December 2006 Archives

Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape

Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape (Interscope) [audio and upcoming shows]

Gwen is now officially dueling with Fergie for controlling interest of the white hip-hop cheerleader-cum-marching band musical movement. Whereas both are obsessed with enough self references to shame Rickey Henderson and both use identical approaches to musical artistry, repeating simple catch phrases over the melodies of nursery rhymes, thereby removing the difficult first step of learning the words so that fans can proceed directly to copying their dance moves. Due to less botched plastic surgery in this musical shithole, it's Gwen by a nose.

Willie Nelson - Songbird

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Willie Nelson - Songbird (Lost Highway) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Like Rick Rubin and Jack White before him, Ryan Adams committed to giving a veteran country artist a contemporary overhaul by stripping everything away and drawing out the purest, most acutely nuanced performance he's given in decades. Ryan chose Willie Nelson, and Willie Nelson makes the most of the opportunity; reinterpreting many of his own songs, a few written by others and adding a couple more entirely new compositions. The sound is warm and lively, the feeling free of pretense and artifice. Willie made it for the whole world, but also just for you.

Feathers - Synchromy EP

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Feathers - Synchromy EP (Hometapes) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

What is the true definition of a collective anymore? Damned if I know. Building around the three piece band, John McEntire assisted on production, as well as playing on a few tracks along with a string section, tamborine, organ, hand claps, strings, rewound tapes, and synths. Pleasant and easy listening, teetering on the edge of weirdness without ever falling off. A return to space age bachelor pad music combining Yo La Tengo's instrumental tracks, High Llamas' airy lounge, Stereolab, Esquivel or a much gentler Trans Am. Driving music for those in the slow lane.
The Figgs - Follow Jean Through the Sea (Gern Blandsten) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Figgs are the best rock n' roll band you're not listening to and it's all your own fault. Sticking to their habit of making consistently good albums, Follow Jean... adds 10 new songs to the band's ever-growing nest egg of danceable three-chord wonders. In 2006/7, the band continues to allow their sound to evolve while reminding fans of favorites such as Sucking in Stereo and even Banda Macho. Stop pussyfooting around and buy some Figgs albums.

Melvins - (A) Senile Animal

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Melvins - (A) Senile Animal (Ipecac) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You'd think that after 23 years, the Melvins would be pussing out with bad records and an image makeover. Well, it ain't happening. Not only does (A) Senile Animal give new meaning to the word "barbaric," it's also the best Melvins record this side of Houdini. Come bask in the impossible rhythms of "Blood Witch," the silliness of "A History of Drunks," the chilling "Civilized Worm," the grinding "The Hawk," or the creepin' "Mechanical Bride." My advice? Buy this record, then buy everything else.

DMP - Dollars Mean Profit

DMP - Dollars Mean Profit (Verse Recordings) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Tackling serious issues but with a smile on their faces, DMP recall the sense of fun that initially pushed hip-hop from the streets and into suburban homes while simultaneously reminding everyone how tough life can be for young black men. "It Was All a Dream" and "Lay Down" describe the dark reality of violence in the hood while the hilariously sharp "Skit" takes Wheel of Fortune into ghetto territory.

Milkymee - Songs for Herr Nicke

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Milkymee - Songs for Herr Nicke (Tsunami Addiction) [audio]

Emilie Hanak could use a third-party editor now and again, beacuse the 17 tracks that comprise her debut begin blurring into one another before the end comes. Though it's chiefly arranged with guitar as her sole accompaniment, a few songs utilize a full band. Everything else would benefit from this more substantive treatment, however, as "Kick the Crap" and "Silver Dollar" hold their own against the likes of Cat Power or PJ Harvey. Write the name down kids, because her next album might be brilliant.

