April 2008 Archives

Santogold - S/T

Santogold (Downtown) [audio] [upcoming shows]

As shiny and pretty as the gold glitter vomit that adorns the album cover, Santogold's self-titled album is yet another absurdly catchy, well-produced, instantly palatable ethnic pop indie sensation. However, in eighteen months, when a date stumbles upon this forgotten treasure in your CD collection and gives you that look, there'll be no coughing and backpedaling regarding their discovery. You'll say with pride, "That's right, and it still holds up." He or she won't believe you, but you'll be right.

The Breeders - Mountain Battles

The Breeders - Mountain Battles (4AD) [audio] [upcoming shows]

A Pixies fan is not necessarily a Breeders fan. Sure, the Deals had a couple radio hits fifteen years ago, but the rest was a total snoozefest. Early reports of Mountain Battles failed to mention how "German Studies" persuades you to pump up the volume, or how "It's the Love" flat-out compels you to dance. The Breeders are both playing around with minimalism and nodding their heads toward alt-classics of yesteryear like Nirvana and Young Marble Giants, and it's all paying off. Alternative rock is not dead.

Jong Pang - Bright White Light

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Jong Pang - Bright White Light (Tigerspring) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The opening moments of "A House in Heartbeats" make it very clear that Anders Rhedin creates vertically instead of horizontally. Layers of sound are stacked one by one until the songs are so full they have nowhere to go but outward in all directions, which actually holds true for most of Bright White Light. It's percussive, but divinely melodic throughout. It's not "all-sound-all-the-time", though. Rhedin leaves breathing room in everything he writes, which is good. You'll need to catch your breath.

Sump Pumps - Revenge of the...

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Sump Pumps - Revenge of the... (8 Bit) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Sump Pumps offer the unusual combination of high speed double synth-driven punk with four members—all singers—sharing distorted vocals. Recalling predecessors such as Brainiac, Rocket From the Crypt and Six Finger Satellite, with their matching outfits they have a little Devo in them too. Almost all the songs stretch past the three-minute mark, disqualifying them from the hardcore punk rock club, but it's high octane from beginning to end regardless.

Joe Jackson - Rain

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Joe Jackson - Rain (Rykodisc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's easy to say Rain is the best Joe Jackson album in years: his discography reads like a free-falling line chart of both popularity and listener satisfaction. Beginning in '79 with one of the best albums ever, Mr. Jackson has faced an uphill battle, and his triennial release of disappointments hasn't helped his standing. Maybe it's getting the old band back together or maybe it's his previous collaboration with Ben Folds (who inspired who?), but Rain is the first album worth hearing since Night and Day.
Paddy Casey - Addicted to Company, Pt. 1 (RCA Victor) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's not altogether surprising that a busker-styled singer/songwriter like Paddy Casey has had difficulty making a dent on the American pop music consciousness, because we're certainly already overrun with our own hordes of them. The fact that he's deliriously popular in his native Ireland makes no difference. A shame, really, because I've enjoyed him since his debut album nine years ago. He's not rough around the edges—sometimes his voice even recalls James Taylor—but he's honest, earnest and real.

Hans the Double - Vessels EP

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Hans the Double - Vessels EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

With heavy, distorted guitar rifts and colorful transitions akin to Smashing Pumpkins, the musicality on this album is spot-on. At times, the instrumental work dominates the vocals, which seem to fade against a vibrant back drop; but, the contrast of their mellowy, smooth vocals doesn't go unnoticed—just a brush of raucous vocal rage will highlight their brilliance. The purely instrumental track, "When the Moors Conquered Sicily", is a true testament to this band's talent.
Various Artists - Wayfaring Strangers: Guitar Soli (Numero Group) [audio]

A missing link this ain't. Some of it is noodly puppy puke. One composition sounds a whole heck of a lot like something written specifically for The Weather Channel. Hold on now, though! About half the record is just terrific! Some of it is best described with the word "haunting." "Brilliant" even (if you're some kinda pervert). Clearly the whole thing owes its entire existence to John Fahey and his ilk, but this is still a truly enjoyable compilation of solo guitar formerly lost to those sweaty weirdos you see crouched on the floor at Goodwill.

Head of Femur - Great Plains

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Head of Femur - Great Plains (Greyday) [audio] [upcoming shows]

You're washing dishes and then... bang!, you're humming "Great Plains". You're helpless. "Jetway Junior" makes your feet shuffle. "Leader & The Falcon" makes you realize that, yeah, this band is good enough to open for Wilco and Andrew Bird. It's progressive pop, combining Flaming Lips with '70s rock, or maybe Elvis Costello with Apollo Sunshine. It's all over the map: strange, frantic, and fun all in the same song. It's taken several listens to conclude that I still don't know what to think.

Low Scores - Battling the Grid

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Low Scores - Battling the Grid (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is a free, downloadable collection of beats of uncleared samples and unfinished ideas, most of it laid back, the perfect background music or possibly the groundwork for your next remix project. Easily digestible, these tracks bounce between tranquil mellowness and the more heavy bedroom hip hop beats. While this "album" contains 47 tracks, most are around one minute long and won't overwhelm you with a lack of variety in their sampled and not so sampled beats—mostly instrumental with the occasional voice mixed in. Download and enjoy it here.

