March 2006 Archives

Bondage Fairies - What You Didn't Know When You Hired Me (Lobotom) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I have no idea whether or not I'll still be listening to this in a year, but who has time to consider the big picture when the album only endures for 32 brief minutes? Because synth-punk is a genre that's more hit-or-miss than most, it's always sort of a self-congratulatory moment when I find a band who balance the extremes of robot-like detachment and a carnival atmosphere to create something infectiously joyous and adorably evil. The Casiotone keyboard was invented for one purpose and one purpose only - so that this album could one day be made.

Mates of State - Bring it Back

Mates of State - Bring it Back (Barsuk Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You may have to brush your teeth after listening to this one, it’s so sugary sweet. Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel’s trademark husband-and-wife choruses shout exuberantly over a myriad of keyboards.... it’s not bubblegum, but it could be classified as, oh, I don’t know.... starlight mints (the candy, not the band)? And while I tend towards salty snacks, sometimes a really good, quality, delicious confectionery treat is in order. To quote track 2, "You will surely find this pleasing to your ears."
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone - Etiquette (Tomlab) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Some performers don't trust their words to convey meaning so they emphasize the intonation in place of true emotion. No matter how you feel when you write a song, can you claim that every time you sing it you can feel it again? There is nothing false in the way Ashworth delivers his lyrics. No shaking Oberst - closer to Arab Strap's Aiden Moffet. Only, where Moffet cuts his bleakness with vulgarity, Ashworth assumes a calm tone of neutrality. Like any fine performer, he does not need to decorate his words.
The Sounds - Dying to Say This to You (New Line-Scratchie) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is what guilty pleasures sound like when they stop being guilty. Sure, every track on here could be the theme song to the next Disney teen movie or Lindsay Lohan vehicle, but it's hard to argue with such silly bombastic Swedish pop. Whether it's starting things off with some cowbell, putting NYC hipsters on the cover, or throwing in some Salt N' Pepa hooks over ridiculous keyboard tones on "Tony The Beat," the Sounds deliver a great getting-ready-to-go-out-on-Friday-night record. Works for me every time.

Nest - ST EP

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Nest - ST EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Nest is a new female-fronted band surfacing out of Los Angeles. Lead singer Ayana’s folk-influenced vocals call to mind the airy siren songs of Tara MacLean, Sarah McLachlan, or Dar Williams’ more electric work. Her vocals express vulnerability in falsetto lilts and lazy seduction in low wavering keys. The EP consists of six selections showcasing the band’s expansive range varying from a soft whisper of piano to a full expanse of electro-instrumental resonance. Lyrically uplifting and honest, the album is sensory in its sweet aroma and soothing in its intimate embrace.

The Ark - State of the Ark

The Ark - State of the Ark (EMI Sweden) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I don’t really like Spoon. Or Queen. Or Bowie. So why do I LOVE this album? Is it because The Ark are Swedish? Perhaps. But I think it has more to do with the injection of New Wave sounds — a little Erasure here, a little Yaz there (I checked, but Vince Clarke does not appear on the record) — and some of the catchiest pop hooks I’ve heard in a while. The songs range from vicious kiss-offs — “This Piece of Poetry is Meant to Do Harm” — to the surprisingly sweet “No End.” And just try sitting still through “Hey Kwanongoma.”
Receptor Sight - Cycles and Connections (Joyful Noise) [audio]

With two tracks under a minute and another two over thirteen minutes long, the listener gets to choose their favorite extreme. It takes until the fifth track for the Mogwai-ish grooves to appear and "Bagel and Green" rivals anything by Explosions in the Sky for its' entire 13 minutes. This cd begins and ends with clanking champagne glasses, scraping metal bathed in static and pots and pans being hit with a rubber hammer. Because of that, the noise defeats the rock by majority decision.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Show Your Bones (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

As much as I loved Fever To Tell, I think I'd have been gravely disappointed if the Yeah Yeah Yeahs just recorded it all over again with a new title. Wisely they've progressed into painting their music with broader brushstrokes, incorporating a lot (no, really… A LOT) of acoustic guitar and less frenzied tempos which give Karen O. the opportunity to explore more options with her voice and Nick Zinner the chance to step out of his role as the noisy six-string monkey. Sophomore slump? No way, although you may think so the first time you hear it.

