March 2007 Archives

Damien Rice - 9

Damien Rice - 9 (Warner Bros.) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

Damien Rice, you are a dude. Ergo, you have balls. It's too bad someone broke your heart, but did she take those too? You've become the guy who attends big parties only to stand in the corner going on and on and on (and on and on and on) about that girl you dated for all of seven months until she dumped you back in 2003—the human party foul. Beautiful, somber music can be made without becoming a total d-bag (heard Leonard Cohen?), so get busy, you pussy.

Blackfield - II

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Blackfield - II (We Put Out/Atlantic) [audio/video]

The second collaboration from Isreali singer Aviv Geffen and Steve Wilson of the English prog rock group Porcupine Tree is a cold bed of depression that slowly sucks the energy out of you. While Wilson's guitar drips watery chords and weaves minimalist tapestries, both he and Geffen harmonize softly about their reasons to leap off the bridge they're standing on. Is it pop? It is "new prog"? With the rare rocker ("Once," "Epidemic," "Where Is My Love?"), II is, regardless of genre, a noteworthy affair. Come on, get under these (cold) covers.
Darling New Neighbors - Every Day is Saturday Night (I Eat Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Ever live next door to where a band practices? Most often it would get old really quickly, but maybe not with this band. I bet if I lived next door to Darling New Neighbors, I'd want to hear more! I'd probably even go to their shows. Great quirky pop songs. I hear a cross between Camper Van Beethoven and Freakwater here, and I like it. Austin, Texas is lucky to have this band in their neighborhood.
Good Charlotte - Good Morning Revival (Epic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Doing away once and for all with the notion that they're a punk band, the Brothers Madden leave themselves free to create a big, glossy and surprisingly sharp-edged rock record that has more in common with The Killers than it does Rancid. "The River," in particular, will go down as one of the better mainstream rock radio singles of 2007 come year's end. Though their target demo may still be a legion of mall-dwellers in studs and eyeliner, they're finally making stuff that appeals to rest of us too.
Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position (Low Altitude) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Mr. Wolf's latest effort is a fantastic, joyous symphony of glam infused pop-folk well timed for Spring. While the record dons its share of lyrical clichés, perhaps that's because it fits neatly at the intersection of the boy and the man with its careful, budding confidence. Young Patrick has a firm if not near-genius grasp on song construction, and he executes with a unique flair that's anything but tired or cliché.

Aqueduct - Or Give Me Death

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Aqueduct - Or Give Me Death (Barsuk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Aqueduct isn't making retro records now in the same way The Rentals and Pulsars weren't making retro records in the '90s. Yes, the songs may be covered up with analog synths maxed out on their silliest settings, but the instrumentation is just an afterthought. The songs are actually so contemporary it hurts. Unfortunately for Aqueduct, "contemporary" translates directly to "Barsukian." Look past the accessories and you've got some nice throwaway indie pop—a quick fix for your musical sweet tooth. It's pleasing, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Barn Burning - Werner Ghost Truck (Tarnished) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Although a band from the Northeast, you'd never know where they are from by listening to this album. You'll lean towards the Midwest but be dead wrong. It's also not overly influenced by any one genre. There's some dark country and eruptions of distorted bliss, such as the fuzzed out chorses of "Drunk Drivers on the Guest List" or "Rubicon." Haunting feel-bad music featuring harmonica, organ, piano, violin, slide guitar, short wave radio, acoustic guitar and influences such as Jay Farrar, Sparklehorse and Anders Parker.

Lily Allen - Alright, Still

Lily Allen - Alright, Still (Capitol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's that accent, innit? Listening to Alright, Still just makes me go back to old Julie Andrews movies in my head. Lily Allen sounds every bit as prim and proper as Mary Poppins, except she leaves her prudence at the door every evening when she clocks out. She's flirty, she's cross, she's vindictive, but still knows how to live carefree. And with so much to tell us, those Caribbean dancehall rhythms (playing the part of the spoonful of sugar) really help that medicine go down.

The Be Good Tanyas - Hello Love

The Be Good Tanyas - Hello Love (Nettwerk) [audio] [more audio] [upcoming shows]

I'm kicking myself for allowing this album to languish in the submissions pile for so long. Achingly gorgeous, it runs the gamut from traditional folk songs to bluegrassy covers (they made me fall in love with a Neil Young song! Inconceivable!) to lovely originals about how "your roots stretch down to grow up wild." Frazey Ford has one of those voices that you either love or hate (think Toni Childs mixed with Karen Peris)—I love it, and the way it meshes with Sam Parton's. This should have been on my top 10 for 2006.
The Tallest Man on Earth EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Tallest Man on Earth is one (potentially) tall man from Sweden with an acoustic guitar and a voice reminiscent of Dylan or Waits. Sounding like a young, lo-fi-loving, acoustic troubadour channeling an ol' blues hound with bilateral vocal fold nodules, The Tallest Man on Earth will pluck and twang his way into your heart with only 5 songs. This is a great way to spend 15 minutes.
Modest Mouse - We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Full disclosure: I've been a chronic Modest Mouse hater since album #2. What they were doing then, Built to Spill and Archers of Loaf had done first and had certainly done better. But now the sound of the band is so far removed from those days, even more now than on their ubiquitously popular 2004 album, that it's only fair I revisit my stance on Brock & Co. Know what? This shit is great—and it's not the Johnny Marr factor, either (I can scarcely hear him). Modest Mouse just finally don't remind me of anyone worthier than themselves.
Tamara Dearing - Yesterconfessions (self released) [audio] [more audio and upcoming shows]

"Ignore all [the] print/yes, jump straight through the text": Using a piano and some simple percussion, Tamara Dearing manages to combine ragtime and folk into a unique sound. Insistent notes (the first track lives up to its name, "Trickling") run beneath rather garbled lyrics as her Ani Difranco-ish voice swoops from a throaty murmur to high-pitched clarity. You never know quite where the strangely syncopated lines are going, which I find completely refreshing.

