February 2006 Archives

Edward - Forward Backward

Edward - Forward Backward (Merl Records) [audio]

On Edward's Forward/Backward you will hear a Pinkerton-era Weezer influence throughout most of the record. This really isn't a negative since Edward really step it up on their harmonies, especially the Beach Boys-esque "Two Seasons By". The dead-on metal guitar riff in "No No No No No" showcases some of their other musical tastes and capabilities, while Sublime fans will appreciate "In a Million". On "Yours Tonight" things slow down a bit and sound like a recent Nada Surf outtake.
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) [audio] [upcoming shows]

As front-woman of Rilo Kiley, Jenny Lewis is a little bit country. On "Rabbit Fur Coat," she trades in rock and roll for a smidge of gospel, a smattering of folk, and a whole lot of twang. Taking cues from Laura Nyro, Loretta Lynn and Bobbie Gentry, the storytelling chanteuse spouts poignant, cynical lyrics ("I'm in love with illusion so saw me in half"). Harmonies of Kentucky-based duo the Watson Twins add charm and depth. As do indie favorites Conor Oberst, Ben Gibbard and M. Ward, backing her up on a Traveling Wilbury's cover.
The Light Footwork - One State Two State (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Ramshackle indie pop, featuring panning point-counterpoint vocal exchanges bouncing between strained, cracking female vocals and vitamin deficient male vocals. The brief "$$" is full of electronic squiggles, while "Yellow Smoke of Progress" is the hit that never happened. Not unlike Eleventh Dream Day and Teenage Fanclub at their most casual with minimalist Pavement-y guitar lines, and some Pixies and Pony-like moments of loud, tumbling rock. Any band that acknowledges the death of Strom Thurmond to a musical beat can't be all that bad.
Marc Maron - Tickets Still Available (Stand Up! Records) [video]

Marc Maron is neurotic, paranoid and, by his own account, a chronic masturbator. But he's also been blessed with the gift of turning his faults into the most alternately cringe-inducing and gut-busting performances I've heard from any comedian in recent memory. Maron's albums (this is his second) aren't like traditional stand-up albums. They're musical in a sense. They follow an almost operatic story arc―all points along the curve eventually lead to one tragic bombshell of an ending, but funny.
Dust Jacket - Our Tapestries are Thrift Store Quilts EP (self released) [upcoming shows, audio]

Never before have I had such a mixed reaction to a release. At times, it's Dashboard Confessional two hours after being slipped an Ex-Lax roofie but two of the songs are absolutely brilliant, crossing early Built to Spill and Modest Mouse. However, whether it was the piano ballads sung by someone wetting themselves or the overwrought "We are the World" singalong on the last track, I bounced between bitch slapping the nearest teenager or losing myself in it's fragile beauty. Give them a hug and wait for puberty, it will be worth it.
Everything is Fine - Ghosts are Knocking on Walls (Tract Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I thought I had accidentally started up “Watching Trees Decompose” by Galaxie 500 when the first track began. Marc Manning’s voice definitely echoes Dean Wareham, as well as Neil Young, but the songs vary between the spareness of a single acoustic guitar in “Burning Coals” and the almost industrial feedback fuzz of “DB Cooper.” Overall, the album has a morose feel; you wouldn’t want to play it at a party, but it’s good background noise if you’re drinking a bottle of wine.

Roy Moller - Fermez La Bouche

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Roy Moller - Fermez La Bouche (Pickled Egg) [audio]

Tracks one and three on this 10-minute maxi-single are bouncy bubblegum pop, with a sound that echoes the Kinks and George Harrison. "First You Fall in Love" adds in the Modern Lovers and Of Montreal, and "Speak When I’m Spoken To" has a hook that won’t leave you alone. I wasn’t as crazy about "Leave It Well Alone," although its lyrics carry on the apparent theme of a person who can’t live without love, but kills it (like Chris Farley’s roll/sale in "Tommy Boy") when it appears.

Eef Barzelay - Bitter Honey

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Eef Barzelay - Bitter Honey (SpinART) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Clem Snide isn't exceptional, but you shouldn't regard that as an insult. Exceptional bands lead while the rest follow. Among followers in the folk-rock genre, Clem Snide seldom waver from their goal of recording solid and truly enjoyable albums filled with lyrically twisted verses and reliably hook-laden choruses. So how does chief-Snide Eef Barzelay fare when stepping out with only his acoustic guitar to rely on? His endearing vulnerability coupled with his bumps-and-all attitude are the flaws that make Bitter Honey not only exceptional, but essential as well.
New Radiant Storm King - The Steady Hand (Darla) [audio] [upcoming shows]

NRSK blew my mind fourteen years ago, before I'd ever heard of Pavement or Sonic Youth, the names most often dropped in old NRSK reviews. For a time, NRSK disappeared, due to horrible label shenanigans. But they never went away, and they never stopped evolving. The NRSK of 2006 is a multifaceted beast that we probably never could have dreamed of in 1992. Simultaneously stately, pounding, gliding, grinding, delicate and rocking, The Steady Hand is the sound of "indie" musicians unafraid to grow into something magnificent.

13 Ghosts - Cicada

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13 Ghosts - Cicada (Skybucket Records) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

I was a slack-jawed idiot after I first bathed in the astral delight that is Cicada, and I’m still catching flies. Every note—whether plucked on an earthy acoustic guitar, chunked up with fat, fuzzy distortion, sung in either a rugged sigh or a spacey warble— is sweet. The whole time you’re listening, there’s a lump in your throat. With a serious-but-not-all-there vibe, Cicada is like a more indie Springsteen mixed with latter day Ween (no shit). Made me say, “Goddammit, I’m so lucky to be hearing this” twice out loud.