Redbeards - S/T EP

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Redbeards EP (Heartbreak Beat) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Bring back the days of You're Living All Over Me-era Dinosaur Jr., prime Leaving Trains, music filled with hooks but buried in heavy noise, and the Redbeards are in. The six minute "Drop it at the Foot of the Cross" is equal parts Modest Mouse, Codeine, early Butthole Surfers and Explosions in the Sky. Switching off vocals between members leads to some Laughing Hyenas' John Bannon-level unholy moments and also some smooth Jonathan Richman-like disaffected baritone vocals. Powerful, tortured stuff.

M Coast - Say It In Slang

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M Coast - Say It In Slang (Happy Happy Birthday To Me) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

First impression: these songs stink, but "damn, I dig that sound, man." Alas, I was (partially) wrong, as M Coast creates truly fine songs. Although there is a good chunk of this disc that doesn't grab me where it counts, the remainder is enough to warrant recommendation. Playing out like the soundtrack to an Of Montreal dream, the album is both melodic and breezy. For added fun, I developed a game where I listen and guess musical influences: Brian Wilson? B&S? Joe Jackson? Q And Not U? Listen and play along!
D.J. Foundation - (Have They Not Heard) God is Dead 7" (Metal Postcard) [audio] 7" Single Saturday Review

Maybe choosing Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll Part Two" and Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" for samples isn't the most innovative way to compose electronic music tracks nowadays. However, dubbing them Sunni and Shia and peppering it with gunfire, flying missles and transforming it into "I Shot You Babe" just might be. Also, "God is Dead" throws in some vulgar porno clips—Gary would be proud. Only two tracks, though there's a couple of remixes of each tacked onto the end of this seven inch single.

Thunderbirds Are Now! - Make History

Thunderbirds Are Now! - Make History (French Kiss) [audio]

Thunderbirds Are Now! lay off the Ritalin for the surprisingly subdued Make History. Luckily, the album still retains the 'birds' signature electrifying, energetic and exciting persona, thanks to frenzied guitar riffs and super-fast drums. And, of course, Ryan Allan's voice, always threatening, yet delicately failing to become a shriek. Listen to the mournful lyrics and occasional slower pace and realize, "Hey, the band sounds like they've finally grown up." But, thankfully, only a little.
Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton - Knives Don't Have Your Back (Last Gang) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Metric's Emily Haines is your new indie rock girlfriend for when Jenny Lewis gets too sweet and you want a girl with a piano and some attitude—who, despite this, still won't defame the male sex left and right. Her solo debut is calming and heartbreaking in the same vein as the Microphones' Phil Elvrum, a result of Haines' smooth vocals in contrast to the lulling but sometimes driving piano.

In loving memory of Leslie Harpold from everyone here at 75orLess. Thank you for everything.

Flamin' Groovies - At Full Speed: The Complete Sire Recordings 1976-79 (Rhino)

Following Roy Loney's exit in 1971, Bay Area legends the Flamin' Groovies recruited singer Chris Wilson and moved to London to start anew. The signature bluesy grit of their early material was supplanted with Beatles-esque harmonies and jangling guitars, resulting in three of the best pop-rock albums of the 1970s. You've heard "Shake Some Action" at one time or another even if you never realized it, and this unabridged set brings together everything else you've likely missed. Your cd rack isn't worth the wood it's made from until you file this one in your "F" section.

Todd Carter Koeppen - Catch Me

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Todd Carter Koeppen - Catch Me (self released) [audio]

Singer/songwriter Todd Carter Koeppen offers a more eclectic vision for Christian music than his contemporaries. Blessed with a pleasing, laidback '70s MOR voice, Koeppen flirts with country, blues, world music, and acoustic folk—whatever sound the song is calling for. For example, "The Halo Halo Song," named after a fruit-filled Philippine dessert, is given a jangly beat that captures its tropical inspirations. However, the album doesn't just taste good; it's good for you, too.

