January 2007 Archives

Crank DVD

Crank DVD (Lions Gate) [trailer]

Crank is an over the top, stylistic, brainless, action film that is perfect for DVD. The commentary track is the most innovative I've come by. It's a picture in picture track, so you see the directors talking about the film while the movie plays in the background. It also cuts to interviews with crew members and behind the scenes footage. The other bizarre feature on the DVD is a clean audio track where you watch the film without any of the profanity...but you still get blood, violence, and sex.

Ollo - The If If

Ollo - The If If (12 Apostles) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The If If wanders its way through 13 meandering, synth-backed tracks with simple rhythms and soothing vocals, somehow managing to be fairly downtempo and groovy the entire time. What's remarkable, though, is just how unremarkable it is—it melts into the background, creating an environment that never once compels you to actually pay attention to what's on the stereo. Ollo have somehow managed to craft the perfect album to not actually listen to. Whether or not that's a good thing is up for debate, but let's just say you won't see them on my last.fm again.

Hands Down Eugene - Madison

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Hands Down Eugene - Madison (XOXO Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Aside from being one of the best live bands in music, the members of My Morning Jacket have had a busy year. Their membership in Bobby Bare Jr.'s Young Criminal Starvation League got the most attention but this side project with members of Ben Folds' band is sadly overlooked. Midtempo americana fused with ELO synths, Built to Spill, Swearing at Motorists, The Band, Wilco, early REM, George Harrison and White Album-era Beatles. Making it look this easy, they can afford to quit their day jobs.

Candy Butchers - Making Up Time

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Candy Butchers - Making Up Time (self released) [audio]

Mike Viola is easily one of the most impressive singer-songwriters around. With or without his talented Candy Butchers, each and every new release is an expansion and betterment of the previous. Making Up Time is a musical time warp, sending the listener back to the time between the long lost self titled LP/"That Thing You Do!" era and 1999's major label Falling Into Place. This is the point in his career he was recording downright catchy songs while wearing Roy Orbison's sunglasses.

Art Brut - Nag Nag Nag Nag EP

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Art Brut - Nag Nag Nag Nag EP (Mute) [audio and upcoming shows]

Want to bask in the live Art Brut experience? Well see them live then, dummy. If you can't do that, though, you can get almost all the way there with the Nag Nag Nag Nag EP. Two great new studio cuts kick off the proceedings, but they're followed by live recordings of some of the band's most popular songs to date, complete with the Eddie Argos stories and ad-libs that make Art Brut shows so unlike anything else you can buy a ticket to see these days. It's not just a live album—it's a soundtrack recorded on location.
The Gothic Archies - The Tragic Treasury: Songs from a Series of Unfortunate Events (Nonesuch) [audio] [more audio]

Categorized as "goth-bubblegum," this album is stupendous—a word which here means that I adore it. Stephin Merritt, his trademark deep voice set against synthesizers and clanging percussion, is joined by none other than Lemony Snicket on the accordian during this romp through the 13 Series of Unfortunate Events books (the songs were originally written for the audiobooks). But you don't need to know who Count Olaf is to appreciate the record—"This Abyss" could pass for your run-of-the-mill depiction of angst. Except that Merritt is anything but run-of-the-mill. Marvelous.
Brand New - The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This sounds like Jimmy Eat World jammed the Deftones, and they had a flipper baby who is currently wicked pissed at his parents for not letting him go to the Dashboard concert. I hate this album in the face.
Amanda Richards - Live at Mississippi Studios (self released) [audio]

Lady can certainly sing the blues, but with a sharp, sometimes comical, tongue. On "Cookies & Whiskey," Richards drops these lyrical bombs: "But I'll drown my sorrows/In pastries and booze/I've got a big ass and bad gas/And heartbroken blues." The acoustic-folk arrangements are given extra spice by George Turner's cello; however, it's Richards' words that steal the show.