Josh Rouse- Subtitulo

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Josh Rouse - Subtitulo (Nettwerk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Subtitulo is Spanish for subtitle, a fitting motto for a light-hearted chronicle of the artist’s post-divorce rebirth in his newfound refuge in Spain. The album is a nostalgic nod to 70s FM radio, colored with lush orchestration, simple melody and lyrical optimism. “Summertime” is reminiscent of Jack Johnson’s catalog, and as always, Josh’s soft tenor is an open smile. Loyal fans will not be disappointed although, at times, the songs lack the earthy sophistication of many of Rouse’s earlier works. “Subtitulo” is the musical equivalent of a deep sigh of contentment; the perfect Sunday morning soundtrack.
Thanksgiving - Cave Days and Moments (Marriage Records) [upcoming shows]

Dear Adrian Orange, How come you're singing so soft and high? It's your strong and low voice that sets you apart from the rest of those boys, that makes everyone hang onto your every word. Either way, your songs are still enchanting and I'm encouraging everyone I know to listen and carve another notch in the door frame where we've been charting your height as we've been watching you grow.

MC Lars - The Graduate

MC Lars - The Graduate (Nettwerk Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

MC Lars is brilliant ... brilliant! When not adapting classic literature to rap or imagining what he'd do in a time machine, he is making pointed statements about the music industry and pop culture in general. While he is sometimes heavy-handed in his criticism, who really cares when he delivers such songs as "Hot Topic is Not Punk Rock" or "Generic Crunk Rap" (complete with random yelps of "what??"). "Signing Emo" is destined to be a classic, and articulates the reasons that 75orless exists—the listeners, not the label execs, should determine who they like.

Shauna Burns - Every Thought

Shauna Burns - Every Thought (Red Rock Music) [audio]

As soon as “Ghosts and Vampires” began, I thought, “Shauna Burns is the missing link between Loreena McKennitt and Tori Amos.” Sparkling piano and a slight Celtic cast underlie lyrics like “please don’t buy me that foo foo dress” and “find your savior in a cereal box in a lane at a supermarket.” One of the more powerful girl-with-piano submissions we’ve gotten; each song is like a little monologue by a short-story character.

Colossal Yes - Acapulco Roughs

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Colossal Yes - Acapulco Roughs (Ba Da Bing!) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Drummers populate a fascinating sect of the human race, distinguished from the rest of us by their innate desires to beat on things. Break it down even further and you find a still smaller sect of drummers sit behind their kits also plotting to create better art. Utrillo Kushner is the timekeeping madcap in Comets On Fire by day, but he steals away spare moments to record his own piano-based creations under the Colossal Yes moniker. Like the early solo work of John Cale, Kushner's music is delicate, sometimes challenging, and always rewarding.
Arctic Monkeys - Whatever You Say I Am, That's What I'm Not (Domino) [audio] [upcoming shows]

OK, I'll play along with your silly album title: this album sucks. The lead singer has zero charisma, and is absolutely devoid of any swagger or rockstar confidence. Their melodies aren't the least bit infectious, and most certainly have not been stuck in my head for weeks. You do not smoke a cigarette on the album cover. You have not rendered any of the post-Strokes bands utterly useless, and I recommend that no one buy this album at any price.
David and the Citizens – Self-Titled EP (Friendly Fire Recordings) [audio]

How could I not review a disc with a track entitled "Now She Sleeps in a Box in the Good Soil of Denmark"? It lives up to expectations, one of six excellent songs from this Swedish band that combine the sounds — and I stress "sounds," not necessarily lyrical content — of The Mountain Goats, Ben Folds, They Might Be Giants, and Bright Eyes. This EP collects songs off previous releases, none of which were available in the U.S. before; Friendly Fire plans to release one of their full-lengths before the year is out. Hurrah!

