I take is another mistake/ I march further and further away in my worried shoes.”
There are seven playful and child-like instrumental songs that use humming and shuffling beats to accurately depict the excitement of the plot of Sendak’s book. While listening to “Rumpus,” I felt myself slip into my favorite children’s book, imagining Max dancing with the Wild Things. “Sailing Home,” the album’s final song, is lively with its driving rhythm and continues with the motif of the shuffling beats. Yet the song is remorseful; as Max leaves the Wild Things, he is also eager to go home.
I was disappointed that the soundtrack didn’t include Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” that was featured in the movie trailer. The rousing track fit perfectly with the intensity and anger Max has as King of the Wild Things.
Unlike most movie soundtracks, each song tells a story and once compiled into a soundtrack, creates the beauty of childhood that Sendak conveyed through his famous book.

CD: Transatlanticism

Reviewed by Hannah Song
16, Mark Keppel HS (Alhambra)

Death Cab for Cutie’s album Transatlanticism was love at first listen. Sometimes eccentric, sometimes melancholy, and always meaningful, lead singer Ben Gibbard croons stories of love and friendship with his smooth voice.

My three favorite songs are “Tiny Vessels,” “The Passenger Seat” and “Transatlanticism.”

“Tiny Vessels” has a pulsing melody that matches perfectly with Gibbard’s voice as well as the haunting lyrics: “And she was beautiful but she didn’t mean a thing to me.” These words are a stark confession of an idea we’re all familiar with but no one wants to admit to—the shallowness of love. “The Passenger Seat” is the kind of song you can imagine playing softly in the background as you drive home late at night. Its lyrics and tone give off a whimsical, comfortable feel: “With my feet on the dash, the world doesn’t matter.”

The song “Transatlanticism” has a backbeat like a steady heartbeat. Soft piano chords, the slow strum of an electric guitar and Gibbard’s voice create an ambience perfect for the rare California rainy day spent with a blanket and fuzzy slippers, while listening to lyrics like: “I need you so much closer.”

As a Death Cab for Cutie fan, I find this album the easiest to put on repeat. When people ask, “What’s Death Cab for Cutie like?” this is the album I refer them to. The music plus Gibbard’s vocals  and clever lyrics make this album unforgettable.

CD: Relapse

Reviewed By Francisco Sandoval
17, Nogales HS (La Puente)

After almost five years Eminem is back with Relapse. Filled with songs about hard times at school and his time in drug rehab, this is his best and most personal album. Before this, I didn’t like Eminem’s music all that much because his lyrics were so violent: “But the smartest s*** I did was take the bullets out that gun/ ‘cause I’d a killed ‘em” (from “Cleaning Out My Closet” on his previous album, The Eminem Show).

“Beautiful” is an amazing, deep song about being who you are no matter what people think of you. Eminem’s flow is slow and the beat makes you feel gloomy, which is ironic because the lyrics are meant to be uplifting. Eminem says, “Don’t let them say you ain’t beautiful/ They can all get f***ed/ Just stay true to you.” This song talks about Eminem trying to fit in at school because he was different. Two other really personal songs on this album are, “Same Song & Dance” and “Underground.” These two songs give us an insight into Eminem’s struggle with drugs and rehab.

On “We Made You,” though, Eminem is up to his old antics. He pokes fun at everybody from Jessica Simpson to Sarah Palin. My favorite lyrics are, “And little that I mention/ That Jennifer is/ In love with me so John Mayer sit on the bench.” The beat is fast paced and so is Eminem’s flow.

Eminem takes us even deeper into his life on a dark album that shows his more mature side.

CD: The Glass Passenger

Reviewed by Kevin Ko
15, Wilson HS (Hacienda Heights)

The rock band Jack’s Mannequin made a name for itself with its great first album, Everything in Transit. I was disappointed when I finally heard the band’s second album, The Glass Passenger, which was nothing like I had hoped.

While the band’s first album consisted of upbeat love songs, The Glass Passenger is filled with boring songs about breakup and sorrow.
Everything in Transit established JM’s musical style, which is piano rock. But now, it’s as if they’re abandoning it, like on the song “Bloodshot.” I didn’t hear much piano, instead it had a lot of guitar. It sounded like a bad Maroon 5 song. Another song, “Suicide Blonde,” sounded like a ripoff of “Wake-Up Call” by Maroon 5. JM’s lead singer Andrew McMahon’s voice sounds like he could be singing a song for a Disney musical not a rock song.

But there are good songs. “Spinning” is a song about how even though the world is hectic, everyone has to keep going. It has a catchy tune, good beat and great lyrics, like “I lost my place, but I can’t stop this story/ I’ll find my way, but until then, I’m only spinning.” This song could have been on Everything in Transit.

My friend Kristine, who is my school’s hugest Jack’s Mannequin fan, was even disappointed with the album. The Glass Passenger isn’t bad, just below most JM fans’ expectations. Even with this disappointing album, I would still buy their next album, hoping that they will return to their original style of piano rock.