Calm. - Anti-Smiles

Calm. - Anti-Smiles (Dirty Laboratory) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Calm. would like you to think they have emotional depth, poignant social insights, and meaningful lyrics. They'd like you to believe that they are a new, powerful force in the underground hip-hop community. Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Anti-Smiles is yet another paint-by-number entry into the emo-rap subgenre, with painfully repetitive themes and the tendency to fall victim to just-how-much-shit-can-we-say-in-one-bar syndrome. The minimalist production occasionally works, but hardly saves these amateurs.

Unexpect - In a Flesh Aquarium

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Unexpect - In a Flesh Aquarium (The End) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Very melodramatic black metal with no less than a gazillion transitions per song and operatic female vocals, over what I assume is quadrupal kick drums that pummel her into nothingness—DethKlok meets Kate Bush. Like a Swedish off-Broadway show that has early Metallica getting ass-whipped by the Scissor Sisters. Surprisingly very accomplished players, their power chords will convince you you have the ability to fly off the nearest building. Name one other cd with both a 'puppeteer' and a band member suffering from 'ethylic lucidity.'

Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait

Locksley - Don't Make Me Wait (self released) [video] [audio] [upcoming shows]

Locksley has taken a lousy band name, great influences, and occasionally matching outfits to a fun yet familiar territory. They took their name from The Adventures of Robin Hood, sound simultaneously like the early Beatles and the Libertines, and at times dress like the Hives. The songs can be quite good—many a toe-tapper indeed. But the problem lies in the presentation: this retro gimmick is just as annoying as wearing eyeliner and torn vintage suits (I'm rolling my eyes at you, Panic! at the Disco).

Deloris - Ten Lives

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Deloris - Ten Lives (Dot Dash) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Very few A-List indie bands of the past few years came to play in 2006. The Shins? Busy. The National? Exhausted. Okkervil River? Touring. Enter Australia's best-kept secret Deloris and their new record Ten Lives. In a year where newbie bands tried to out-niche each other in order to gain favor with influential bloggers, semi-veterans Deloris just made a solid and potentially enduring rock record of (oddly enough) Americana with clever turns and deep hooks. Ten Lives filled the void and then some, earning the band every right to demand their own A-List status.

Denelian - False/Positive EP

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Denelian - False/Positive EP (self released) [audio and upcoming shows]

Like a good bottle of wine, Denelian's False/Positive improves the longer it's open. And, in this case, on your playlist. This mellow, pleasantly bewildering album proves its richness with every listen. False/Positive caters to all tastes with a wide range of sounds reminiscent of New Order, The Magnetic Fields and even Suede. Allow the mournful vocals, photographic lyrics and surprising instrumentals—both piano and synths—to breathe. Then duly appreciate Denelian's beautiful multi-flavoured work.

Tieweb - Setting the Sun

Tieweb - Setting the Sun (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

A throwback to left-of-the-dial staples from the '80s like R.E.M., the Church, and Three O'Clock, Tieweb conjures pleasant memories of the dazed and confused of the Paisley Underground with their jangling, ringing guitars and Summer of Love harmonies. "Exit Man" feeds into the same hazy '60s nostalgia that their heroes from two decades ago did, and it tastes even better now given how largely boring alternative rock has become.

Villebillies - S/T

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Villebillies (Universal) [audio and upcoming shows]

It's as if all the white kids at Nappy Roots High School just barely got cut from the varsity hip-hop squad, and are trying to muscle their way onto the team for next year. This distinctively Southern (read as Arrested Development, not Master P) album presents a good mix of mid-tempo beats and songs one would enjoy getting hammered to. A fun disc all around, this will be one I will enjoy having around come summertime.

Triclops! - Cafeteria Brutalia EP

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Triclops! - Cafeteria Brutalia EP (Sickroom) [audio/video] [upcoming shows]

Whatever weird Twilight Zone-type place these guys are stuck in, we all should want in. Now. Hitting you with the force of an angry cop's tazer, this four-song EP of wild noise rock is a real treat. Vocalist Johnny screams, coos, woo-hoos and generally freaks out on the chaotic-then-sweet "Mi Plisboy," the 10 minute "Bug Bomb," and "Jewel of Oakland," which is littered with vocal effects. Compared to the other three tracks, "Salton" is fairly normal, but no less inventive or tasty. In the end, ears will be ringing. Oh, and that exclamation point? Totally necessary.

