November 2007 Archives

Fishboy - Albatross: How We Failed to Save The Lone Star State... (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Layered and not lo-fi, there's piano and trumpets announcing "Proper Name Spelling Bee" and a blasting organ carries the number-one-song-on-another-planet "Racecar". In other words, Tullycraft and Crayon team up and wrestle Apples in Stereo to the ground while singing songs about writing songs. This features the doubletracked nasaly vocals a la Daniel Johnston and Doug Martsch. Including the Cheap Trick meets Superchunk feel of "The Details of Our Trip", this is eleven blasts of sugar rush indie power pop.

Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face

Kenna - Make Sure They See My Face (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This album actually makes me angry, it's so bad. It's just a jumbled mess. It sounds like The Neptunes recorded the B-sides from the second N.E.R.D. album with a lead singer who wears white bloused shirts with frilly cuffs and tight pants. It's shit deconstructed post-disco crap, with just enough clever noise to ruin the few moments of actual listenable melody they achieve. Kenna, make sure you see my nuts. Your album blows hog.
Travis Morrison Hellfighters - All Y'All (Barsuk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

After loving Travistan and acccepting that all of Travis's post-Dismemberment Plan albums may be growers, another less-than-easily-accessible LP should've come as no surprise. Unfortunately for Plan disciples, All Y'All contains oodles of uninspired lyrics and generic booty-rocking music that may shake your faith in the mighty Morrison. The high points that will keep the album in heavy rotation are in the form of songs like "You Make Me Feel Like a Freak" and "Churchgoer"...the ones that remind you of the Plan.
El Ten Eleven - Every Direction is North (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I've got a few weaknesses, and one of them is a love of instrumental rock. Not that pompous ebb and flow variety which chokes on its own importance (hello, Mogwai!), but the really fluid, uptempo kind with ringing guitars and galloping basslines like Pell Mell used to make (and Ellis the Vacuumchild for a short while). El Ten Eleven's Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty are clearly of the same mind, and are exploring the limits of the style even further with their second LP. We don't need no stinkin' vocals.

American Catapult - Trees of Mystery

American Catapult - Trees of Mystery (Cooking Vinyl) [audio]

I'm not sure how an Uncle Tupelo album can manage to contain nary a rerence to Jay Farrar... well, besides some lines from "Goodbye" to which I'm assigning significance: "There's no depression welcome here / These are the moody minor chords that you used to play". I'm also not sure how this record surfaced in Southern California this Spring rather than in REM-era Athens, GA. While several tracks run into each other (albeit pleasantly), a few stand out, like the mournful "Crooked Straight" and the driving "Find Another Way."
Seether - Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces (Wind-Up) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Seether has always struck me as a band struggling to find its own identity and sound. But after giving Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces a few spins, I've realized that this South African post-grunge outfit is really using their influences to craft an ever-changing landscape of music. A couple songs dive a little too deep into the commercial pond, but the album as a whole is redeemed with great tracks like the epic "No Jesus Christ".
The Vision of a Dying World - And the Grammar Lamb (Single Screen) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Vision of a Dying World is back with yet another album of acoustic, post-apocalyptic, carnival campfire music for fans of Okkervil River and The Danielson Famile. Another album showcasing their clever and idiosyncratic mix of folk and pop that is not entirely unrivaled, yet strangely difficult to pin down. With four impressive releases in the last three years, these California boys are destined for a life of financial success and public esteem beyond their wildest fantasies.
Pink Floyd - The Piper at the Gates of Dawn (40th Anniversary Edition) (Capitol)

So far, very few rock and roll albums have a digitally remastered 40th anniversary edition. To celebrate, you'll find both mono and stereo mixes of the album across two cds. Disc 3 has the bonus tracks, including their singles from 1967, b-sides "Candy and a Current Bun","Paintbox","Matilda Mother","Apples and Oranges" and two unreleased versions of "Interstellar Overdrive". This album helps preserve the legacy of Syd Barrett, who wrote most of the songs himself and then quickly became a musical casualty.

PJ Harvey - White Chalk

PJ Harvey - White Chalk (Island) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Icon of the indie-gal with a guitar scene, a truly blowout album and mainstream success has so far eluded Harvey, which is possibly why she's chosen to swap her bluesy drawl for a much higher, ethereal register on latest offering White Chalk. A lightly tuned piano is frequently Harvey's only accompaniment, creating a collection of bleakly repetitive and depressing tracks. There are odd hints of the old Harvey menace on tracks like "When Under Ether", but whilst this album is occasionally hauntingly beautiful, it is still far from her finest hour.
Cutting Pink With Knives - Populuxxe (Holy Roar) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Much of what sounds new is actually more a product of collision than it is creation. Take Cutting Pink With Knives, whose third album Populuxxe partners two of the most disparate genres we know of in a way that's not only pleasing to the ear, but leaves a satisfied feeling in the gut. Imagine that members of Napalm Death found themselves in the studio of The Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt, letting all that righteous aggression erupt through drum pads and Casios instead of guitars and Marshall stacks. This is no joke. This is heavy shit.

The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes

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The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes (Cherry Tree/Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Count me in on the Pipettes love. They sound like Amy Winehouse's perky kid sisters, full of the self-worth she drank away: track 1 announces that they're "the prettiest girls you've ever met." Sure, they're sad when the boy they like doesn't notice them on the dance floor, but they're busy kicking plenty of other boys to the curb: "Leave me alone, you're just a one night stand." And they sound so CUTE while they're saying it! Such sweetly innocent harmonies! Such toe-tapping '60s-style dance instrumentation! Very fun.

