May 2004 Archives

Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Brit Pop (First Look) [trailer]

In trying to take the viewer from Thatcher's England to Britpop and New Labour in the mid-nineties to Pop Idol and S Club Juniors today, Live Forever tries to do too much. But with extra interview footage, the DVD accomplishes what the theatrical release did not. Even rabid American fans of British music might never understand the fascinating political and class dimensions of Britpop, but this flick gives us a shot.
Bad Religion - The Empire Strikes First (Epitaph) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

Sometimes it's comforting to know there's still a band who really have no interest in fucking around with what works. That's what makes The Empire Strikes First just another reliable Bad Religion record. Now, if that's not your thing, don't expect to be magically persuaded by this latest offering. However, those already guilty of Bad Religion fandom are in for a feast of rapid-paced, tritely politicized rock music... just like they've doing for the last 23 years.
Midlake - Bamnan and Slivercork (Bella Union) [mp3]

Though it's fairly common for unsolicited discs to show up on my desk, it's fairly rare for one of them to really worm its way into my ear. Midlake managed to do it easily though, with their latest, Bamnan and Slivercork. Their sound comes off something kinda like Grandaddy over a base coat of Neutral Milk Hotel, and damn, that rubs me just the right way.

Asobi Seksu

Asobi Seksu (Friendly Fire Recordings) [audio/video] [upcoming shows]

Recorded in 2002 and released in a limited quantity, Asobi Seksu's debut is finally making its official appearance. Atop buoyant distorted guitars and solid pop grooves, Yuki's sometimes precious vocals soften the edges of these otherwise punchy songs beyond reprieve. In cases when everything works, though, like that of "Walk on the Moon," their sense of purpose is realized. While flawed, it's still satisfying; and that's more than you can say about a lot of other bands making their names in the recent NYC boom.
Felix da Housecat - Devin Dazzle and the Neon Fever (Emperor Norton/Rykodisc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Long-time Felix fans I've talked with about the new record are a little disappointed the emphasis has been taken from the usual cohesive album-length mix and shifted to individual and very distinct songs. With this material, though, it wouldn't work any other way. Everything here is an homage to the plastic and disposable attitudes and music of the eighties. From the pounding, near-industrial kick of "Watching Cars Go By" to the Linndrum/DX-7 workout of "Neon Human," Felix puts the cherry on top of the electroclash revival.

Joel Phelps - Customs

Joel Phelps - Customs (12XU/Moneyshot) [audio/video]

Joel Phelps has consistantly released the most genuine music in the indie rock world for the past decade, yet no one is more overlooked or less appreciated. This latest release is another dose of pure heartbreak characterized by Phelps' immediately recognizable wail and traditionally sparse arrangements by The Downer Trio. Although dominated by ballads, The Downer Trio also unexpectedly switch gears and play fast and tight. Known for his ability to reinvent cover songs, limited copies include a bonus EP with covers of Joy Division and The Chills.
Mono - Walking Cloud and Deep Red Sky, Flag Fluttered and the Sun Shined (Human Highway)
[audio] [upcoming shows]
Memo To: Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Kinski, Do Make Say Think and associates
Re: The new Mono album
It is with much regret we inform you that your services are no longer needed. We've outsourced our post-rock contract to Japan, and are ecstatic over the results. Please feel free to use us as a reference regarding your future employment and best of luck in all your endeavors.

Bob Pollard - Fiction Man

Bob Pollard - Fiction Man (Fading Captain) [mp3]

For me, Bob Pollard's Fading Captain series has been living up to its title. Then the man releases Fiction Man, a project where the Guided By Voices frontman writes the songs, provides the vocals, and hands off the instruments and production to Todd Tobias. Tobias's organic production combined with some of the poppiest tunes Pollard has written in a long time produce a record that bears repeated listening, and bodes well for Robert Pollard's post-GBV solo career.

Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose

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Loretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose (Interscope) [upcoming shows]

The hype surrounding Jack White and Lynn's collaboration is proven here to be well deserved. Even so, it's odd that the creation of a superlative rock record, using traditional country and blues forms and instrumentation, is lauded as an achievement. White's production is occasionally creative (like the space-rock opening of "Portland, Oregon"), but for the most part this record illustrates that songcraft and attitude together account for 99.44% of what makes rock great. The lusty foot-stomper "Have Mercy" is destined to be played in every strip bar this summer.

