April 2006 Archives

V for Vendetta - Soundtrack (Astralwerks) [audio]

Marianelli conceived the auditory atmosphere in the Wachowskis’ futuristic action film based on the Alan Moore graphic novels. Set in a parallel reality in 2020, the score is ominous; low-droning portents abound with infrequent crests of Darth-Vader-ish torrential drum and brass. Evey’s themes provide a hopeful reprieve; techno-classical elements as in “Valerie” captivate. The three “forbidden-track” cuts enchant, although the omission of the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” is disappointing. The flow is abruptly detoured by the non-score tracks and the disparity is distracting.

Grogshow - ST

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Grogshow - ST (Future Appletree) [audio]

Recorded in the spring of 1995 and never released until now, Grogshow was a two piece band from Iowa which tragically lost leader Marc Kisting in 1996 to leukemia. Joined by drummer Jason Williams, Kisting plays acoustic guitar, mandolin and sings in a thin, vulnerable voice similar to Ed Crawford from FIREHOSE. Musically close to mid-fi era Mountain Goats, this twenty two minute document holds up amazingly well considering the time it was recorded and while this is a reminder of how unfair life can be, we are lucky to have this to remember him by.
Graham Coxon - Love Travels at Illegal Speeds (Parlophone) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Despite the lack of any one song being as strong as "Freakin' Out," Love Travels at Illegal Speeds is actually a sharper, stronger collection from beginning to end than Coxon's last album Happiness in Magazines. His past with Blur is still evident in some instances, but if time was in any way flexible, Coxon's true contemporaries would be The Skids, The Vibrators and The Undertones. This is "Class of '77" punk-pop all the way.

Peter Adams - The Spiral Eyes

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Peter Adams - The Spiral Eyes (self-released) [audio] [shows]

Somewhere between the reediness of Radiohead's Thom Yorke and the rasp of Stereophonics' Kelly Jones lies the sound and timbre of Peter Adam's voice. But his music resides on another plane entirely. Haunting minor-key melodies are supported by lush strings with a gypsy cast, rising in frenzied spirals; Adams calls it "violin-soaked punk folk rock." Amazingly, he recorded himself playing all the instruments and singing up in his bedroom, using a "computer, sound board and microphone." Take that, major-label studios: "Have a little faith direction and listen harmony."
The Lovely Feathers - Hind Hind Legs (Equator Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What a mind-blowing breakthrough for this unclassifiable Canadian band. Messily mesmerizing, their sound is a tangle of musical threads - Franz Ferdinand’s spastic energy, The Bravery’s anthemic absurdity, and an artful spontaneity a la Modest Mouse. Endearingly schizophrenic, ludicrous lyrics shout “We will take off our pants- Kiss the corn and dance” and “Pope John Paul- Where’re you from?- Krakow, POOOO-land, Krakow POOOO-land!.” OK, can you tell me how to get to Sesame (via Crack) Street?; a CD worthy of that bizarre road-trip, arousing gratuitous play – with or without pants.

Ambulette - The Lottery EP

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Ambulette - The Lottery EP (Astralwerks) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This astounding 5 song EP reveals an edgier Maura Davis (of Denali). Crooning with her sultry signature, she’s added a little swirl of bitter in the sweet. Reminiscent of P.J. Harvey’s vocal flex, Davis stretches from operatic howls to sensual growls. The lyrics reveal a clarity of desire, but the band darkens the mood in a thick fog of sound, full of sinister distortion. The final track “If You Go Away” (by Jacques Brel) directs the ear toward a smooth denouement. Ambulette beckons like leather and lace - reckless and ready for some heavy play.

Cholo- St ep

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Cholo - ST ep (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Cholo provides the missing musical link to the short-lived but remarkable Homestead Records band Pony. Also, Calexico, Poster Children, or X with deep deadpan (sometimes spanish) vocals from Felipe- half spoken, half screamed- splitting the difference between Calvin Johnson and Thurston Moore and occasionally helped out by Rosa, particularly on the track "101". The Greg Ginn-ish guitar solo in "The Spray", and angry screaming on "Dope" - all filled out with random sax and trumpets.

Joshua Radin - We Were Here

Joshua Radin - We Were Here (Columbia) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You wake up on a grey Saturday and suddenly remember that your heart is bruised. You want to lie in bed, stare out the window, drink tea and be melancholy. Joshua Radin is the perfect background music for you. As if his sweet, almost whisper of a voice and soft guitar picking weren't enough, his words convey a poignant combination of longing, loss, love and hope. File "We Were Here" somewhere between Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and Damien Rice's "O."
Adam Green - Jacket Full of Danger (Rough Trade) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Adam Green is some kind of cosmic conduit for great music. He mishandled this gift throughout the existence of Moldy Peaches and for the majority of his two previous solo albums, but he seems to be coming to terms with it finally...sort of. The jaunty Nilsson-esque pop is arranged and performed flawlessly by a troupe of able musicians, but Green dulls the glow of the material with his singing. With a vocal style that bridges a drowsy Lee Hazelwood with a retarded Nick Cave, he'd have been better off handing these songs to other people.

Gunnar Madsen – Fall of Troy

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Gunnar Madsen – Fall of Troy (G-Spot Records) [audio] [shows]

Creating "soundtracks" for literary classics is nothing new ... consider "Scheherezade" by Rimsy-Korsakov, or ballet scores. But a soundtrack to a (never-completed) videogame ... that's modern. Even if it's for one of the oldest stories ever: the Trojan War. Laid-off composer Madsen developed some of his "musical sketches" for the game into this album of ominous atmosphere. Ponderous cello in "Crossing the Plains" evokes a marching army, while timpani and a buildup of horns and strings signify that something big is about to happen during "Behind the Gates." Horse not included.

