June 2006 Archives

Tunng - Comments of the Inner Chorus (Full Time Hobby) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

Tunng follow up their excellent debut album “Mothers Daughter and other Songs” with another slice of spellbinding contemporary folk. “Comments of the Inner Chorus” is a surreal folk-pop adventure, which consists of calm yet beautiful vocals, imaginative yet almost unsettling lyrics, glitchy electronics, film samples and sweet acoustic textures that are reminiscent of Fourtet. This album is certainly one of best releases this year, and further cements Tunng’s place at the top of the folktronica tree. Superb.
The Lonesome Heroes - Don't Play to Lose (Floodwater Records) [audio]

If Maryrose Crook and the Renderers are the jaded souls playing to the barflies as closing time looms, then The Lonesome Heroes are the still-hopeful opening act. The haunting lap steel belies that hope, however, lurking beneath strummed guitars with a lonely yearning. In the title track, Rich Russell declares, "country songs ... have got a strange hold over me." With their roots firmly planted in Hank Williams territory, The Lonesome Heroes structure their songs well, blazing their own path through alt-country style.
Anchors For Architects - Dirty Settlements (Papermade) [audio] [and more audio] [upcoming shows]

At times sparse and brooding, at other times angular and frenetic, Anchor For Architects covers a lot of ground. It sounds like that ground would best be covered by bike so you can jam econo to the summer night, breezing along, taking that gradual downhill grade to the abandoned lot for some serious midnight kickball. This is the soundtrack to that ride. Youthful exuberance, contemplative introspection, well rounded; doing it for the kids.
Phoenix - It's Never Been Like That (Astralwerks) [audio] [upcoming shows]

They've come a ways from the slouchy yacht rock leanings of their debut, but Phoenix still has plenty of the Hall & Oates-isms that made you fall in love with "Too Young" way back when. While that song was arguably the greatest single ever written, "Long Distance Call" does the same job here. Most of the stuff is more revved up, jitterier so much so that they're starting to sound like a French Strokes, which isn't a bad thing actually.

Persona - Accident

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Persona - Accident (B Core Disc) [audio]

Is it that time already? Trend pilfering has reached the '90s now, thanks to Spanish upstarts Persona. Their new album Accident is rife with the stopwatch rhythms and jagged guitars that Drive Like Jehu and Jawbox championed a decade ago. Persona never come across as a retro act, though. It's more like they picked up a dropped ball and are continuing to run with it. The best thing that happened after hearing Accident is that I remembered I really like this stuff, and you probably do too.

Jets Overhead - Bridges

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Jets Overhead - Bridges (Microgroove) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I think that Jets Overhead and Venice is Sinking were separated at birth. Between the boy/girl harmonies, the lush arrangements, and the overall sound, the two bands could easily share a stage, trading riffs as Galaxie 500 tries to figure out who is playing at any given moment (one hint: where Venice uses viola, Jets employ Dandy-Warhols-inspired bright guitars). Overall, "Bridges" is a lovely album of moody indie goodness. I can't pick a favorite track, because I have 13 of them.
Au Revoir Simone - Verses of Comfort, Assurance and Salvation (Moshi Moshi) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Au Revoir Simone is one of the only new bands I've heard this year that has made me feel comforted and secure about the future of music. I know that's a grand statement, but just imagine if Tilly and the Wall had children with the Postal Service and their offspring was an awesome all-female indie-pop band. Try not to get really excited. See? You can't! Stop reading this and go get the album, it's great.

Placebo - Meds

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Placebo - Meds (Astralwerks) [audio] [shows]

Either you like Placebo or you don't. I do. So I like this album (even if, like with Mike Doughty, all of the songs seem to be in the same key - although they do change tempo from time to time). Brian Molko's whiny drone, set over driving guitars (with a ballad here and there), is complemented by harmonies from Alison Mosshart of The Kills, and my original whiny boyfriend Michael Stipe. The title track's hypnotic "Baby, did you forget to take your meds?" and the chanting of "Post Blue" make up for any missteps.