The Fontaine Toups - TFT

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The Fontaine Toups - TFT (Teenbeat) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

It can be tough to step out from an established band, even in indie-dom, but you'd never know it from The Fontaine Toup's first album. More "rock" and even "accessible" than one might initially expect, TFT has lost the Sonic Youth-isms and angularity of her old band, Versus, while retaining its expert sense of pacing and drama. And the fact that "Who Told You" isn't a mega-huge radio hit in any format that allows guitars may just be THE musical crime of early 2004.
Jon Chinn - I Can't Believe You Live Like That (Reverbose Records) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

Though this CD is technically a solo album from Pretty Mighty Mighty frontman Jon Chinn, the singer receives help from members of his own band and other Columbus heavyweights like Miranda Sound, Tiara, and Templeton. With his gentle Bob Mould-like voice ("Record Sets," "All About"), Chinn is a poignant and elegant songwriter. His poetic lyrics are intimate and bittersweet and the addition of stringed instruments such as the cello on "King's Horse" make this one of the warmest, most captivating releases of the year.

Matt Sharp

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Matt Sharp (In Music We Trust) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

Maturation isn't as easy as it looks. In the case of Matt Sharp's first post-Weezer/post-Rentals full length album, the line between rewardingly mature and plainly boring is often blurred beyond recognition. By no means is this a bad collection of songs; the sparse instrumentation and whispered vocals are beautiful alongside one another. I dare you to remember even one of the melodies when the album's over, though. He's found a musical palette rife with possibility, but there's still some work to do.

Lali Puna - Faking the Books

Lali Puna - Faking the Books (Morr Music) [audio/video] [upcoming shows]

Some may bemoan the Notwist-ification of Lali Puna, based on the increased use of rock instrumentation alongside the latter's usual gentle electronics, but the resulting more aggressive production makes this one of the best listens of 2004. Valerie Trebeljahr's trademark whispered vocals are even more striking set against occasionally giant drums, bass and dense guitar. With lyrics more minimal and yet apparently more political, Lali Puna successfully proves that both less is more and more is more on a single, dreamy record.
The Shocking Pinks - Dance the Dance Electric (Pinacolada) [audio] [upcoming shows]

New Zealand's Shocking Pinks handsomely bridge the gap between the atmospheric danceability of early '80s Factory releases (see: A Certain Ratio) and the pensive shoegazing of early '90s Creation releases (see: Ride) into one very fruitful package. A combination this volatile, while fantastic in print and on tape, must be a major obstacle in real life, though. They've just broken up for the second time since the album's release in February of this year, likely putting the kaibosh on any prospect of a domestic release.

Mission of Burma - ONoffON

Mission of Burma - ONoffON (Matador) [audio/mp3s] [upcoming shows]

From the very first note, it's immediately clear that MoB has not lost an ounce of energy or dissonance since breaking up in 1807. If anything, they've somehow become more coherent as songwriters, without losing that "train about to veer off the tracks" feeling of old. There are no anthems like "Revolver" or "Academy Fight Song" here but I don't miss 'em. MoB has effectively proved (again) that rock doesn't have to be a young person's game.

The Frames - Set List

The Frames - Set List (Anti) [audio/mp3s] [upcoming shows]

I've seen the Frame live twice, each time serving as an opening band. Both times they played less than 40 minutes, and both times their set ended with me losing my mind, desperately hoping they'd come out for an encore of another ten songs. Until that time comes along, at least I can be comforted with "Set List," the band's new live album that almost captures the magic of being at one of their shows. Almost. Still, I'll take what I can get. And you should too.
Bloc Party - Banquet/Staying Fat (Moshi Moshi) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Disregard the fact that "Banquet/Staying Fat" is the NME's single of the week, proven to be the kiss of death for more than 50% of bands unfortunate enough to have been awarded such a prize. Instead, pay attention to the rock solid post-punk grooves and succinct smacks of seemingly careless guitar which make those fashion plates in Franz Ferdinand run home, arms flailing, to their mommies. 2004 will be the year of Bloc Party.
The Veils - The Runaway Found (Rough Trade) [audio] [upcoming shows]

At 19, Finn Andrews (son of former XTC and Shriekback member Barry Andrews) is head and shoulders above most other performers his age. The Runaway Found possesses a sentimental depth that even older peers like Coldplay's Chris Martin and the Verve's Richard Ashcroft have spent the better part of a decade trying to harness. The Veils don't create Britpop in the modern sense, but epic and timeless music without a hint of posturing. And then there's that voice—you've never heard anything like it.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2004 listed from newest to oldest.

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