April 2007 Archives

Low - Drums and Guns

Low - Drums and Guns (Sub Pop) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Low have always been moody and dark, but this record finds them in a cave with experimental sounds that are up Yo La Tengo's alley and vocals that soar like Sigur Rós—an interesting departure for Low, whose huge songs always came out of being sparse and intense. This record is dense with loops, piano and interesting sounds, but not all of these songs strike the emotional chord that I look for in Low.

The Size Queens - Is It In Yet?

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The Size Queens - Is It In Yet? (Bitter Stag) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Size Queens are made of up members of For Stars and American Music Club. You could categorize this as depressingly humorous Americana highlighted by oddball lyrics and striking piano playing. "Tribute to Patsy Ramsey" states "She was a Patsy from the start like Harvey Oswald" while "Love My Dentist" asks "Is it wrong to love my dentist?" and later moaning "You're my Gummi Bear." This is a lengthy adventure—eight of fourteen tracks are over five minutes long, influenced by Roy Orbison, The Fall, Half Japanese and Camper Van Beethoven.

Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha

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Andrew Bird - Armchair Apocrypha (Fat Possum) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Since discovering Andrew Bird, I've always kind of regarded him as a whistling minstrel of sorts—a creative and talented musician with catchy, bouncing songs, but with little to offer to those seeking an album with musical depth and meaning. Armchair Apocrypha, however, changes my opinion completely. It's absolutely phenomenal. Full of lush instrumentation and clever, meaningful lyrics, Bird's 7th studio album is a masterpiece. Only he could create something so different from the rest of contemporary indie pop while remaining so listenable and down-to-earth.
Sahara Hotnights - What if Leaving is a Loving Thing? (Stand by Your Band) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Despite arriving in the right place at the right time, Sahara Hotnights were never able to establish a real foothold in the States. Their inability to be pigeonholed into a specific trend, while commendable, was their downfall; even though their influences were crystal clear (The Runaways, Suzi Quatro). The 4th album is even more problematic than the others, though. It's their "1982" record—a drowsy hangover after the raucous partying of the late '70s. "Cheek to Cheek" is a notable post-disco pop exercise, but the remaining nine songs are non-vital bargain bin fare.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - The Abattoir Blues Tour (Mute)

Live albums tend to make me cringe (Exit...Stage Left a possible exception), but I had good reason to welcome The Abattoir Blues Tour. Seventeen raw, heart-rending, lush and sweeping songs with Cave's unrelenting delivery often tempered by a beautiful backing chorus (opener "O Children" is gorgeous). Don't get too comfortable though—there's plenty of gut-wrenching laments, sinister imagery and blistering Bad Seeds cacophony ("Stagger Lee"...goddamn!) Experience the pleasure and pain of Nick Cave live with this impressive collection.
Finger Eleven - Them vs. You vs. Me (Wind-Up) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The album Them vs. You vs. Me contains some interesting song writing supported by great musicianship, but the overcooked production buries the better song elements beneath layers of homogenized aural vibrations. The result is a mediocre offering that doesn't stand out when compared with their earlier work. "Paralyzer," with its catchy guitar riffs, is one of the highlights, but atypical of the other tracks on the album.
Ted Leo and The Pharmacists - Living With the Living (Touch & Go) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Teddy-boy and his faithful Pharmacists have been quietly reigning the indie scene for literate, thoughtful punksters since the turn of the century. With one damn good album after another, TL/Rx have done everything but break into the major label TRL crowd, and after Living With the Living, (almost) anything is possible. The album retains the in-your-face rocking feel of Shake the Sheets while surging through musical styles of rock, pop, soul, reggae, and punk.

Black Bear - The Cinnamon Phase

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Black Bear - The Cinnamon Phase (Baskerville Hill) [audio]

The Cinnamon Phase is 33 minutes of lo-fi electro rock at its best, sounding like what would happen if The Blow and The Microphones mated sonically. Weird tape hisses, dancey synth riffs and overdriven guitars abound, all from one man named Sam Beebe. Personally I think a song about Back to the Future ("I Want a Flying DeLorean") is 22 years overdue, and Black Bear delivers that and much more.

The Fratellis - Costello Music

The Fratellis - Costello Music (Cherry Tree/Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Costello Music showcases stomping, amped-up Libertines-like Brit Rock, with a cheeky smirk and an alcohol-fueled swagger. Don't expect anything too deep from these guys, but if you're up for a loud, laddish album, this more than fits the bill. The songs lack complexity; most are pretty bass and drums heavy with similar jarring chords, but The Fratellis show they possess a more sensitive side on the acoustically based "Whistle for the Choir."

Radical Face - Ghost

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Radical Face - Ghost (Morr Music) [audio]

Ghost is the latest musical missive of Ben Cooper, who you might know as 50% of Electric President. As Radical Face, he's a true solo performer and it's not too surprising that he excels under such circumstances. A lot of the synthetic detail Cooper's known for is cast aside here, allowing the organic core of his songwriting to breathe. And, oh my, are these songs something. Ghost is a showcase of epically beautiful, slow-burning melodies and dusty, distant instrumentation which closer resembles a cherished novel than it does a record.
The Inevitable Backlash - Sex For Safety EP (Hegemony)

The Inevitable Backlash features former members of Saccharine Trust and the Rollins Band and sounds like late 80's SST bands like SWA and DC3. Close to a late-era Naked Raygun crossed with a touch of butt rock. "Le Fou Rire" starts off with some Greg Ginn-ish guitar licks before kicking the tempo up a bit. Fast driving riffage and one acoustic number—in total, five songs just under 13 minutes recorded live without any overdubs. Bring on the full length.

