May 2005 Archives

Various Artists - Kittridge Records Presents: Homemade Hits Vol. 2 (Kittridge) [audio]

That enchanting clerk working at the record shop down the street likes you. Because she's a bit shy, she makes you a mixtape to strike up conversation on your return visit. At home that afternoon, you fall hard for her rich taste in great bands you've never heard before. A week passes, and you find yourself listening to the tape all the time, day and night. Of course this girl is imaginary, but these are the things you think of when listening to Homemade Hits Vol. 2.
Love Of Diagrams - We Got Communication (Unstable Ape) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

Though the band's first album consisted of ten winding, angular instrumental pieces (think Sleater-Kinney without singing), the decision to incorporate vocals into the material on their follow-up EP was a wise one. Not only are these new songs more eruptive, but the dynamic male/female vocal interplay lends more depth to the material and a resolute foundation that had only been hinted at before. There's only one reason people aren't talking about Love Of Diagrams; people haven't heard Love Of Diagrams.
The Hold Steady - Separation Sunday (French Kiss Records) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

The Hold Steady have been unfairly pegged as a bar band – the thinking indie-AC/DC wannabe. If there's any justice, Separation Sunday should shake that reputation. If there's any classic rock specter that haunts this album, it's Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and I mean that as a compliment. With Benmont Tench-ian organ backing up the wall of guitars behind Craig Finn's stories of party kids falling in and out of grace, I'm instantly transported back to the night-time parking lots of high school days long past.
Milton Mapes - The Blacklight Trap (Undertow) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

I grabbed the last bit of cash from behind the counter and she held the front door open. We sped out of that tiny Texas town in her cousin's rusty Chevrolet as the sky opened up and a bolt of lightning kicked up dust in the distance. After the first drops a rain began to fall, I hurled the gun out of the window and rolled up the glass. "What's playing?" I asked. "This is Milton Mapes," she offered in return. "It's almost perfect, isn't it?"

Tonedeff - Archetype

Tonedeff - Archetype (QN5) [upcoming shows]

Hip-hop takes me out of my comfort zone. As an unabashed rock fan, only the occasional hip-hop album will demand my attention. Even fewer inspire me to write about them. Archetype does. The beats and arrangements are full of life; not needlessly busy, yet not stark or cold. Paired with a vocal flow that would make your favorite MC jealous, Tonedeff's missive is virtually flawless from front to back. Not as avant as the backpackers nor as elementary as Billboard's Hot 100, Archetype is a fitting title.
The Dirtbombs - If You Don't Already Have A Look (In The Red) [upcoming shows]

Every night, thousands of bands are playing in dive bars all over the world. If it's a night the Dirtbombs are on the bill somewhere, all others may as well go home. The Dirtbombs, you see, are the fiercest, sweatiest, meanest band to ever assault your senses. This new double-disc set compiles their scattered singles and b-sides with eight new recordings and unreleased material. While the studio has never quite done them justice, these 52 tracks are a fiery baptism for the curious among you.

Esmerine – Aurora

Esmerine – Aurora (Madrona Records)

I grew up playing the violin, but always secretly wished I had gone with the cello. If only I had known then that it could play music like this... Aurura is full of drama: atmospheric and somewhat spooky. A mournful cello over lone piano lines and gloomy percussion. It’s like the soundtrack to a film filled with sighs and ending in suicide. In a good way.

Robbie Fulks - Georgia Hard

Robbie Fulks - Georgia Hard (Yep Roc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you're one of those people who appreciate country music in some novel, ironic way, please put this album down and step back. Robbie Fulks is not manipulative enough to fake it in the set, nor is he glossy and produced enough to fit into Nashville's ranks. What he is, actually, is one of the last few country writer/performers who take the history and the spirit of the music seriously. Periodically, his lyrical sense of humor continues to shine through. But, musically, he's all business.

Spoon - Gimme Fiction

Spoon - Gimme Fiction (Merge) [mp3] [audio] [upcoming shows]

I've spent the last quarter of my life trying to explain to friends why Spoon is, hands down, my favorite band in the world. Until Gimme Fiction, I had no way of summing it all up in one single release. Their most accessible work - sparse and at the same time so massive, perfectly penned and produced. The simple act of hitting play on track one brings on a deluge of sound that throws your body against a wall. Dance to it, drive to it, strut to it - doesn't matter how you ingest it, the album is perfect.
South San Gabriel - The Carlton Chronicles: Not Until the Operation's Through (Misra) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

Here's another release featuring prolific raspy-voiced Will Johnson, this time a concept album about a cat. When not releasing solo records or Centro-Matic releases, South San Gabriel features a rotating musical cast behind Johnson. This, their third full-length recording, features a lush arrangement of slide guitars, layered vocals, organ, acoustic guitars, piano, and violins. Devoid of any power chords, this relies on precise orchestration to deliver its dose of melancholy.
De Novo Dahl - Cats & Kittens (Theory 8) [audio] [upcoming shows]

By turns bouncy and melodic, De Novo Dahl's sound is a little bit of a lot of things; their PR people call it a combination of "new wave, 60s rock and modern indie pop." I definitely heard the Kinks and Supergrass at different points. Nearly every song on "Cats" is a keeper, and the best part is that they are all remixed on "Kittens." Perfect for a party on the deck this summer. I dare you not to dance to "All Over Town" and "Sexy Come Lately."
Disco Drive - What's Wrong With You, People? (Unhip) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

Disco Drive can sometimes sound like they went to Shellac High School, which isn't a bad thing. You'll also hear bits of a poppier Clash, while in other spots the pop suffocates the Clash influence. Although poppy, the fine guitar playing and vocal harmonizing more than make up for it. This isn't groundbreaking, but if you like to dance to art/punk, Disco Drive lays down the perfect grooves.

Weezer - Make Believe

Weezer - Make Believe (Geffen) [audio/video] [upcoming shows]

There are now a generation of kids who were raised on Weezer much the same way I was raised on Van Halen. As you'll see, I didn't pull this comparison out of thin air. Make Believe works for Weezer much the same way 1984 did for Van Halen so long ago. Every songwriting trademark they have has been exaggerated to the nth degree, almost to the point of self-parody. But, as Van Halen were able to do, Weezer work this to their advantage and create one of the more vital albums in their repertoire.
Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)

Round Two, Paul vs. Tom D. Ding ding! Fight! This record is spectacular. It sounds like they took a lot less time putting their sophomore album together, and it paid off. Overproduction made Youth and Young Manhood sound muddy and its Southern roots seemed forced. This album, recorded live in studio, is too clean and careless to be dissected. Their sound is, admittedly, a contrived concoction of musical styles; they just happen to be good enough at it to make me not care. Fun summer music that makes me long for Whitt's Barbeque.

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