August 2007 Archives

Sharks Come Cruisin' - Live at Jake's (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Some people watch Jaws and forevermore refrain from swimming in the ocean. Others decide to start a band. Inspired by grizzled old Quint's rendition of "Spanish Ladies" (the first track on the album), Mark Lambert began researching sea shanties. Sharks Come Cruisin' present the songs complete with cue cards for the crowd to join in the chorus. While many compare SCC's sound to the Dropkick Murphys, they're closer to Great Big Sea in that they're fairly true to the original songs, without trying to punk them up. I'd go see them.

Bonde do RolĂȘ - With Lasers

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Bonde do Rolê - With Lasers (Domino) [audio] [upcoming shows]

For those who can't stop reminiscing about the glory days of Miami Bass—"Diamond Girl" (remember that one, ohh-oh) and "Supersonic"—and still haven't intoxicated themselves through constant use of extra super hold Aqua Net, Bonde do Rolês' debut lp With Lasers is chocked full of enough old school drum machines and cocksure guitar riffs to wet your late eighties whistle. These baile funkers are as dirty as 2-Live Crew wanted to be and are ready to lively up your next party.

Ari Shine - A Force of One

Ari Shine - A Force of One (Bongo Beat) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's unfortunate how much the Ari Shine press packet plays up his comparisons to Elvis Costello's rookie year, because nothing on A Force of One quite packs that punch. Set aside the minor disappointment of major expectations, however, and it turns out it's actually a sharp, loud blast of clever guitar pop with swagger to spare. Despite some ill-advised modern production tells, it's straight out of '78—the bitter hooks of Costello with the pointed layman's verbiage of Graham Parker. He's just one album away from getting it absolutely right.
New Young Pony Club - Fantastic Playroom (Modular) [audio] [upcoming shows]

These guys are unlucky that there was a major delay in the release of their debut album, and that their single "Ice Cream" was hijacked by Intel, as it means their music—a blend of electro, punk and disco, steeped with sexual innuendo—now sounds a little old and tired. A year ago, pre-CSS, this album would have been on the money, but now it seems dull and unoriginal. It's okay, but Peaches, The Rapture and LCD Soundsystem just do it a bit better. Lick that, New Young Pony Club.

Bark Bark Bark - Haunts

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Bark Bark Bark - Haunts (Retard Disco) [audio]

Efficient music making is great, but Haunts probably cost less than $50 to record. Sometimes that doesn't make a difference at all (see any Guided by Voices album), but when your band relies more on making a sound than it does on actual songs, low fidelity just becomes an inevitable distraction. That said, Haunts isn't a complete waste. Much of it is like Beck's absurd early pre-Mellow Gold work, and the songs that stand out most are those with creamy melodic middles like the title track and "Dead Ghost."

Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight

Rilo Kiley - Under the Blacklight (Warner Bros.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Under the Blacklight is a refreshing makeover for the formerly boringest of all boring indie bands in indie land. As a bizarre and unexpected exercise in genre-hopping, this album seems to be alienating a lot of long-time fans (you know who I'm talking about—those kids who wear sweaters in the summer and get their feelings hurt if someone speaks ill of Dave Eggers). Not every song works exactly as it should, but the risks this band is taking are appreciated by the rest of us.
Juliana Hatfield & Frank Smith - Sittin' in a Tree EP (Ye Olde Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Juliana Hatfield is celebrating her 20th anniversary as America's #1 indie-rock goddess by teaming up with a band called Frank Smith to create a new 6-song EP of mid-tempo rock with a twist of country. The sound completely works for Hatfield, who has shown more and more musical range since the turn of the century. The feel of Sittin' in a Tree is less fiery than 2005's Made in China, with the majority of the new songs fitting into either the adult contemporary mood of In Exile Deo or the pop vein of a Some Girls album.

Paramore - Riot!

