November 2005 Archives

Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture

Wu-Tang Meets the Indie Culture (Think Differently Music/Babygrande) [audio/jarmusch]

I had to change my pants after I saw this in the store, and that was before I read the track listing. RZA, MF Doom, GZA, Del, U-God, Aesop Rock, Ras Kass, Casual... How the hell did I not hear about this? This disc might have as talented a line-up as Enter the 36 Chambers, and the production strongly echoes RZA's brilliant mid-Nineties work. Even though it includes fewer rhymes by original Wu members than the title suggests, this is the Wu-Tang album I had given up hope on ever hearing.
The Russian Futurists - Our Thickness (Upper Class) [mp3s]

When someone says an album is unique and unclassifiable, it's a signal to me that the music's so weird and experimental that listening will present a challenge. Toronto's Matthew Adam Heart, a.k.a. The Russian Futurists, busts that stereotype. On the one hand, these ten songs are a little lysergic, a little art-damaged, a little, well, different. On the other hand, they're booty-shaking electronic dance-anthems. Like chocolate and peanut butter, it's a perfect combo, a tasty treat for the ears.

Tiny Amps - Trill & Swagger

Tiny Amps - Trill & Swagger (Redder) [mp3] [upcoming shows]

If there's a lesson to be learned from reading press kits, it's to ignore any and all mentions of other more well-known and well-loved bands. Had my experience listening to this album not been tainted by strategic placements of "Archers of Loaf" and "Pavement" in the propaganda, I might never have realized they sound like little more than the sorcerer's apprentice and could have grown to appreciate it on its own merits. Now it just reminds me of hundreds of bargain bin b-class indie cds that gathered dust in 1995.


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Cetacea - EP (CD Baby) [audio/mp3]

The arrangements on this album are great. Lush strings, pounding piano, crashing drums - the overall sound (and the lead singer's voice) remind me a lot of post-Richey James Manic Street Preachers. The lyrics, however, get rather overblown and tend towards melodrama re: visions, souls, war and pain. My recommendation: if you're not prone to dress in black and brood, tune out the words and just enjoy the music.
Armored Frog - Weasel on a Weathervane (Sleepsond Records) [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

Lots of empty space, sparse drums and electronically distorted piano, organ and trumpet. The barely-there whispered falsetto vocals surface and disappear over waves of feedback and subtle spaced-out sound effects. Drums are always lurking in the background and even when they make a casual appearance, they make you realize they've been playing possum. Sometimes a tiny bit overly indulgant, lingering a bit too long in the silent spaces, anyone who appreciates Sparklehorse, Flaming Lips, or early Grandaddy has something to look forward to.

Parker and Lily - The Low Lows

Parker and Lily - The Low Lows (Warm Electronic Recordings) [mp3s]

You're alone in a bar in the middle of nowhere, some nameless Western state. It's the middle of night, your life's in shambles, letters to your ex-lover in your head, crying in your beer. But for a fleeting and unexpected moment it's all perfectly right: a hypnotic and haunting vision set to orchestrated country guitar twang, organ, and reverb vox. Everything in cinematic Doo-Wop slo-mo. How can anything so wretchedly sad sound so sweet?

Judee Sill

Judee Sill (Water)

One could draw many musical and biographical comparisons between Judee Sill and Nick Drake. They both recorded too few songs in their time-their lives cut short by drug overdoses. Sill's 1971 debut presents a cozier, homespun take on baroque folk music than Drake's pedantic approach. While he had the voice of an angel, she had the voice of the angel next door. Reissues of this and of Sill's second album Heart Food may go a long way in elevating her myth to the heights Drake's has climbed.

Ian Knapp - Into These Oceans

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Ian Knapp - Into These Oceans [mp3s] [upcoming shows]

The best of the recent crop of male singer-songwriters to grace the 75orless mailbox, Ian Knapp reminds me of John Wesley Harding. Not his voice, but the sarcastic social commentary laid over a damned catchy acoustic guitar. You can practically hear the curled lip as he sneers at Mr. Mickey Mouse for being "junk food for the soul," or predicts that "If the aliens came... they'd turn 'round their spaceships" because humankind is so retarded. The album ends sweetly, though, with the exquisite "Spaceman," a lovely welcome to a wee baby.

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm Remixed

Bloc Party - Silent Alarm Remixed (Wichita/Vice) [audio/video] [upcoming shows]

A wide variety of guest DJs (including Death from Above 1979 and Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs) and an anything-goes attitude make this better than the average remix record. Some are straight-up dance remixes that stick fairly close to the originals (Blackbox remix of "Positive Tension," Automato's "Price of Gasoline"), while others are deconstructed to the point of being almost unrecognizable (M83's lush "The Pioneers"). Think of it as a movie that's almost, but not quite, as good as the book.
Johnny "Guitar" Watson - The Funk Anthology (Shout Factory) [audio]

Presenting the best of his post-blues career, The Funk Anthology shows why the late Johnny Guitar Watson is still the king of the funk-soul-disco-rock sandwich. Besides dance floor treats like the robotic "Come Dance with Me," the primitive rapping of "Telephone Bill," and "A Real Mother for Ya," the wealth of unreleased material, such as the breathtaking soul-pop of "Before I Let You Go" and the cool, snappy R&B jam "Ain’t Nobody's Business," is gold. Soul Brother No. 2? Funk dat. Johnny G. was in a league of his own.

Neil Diamond - 12 Songs

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Neil Diamond - 12 Songs (Columbia) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you could snoop through the studio outtakes for 12 Songs, chances are you'd find numerous instances of Rick Rubin in the talkback saying "let's try that again with less smiling, Neil." And that's the prominent flaw with this album. What turned out to be an exquisite venue for the rich, weathered voice of Johnny Cash just makes Neil Diamond sound like he's busking for subway fare. This isn't Neil's "essence." He naturally belongs in front of a 15-piece band and back-up singers.

Boyracer - Insights and Insults EP

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Boyracer - Insights and Insults EP (Kittridge) [audio]

Fuzzed out home recorded pop with acoustic guitar, distorted bass lines and alternating male and female vocals. Quaint English pop songs buried in screeching feedback, in the past they have been unfairly lumped in with the twee movement, but this EP flexes more muscle than all the other twee bands back catalogues combined. The levels on this recording are always out of whack, adding to its charm. Purposely leaving the distortion at practically unbearable levels, you have to admire their desire for commerical suicide.
The Like – Are You Thinking What I'm Thinking? [audio] [upcoming shows]

So why can't the rest of the teenage girls out there sound like this? The Like kicks the asses of Ashley Simpson and her ilk. Descendants of the Sundays, but tempered by the hard edges of L.A. (and perhaps advice from their industry-veteran dads), Charlotte, Z and Tennessee are the younger, huskier-voiced, fuzzier-guitared sisters of Rilo Kiley. Some tracks completely rock out, others are more pensive, but they all demonstrate that girls can play their instruments, too.

Sigur Rós - Takk...

Sigur Rós - Takk... (Geffen) [upcoming shows]

Imagine Bono found his Yoko Ono, and she was a humpback whale. And the whale said, "Remember that thing called pop? Forget it. You are among the whales now. Join us." And all the pomposity that Bono had stored in his heart came pouring out in a muddy sonic parade of aquatic nymphs with neurological disorders playing miniature pianos and pan flutes. And the nymphs found Thom Yorke, who anointed them gods, and tricked the whole iPod generation. This album is boring.

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

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