Minmae - 835

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Minmae - 835 (Grey Day) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Their ninth full length release starts things off with the eight and a half minute "Pay More," a cross between Mogwai and Japancakes with piercing feedback and the distorted words "Goddamn motherfucker" repeated on a loop. Aside from your typical guitar, bass and drums, there's keyboards, shortwave radio, Korg MS2000 and saxophone. It's a challenging release because it covers so much ground—drawn out jams, splashes of space rock, meandering jangly country—all grounded in indie rock but varied enough to pass off as a compilation.

American Hardcore DVD

American Hardcore DVD (Sony Pictures Classics) [trailer]

American Hardcore is a well made documentary that covers the US punk scene from 1981-1986. The DVD has a bunch of deleted scenes that are mostly just snippets of interviews, but fans of hardcore will be into it. There are live performances from way back when by SS Decontrol, Bad Brains and more. The DVD also features live footage of D.O.A and the Circle Jerks from the movie premiere. A commentary track by the director and writer is another feature on the disc which is interesting half the time.

Sono Oto - The Apple EP

Sono Oto - The Apple EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's not surprising that I like an EP about apples. They're one of my favorite snacks. Especially Granny Smiths; so tart, so crisp. Apples are also the main ingredient in America's #1 favorite pie, the apple pie! Come to think of it, I'm typing on an Apple computer right now. Brooklyn's Sono Oto have packed their admiration for the forbidden fruit into a 6-song bushel of melodic piano pop that makes my mouth water and my toes tap.
Aesop Rock - All Day: Nike+ Original Run (iTunes)

Aes Rizzle's latest work may be his most unexpected yet—a single 45 minute track meant to provide a backdrop for a run. The third in Nike's Original Run series, All Day attempts to take the runner through different cities and landscapes. Atypically, Aesop's vocals aren't his typical polysyllabic inundations, instead functioning as mantras weaving in and out over a series of somewhat plodding instrumentals. All Day switches up themes, but only has one major surge of energy coming in at the 31:00 mark, leaving runners (and fans) unmotivated.
Various Artists - Labrador 100: A Complete History of Popular Music (Labrador) [audio]

If you've been paying any attention whatsoever, you've noticed we're pretty big Swedophiles here at 75 or Less. One of the Swediest labels of the all the Swedish labels these days is Labrador, home to faves like The Radio Dept., Acid House Kings, Sambassadeur and a host of others. Labrador 100 marks the label's hundredth release in a grand way, featuring one track from each and every prior release over the span of four discs. Never before has a history lesson been this much fun. It's sure to keep us busy until Labrador 200 arrives, at least.
Of Montreal - Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (Polyvinyl) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You almost feel bad for enjoying it when you notice this hook-filled infectious indie-disco that's been charging your senses—those first six sublime tracks—is the pretense of a man barely holding it together. A dizzying 11-minute escalation of anxiety is perfectly placed at the album's center, a breakdown before the more subdued second half takes you along on the rebound tour, our hero seeking to rebuild behind a façade of feigned superiority.

Loney, Dear - Loney, Noir

Loney, Dear - Loney, Noir (Sub Pop) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Loney, Dear's Loney, Noir in three words? Thoughtful, heartbreaking, impressive. Complex, moody arrangements surround Loney, Dear's pretty voice and therapeutic guitar. This soulful, Swedish, Elliott Smith-like dude composes tunes imaginatively sans pretension. What about a clarinet behind his acoustic guitar and crooning vocals? Gorgeous. Or his upbeat, Simon & Garfunkel-like " I Am John" presenting delicate harmonies? Tearfully amazing. This album honestly captures slices of life's beauty and pain through fluid music and honest lyrics.
Kultur Shock - We Came to Take Your Jobs Away (Koolarrow) [audio]

This album is insane. Sometimes it's gypsy violins, sometimes it's an Eastern European version of the Dropkick Murphys, sometimes it's straight out of Headbangers Ball. Whether they're singing about immigration, princesses, class struggle, or other things I'm not sure of, because I don't speak any Balkan languages, Kultur Shock manage to combine "world music" with punk in a way that totally works.
The Goners - Drink Dance Die EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is not the '90s Estrus Records band of the same name. Aside from having the world's second greatest drummer, these Goners are obsessed with zombies, the morgue, dead bodies, and necrophelia. "Head" covers a legendary regional story of a horrific crime. The track "Ratt" has a tongue-in-cheek Scorpions intro before snapping into breakneck hardcore complete with an old school breakdown so old it's in a musical wheelchair. The vocals could be Scottish (by way of Transylvania) over midtempo cretin punk and horror comic book themes.

Jay Reatard - Blood Visions

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Jay Reatard - Blood Visions (In The Red) [audio] [upcoming shows]

How the hell have I managed to only get hipped to Jay Reatard just now? He's been making records for nine years under at least that many aliases, all of which seem to be experiments in genre purity. Here's the first one released under his own name and his total devotion to an aesthetic ideal remains front and center with the material. Comprised of 15 hit and run art-school punk songs (think Wire or the Buzzcocks), an unaware listener could honestly mistake Blood Visions for something John Peel was playing in 1978. A real shame he never got to hear it.

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