August 2005 Archives

American Analog Set - Set Free

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American Analog Set - Set Free (Morr Music) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's unusual for a band to seldom change, yet almost never remain the same. Play Set Free and then throw on the band's decade-old debut. You'll be amazed by how differently they utilize the same sonic chemistry set they originally worked with. The resulting songs are every bit as gentle, but possess a subtle sense of aggression and wicked hook-laden choruses. I knew long ago this band required a pinch of patience to enjoy, and in 2005 that waiting is finally paying off.

Coldplay - X & Y

Coldplay - X & Y (Capitol) [upcoming shows]

In the immortal words of Fred Willard in A Mighty Wind... wha' happened? This album is shite. With the exception of the single "Speed of Sound," which I'm sure you've all heard on the radio by now, the tracks smush into a blur of screeching falsetto, terrible lyrics and, above all, boredom. I am going to have to stop comparing any other band to Coldplay, because I don't want them to be associated with this crap.
The Rikters - Mistaken For Scientists EP [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

From the band name alone, I was ready to dislike The Rikters. After listening to Mistaken For Scientists, I hear far too many sounds I enjoy to dismiss them based on their name. Doug Jenkins' vocal range, while not quite Jeff Buckley's, is quite impressive and sounds good for what's happening on this EP. Add some good harmonies and interesting start/stop guitar and you have a nice little 6 song EP on your hands. Even the band name is growing on me.

Rogue Wave - 10:1 EP

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Rogue Wave - 10:1 EP (Sub Pop) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

Rogue Wave's debut album consisted of good material that was underperformed by a solo Zach Rogue. After its release, Rogue Wave evolved into an actual band and, through extensive touring, those same songs picked up a whole new set of dynamics. 10:1, Rogue Wave's new 4-song EP, precedes their second full-length. The title track is a short burst of what makes present-day Rogue Wave so exciting. Three other songs exclusive to the EP are pleasant, but recall the solitude of earlier work. Overall, it's a worthy teaser.

Embrace - Out of Nothing

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Embrace - Out of Nothing (Independiente UK) [audio] [upcoming shows]

My family of Britpop is expanding! Cousins Doves and Ocean Colour Scene will be at the christening; nephew Chris Martin even wrote a song, "Gravity," to celebrate. (Luckily the baby didn't inherit his silly falsetto - except in Track 4.) Out of Nothing offers up a solid collection of hook-laden songs with mopey lyrics. The Alarm-like anthem "Ashes" will find you driving around with the windows open, singing along defiantly... at least until the last line admits defeat. A worthy addition to the clan.


Whomadewho (Gomma)

"Diversity or death" is unquestionably Whomadewho's musical motto. Drawing from corners as distant as Out Hud, Daft Punk, Pink Floyd and Silver Apples, their debut album is more akin to a compilation than the work of a single band. Yet, as each successive track bleeds into the next, there's no doubt the same three players are behind what you're hearing. Deciding whether to slump into my chair, holding the headphones close, or jumping up to cut the rug might come down to a flipped coin.

The Duhks

The Duhks (Sugar Hill Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Living in Nashville taught me this important lesson: when musicians of the MTV generation tackle traditional acoustic music, the results often kick the ass right out of their audience's collective pants. So, when I find a 20-something Celtic/bluegrass/folk band from Canada with a tattooed punk goddess of a lead singer, it gets bought. The Duhks could very easily become the Norah Jones of bluegrass. After a few listens, you find salsa drum rhythms, jazz violin solos, and pop melodies. You also find yourself dancing.
Erin McKeown - We Will Become Like Birds (Nettwerk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

To me, good lyrics make for good songs; if your words are painfully trite, why bother writing them? Just go instrumental. If, however, you are going to include such musings as "It's Victorian this embroidering offering and sorting of memory to museum quality," well, then, sing it out. Erin McKeown's latest album could be deconstructed in poetry class: images of air, birds, flying, the moon and stars are woven throughout. A blend of folk and rock, she sounds like a raspier Suzanne Vega, a less-country Michelle Shocked.