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Paramore - Riot! (Fueled By Ramen) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The songs on Paramore's Riot! are crafted for two main purposes; to hit the charts and to illicit a rousing crowd response during live performances. The album doesn't contain a great deal of lyrical or musical depth and the production often borrows from the styles of other popular female-fronted acts. However, the songs are quite catchy and Hayley Williams, the highlight of the band's punk-pop style, has an incredible voice. Riot! is a fun album to listen to so long as you don't expect anything groundbreaking.

Norwalks - This Side Up EP

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Norwalks - This Side Up EP (self released) [audio]

Before I listened to This Side Up, I expected to hate, or at least be seriously bored by, Norwalks—Feist-y gal sings sexy Cat Power folk-pop blah blah blah, whatever—but this release instantly made me prick up my ears. Whimsical, with a Frenchified nod to Edith Piaf, riffs straight out of Is This It, dreamily layered vocals and some subtle guitar strumming, this EP is sophisticated, gorgeous and utterly compelling. Fingers crossed there is a fully fledged album in the works, so I can rush out and buy it immediately. Love it.
The Waterboys - Book of Lightning (Universal) [audio] [upcoming shows]

After reading so many things about how this album was a return to form for Mike Scott as a songwriter and performer, I approached it with high hopes and unrealistic expectations. It didn't take long to realize that the people singing its praises probably don't demand a lot of their "comeback" albums anymore, because this album is hamfisted and clumsy; the songs painted in earnest with unsaturated color. Save your cash or, better yet, go out and get This is the Sea. Believe it or not, The Waterboys actually were good once.

Swati - Small Gods

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Swati - Small Gods (Bluhammock Music) [audio] [upcoming shows]

So I had to do some research to learn how Swati creates her incredibly distinctive sound... turns out she's got eight strings on a twelve-string guitar, open tuning, and lots of pedals. "Big Bang," which features a departure into the realm of near-metal, showcases this sound, but I prefer "New Me," the album closer, as my Exhibit A. While she evokes comparisons to Tori Amos and Ani DiFranco style-wise, Swati's playing sets her apart from anyone I've heard recently.
Dead Heart Bloom - Chelsea Diaries (KEI) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Boris Skalsky is one heck of a songwriter, and his Dead Heart Bloom has put out one heck of a free-to-download album. DHB has a largely alt-country sound that seems to blend the acoustic side of The Beatles and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, producing a sound that is a shade darker than the melodies would suggest. And speaking of melodies, it's the vocal melodies on Chelsea Diaries that stand out; these will get stuck in your head and you'll be happy they did.

The Lolligags - Wired EP

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The Lolligags - Wired EP (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Lolligags sound almost exactly as you would expect them to sound by their name: a sweetly infectious blend of girlish vocals and keyboard keplunk-ery, surely a match made in electropop heaven. The first couple of tunes would not out of place at an indie-disco, but the duo shake things up with "Creep", a track exploring the finer side of stalking, and employ an unexpected folk touch on final offering "Staircase Mystery". Cute, but not on the wrong side of sickly, this EP is catchy, but just interesting enough to carry on holding your attention.
Angel & The Love Mongers - The Humanist Queen (Disgraceland) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Sort of an interesting mix from these guys. Sounds like an Americanized solo Morrissey with some weird glam guitar work thrown in too. At the same time, they're very '80s British-influenced like The Smiths, obviously, but also The Psychedelic Furs, a jaunty-ier Church and some pleasing dark synths lurking in the background. See also: Pre-Rick Rubin Cult!

Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell

Bad Religion - New Maps of Hell (Epitaph) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Bad Religion purists may think only a few songs on New Maps of Hell rank as some of their best, and the whole album doesn't quite stack up. The album mix is a little rough and the vocals are sometimes buried, but if you just sit back and enjoy the raucous music and wordsmithing you won't really notice. This collection of punk anthems about social consciousness and freedom has quickly jumped to the top of my favorite releases this year.
Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter - Like, Love, Lust & the Open Halls of the Soul (Barsuk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Jesse Sykes has a beautiful yet haunting voice, like the lovechild of Craig Wedren and a ghost who grew up listening to The Flying Burrito Brothers. Each song on Like, Love, Lust... is surrealistic, dramatic and psychedelic. This will-o'-the-wisp floats her uniquely distinct voice over the modernly atmospheric country tunes in a curious way, allowing her to brashly flaunt lyrics that are often tender, softhearted and sincere.

