January 2008 Archives

Times New Viking - Rip it Off

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Times New Viking - Rip it Off (Matador) [audio] [upcoming shows]

"Please Play Loud," the back cover of Rip it Off instructs. In case you can't follow directions, the volume level of the actual album is already set louder than normal. Resistance is futile, and Times New Viking, the rag-tag tape-hiss kids who clearly grew up playing in the parking lot of the Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, have delivered a brief, high-impact album that rewards giving in. Sure, lo-fi this lo(w) is borderline gimmicky, but the reason Rip it Off succeeds is that the songs beneath the distortion would sound good at any production level.

Josh Kelley - Special Company

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Josh Kelley - Special Company (DNK Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Josh Kelley's Special Company is an interesting mix of blues, soul, funk and neo-southern rock inspired compositions. Kelley's impressive versatility as a vocalist is highlighted by this album's stylistic transitions. Though shifts like jumping from the pop-rock "My Kind" to the soulful "Tidal Wave" is a bit jarring at first—and you may find yourself checking to see if your mp3 player is on shuffle—the ride is rewarding. There's not a bad song on this album.
Santogold - Creator/L.E.S. Artistes (Downtown) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Can two songs change the world? Okay, I won't get carried away here, but I will say that by year's end Santogold will be the topic of much conversation. "Creator" is a tour de force of bhangra-inspired dancehall that should have M.I.A. looking over her shoulder. The flip "L.E.S. Artistes" is a 180-degree spin into midtempo post-modern pop the way Altered Images used to make it in 1981 (or maybe the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for you younger folks). What all a full album could cover is anyone's guess, but I can't wait to hear it.

Wisely - S/T

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Wisely (Oglio) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I don't know which crowd this is for. Perhaps the good looking indie-hip thirty-something Starbucks-goers. Or maybe the ugly ones. Adult contemporary rock can slide through the cracks of mediocrity when the songs are beautiful, and while Wisely's promo shots are admittedly fetching, the disc as a whole lacks character. Tracks like "Through Any Window" and "I'll Be Singing" give the listener a glimpse at his songwriting skills as he creates touching melodies with heartfelt lyrics; unfortunately this just doesn't translate to every song.

Yelle - Pop-Up

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Yelle - Pop-Up (Capitol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Another in the line of Cobra Snake-ready ingenues, Franco-fille Yelle's '80s electropop redux brilliantly straddles the line between ironic tribute and the genuine article. Pop-Up is comprised of nonstop singles, unholy hooks, and manufactured artificiality that is more fascinating than annoying. Plastic and candy-colored, the music is a mirror to the artist behind the moniker and ranks as the finest hipster achievement yet—at least until Uffie drops her album. Oh, I went there.

Bottomless Pit - Hammer of the Gods

Bottomless Pit - Hammer of the Gods (Comedy Minus One) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Formed by two of the surviving members of Silkworm along with former members of Seam and .22, the mood is restrained and tempered. Guitarist Andy Cohen's overwhelming talent is still tied inversely to his lack of notariety, but lyrically it's genuinely broken-hearted music. "I lie in the street, cars run over me." "When you get it in your mind to live again." "Once your touched and turned to dust, it doesn't matter much anymore." "When I called you, no one answered, no one came." The themes are heavy and the music is just as remarkable.

The Riff Randells - Doublecross

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The Riff Randells - Doublecross (Dirtnap) [audio] [upcoming shows]

One thing I love way more than I probably should is Juliana Hatfield's first solo album Hey Babe, and Doublecross reminds me of it a lot. Just under 25 minutes, it's a quick dose of rudimentary and off-the-cuff guitar rock adorned by Joey Ramone-ish vocals about cruising and records and boys sung by a girl with a sassy tweener voice. Yeah, I'm well aware there are about two million bands out there just like The Riff Randells, but occasionally one of them just has a little extra something that keeps them in steady rotation.

Shotgun Party - S/T

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Shotgun Party (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I learned a new musical term from Shotgun Party: Western swing. With guitar, fiddle, and upright bass—please note that Katy Rose Cox is the Slash of fiddle solos—the trio creates a sound that probably showed up a lot 75 years ago, but is fresh and original now. They continue the Austin tradition of cool twists on traditional American music. As I write this, I am sad that I will miss the bill they're sharing tomorrow night with The Lonesome Heroes.

Yesan Damen - Chronos/Kairos

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Yesan Damen - Chronos/Kairos (New Wine) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The time has come to be selective about your indie-pop. There's just too damn much of it these days. If you're looking for something that sounds pretty, something that will make you smile, dance in your seat and sing along then try out Yesan Damen (it's a band, not a dude). Chronos/Kairos is not a perfect album; it has the unfortunate tendency to sort of fade out before the disc is even over, but it does offer enough solid tracks to make it worth your while.

Bogdan Raczynski - Alright!