Massive Attack - Collected

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Massive Attack - Collected (Virgin) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Here is a fat collection of classic and new material from trip-hop pioneers Massive Attack. Collected includes a greatest hits cd, new and rare cd and dvd of all videos. Disc 1 showcases gems like "Teardrop," "Protection," "Karmacoma" and "Angel." New track "Live With Me" features soul great Terry Callier, who joins the ranks of impressive collaborators including Horace Andy, Elizabeth Fraser, Tracey Thorn and Mos Def. Most exciting is the dual cd-dvd, with new songs, remixes and intriguing videos. The ultimate Massive Attack experience!

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Amy Winehouse - Back to Black (Republic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Believe the hype, people. You haven't heard anything like Amy Winehouse recently. Well, unless you've got the Ronettes in your CD player. But do they mention rehab or some guy keeping his dick wet? I doubt it. Winehouse plays a tormented drunken mess, pouring her heart out against a tumultuous backdrop of sultry gospel-y soul, complete with a horn section, backup singers, and big old chime bell things. I didn't think I'd love it, but I do.

The Who - Endless Wire

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The Who - Endless Wire (Republic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This record is both great and awful at the same time. It sounds REALLY AMAZING! Pete Townshend has done a great job on the production and recording, but the lyrics are AWFUL and songs are unmemorable. I just can't see this record holding up beyond its massive promotional push. It does sound great, though. Maybe The Who should stick to playing ass-kicking concerts, even with just Daltrey and Townshend left.
The Shins - Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Resembling Oh Inverted World way more than Chutes Too Narrow, The Shins' tricky third effort Wincing the Night Away brilliantly showcases their musical maturity. The lyrics present darker subject matter; a failed relationship, a return to one's hometown, or a loved one's self-destruction. However, The Shins express their depth in practically a friendly manner, using light, tuneful vocals and catchy melodies. The verdict? Wincing is a gorgeous, introspective album that refuses to become stale.

Children of Men DVD

Children of Men DVD (Universal) [trailer]

Besides being one of the best and most important films of 2006, Children of Men is a quality DVD. The best feature on the disc is called "The Possibility of Hope," a 30 minute documentary about how the present day world is working itself toward a future not so different than the one depicted in Children. There are 4 behind the scenes features on the making of the film, comments on the film by cultural critic Slavoj Zizek and 3 deleted scenes, but the one feature the DVD is really missing is commentary by director Alfonso Cuaron.

Various Artists - PLAY

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Various Artists - PLAY (Desoto Records) [audio]

If you want a baby genius, play some Bach. If you want a baby hipster, play PLAY. Not only will (s)he learn good lessons (e.g. Mock Orange tells us "healthy snacks are where it's at"), but there is a much better chance your infant will be the youngest kid wearing dark-rimmed glasses and handing out zines at local all-ages shows. Mary Timony, Mudhoney, Georgie James and others make this compilation well worth the adults' time.
Sloan - Never Hear the End of It (Yep Roc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What gives, Sloaners? I'd like to listen to this new album of yours from beginning to end every time I put it on, because buried somewhere inside this sprawling 30-track disaster are 12 or 13 undeniably outstanding songs I really, really, really like. No album has ever had a truer title than Never Hear the End of It, though. I start it often, but I can't seem to ever finish it.

The Cat Empire - Two Shoes

The Cat Empire - Two Shoes (Velour) [audio] [upcoming shows]

When did G Love become the bandleader for the Blues Brothers? And when did they add reggae and Latin influences? And why are my feet doing this stupid dance under my desk? And why do I always generalize albums into only mildly-accurate-yet-witty analogies? I'm confused. (I do know this though: this is the best album I've heard so far this year.)
Sleeping in the Aviary - Oh, This Old Thing? (Science of Sound) [audio] [upcoming shows]

There are thirteen tracks in 23 minutes but it's not hardcore punk, more power punk without the irritating and unnecessary final bridge, extra verse, chorus and guitar solo. Only two songs crack the three minute mark, while two come in at under one minute. Similar to the Thermals, the vocals are up on top of the mix. The Johnny Thunder-esque "Sign My Cast" is a slow ballad, while "Gloworm" is a midtempo number with offkey vocals. "Lanugo" slows things down again, adding hand claps and trombone.

Kristen Ward - Roll Me On

Kristen Ward - Roll Me On (Chroma) [audio] [upcoming shows]

With the pipes of Carly Simon, the resignation of Lucinda Williams, and the sound of new Americana, Kristen Ward belts out tales of being done wrong, being lonesome, and being done wrong again. This album winds through the dusty roads of Lowdownville, dripping weariness and sorrow as it follows the man who don't love her, the man she lost, the man she might just take out with her little gun. File next to Palodine and Maryrose Crook.

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