Styles P - Time Is Money

Styles P - Time Is Money (Ruff Ryders) [audio]

Styles' sophomore release hits hard and fast, with 12 tracks spread out over only 44 minutes. While littered with the typical commercial themes of wealth, superiority, black pride, and a willingness to invoke violence, instances of dark hope shine through. Guest spots from Talib Kweli, Jadakiss and others keep things fresh throughout. Production is above-average and frequently superior, with traditional instrumentation and vintage loops backed with pounding, head-nodding beats. A few uninspired tracks subtract, but the album remains tightly composed and paced.

G-Whiz - The Frank Henderson EP

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G-Whiz - The Frank Henderson EP (self released) [audio and upcoming shows]

With four songs coming in at just under ten minutes, the "don't blink or you miss it" approach to music is still relatively rare. It's geeky garage rock—similar to 84 Nash, Staggering Statistics, Supernova, Jason and the Scorchers—with buzzing guitars, murky drums, harmonica, fiddle, toy piano and fuzzy recording quality. The low production quality is a perfect match for this music; the last thing it needs is more sheen. Best lyric: "Jesus and me / he's a carrot, I'm a pea, smiling at the folks we see."
Princeton - A Case of the Emperor's Clothes EP (self released) [audio]

Princeton is three guys making acoustic indie music. A Case of the Emperor's Clothes will not blow your mind, but you will certainly want to give it a second listen. That will most assuredly lead to a third, fourth, etc. These are the kind of songs that grow somewhere in your head when you don't even realize it. Also, the band probably includes the most talented folk pop acoustic songwriting twins this side of The Proclaimers. I look forward to the future of Princeton.

The Twilight Sad - S/T EP

The Twilight Sad EP (Fat Cat) [audio and upcoming shows]

The Twilight Sad are moving within familiar circles. As the latest adopters of the sepia-toned carnival qualities recently re-popularized by The Walkmen and The Arcade Fire, this Glasgow-based quartet build their songs slowly from the ground up, gradually adding layer upon layer of earnest intensity until they become too top-heavy to sustain the weight and crash back to earth in the most spectacular way. Damaged, but beautiful.

The Game - Doctor's Advocate

The Game - Doctor's Advocate (Geffen) [audio and upcoming shows]

Game, you're fired. "I'm the West Coast Rakim"? Seriously? You should know your rap history well enough to know how absurd that statement is. Here, I'll explain the difference. Rakim is the God MC for a reason, the most compelling voice in rap history. You, Game, are talented, but at your best you sound EXACTLY like Dr. Dre, and no other MC can make skilled rhymes so eminently ignorable. Even Jay-Z doesn't take his bragging that far. Keep selling to 12 year-olds; the real heads know to look elsewhere.

John A. Carollo - Ampersand

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John A. Carollo - Ampersand (self released) [audio]

Fans of underground comix legend Robert Crumb might recognize the unhinged art that graces John A. Carollo's otherwise composed contemporary classical effort. The illustrations were provided by Crumb's brother Maxon. Fueled by his twisted comix collection, Carollo weaves his own mad magic, producing instrumental pieces that won't bore even unenlightened listeners with their ever-changing moods and unique flavors.

Clerks II

Clerks II DVD (MGM) [trailer]

Clerks II is a 2-disc DVD with so many special features, it will make even the biggest Kevin Smith fan have a tough time getting through it all. The film, three audio commentaries, and a behind the scenes feature on interspecies erotica make up disc one. Disc two has a deeply involved 90 minute documentary on the making of the film, 10 video production diaries, a bloopers reel, and 30 minutes of deleted scenes with an intro from Smith. If you are a fan of Smith and/or the first Clerks, this is a definite must have for your collection.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

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