September 2006 Archives

Clawjob - Space Crackers

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Clawjob - Space Crackers (self-released) [audio] [more]

Before today, I had listened to two kinds of operas: the Mr. Rogers kind, with warbling puppets, and the traditional kind, with screeching sopranos. Clawjob's version kicks both of their asses! Space Crackers is an epic tale of unrequited love, research at a space station, and the eradication of humankind by the Dooks of Doom. Supporting clever lyrics, the music runs the gamut of styles, from a Queen-y intro to straight indie rock to dissonant metal. The chorus of "I Got My Space Pass!" channels Superchunk, and "Probabilities" has a Pixies/Veruca Salt thing going on. Love it.
the 'mericans - 'merican recordings EP (self released) [audio and upcoming shows]

I fucking loved Purple Ivy Shadows. Chris Daltry creates beautiful, lonesome, wistful country folk music. Using sparse backing instrumentation and threadbare, world-weary singing, Mr. Daltry and a rotating cast of musicians wind their way through tales of sadness and redemption and, I assume, epic drinking. Plaintive harmonica and banjo add drops of color to a sometimes bleak soundscape, but bleak good, not bleak like, it’s all over now, baby blue. Haunting and delicate; search it out.


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Dyrdin (Skipping Stones Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This should be my alarm clock ... I want to start my day with Icelandic twee pop. I’ll use the song "Wake Up" ... seems fitting ... or maybe "Brottnumin." Dyrdin is reminiscent of bands like Go Sailor, Cub, and numerous other female-fronted bubble gum pop punk bands with endless amounts of melodic two-minute songs. I don’t care if it’s not in English (mostly), it’s so darn catchy! I mean, yowzers!! I want to bounce around like "a bubble girl in a bubble world"!!

Ladyfuzz - Kerfuffle

Ladyfuzz - Kerfuffle (Transgressive) [audio and video] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

The Slits once wrote a song they called "Difficult Fun." I'm sure they had no idea that a quarter-century later one band would take that notion to heart and document its viability with the songs that comprise Kerfuffle. It is a difficult sort of fun, as Ladyfuzz clearly put having a good time ahead of anything else. Yet for every one moment of straight ahead Elastica-styled pop rock, Kefuffle has twice as many moments of backwards rhythms, curious instrumentation and exhausting obfuscation of melody. Where the new-wave and the no-wave meet, Kerfuffle resides.

The Slats - Boom Patrol

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The Slats - Boom Patrol (Latest Flame) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Equal parts New Wave and No Wave, The Slats channel a heavy Cars obsession through a dual filter of semi-tuned guitar skronk and early GBV lyrical oddness (not to mention the one track that ventures into hip-hop, as if imagined by Grand Buffet fronting defunct noise-ists McLusky). Enthusiastic "whoa-oh" vocals bump up against weirdly off-kilter squeals and a grinding rhythm section. If you’re not afraid of a little dissonance, this could be the perfect new party album for you.

Alican Blue - ST

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Alican Blue (Elephant Stone) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Had we still been living in the 80’s, you could argue that this Washington outfit may have been rather successful; their dated synth-pop sound immediately strikes up huge similarities with the likes of Joy Division, Depeche Mode and Human League. Tightly programmed drums, gloomy vocals, and heavily layered synthesizers assemble dark, towering soundscapes. Don’t get me wrong, this is all very well done, but rather unfortunately ... this is a sound that has had its day.

Golem - Fresh Off Boat

Golem - Fresh Off Boat (JDub Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Reigning from New York City's Lower East Side, these energetic and innovative musicians are dragging Old World klezmer to the rock clubs and radio waves of the modern age. They personalize Yiddish folk songs with rock guitar, aggressive accordion and fiddle, and multilingual punk vocals, and even perform elaborate gender-bending Jewish wedding ceremonies. Not your father's klezmer!

The Tanks - Summon Creature

The Tanks - Summon Creature (Floodwater) [audio] [upcoming shows]

A few songs on Summon Creature mention a basement, which is perfect, because The Tanks sound like the monster you swore lived in the basement when you were a young ‘un. Without a single note of guitar, The Tanks rely on a grim, rigid and always revving bass and Kevin Koppes’ baritone, goofball vocals, which he delivers like a drunk announcer. “Where We Call Home,” with its androgynous back-up singing, sticks out like a sore thumb because it’s the only song that breaks the album’s fairly innovative, 100% entertaining mold.

The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity

The Cardigans - Super Extra Gravity (Nettwerk) [audio and upcoming shows]

I LOVE the Cardigans, but this is their first album I wouldn't recommend to every person on the planet. This album has made me realize that they have been slowly morphing into reproducing Aimee Mann's sound, which is unfortunate, because Aimee Mann does it way better. It's not that this album is devoid of good songs; it is simply that you can't have a parade of B-sides without the occasional A-list track to pull you through. A major disappointment after Long Gone Before Daylight.

Hylozoists - La Fin du Monde

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Hylozoists - La Fin du Monde (Boompa) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This Toronto based orchestra, led by Paul Aucoin, features nineteen musicians including members of The Weakerthans, Broken Social Scene, and Final Fantasy. While built around traditional bass, drums, and electric guitar, it adds trumpet, organ and violin before layering pedal steel guitar, flugelhorn, cello, glockenspiel, cello, viola, and vibraphone as the icing on the cake. Like an expanded Japancakes or older Stereolab, this does have vocals on three of the eleven tracks, highlighted by the haunting Victoria Klingenstierna on "Man Who Almost Was".