Hey Tiger - September

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Hey Tiger - September (self released) [audio and shows]

This full-length debut flaunts an amazing talent in vocalist Christina Alessi. Emerging out of Springsteen’s Jersey, this band delivers a hard-as-nails fistful of rock ‘n roll, made pliable by a sizzling vocal heat. Obvious comparisons to Etheridge and Nancy Wilson aside, Alessi emotes, with an agile prowess, the vocal strut of a soulful pop diva like Roison Murphy or Joss Stone. The melodies are predictable, but full of tried-and-true rock ballads and choruses that build with intensity to climax in a sweaty fervor. The instrumentation is tight and that voice has weighty potential.

Envelopes - Demon

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Envelopes - Demon (Brille) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This Swedish/French band assertively redefines Swede-pop delivering a startlingly fresh, sophisticated debut full-length album. Their eclectic jumble of sounds mirror the Pixies, Stereolab or Talking Heads in its quirky spontaneity and instrumental complexity, along with off-kilter guy/gal vocals reminiscent of Belle & Sebastian. A little electro-weirdness a la Deerhoof peaks now and again, overlapping a catchy bit of 80’s synth-pop. The guitar is prominent and envelops (…uh…sorry) the entire album in crisp innovation and rapid variations of tone and tempo. One of most engaging and unpredictably unified albums I’ve heard in months.

Anti Flag - For Blood & Empire

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Anti-Flag - For Blood And Empire (RCA Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Musically, this sounds like one of those mid-90's Fat Wreck Chords compilations, except with all the lyrics re-written by the guy from Rage Against the Machine about how much he hates stuff. Songs like "The WTO kills farmers" and "Depleted Uranium Is A War Crime" are sung with little to no emotion. This band no longer sounds as angry as their lyrics would suggest. And that's a shame.
Richard McGraw - Song and Void, Vol. 1 (Non-Utopian Records) [audio]

An heir to Lyle Lovett and Richard Thompson, Richard McGraw sings of loss and resentment over a variety of musical moods; they range from sorrowful swing to rolling accordion to epic rock guitar. His voice shifts from plaintive to fierce; at one point, he declares, "If I have to kill to keep you safe, point to the man and I will plan his end." With his unique, sometimes antique, always unpredictable sound, I predict McGraw will get much further in his career than "long-haired, 45 and still rockin out at the county fair."
Cars Can Be Blue - All the Stuff We Do (Happy Happy Birthday To Me) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The formula seemed basic enough- cutesy, catchy boy-girl twee pop. However, the lyrics caught me a bit off guard: "You can sodomize me, stuff your cock inside me, proceed to fuck me blindly, eat me out with that dirty mouth, choke me with your cock, blow it on my face, your cock I want to taste. Been six weeks since I've bled from my hole, I think maybe we should kill that baby before it's a crime. She's so retarded the other retards call her retarded retard." I am offended but reluctantly still a fan.
Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Ballad of the Broken Seas (V2) [audio] [upcoming shows]

These gothic ballads, like sepia-tone photographs, summon specters of fugitives, scorned lovers, and the drunken dead of a by-gone desolate sea-town. Ex-Belle & Sebastian chanteuse, haunted by ancestral demons and a love of Americana roots music has found an unlikely collaborator to channel her songs’ somber ghosts. Formerly of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, Lanegan’s gristly Waits-like vocals narrate these dark memories of care-worn regret and heartache. Campbell’s own pale whispers soften the tone and the two spin a spell-binding tale of lives as turbulent as the sea.

Flin Flon - Dixie

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Flin Flon - Dixie (Teenbeat) [audio]

Flin Flon will not be rushed. In eight years of existence, this is but their third album. Like its predecessors, Dixie relies heavily on the potent rhythm section of Nattles and Matt Datesman, leaving barely enough room for Mark Robinson's vocals and infrequent guitar passages to breathe. Flin Flon thrives on this kind of claustrophobic dynamic, though. It's a highly compressed and alarmingly volatile atmosphere, with song after song buzzing right past you. Before you realize it, the album's over and your head hurts. Pop an aspirin, buddy, and hit the play button again.
The Secret Machines - Ten Silver Drops (Reprise Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Remember those Tupperware take-apart animals to be reconfigured according to your own child genius? No rules—the only limits were in your insane imagination. The Secret Machines' fourth album is another amalgamation; with the flowing jangle of Joy Division or The Cure, the billowing anthem-rock of Led Zeppelin or U2 and the creative vigor of the indie scene. More accessible than previous efforts, the songs evolve with tumultuous mantras of wordless choruses, bright epiphanies of drums and guitar, and instrumental stretches daring listeners with a progressive bravado.
James Holden - At the Controls (Resist) [upcoming shows]

Commercially produced DJ mixes of all kinds have become so ubiquitous over the last two or three years, it's almost impossible to keep up. Know what? I don't even bother. Plenty of them come across my desk, get played for a few minutes and just as quickly are forgotten. So what's special about James Holden's new mix At the Controls? It oozes a comfortable melancholy; an unusually organic blend of IDM and subtle fringe-pop selections that, even though anyone can buy it, feels like it was made with only me--and/or you--in mind.

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