Ruby Tombs - Those Who Can't

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Ruby Tombs - Those Who Can't 7" (Art Goes Pop) [audio] 7" Single Saturday Review

Nine out of every ten bands who come along, cut one single, and then break up shortly thereafter probably don't warrant any coverage posthumously. It's the tenth one—the rare exception—where the story of their brief survival only adds to the legend. Ruby Tombs formed in 2004 and were gone within two years. But they had time enough to record "Those Who Can't" and "Tattletale," two songs so electric, fevered and vampy that doing an album's worth of likeminded material might have driven them, and us, all mad.

Eric Bachmann - To the Races

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Eric Bachmann - To the Races (Saddle Creek) [audio] [video] [upcoming shows]

Whether with Archers of Loaf, as Barry Black, Crooked Fingers or his given name, Eric Bachmann continues to release quality music at a steady pace. This time out, it's a collection of songs for reading, quiet nights at home listening to the rain crash down on the roof. Most songs are subtle and stark, just him and a guitar—the title track is an instrumental with only acoustic guitar and violin. The deep voice is still there, but offset with strings, harmonica, piano and the choral backing vocals on "So Long, Savannah."

El Perro Del Mar - S/T

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El Perro Del Mar (The Control Group) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Swedish chanteuse Sarah Assbring's first full-length solo release is a melancholy montage echoing the sentimental sounds of those pretty paper-doll singers of the fifties and sixties. Assbring laces the sweetness with valium, creating perfect accompaniment to a debutante meltdown. Wordless harmonies (shoe-be-do, la-la, whoa-oh), lulling repetition and Bacharach-strings soothe the ear with a sophisticated simplicity. Lyrics dripping with pathos are reminiscent of Skeeter Davis' "The End of the World." Lovely in its loneliness and startling in its emotional depth, self-pity has never been this pretty.

The Decemberists - The Crane Wife

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The Decemberists - The Crane Wife (Capitol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The snickering behind the backs of The Decemberists was deafening as they approached the major label world (well...not literally), but it seems they will have the last laugh!! This is quite possibly their best release to date. For me, time is not on The Decemberists' side, as I quickly tire of Colin Meloy's voice for weeks at a time. Surprisingly, the new LP seems to have the magic to continually pique my interest. The shining jewel of the album is the outrageously pleasing contribution from the magnificent Laura Veirs on "Yankee Bayonet."

The Atomic Bitchwax - Boxriff

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The Atomic Bitchwax - Boxriff CD + DVD (Meteor City) [audio] [video] [upcoming shows]

If you couldn't get enough of last year's III (who could?), then you'll be giddy over this goldmine. The four studio tracks, a.k.a. the Boxriff EP, sound like top-shelf leftovers from the III session. Following is a fun live set ("Birth to the Earth," baby) that draws from nearly every one of their albums, and is offered up at warp speed with shocking technical proficiency. If the Bitchwax continues to dominate onstage and in the studio like this (under the radar), they'll be going from overlooked to criminally overlooked.

Silversun Pickups - Carnavas

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Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Silversun Pickups remind me of Oasis. I haven't the faintest idea why. Silversun Pickups' latest effort, Carnavas, swirls together guitars, strings and melodies, creating a harmonious and psychedelic work of art. At times, achingly sharp vocals feel thin, yet the sounds consistently complement equally energetic and pensive music. Carnavas will seep into your subconscious until you realize you feel compelled to keep playing it. Unlike Oasis' Be Here Now. We just don't discuss that one.

U2 - U218 Singles

U2 - U218 Singles (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Interscope has a set of elephant balls, but at least they chose to be absolutely literal in the naming of this compilation. Should we begin with the fact that it completely ignores four of U2's albums in their entirety? Omitting "I Will Follow," in particular, is unforgivable. Or how about the space wasted by two of these 18 singles—completely new recordings—that don't at all rate among the band's best work? This is most certainly not a "best of" or a "greatest hits" collection, but a lazy assemblage of 18 songs arranged with no rhyme or reason.

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This page is an archive of entries from December 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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