February 2002 Archives

Zero 7 - Simple Things

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Zero 7 - Simple Things (Palm)

Lush strings, seductive female vocals (British accents get me open, yo), and what sounds like the coolest vintage synth collection EVER all combine into a ridiculously soothing mix of midtempo chillout tracks. Lullaby songs for babies with cool haircuts; if Air freshened up and started liking real girls instead of androids, they might sound like this. Isn't it about time you got a new make-out record?

DJ P - Hell on Wheels

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DJ P - Hell On Wheels (self-released)

I always thought the police lineup in Candyman where the different thugs have to repeat, "y'all lookin fo' Candyman, bitch?" would make a killer sample. DJ P agrees, but ups the ante with an entire album of horror film dialogue interspersed with ominous hip-hop tracks. Like DJ Shadow on 'shrooms and Saturday morning cartoons, P effortlessly splices the Geto Boys' hood paranoia with haunted-house theremin and Casper dialogue on top, scratching trick-or-treat sound effects like it was the dopest record in his collection.

Data Was Lost

Data Was Lost - Building 2002 Compilation

Mention Ohio and Dayton is the first city to come to mind, not Cincinnati but this collection should change that opinion. This fine compilation features lots of awkward indie rock (Swissfarlo, Haleymill, Chalk and others), bedroom hip-hop (DJ Aphid, Coltrane Motion), and new wave (Deltoro). The highlight- DJ Aphid lays down phat hip hop beats and samples the MC5, while busting out "my Lowenstein to your Barlow" during his rap. I'm packing my bags, Cincinnati here I come.

Pleasant Grove

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Pleasant Grove - Auscultation of the Heart (GLIT) [mp3]

Dallas band Pleasant Grove, who is self-described as wanting to "play music that captured raw melancholy melodies laid out over slow spacious rhythmic harmonies" has released one of the best albums I have listened to in quite a while. Sincere lyrics like "So I'll just keep to myself; think and drink by myself... build the biggest wall around myself" are combined with soothing pedal steel and infectious vocal lines. This collection of down tempo rock songs are perfect for a rainy day, or every day if you are like me.

Amscray - The Last of the Fieros

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Amscray - The Last of the Fieros (Ninespeed) [mp3s]

I've never done the "review your friend's band" thing before. But this was recorded before Cory joined Amscray, so that makes it ok. These are songs about disappointment that you can have fun dancing to - bopping along to lyrics like "your heart beat is overrated." Colin Daly’s vocals shine when he whispers over songs like "Everything That’s Wrong". As endorsement, I'd like to say that Jon had it in his disc changer for 6 months. That’s half a year, kids.
The Stepford Five – The Art of Self Defense [mp3s]

Upon first listen, it's pretty obvious that the Stepford Five worship at the Afghan Whigs altar (the band freely admits this), though with repeated listeners you'll discover that the band replaces the Motown swagger and soul of the Whigs with thick modern-rock sounding guitars and vocals. A better comparison might be made to Puller, the Tooth and Nail band that combined the angst-ridden sound of the Afghan Whigs with the heaviness of post-grunge/alternative metal bands like Paw and Shiner.

X-Rated Cowboys - Honor Among Thieves

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X-Rated Cowboys - Honor Among Thieves [audio]

From the pastures of Columbus, Ohio (a ten-minute drive in any direction will find you knee deep in cow manure and cornfields) comes the hootenany countrified-rock stylings of the X-Rated Cowboys. Fueled by alcohol, Replacements albums, and state fairs, the Cowboys kick out the jams on barn-burners like "End of the World" and "Cowboy Song" while mid-tempo numbers like "Trans Am" and "Drive-By" bring to mind the rural-pop sound of the Wallflowers.
The Mr. T Experience - ...And the Women Who Love Them (Lookout!) [mp3s]

