Commentary

Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs squeeze out the folk

Updated: April 1, 2009, 12:39 AM ET
By Paul Shirley | Special to ESPN.com

In my previous column, I asked for nominations of albums readers would like to see reviewed. A few days later, I rubbed my hands together like a fat kid at the Pizza Hut lunch buffet before checking my trusty Gmail account.

[+] EnlargeDr. Dog
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesDr. Dog prescribed just what Drew from Chicago was looking for.

At the time, I was listening to an album by Alela Diane, which is a little strange for me, only because her record -- "To Be Still" -- is classified by iTunes as folk and I'm not generally a connoisseur of folk music. I had heard, and had then been haunted by, her voice in Spain, and was excited to listen to her album when I got the chance. I was thrilled that the album was good and wanted to pass along that sentiment; I thought this column was surely going to be about Alela and Alela alone. But then I started reading e-mails and got thoroughly sidetracked.

I was waylaid by an e-mail from a nice girl named Michelle, who told me I should review the new Yeah Yeah Yeahs album. That information was waylay-worthy because I had heard the first single from the new album -- a tune called "Zero" -- about a month before and thought it was one of the best songs I'd heard on the radio in ages. Soon after, I learned that the album wouldn't be out until April. My face made a frown. Then Michelle informed me I could already download the album from the YYY's Web site. My face made an upside-down frown.

My reaction made clear the fact that I was anticipating the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new album much more than I had realized. I felt like a teenage girl scrambling to get the phone away from her mother as I frantically searched for the download.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Bird
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesHigh praise and a strong argument got Andrew Bird in the final five.

I think my anticipation was justified: The band puts out nothing but wonderful music. They are the Wheat Chex of rock music; if asked, I'd probably forget about them as a favorite, but I'm always pleased when I have them.

After Michelle's e-mail, I was thoroughly hot and bothered by Karen O and Co. Poor Alela Diane. As wonderful as her voice is, she didn't have a chance. If Alela Diane was my current girlfriend, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were Charlize Theron knocking on the front door.

I've only had time to listen to "It's Blitz!" thrice. My reaction can best be summed up by the following: The ninth song on the album of 10 songs is called "Hysteric." The first two times I heard the album, I assumed it was the last song on the album; it has the feel of a fond farewell. When I checked and discovered it wasn't, I was unnaturally excited that another song awaited my ears. I think that bodes well for "It's Blitz!"

It's obvious I've been thoroughly flummoxed by these two fine female musicians. It will take some work to clear my head of their lovely voices, but I'll try. It's time for me to focus on the task at hand: the vote that will determine my next maddeningly indecisive music review.

[+] EnlargeThe Hold Steady
Roger Kisby/Getty ImagesPaul Shirley is willing to give The Hold Steady a second chance.

It was my hope that clear-cut favorites would emerge from the suggestions, but repeat album nominations were few and far between. I like to think that speaks to the diverse quality of my audience, but it probably speaks to the state of popular music. (Which is that there isn't much in the way of common musical experience these days. Unless you're a Rihanna fan, of course.)

I got e-mails from people suggesting obscurity -- Saving Abel, Shaky Hands and KiloWatts & Vanek -- and some from those suggesting familiarity -- Air, Primus and Chris Cornell. There was hard -- Mushroomhead -- and soft -- Ben Kweller. There were long e-mails and short e-mails and even one e-mail from a man whose wife's view I once "blocced" at a Bloc Party show.

[+] EnlargeLocal H
Stacie McChesney/NBCU Photo Bank/AP ImagesThe next review might be brought to you by Local H.

When it was done, I had picked five albums that intrigued me for various reasons. Each is an album I have not yet heard. To help narrow the field, I'll give you a few snippets on why I picked each record. In turn, you pretend you care and then skip to the part where you vote.

The Hold Steady -- Positive Rage

The Hold Steady is one of those bands I should like, but don't. Or rather a band I should have tried, but haven't. Tried in recorded form, that is. My introduction to the band came through an old Internet friend who got me on the list at a show The Hold Steady were playing in Los Angeles. He had read my columns and thought, like many others, that I would like the band. Maybe I had a bad taco at Baja Fresh, or maybe The Hold Steady is one of those bands I've mentioned -- the type that isn't so good unless you know a song going in. Whatever the reason, I dismissed them at the time.

Nick from Minnesota suggested I tame my inner snap judgments and give them another chance. If you'd like to read about me eating the proverbial crow, vote for The Hold Steady.

Dan Auerbach -- Keep It Hid

[+] EnlargeDan Auerbach
C Flanigan/Getty ImagesDan Auerbach's support has strength in numbers. Not big numbers, mind you.
Dan Auerbach fronts the Black Keys, an under-known blues band around which I've circled but which I've never completely embraced. "Keep It Hid" garnered the most nominations in my inbox, which is lovely because that means my audience is a taste-heavy group, but it's bad because that also means my audience is a fairly narrow slice of sapiens that probably isn't going to propel me to Peter Travers status anytime soon.

I'm excited by the prospect of being "forced" to listen to this record because both suggestors were so adamant with their suggesting.

That's right. "Most nominations" equals two. Still building a readership.

Andrew Bird -- Noble Beast

Fellow world traveler Josh suggested I listen to more Andrew Bird. He expressed shock that the world is so often subjected to such bad music (radio) when there exists so much good music (everywhere else). His persuasion struck a nerve. That added to the rumblings I've been hearing about Bird's talent have me excited that he might win.

Dr. Dog -- We All Belong

Poll
Drew from Chicago told me this Dr. Dog album helped him intercourse a young woman. That's a good enough recommendation for me.

Local H -- Twelve Angry Months

Flattery will get you far in life, as Chris from Houston has learned. He also understands how to make a man feel appreciated: He picked up on my longtime love for Local H and noticed that I mentioned I haven't yet listened to the band's latest record.

I've seen Local H live more times than any other band, which makes the fact I missed their 2008 release all the more criminal. I hope I can make it up to them by giving their latest a full review, but really that's for you to decide.

Paul Shirley has played for 13 pro basketball teams, including three NBA teams: the Chicago Bulls, Atlanta Hawks and Phoenix Suns. He can be found at myspace.com/paulshirley and at mysocalledcareer@gmail.com. His book "Can I Keep My Jersey?" -- which is now available in paperback -- can be found here. With his brother, he co-hosts an online radio show, "Off Topic with Matt and Paul Shirley."

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