Midnight Juggernauts - Dystopia

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Midnight Juggernauts - Dystopia (Siberia) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Dystopia is sort of like a boiled-down presentation of everything that's been cool about French music in the last 10 years—Daft Punk's party vibe, the sound-upon-sound hugeness of M83, the quieter serenity of Cyann & Ben and the space cowboy disconnect of Air (with a brief stop in England to pick up some Roxy Music glitter)—but it all comes here from two Australian dudes. This is definitely the sleeper hit of the summer.
Jenny Owen Youngs - Batten the Hatches (Nettwerk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

To judge from her lyrics, Jenny Owen Youngs has got some problems: "a case of the stares," "trouble breathing," finding "solace at the bottom of the bottle." But she is doing just fine in the vocals and music department, fitting neatly into my CD collection beside Erin McKeown, Jennifer O'Connor and Beth Orton. Her acoustic-guitar folk/indie rock sound gets filled out with additions ranging from organ to flute to cello to answering machine... and a slight insouciance, as if she knows she'll kick those problems to the curb.
The Pipettes - Your Kisses Are Wasted on Me EP (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Pipettes are cheeky British birds from Brighton doing a present-day version of the '60s girl group sound and getting everything right. They owe the sound of their two minute songs to the likes of The Supremes and The Ronettes, but fit in with current bands like The Go! Team and Cansei de Ser Sexy. It's a bit camp, but never enough to make you recoil in embarrassment. You'll dance, you'll laugh and you'll dance some more. These songs belong on your summer mix tape.
Black Before Red - Belgrave to King's Circle (I Eat Records) [audio]

A first listen reveals very brisk, metronomic and bright pop music laced with subtle flourishes of horns and peppery acoustic guitars that dance along with the lovely vocal melodies—very cool, quiet little songs. It's often reminiscent of mid-'70s Kinks with that delicate modern indie sound that the kids love. Sensitive boy stuff this, not dissimilar to a brittler Spoon or even The Walkmen. Throw some Beach Boys' "bah-bah-bahhs" over key parts and there you go. This one was like a wine review, no?
The Exies - A Modern Way of Living With the Truth (Eleven Seven Music) [audio] [upcoming shows]

On the brink of calling it quits after leaving their previous label, The Exies have returned with their fourth studio album. It opens with the sublime acoustic number "Leaving Song," then the next ten tracks proceed to kick you in the ass. Skillful songwriting has infused every track on this album with its own unique personality. Coming full-circle, the album closes with two slower tracks, one being a tremendous cover of the Talking Heads classic "Once in a Lifetime."

Dizzee Rascal - Maths & English

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Dizzee Rascal - Maths & English (XL Recordings) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The third release from the British prince of hip-hop is certainly more Americanised than his previous offerings; the dirty grime beats being more polished and the dropping of American slang being a tad more profuse. However, Dizzee's still got the wit and panache to pull off sampling nu-metal and Bugsy Malone on the same album and his quirky wordplay prevents this album from being just another rap record. Though it doesn't represent Dizzee's finest work, his crown is still very firmly in place.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump

The White Stripes - Icky Thump (Warner Bros.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Few bands turn the media into a hyperbole generator like The White Stripes, and maybe one of these days it will be undeserved. That day is not today. Perhaps the only criticism I can offer is that, in 20 years, I doubt this will be the album you will get nostalgic for first; it does, however, continue to strengthen the certainty that you will be reaching for their back catalogue for decades to come. It's still blues that pulls your balls through your ears, and who gets enough of that?

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

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