There's only one person who can get away with using the word "apocryphal" in the context of a pop-punk song, and that's Dr. Frank, frontman of the Mr. T Experience and the most clever songwriter of the 1990s. This disc gathers EPs, b-sides, compilation tracks, and demos from the band's remarkably consistent '93 to '97 period, and forms both a testament and a fine introduction to the wit, wisdom, and stellar compositions present in the group's catalog. Recommended for fans of smart word-turns, ironic humor, and songs about girls.
Desaparecidos - Read Music/Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek) [mp3]

Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst does his best Cursive impression while showing he has inherited Isaac Brock's disdain for parking lots and shopping centers on his new wall-of-sound rock project. Switching lyrical gears from personal problems to local politics, Oberst screeches mercilessly while hammering on his guitar. Although I prefer Conor-the-singer over Conor-the-screamer, the guitar and keyboard work saves the project from becoming an overwrought mess. Slightly juvenile, yet oh so convincing.

Sarah Shannon

Sarah Shannon (Casa Recording Co.)

The former Velocity Girl singer is now a well-grounded woman whose tastes have shifted from indie-pop to Burt Bacarach-type tunes dealing with loneliness -- the first five songs explicitly have the word "lonely" in the lyrics and most are sung in the first person ("I'm lonely, so lonely"). While dealing with such a forlorn subject, Shannon's vocals radiate when set amongst the organs, brass and strings that dominate the 10-song solo debut. Songs for the broken-hearted.

Faraquet - The View From this Tower

Faraquet - The View From this Tower (Dischord) [mp3]

The D.C. artcore trio, Faraquet, met in '97 and released their first full length on Dischord. Comprised of frenzied drumming, propulsive guitar and intense bass.. add fucked trumpet, conceptual cello and complacent banjo, this band isn't afraid of experimentation. They take a math rock structure, make it fresh and draw comparisons with King Crimsonand Don Caballero. The technical skill involved in The View From this Tower proves to be a challenging beauty to sympathize with, and yet is effortlessly perfect.

Unwritten Law – Elva

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Unwritten Law - Elva (Interscope) [audio 1 2]

Unwritten Law is trying to be everything to everyone on this very unfocused release. At it's root, the music is homogenized SoCal power-pop that veers off in a number of different directions, from power-punk-ballads ("Seein' Red," "Geronimo") to ska-core ("Evolution") to harmonic hard rock ("Hellborn," "Rescue Me") to pop-punk ("Actress, Model, Dancer"). With very little cohesion, I feel like I've just listened to a compilation of seventeen different bands, not seventeen songs by same band.

Kent - Hagnesta Hill

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Kent - Hagnesta Hill (BMG) [audio]

On the follow up to their stellar English language debut, "Isola", Sweden's finest sons returned with "Hagnesta Hill." But where "Isola" seemed fresh, and actually didn't sound like Radiohead at all, "Hagnesta Hill" goes through The Bends like a guitar-rock bred robot. This isn't necessarily bad, since songs like "Kevlar Soul" and "Revolt III" have pleasantly soaring choruses and respectable guitar work. Although far too long and sometimes a chore to get through, the album rocks me like Jonny Greenwood used to.

Josh Rouse - Under Cold Blue Stars

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Josh Rouse - Under Cold Blue Stars (Rykodisc) [mp3]

The most significant moment in Rouse's musical past is a collaboration EP with Lambchop's Kurt Wagner. In the howling on the title track, echoes of Kurt can be heard and, throughout the album, the spirit of Lambchop is somehow captured. That isn't to say that Rouse isn't original - alt.country has never sounded so soulful, laid back and easy to listen to. Buy it - it'll be a fixture in your hi-fi for weeks.
Knievel - The Name Rings a Bell That Drowns Out Your Voice (In Music We Trust) [mp3 1 2 3]

Keyboards play an important part in Knievel’s sound. The Australian band uses the instrument to add a faint and gentle texture to the cathartic indie-pop guitar sound. Dramatic and warm melodies are important as well, especially on tracks like "Don't Explain," "Thoughts in a Pattern," and the rollicking "Chance Meeting." This is a good one to listen to on a Sunday afternoon while sipping tea and writing in your journal.

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