The Casting Couch - Row Your Boat

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The Casting Couch – Row Your Boat (I Eat Records) [audio]

My first review ever was for The Casting Couch, and I'm happy to report that their new album is even better – the arrangements are more mature, and the styles vary from a tinge of mariachi to a touch of doo-wop. And the lyrics are EXCELLENT – if I had more than 75 words at my disposal, I would list my favorites from songs about writer’s block, death and love, but I will have to settle for quoting the incredible "Mix Tape": I won’t pawn my records for a brand new board to play chess over your checkered past.
Transamerica Soundtrack - Various Artists (Nettwerk Records) [audio]

It speaks volumes about the confidence of this album's producers in its quality that they buried its two most well-known performers (Dolly Parton, Lucinda Williams) at the very end of a 21 track epic. In fact, by the time you get through the folky fun of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Old Crow Medicine Show and Larry Sparks, you will probably forget that they are on the album. This playful romp through the heartland may even be superior to the oft-lauded "O Brother..." soundtrack.

Proton Proton - EP

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Proton Proton - EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The "gass" drives the rhythm, a homemade instrument that combines the sounds of a guitar and a bass, in this case resulting in the throbbing bass lines and guitar licks of the Jesus Lizard into one driving rhythm source. This Brooklyn-based trio also tosses in some Mission of Burma-like arpeggio guitar tones to mix up the heaviness and the quirkiness of more recent bands such as Bloc Party over pounding stop and go, more loud than fast drums, slight hand claps, with vocals reminiscent of John Lydon.
The Jai-Alai Savant - Thunderstatement EP (Gold Standard Labs) [audio]

Ralph Darden's voice will fuck your shit up. Part Gordon Sumner and part Ian MacKaye, he stands in front of the Jai-Alai Savant conducting the greatest mixture of clashing styles I've heard in some time. Without a voice like his, uniting the ska-influenced shuffle of early Police material with the jagged guitars and bottled lightning of Fugazi would be too volatile a prospect for any band. But don't misunderstand; the Jai-Alai Savant aren't a warmed-over memorial to the past. If anything, they've arrived ahead of schedule
Oosterdok - Twilights of the Weary Soul (Brown House Records) [audio]

I was glad to see something new from the electronica duo Oosterdok in the submissions pile, because I liked their first EP. This one is a little darker, as evidenced by the vicious delivery of "I am Not a Nice Girl." My favorite track, "Falling Sand," weaves vocal lines in an almost madrigal manner around myriad synth sounds, including a harpsichord at one point. For fans of the Dresden Dolls and, dare I say, Kurt Weill?

Polysics - Now is the Time!

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Polysics - Now is the Time! (Tofu Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Direct from Japan, obviously inspired by Devo and surf music, complete with the matching uniforms, much like their disbanded American counterparts Servotron and Supernova. Sometimes singing in Japanese, other times in English, this is a shtick with a tough act to follow and when done right and is nothing to be ashamed of. But the best you can say is "Wow, they are a lot like a japanese version of Devo- slightly more schizophrenic and high energy Devo" and since they rock, this rocks also.
Modern Skirts – Catalogue of Generous Men [audio]

This band jumped ... leaped! into the "these guys are GOOD" pile of CDs culled from the submissions mailbox. Sounding uncannily like Idlewild, or Billy Bragg jamming with Guster, the Modern Skirts are piano- rather than guitar-driven. NYC should dump Sinatra's cheesy "anthem" for the first track, "New York Song." And there are some great lyrics, like "the local dam was getting tired of holding you" and "in between her wine sips, she scaled down the ivory and pine."
Mustache Ride - 20,000 Leagues Under the Scene (Redtide Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Throw the following bands into a blender- Social Distortion, Ramones, Against Me and Superchunk then add a bottle of gin and a ten pack-a-day smoking habit to the singer's glass and you are taking a Mustache Ride. Full of power chords, pop hooks, deft guitar solos, one acoustic number to prove they aren't afraid to hold your hand and an offer to slow dance on "Stare at the Sun". Includes a cover of "Show Me the Way to Go Home" from the movie "Jaws" - complete with accordion to keep the sea shanty authentic.
Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (Matador) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You've probably noticed there are two Belle and Sebastians. One is the group plagued with an idealistic musical democracy where Stuart Murdoch allows any member with the desire to sing a song to do so. Admirable, sure, but it makes for bad records. The other is the group which makes stunningly artful albums revolving around Murdoch as their gravitational center. "The Life Pursuit" not only finds Belle and Sebastian in top form once again, but having finally escaped the wreckage of missteps made in recent years altogether. Plus, it rocks.

Voxtrot - Raised by Wolves EP

Voxtrot - Raised by Wolves EP (Cult Hero Records) [audio]

I was surprised to find out Voxtrot hails from Texas, but then I read that frontman Ramesh Srivastava spent time in Scotland, so we can pretend they come from there. The sound is a less-throaty Morrissey backed by the jangle of early R.E.M. and the boxy piano of Belle and Sebastian. With a dash of various other 80s Brit bands, especially in the soaring fiddle line in "Wrecking Force," which brings me back to Big Country or the Levellers with the anthemic line: "And you can be your own god if you want to."

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