Portastatic - Bright Ideas

Portastatic - Bright Ideas (Merge) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If Mac McCaughan has written a better song than "Through With People" in the last ten years, I've overlooked it. The fact is, pretty much all of Portastatic's new album plays back like a boisterous manifesto. With Superchunk on indefinite hiatus, the rock has to leak outsomewhere. So instead of starting one more band, he's rewired Portastatic to accomodate the overflow. It's the hottest part of summer.Why don't you go for a swim?
Tree By Leaf - Of the Black and the Blue (Long Ago Light) [audio/more audio] [upcoming shows]

Folk/pop/country minor-key melodies wrapped around lyrics that could generate an English class discussion; religious imagery, internal rhyming... all kinds of good stuff. The first few tracks remind me of the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions... the slight sleepiness, a touch of Margo Timmins in Siiri Soucy's voice. Then Garrett Soucy chimes in, sounding a little like Evan Dando. After so many listens, I chime in too, especially during the revival-ish chorus to "Regardless of the Cost": Like a probably, and a possibly, and a not ever in your dreams.

Dimension Mix

Dimension Mix (Eenie Meenie) [audio/more audio]

This impressive tribute to Dimension 5 Records (1962-1988) donates its proceeds to autism charities. All 18 songs were originally recorded by early electronic auteurs Bruce Haack and Esther Nelson and are interpreted by modern performers. The biggest name is Beck (weird, as a Scientolgist he would probably claim austism could be healed by vitamins), then followed by Stereolab, Apples in Stereo, Tipsy, Eels, Dj Me Dj You, and the Danielson Famile. If this compilation doesnt stop your child from counting to 13,957 using only prime numbers, no music ever will.

Volebeats - Like Her

Volebeats - Like Her (Turquoise Mountain) [audio]

I've been wasting countless hours on Jayhawks and Teenage Fanclub records, convinced the songs I was hearing on them was the closest I'd ever get to modern versions of what the Byrds and the Hollies had originally recorded back in the '60s. I wish someone would've told me about the Volebeats, fer chrissakes! Like Her, the band's newest record and their first proper release in over five years, might have more cascading harmonies and amplified 12-string guitar lines than I can even handle (but I welcome the challenge).
The Silent Type - Hot and Bothered

If you're in the mood to listen to a record that rocks from start to finish, than Hot and Bothered is it. Almost every song on the record has a hook. "Pagan Philosophy" will have you stomping your foot through the living room floor, while "Dog Days" will give your brain an aneurysm from all the headbanging you'll be doing. The Silent Type isn't reinventing the wheel here, but they sure are bringing the rock. Recommended if you like At the Drive In, The Stooges, and Afghan Whigs.

Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile (Columbia) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

I love this album. It's full of heartfelt melancholy with a touch of twang and a smattering of the blues. All of which you'll find yourself humming later in the day. Carlile's idol is Patsy Cline, but I see her as a descendent of Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell, with a voice rather similar to Bonnie Raitt. On the 75orLess road trip, she's in the seat next to Jennifer O'Connor.

Finn - The Ayes Will Have It

Finn - The Ayes Will Have It (Sunday Service) [mp3/video] [upcoming shows]

With big ideas filtered through a small budget, Patrick Zimmer's recording alter ego Finn sets out to dismantle pretty songs and rebuild them with entire segments left damaged and exposed. He favors no arrangement more than another, opting to sparsely create with acoustic, electric and synthetic elements. On top of it all, he makes excellent use of his trembling falsetto to bind all these disparate pieces together. If the Notwist were more cuddly or Sigur Rós less frigid, their albums might resemble The Ayes Will Have It.
John Guilt - By Any Other Name EP (Android Eats Records) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

What's in a name? according to John Guilt (who is the name of a band, not a person), not much. It's what's inside that counts (awww...). So, if you want to know what's inside this EP, it includes wistful, gentle acoustic strumming, brushed drums, violas, plaintiveness, and the declaration that "sometimes life is a piece of cake; sometimes it's cake on an infant's face". If the thought of taking three valiums and sitting in on a jam session with Bread is your ultimate rock and roll fantasy, this is as close to "Baby I'm-a Want You" you will ever get.

Frank Black - Honeycomb

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Frank Black - Honeycomb (Back Porch) [audio]

A collection of soulful recordings that betray Black's advancing age... in a good way. Like the best of Dylan's recordings, Black's less-than-perfect vocals provide the perfect emotional counterpoint to his impeccable backing band of Nashville studio gods. Sometimes silly, often empassioned, and never anything less than compelling. The perfect almost-country album to play for your city friends. Finally, if a Pixies fan tells you that you simply MUST get the new Frank Black solo album, you can listen to them without laughing.

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This page is an archive of entries from August 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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