Vivian Linden - Watch the Light Fade

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Vivian Linden - Watch the Light Fade (Tarnished Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

In "Pass the Wires," the first of nine bluesily country tracks, Linden murmurs that "I am restless; I am sleepless; I am weary." Those qualities lace the entire album of sorrow-soaked slow songs, shot through with Cowboy Junkies and embroidered with Mazzy Star. Singing of "love, lust, lonesomeness and loss," Linden's plaintiveness recalls a deeper-voiced Iris Dement or Emmylou Harris. If you like your music darkly acoustic and sweetly bitter, add this to your collection.

Sigur Rós - Saeglopur EP

Sigur Rós - Saeglopur EP (Filter US Recordings) [audio] [video] [upcoming shows]

I’ve always thought Sigur Rós sounded like the first time you wake up and the ground is snowcovered, and the landscape is quiet and blinding in its white infinity. Turning delicate piano plinks into soaring and percussive Icelandic-rock on a dime has always been their trademark, and here they master it. In just four songs they run the entire gamut of progrock’s epic spaciousness while soaking everything in haunting, otherworldly pitch-shifted vocals.

Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection

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Chad VanGaalen - Skelliconnection (Sub Pop) [audio and upcoming shows]

What is going on here? Indie-Alt-Rock-Pop-Electro-Folk-Post-Punk sounds alternate through 15 songs, each seemingly written to sound different from the last. This is pick and choose both in quality and in genre (i.e., "Viking Rainbow" is a crumby synth-heavy instrumental, while "See-Thru-Skin" is an enjoyable acoustic folk-pop ballad). It could be edited into a much better album, but somehow remains decent despite its shortcomings. Worth sifting through for gems when you get the chance.

Pop Levi - Blue Honey EP

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Pop Levi - Blue Honey EP (Counter) [audio] [video] [upcoming shows]

Pop Levi is the anti-Jack White. On his Blue Honey EP, Led Zeppelin and the blues-folk tradition are mined with a suppler hand and a gifted ear for the beat that's lacking on most of the newer White Stripes recordings. It doesn't hurt matters, either, that Pop Levi is fully capable of flexing his experimental muscle if needed (see his work in Super Numeri) but sensibly quells the impulse to better suit his own material. Pop's getting his boots dirty by choice, not by limitations.
Channels - Waiting for the Next End of the World (Dischord) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Channels bears all the hallmarks of a quality J. Robbins project: ginormous guitars, cable-taut bass, drums like "When The Levee Breaks" on spin cycle, quick-change musical dynamics, and intelligent lyrics (not a "baby, baby" to be found). With the addition of Janet Morgan on bass and vocals, "Waiting..." brings a surprising amount of harmonized vocals to the party. All told, it’s the perfect addition to the intricate foundation Robbins established with Jawbox and Burning Airlines.
Underground Orchestra - Active Ingredient (Wyman Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Active Ingredient is the sort of record you would expect to find in your typically credible granddad’s music collection. This worldly, easy listening sound incorporates light dashes of jazz, rock, and funk to create a sound that is very easy to digest. And just to cap things off nicely, the Underground Orchestra sports a lead guitarist who displays a high level of musicianship with his arty, Hendrix-like noodlings. Who knows? In 30 years' time this just might be the soundtrack to my life too.
Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players - Off and On Broadway DVD (Sarathan) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This 40-minute film takes a look at the Trachtenburg family, specifically focused on 11-year-old drummer Rachel, who despite endorsements from both John Waters and David Cross, remains stonefaced throughout. Taking slides out of context and forming musical madlibs around the people is an original concept executed flawlessly, but since they are a highly visual act, attending a live performance is recommended. Without the slides, you basically have some goofy songs sung by a lounge lizard, child labor laws be damned.
Now It's Overhead - Dark Light Daybreak (Saddle Creek) [audio]

I've been listening to a lot of unfortunate submissions lately. Then I popped Dark Light Daybreak into the player. Oh! Thank you! It's like Radiohead, Ride and Placebo got together to form a supergroup, with a splash of Shed Seven and Bright Eyes. Andy LeMaster writes songs with great hooks, gorgeous harmonies, and fantastic chord changes. The music's character shifts from lonely shuffling guitar to music box chiming to gypsy mysteriousness, complete with handclaps. It's time to let the sirens die.

Carla Bozulich - Evangelista

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Carla Bozulich - Evangelista (Constellation) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

This is the sound of beauty fighting its way out of a grotesque darkness, a pitch-black place populated by demons and ghosts and past lives. Carla Bozulich has long been a singer cut from an entirely different cloth than every other, through her tenure with Geraldine Fibbers and Scarnella and on her more recent solo recordings. Evangelista is the raw, emotional work she's been hinting was just below her skin for years. Not recommended for casual listening, but worth all the effort should you decide to try.

Eric Fontana - Saving Secret Grace

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Eric Fontana - Saving Secret Grace (self released) [audio and upcoming shows]

"Wish" starts things off with bouncy pop with handclaps, but the rock is offset by a couple of smokey, delicate ballads. The track "Give" is in waltz time with a blazing guitar solo, and also appears on the "Rock Out With Your Tail Out" compilation (shameless plug). Whether it's Paul Westerberg-ish crafty pop, the traces of Soul Asylum, or the Graham Parker-y vocals, you got yer blues, crisp pop, honkeytonk, and swing -- all styles effortlessly well accomplished.

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