Stereolab - Fab Four Suture

Stereolab - Fab Four Suture (Too Pure) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Six tracks on the new Stereolab album were released in 2005 as a series of 2-track singles and the remaining six are getting identical treatment this year. So what is Fab Four Suture? It certainly sounds like a proper album rather than a compilation, but the tracks they coupled as singles maintain distinct contrasts from one another and work strongly as individual units. Don't expect any genuine surprises, however. This is '00s Stereolab by the book. The band that once had such drive would now rather drift from point A to point B.
We Are Scientists - With Love And Squalor (Virgin) [audio] [upcoming shows]

New-wavy pop silliness with a JD Salinger reference in the title? Sign me the F up. The recipe for this concoction: take one copy of Hot Hot Heat's Make Up The Breakdown. Vary a few tracks by adding drops of Interpol or Duran Duran. Serve drunk. Another in a long list of bands whose solid melodies and undeniable appeal are going to be severely diluted by the fact that everyone already owns a different version of this album. Probably two or three, actually. But that doesn't make it bad. I'm sure Esme is dancing alone in her bedroom somewhere.
Maryrose Crook with The Renderers – Ghosts of Our Vegas Lives (Three Beads of Sweat) [audio]

Evidently Margo Timmins of The Cowboy Junkies has changed her name to Maryrose Crook, gene-spliced in some Maria McKee, and taken up with the offspring of The Bad Seeds and The Dirty Three. The result is fabulous: mournful and haunting, but with an aggressive edge ... and a wawa pedal that manages to inject a menacing spookiness. You can picture the band onstage of Twin Peaks' Roadhouse as Agent Cooper looks around furtively for murder suspects.
The Watery Graves of Portland - Caracas (Marriage Records) [upcoming shows]

How’s your jazz collection? Pretty non-existent beyond the Miles and ‘Trance, eh? No problem— The Watery Graves of Portland is good enough to impress old jazzheads and is unintimidating enough to rope in those previously ignorant to the field. It’s got some classical piano, tight rock beats, thick, snaky stand-up bass, lots of dissonance and nerdy maneuvering (of course), and one fat-ass vintage trumpet solo. Oh, the gravitas of it all. With its simple approach, Caracas also shows that brevity has its place in jazz — it is but 35 minutes long.

Wolfmother - st

Wolfmother - st (Modular) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's hard to take anything from Australia seriously - except for Peter Garrett. Here's a group that is living off the stench of seventies arena rock including some synth intros that have been missing since the heyday of Spinal Tap, Yes or ELP. If you now like Queens of the Stone Age but used to be into Black Sabbath and dudes with high pitched voices singing mystical songs about the forest, trees, and mountains or anyone with a serious Robert Plant fetish and no sense of shame. I know I dig it.
Beth Orton - Comfort of Strangers (Astralwerks) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Beth, we too were sick of your name being inextricably tied to the Chemical Brothers. After all, you write excellent songs, and have a much more compelling voice than most of your contemporaries. So allow me to applaud your decision to drop all bleeps and bloops from your latest album. And you want to be a little darker and contemplative? Fine by me. We can drive through the countryside together, this album and I. This has supplanted Cat Power and Fiona Apple as my preferred cubicle companion for the spring.
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood (Anti) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's been a few years since Neko Case could be squarely categorized as this or that, and her latest album just makes her all the harder to pigeonhole. Her music seems to exist in that smoky grey area David Lynch frequently visits when looking for his film scores… part eerily orchestral like Angelo Badalamenti and part gothic twang like Chris Isaak or Tarnation. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood makes one thing clear, though. Case continues to distance herself from all her former alt-country peers and, in the process, makes them look like amateurs.
Sonya Cotton - Baltimore Trees (self released) [audio]

Backed by guitar and banjo, Sonya Cotton’s voice bears a similarity to a variety of other female folky singers: Jonatha Brooke, Aimee Mann, Lori McKenna … “Oh What a Waste” and “Never End” sound almost exactly like Dar Williams to me. The title track is my favorite, an almost lullaby waltz that practically holds you in its arms, to “kiss you and hold your eyes open all night.” The liner notes indicate the album was recorded in a bedroom and a basement, but the sound is polished and clean.

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