Shannon Curfman - Fast Lane Addiction

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Shannon Curfman - Fast Lane Addiction (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

We've been waiting eight years for Shannon Curfman to release another full-length album since her acclaimed debut Loud Guitars, Big Suspicions, which sounds strange considering that she's only 22 years old. On Fast Lane Addiction, this blues-rock triple threat demonstrates her song writing prowess and incredible skills with a guitar. She also has one of the most appealing and powerful voices of any active vocalist in the genre. Any woman that can sing a song titled "Do Me" earns extra points in my book.

Ween - La Cucaracha

Ween - La Cucaracha (Rounder) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Gene and Dean Weens really came a long way in their first 10 years, but the last 10 have found them in a holding pattern. No real ups or downs, just a steady stream of moderately groovy, kind of humorous songs that make it seem like a shtick overstaying its welcome. 2003's Quebec seemed like it might be kickstarting a revival, but the four-year wait for La Cucaracha proves to be a letdown. Enjoyable, but it's just another Ween record.
Various Artists - For the Kids...Three! (Nettwerk) [audio]

Indie favorites Rogue Wave, Mates of State, The Format and many others join hit-makers Moby and Barenaked Ladies to make children's music that is shamelessly abhorred by all children and instantly irritating to all parents. Imagine a collection of silly songs and kid-friendly covers made for God-knows-who's enjoyment by some of the best bands out there...then add some crappy bands, and you've got yourself a compilation. Exceptions to the claptrap include the tolerable contributions from Of Montreal and Rosie Thomas.
Various Artists - I'm Not There Original Soundtrack (Sony Music) [audio] [more audio]

The Bridge may still be the king of tribute albums, but this is perhaps the most critically lauded line-up of any compilation since. Thirty-four Bob Dylan covers from the I'm Not There soundtrack, led by The Million Dollar Bashers which includes Nels Cline, Steve Shelley, Tom Verlaine and Lee Ranaldo. Also tracks by Stephen Malkmus, Eddie Vedder, Calexico, Jim James, Iron & Wine, Willie Nelson, Sonic Youth, Cat Power, John Doe, Mark Lanegan, Yo La Tengo, Sufjan Stevens and many more.

Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty

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Every Time I Die - The Big Dirty (Ferret Music) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Metalcore, or whatever the hell you call it, is an overcrowded scene. It's a bunch of jerks with shaven heads and chest-length chinbeards, detuned guitars and misdirected anger. Every album sounds like a 13th generation copy of Pantera's Vulgar Display of Power, which was pretty heinous in the first place. Every Time I Die rises above all that, digging back further, taking on late-period Black Flag and metalling it up. They've got a primitive swagger and a wicked sense of humor, so throw the horns, slam your beer and die over and over.

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin

Band of Horses - Cease to Begin (Sub Pop) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This album won me over somehow. From the moonlight-on-a-lake cover art to the "we're slightly less pussy than Coldplay so you can like us without feeling bad, even though we're still totally pussies" sound, this is not exactly my bag, baby. But then the first song got stuck in my head for a week, so I put it on again, and again. All 35 minutes of this CD are actually excellent. Like if My Morning Jacket wrote a song for a prom scene in an '80s movie. I guess I'm a pussy. Who knew?

Róisín Murphy - Overpowered

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Róisín Murphy - Overpowered (EMI) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Overpowered is apt, but this record could just as easily have been titled Indulgence. The production is so extravagant, it harkens back to the time when Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Eurythmics were in their prime. Furthermore, Murphy's voice recalls a young and vibrant Annie Lennox (with the urban flourishes of Erykah Badu at times). There's a dirty, sinister undercurrent to these songs, especially the chilling "Primitive," which the squeaky clean pop music of today fails to ever explore. Indulge in the pleasure. The guilt is optional.
She Is So Beautiful/She Is So Blonde (Science of Sound) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This member of Sleeping in the Aviary presents a collection of songs far removed from his punk rock meal ticket. There's the Califone-ish "Tied to the Sound", with drugged-out whispers over acoustic guitar strums. The track "Days" is what Black Rebel Motorcycle Club desperately wanted to be when they "rediscovered" faux gritrock a few albums back. These are atmospheric sketches of mid-fi pop—vocals either buried or high pitched wails—whether it's banjo, harmonica and toy xylophone or the pounding sampled drums on "Crimes".

Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends

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Les Savy Fav - Let's Stay Friends (French Kiss) [audio] [upcoming shows]

On one hand, it doesn't seem like six whole years have come and gone since Les Savy Fav last released a full album's worth of new material. On the other, listening to Let's Stay Friends makes crystal clear the realization that they've been sorely missed in the current echo chamber of lazy copycat indie bands. They're complex without being math-y, aggressive without being confrontational and melodic without being saccharine. The underground has gotten a little too cute, so our old friends Les Savy Fav had to come back and ugly it up.
James Blackshaw - The Cloud of Unknowing (Tompkins Square) [audio] [upcoming shows]

There are guitar players, and then there are guitar artisans. In the tradition of acoustic guitar artisans like Richard Thompson and Leo Kottke, who are thoughtful composers, to Michael Hedges and Adrian Legg, who, in addition to their compositional skills, have pushed the guitar to its absolute limits as an instrument, 25 year-old James Blackshaw comes along and makes a home in the middle. His choice of the 12-string gives his art a rich, deep tone and his fingerpicking skills are sort of mindboggling. Technical ability aside, the guy also writes beautifully.
Chikita Violenta - The Stars & Suns Sessions (Noiselab) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Mexican band Chikita Violenta set their sights northward when getting ready to record their sophomore album. No, further north. They leapfrogged the United States altogether and set up shop in Canada with Broken Social Scene associate David Newfeld behind the boards. The result is something not too far removed from anything we've heard from that cluster of Toronto talent—a heavy wall of drums and guitar, subverted melodies and unchecked exuberance. A "headphones required" album to be certain, so clear 40 minutes and give it a chance.

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

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