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Bogdan Raczynski - Alright! (Rephlex) [audio] [upcoming shows]

While acknowledging the work of drum and bass forefathers like Mike Paradinas (µ-Ziq) and Tom Jenkinson (Squarepusher), Bogdan Raczynski is always clearing a pathway for the second generation of the genre. It's a kinder, gentler music, with more attention paid to melody and verse/chorus structure than the apocalyptic disorder that characterized its origins. You'd still have a hell of a time finding a flesh and blood drummer who could consistently match the bpm's of these loops, but Alright! exudes a charming humanity which can't be denied.
FT (The Shadow Government) - The Black and White Album (Scenester Credentials) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Junkyard style tribal percussion with chanting, blasts of noise, various rantings laid over cut and paste knob twiddling offset by unlistenable mind piercing static and electronic noise, no doubt subliminally warning you of the inevitable slow but steady dismantling of our country. Finding the correct balance between atmospheric paranoia, exuberant bursts of horns, guitar rock and the occasional furious musical pummeling doesn't make it the most accessible listen, but it easily stands alone in the much too complacent world of indie rock. Be prepared, it's going to take a few listens to digest this.

Mike Viola - Lurch

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Mike Viola - Lurch (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Luckily for us, Mike Viola has made an annual tradition of releasing wonderfully impressive records. This year finds the singer/songwriter returning to the straightforward power pop sound of his early Candy Butchers releases; a mix of Beatles and Beach Boys inspired tunes with a money-back guarantee for getting stuck in your head. Lurch has it all: power pop rockers like "When I Hold You In My Arms", acoustic ballads like "Dangerously Close" and exceptional pop humdingers like "So Much Better".
Chris Read - The Diary: The World's Greatest Rap Megamix (Substance) [download]

This is so much better than any so-called "definitive" box set of rap and hip-hop's history ever could be. UK-based Chris Read condenses three decades of an impossibly broad genre—801 individual songs—into one continuous 77-minute mix that flows so amazingly well you'd never know it's a history lesson. That's right, it's chronological! From Spoonie Gee to Public Enemy to Naughty By Nature to Kanye West (and dozens of others in between). There's no old, there's no new. It's all right now and it's unquestionably cool and vital.
Sia - Some People Have Real Problems (Hear Music) [audio] [upcoming shows]

There are two different albums fighting out for space here. One is something found in a listening station at Borders—the unchallenging, disinterested tunes that open the album and barely exist. The other album, though, it's really something. The exaggerated vocals on "The Girl You Lost to Cocaine" are the first hint of something more than easy listening. "Academia," a tropical collaboration with Beck, only complicates matters. By the time the hidden track, "Buttons" (which has to be YouTubed to be believed) pops up, it's easy to figure which aspect of the album has won.
Jeremy Fisher - Goodbye Blue Monday (Wind-Up) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's easy to hear how Jeremy Fisher's Goodbye Blue Monday is heavily influenced by the works of Paul Simon. If you listen more closely you can hear echoes of Tom Petty and John Mayer, and then at some point you can get over it and hear Fisher himself. This is a solid effort by a talented songwriter and vocalist. The up-tempo music is infectious and you will probably find you self singing along to songs like "Scar That Never Heals" and "Cigarette".
Dance Band - Returns From the Land After Tomorrow (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Dance Band have the incredible honor of releasing the worst album by anyone anywhere in all of 2007. Why, you ask? Well this is what happens when you let hipster jerks listen to as much Funkadelic as they do disco punk, then pick up their instruments and mics and start rapping all at once like Sugarhill Gang did. It's not only offensive to those people who truly enjoy dancing, but also a big slap in the face of every funk and party band who came ahead of them.

Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation

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Babyshambles - Shotter's Nation (Astralwerks) [audio] [upcoming shows]

As a general rock n' rule, musicians who spiral down into drug abuse do so anticipating a valuable trade-off. It's unfortunate, but being in such a state usually makes for great music. Then there's Pete Doherty. Babyshambles, like The Libertines before them, barely mustered an earworm more than twice on their debut album and Shotter's Nation is no different. In their heydays, Magazine and The Jam could spit out better songs than these on a dare, where poor Pete has to suffer big for his art. Lesson learned. Don't do drugs, kids.
Various Artists - Music from the Motion Picture Juno (Rhino) [audio]

While watching the wonderful Juno, I found myself surprised at how much I enjoyed the Kimya Dawson songs. Could I have misremembered her oeuvre? Then I listened to the unedited songs which comprise nearly half of the official soundtrack, and I was like, "Oh, right." We're talking lyrics more cringe-inducing than the Rainn Wilson cameo here. Though mostly by the numbers as far as indie movie soundtracks go (do you even have to ask if there's a Kinks song included?), this one is mostly harmless and contains enough gems to warrant a cursory listen.

Sonic Chicken 4 - S/T

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Sonic Chicken 4 (In The Red) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Suspend your disbelief for a half hour and pretend there's a little place in France that's been enclosed in a bubble since about 1965, and the last records to make it inside before the inhabitants were sealed off were The Kinks' "You Really Got Me" and The Yardbirds' "For Your Love". When listening to the Sonic Chicken 4's debut, you'll find this fictional history completely plausible. They pack a retro punch entirely untainted by anything that's happened in the last 40+ years.

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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