M83 - Saturdays=Youth

M83 - Saturdays=Youth (Mute) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Saturdays=Youth takes the title of a previous M83 single, "Teen Angst," as something of a mission statement here. Synth-driven waves crowd juvenile musings, with the results forming miniature epics of ennui and unease. Though the album hits its peak early with "Kim & Jessie," which is the best thing M83 has ever done, the album thankfully spreads its wealth for the duration of the running time. An ideal album for summer, the season of the Saturdays, this is the soundtrack to reliving every problem you've long since left behind.

Gachupín - S/T

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Gachupín (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The first song sets the stage; starting with a groovy Irish jig on a rhythm guitar, "Irish Juju" neatly transcends into an Egyptian-inspired horn section then finishes with West African drums blended with a funky electronic keyboard. This is a cleverly-composed album laced with African-Columbian and Brazilian rhythms, and jazzy, psychedelic world beats that are sure to lure the listener into a tribal dance-trance! And the gritty, raunchy ending to "Las Armas Secretas" leaves no room for argument—these cats can jam.

Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV

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Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV (The Null Corporation) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you like to work on your music rather than enjoy it, this might be the recording for you. I suppose if I had a month to listen to 1-2 tracks a day, reflect upon them, and fill out a journal decorated in electrical tape about the feelings it inspired, this might be a fun project. I don't. There are moments of beauty here and interesting ideas, but they are sketches without a central theme or anchor. Almost anyone could dig through here and find 30 minutes of great stuff, but I can't imagine you have the time.
Stephin Merritt - The Man of a Million Faces (Nonesuch) [audio/video] [upcoming shows] Digital Single

In November 2007, NPR's All Songs Considered commissioned songwriter Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, etc.) to create an original piece of music in just two days based on the theme "1974" and this photograph. Interesting concept, but would it be any good? Well, in my estimation, it's the absolute best piece of music Merritt has delivered since anything on 2004's "i" and possibly even since 1999's 69 Love Songs. Yes, it's that good..and it was written basically on a dare.
Nick Lowe - Jesus of Cool: Anniversary Edition (Yep Roc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This reissue was long, long overdue. And boy is it ever a kinder egg of a pinata package. You get all kinds of extra stuff that I won't go into here. Most of the songs are of the early Elvis Costello caliber, and I was excited to read in the liner notes that ol' Basher played just about every instrument. It gives me a special kind of joy to hear Lowe sing about "castrating Castro" over and over again on "Nutted by Reality." He starts the whole thing off with the absolute worst song, though.
Mission of Burma - The Horrible Truth About Burma: The Definitive Edition (Matador) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Normally my ears are not able to distinguish between a remaster and an original version unless it comes out worse but I wasn't prepared for the clarity of the layers of noise and screams being sped up, slowed down and looped over each other into a giant pile of abrasiveness. A reissue done right—the original producer takes the original analog tapes, restores the tracks into the correct order, adds four tracks left off the first time, then includes a 32 page booklet and a DVD of a live show from March 12, 1983.
Rustic Overtones - Light at the End (Velour) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Everyone has a band like this. Guys you've loved for years, seen live multiple times, and yet every one of their CDs demands qualification. "It sounds much better live... it rocks harder than this... let's just skip this track...." Then, before they really "get it", they break up. Now, imagine they reunite 6 years later and just fucking nail it. The album you always knew they had in 'em. This is it. A perfectly produced pop rock album. Horns without being ska, drive without being loud... awesome.

Silje Nes - Ames Room

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Silje Nes - Ames Room (Fat Cat) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The danger of providing a description of Silje Nes' music is that it will only evoke everything it does not sound like. Nes expertly arranges her multi-tracked home recordings of eclectic instrumentation and shy vocals to maximum effect, resulting in an album which is both inviting and mysterious in equal measure. The dirty weapon which propels the record is the impressive, unavoidable catchiness of the melodies as tempered by the charm of their eccentric presentation. Ames Room is an album of filtered yet inescapable beauty.

Leona Lewis - Spirit

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Leona Lewis - Spirit (J Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Among all the winners of the American Idol and X Factor shows on both sides of the ocean, very few have turned contest success into an actual radio/video presence. 2006's X Factor winner Leona Lewis ably follows in the footsteps of Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, not only breaking several records regarding US chart appeal of British singers, but by making a debut record actually worth listening to. "Bleeding Love" is a brilliant r&b-influenced pop single, percussive and moody, but "Take a Bow" is the real lion in waiting.

Beach House - Devotion

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Beach House - Devotion (Carpark) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Guess what? The new Beach House record sounds exactly like the old Beach House record. Guess what? Somehow this exactly-the-same-sounding record is about ten times better than the last one. But the last Beach House album was terrific, you say? See where I'm going here? Who knew that vocals, slide guitar and crummy organ would have such longevity? It helps that songs 1, 2 and 3 are the third-best, second-best and best (respectively) tunes they've written.
Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness (Enemies List) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Sometimes 75 words just aren't enough. Exasperatingly bad album from a band that has possibly the most dedicated and devious street team in the history of the internet. A double album that overstays every one of its eighty-five minutes, this muddled attempt at post-every-sound is one step above Myspace death metalheads jammin' together with dentist drills and a Radio Shack mic. The laughable attempts at grandeur from this band are no match for anyone with ears. Avoid by any means necessary.
Louis XIV - Slick Dogs and Ponies (Atlantic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Louis XIV, if you haven't heard them, are some bizarro blend of T. Rex and Ziggy Stardust-era Bowie with a singer who frequently sounds like the prancing younger brother of Bon Scott. It's not a bad recipe on paper. Even I liked them for about five minutes back in 2005 at the time of their first major-label album, but this shit gets old faster than sushi on a hot day. Unfortunately, it probably still gets them all laid.

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

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