Boris - Pink

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Boris - Pink (Southern Lord) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Pink, by Japan's noisy enigmas Boris, is no clump of sugary bubblegum...unless your idea of sweetness is being showered with off-the-wall, distortion-encrusted vats of experimental psychedelic-sludge-garage-rock. The title track, "Woman on the Screen," and "Electric" rock like a motherfucker, "Blackout" crawls on and on, "Afterburner" is so 1968, and the awesome, faintly poppy "Just Abandoned My-Self" nosedives into 10 minutes of white noise. Admittedly, this is not going to rouse your interest for everyday listening, but you'll still be happy to have it on your shelf.

Les Issambres - ST

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Les Issambres (Fifth Week Records) [audio]

Les Issambres sent in two albums; I slightly preferred Sand Theater Poetry, but am reviewing the newer one in the interest of currency ... and hoping they forward their third effort this summer. These Swedes have the formula for my favorite imported sound - going so far as to name track 5 "Pop Song." Their folky version is Ray Davies and Emmylou Harris with a cold taking turns over acoustic guitars with a flute and some Mazzy-Star tambourine thrown in. And a side of "My Name is Earl" ... karma plays a part in several songs.
The Submarines - Declare a New State (Nettwerk) [audio]

What's that famous poem? 13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird? Well, here Blake Hazard and John Dragonetti give us 10 Heartbreakingly Sweet Ways of Looking at a Breakup. Written during their real-life split, the folky pop songs relate the painful yearning to get back together ... but being afraid to make the first move. "Brighter Discontent" captures the sadness of moving to a new apartment ("the ordering of objects couldn't hide what's missing"), while the Mates-of-Statesque "Peace and Hate declares, "breaking down cannot be cured by breaking up." (P.S. They're married now.)
Various Artists - Panama! Latin, Calypso and Funk on the Isthmus 1965-75 (Soundway Records) [audio]

When examining the music of Panama from 1965-1975, you will find yourself at a crossroad of extreme diversity. "Let Me Do My Thing" shows the influence of Sam Cooke, with mid-song breakdown and handclaps while James Brown also gets props on "New Bag" by The Exciters. Victor Boa y Su Musica should have been contracted to perform the soundtracks for those bad mid-sixties Sinatra movies, while groovy hippy rock Los Fabulosos Festivals on "El Mensaje". There are still plenty of mambo rhythms to displace this white boy's hip.
The Thinking Reeds - A Sailor Me (self released) [audio]

Ah, the melodrama. Perhaps because I'm in the middle of reading a book set in Victorian London, the first half of this album brings me to the banks of the Thames, among the gin-soaked whores and stevedores. Then "Runaway Brain" mentions television, and the spell breaks to the riotous sound of snare and harmonica imitating a locomotive. With a voice like Gene's Martin Rossiter and a piano-driven sound reminiscent of The Beautiful South, Iain Kelly "deal[s] in affairs of the heart and deliver[s] bare knuckle love for forlorn melancholics."
Shotgun Monday - Read Compare Adjust (Modern Radio) [audio and upcoming shows]

With busy, clattering guitars that never cease to amaze as their trademark, Shotgun Monday is an experienced gang of chaps that play raw, tense and melodically dark indie rawk. Humble but eager, they aren’t afraid to let it rip, like on “Resting Vessel,” “Ghostly Walk,” “What Will Burn” and the notably awesome “Osceol’e.” They aren’t afraid to hold back, either…for awhile, anyway, as on “Joli Rouge” and “Proud Flesh.” There are a few iffy moments throughout, but that’s okay, because otherwise Monday has become a pretty good day.
Sweetthieves - View From a Glass Tower (self released) [audio and upcoming shows]

Although the emphasis leans towards heaviness, hooks aren't ignored in Sweetthieves' math rock song structure - they are also free of the pitfalls their peers are usually guilty of, namely overlong instrumental songs and a gazillion time changes. Vocals are traded off between Dave Martinka's Thurston Moore-ish delivery and Hilary Jones' yelp. This cd is full of disciplined, precise songs with pulsing bass and pounding drums, similar to an awkward glance between the members of Pinback and Shellac.

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