June 2008 Archives

Sebadoh - Bubble and Scrape: 15th Anniversary Reissue (Domino) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This 15th anniversary reissue adds alternate takes and demos, 32 tracks in total. Liner notes detail Eric Gaffney's final recordings with the band and also reveal that Gaffney and Lou Barlow didn't play on each other's songs. Musically, Barlow sticks to moping and Gaffney sticks with sonic experiments that either nail it or fail spectacularly. Sebadoh represents the long past era of classic indie rock when bands actually lasted long enough to release 5-6 records and "fans" had an attention span of longer than nine months.
Broke One - We're Crossing the Same Road EP (self released) [audio]

Dance music from France and from Italy used to have distinct differences, but now a less restricitive map permits local styles to radiate across a global scene. Italian artist Broke One pulls a little from the Ed Banger school of square waves and high volume, a pinch of Daft Punk's nu-disco melodicism, a generous portion of Italy's synth-disco past and throws together such a wholly satisfying and relentlessly energized ep's worth of homemade electrogoods that paying naught for it seems like a dine-and-dash.

Hydrogyn - Deadly Passions

Hydrogyn - Deadly Passions (Demolition) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What began as a moderately enjoyable listening experience turned into a lot of cursing...by me, not the band. The bulk of this album is fairly typical metal fare, but thrown in the middle is a cover of Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know". Sadly, Hydrogyn tried to emulate the original, so it sounds out of place, and they also changed the lyrics to replace the word "fuck" with "touch". At that point I touched the eject button and tossed this one into the waste basket. I'd rather listen to a Keith Sweat album over this.
The La's - The La's: Deluxe Edition (Polydor) [audio]

Deluxe reissues seldom offer enough interesting bonus material to warrant a purchase, but the audio history of how the only La's album came to be back in 1990 is fully exposed here. Included is the full version recorded with producer Mike Hedges, the one that was shelved by the band's label in favor of the Steve Lillywhite version that was commercially released. Along with even more alternate recordings by notable producers and stray radio sessions, you may feel like the band's fifth member by the time it's all over.

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges

My Morning Jacket - Evil Urges (ATO Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It is a bold decision to largely abandon the sound that your fans embraced in the first place, and a testament to Jim James' songwriting talent and this band's versatility that they succeed so thoroughly. Your enjoyment at first will likely be dictated by whether you preferred Z or At Dawn, because this thing is so far out there, it makes Z sound like At Dawn. Ultimately, MMJ has hereby ripped off any label we attempted to place on them, and if this is any indication, the new journey will be extremely worthwhile.
Old 97's - Blame it on Gravity (New West) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Long ago, Janeane Garofalo mentioned that Old 97's were her favorite band. I checked them out because I do everything Janeane tells me to. It's not that I didn't like them, but it's hard to wrap my head around how they could be anyone's favorite. Their newest record, not being any different from any of their six other records, is still good and still far from great. Consider Blame it on Gravity for soundtracking a fun summer afternoon drive, but you'll want something more substantial before you get where you're going.

Men Without Pants - Naturally

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Men Without Pants - Naturally (Expansion Team) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This pantless duo of Russell Simins from Jon Spencer Blues Explosion and Dan the Automator from Gorillaz, Loveage and many other projects are helped out by members of The Hives, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Mooney Suzuki, Cibo Matto and Sean Lennon. Primarily a great rock and roll record with live drums and electronic embellishments, it's further advantaged by limitless sounds without someone screaming "Blues Explosion!" every third lyric.

Fabulous Diamonds - S/T

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Fabulous Diamonds (Siltbreeze) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Melody isn't chief among the considerations Fabulous Diamonds bring to their songwriting or performance. Instead they focus on meditative sketches, minimally arranged with few instruments (drums, keyboards and saxophone), then broadened through the use of mixing and effects pedals. I'd hesitate to classify this a proper dub record, but it is a record that relies on echoes to escalate sound through looping repetition. A rewarding listen on the surface, and better still when you envision it being made.
Sigur Rós - Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust (XL Recordings) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What's to be said about a new Sigur Rós album that Tom D. didn't already lay on us three years ago? He jumped the gun on Takk... perhaps—an album I rather like—but this one comes considerably closer to realizing the "Bono and his true whale love" tale used to describe it. Where the band once used subtle passages to intensify their more dynamic moments, these songs wander and offer none at all. Even whales will beach themselves once in a while to mix it up, but this blubber wagon sinks to the ocean floor.
Various Artists - The Green Owl Comp: A Benefit for Energy Action (Green Owl) [audio]

Hate global warming but love indie rock? Sure, we all do. Green Owl Records presents a jam-packed compilation that'll have you thinking green and saving the planet in no time. Heavy-hitters Bloc Party and Muse provide the requisite skippable tracks, while ol' favorites Juliana Hatfield, Feist and Deerhoof contribute some of the album's best. The fun of this compilation is the ample number of standout songs from the new and the previously unknown, like Harper Simon, The London Souls, The Appletrees and many more.

Ryan Purcell - Kick the Dirt

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Ryan Purcell - Kick the Dirt (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Booze and hatin' on the President, is anything more American than that? According to Ryan Purcell, who is joined by ex-members of Young Fresh Fellows and Screaming Trees, no. With titles like "The Decider" and "Guantanamo," following the tradition of songwriters like Steve Earle and Johnny Cash, Purcell's battle-scarred vocals lead the singalongs on topics like whiskey, gambling, Alabama, marijuana, beer, Jesus, mud, lying to himself, politics, being forty-four years old, gin, sweat, gunpowder, blood and just flat out anti-war rants.

Henry Rollins - Provoked

Henry Rollins - Provoked (2.13.61) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What happened to the Henry Rollins who once not only told funny stories, but also engaged us on a second and deeper level between the lines? Not to take away from his more recent material, but maybe all of his best stories were told long ago—those about touring with his band and about his youth. The "Van Halen" story here goes back to that well, but the rest are just observational or superficially personal anecdotes that, while amusing, offer nothing in the way of a real connection.

Meredith Bragg - Silver Sonya

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Meredith Bragg - Silver Sonya (The Kora Records) [audio]

Hard to believe this album contains no cello or keyboards: it's just Meredith Bragg and a guitar. Well, and some post-production that created fantastic sounds to support well-crafted songs. "Turns Out You Won" and "March" benefit the most from the manipulation. Bragg's voice falls somewhere between Elliott Smith and Gerry & The Pacemakers. I hesitate to label him a troubador, because that word connotes dorkiness (not found here). Although, he's definitely rocking some Decemberists-style nerdiness while singing about armless statues and erupting volcanoes.
Golden Shoulders - Friendship is Deep (Welcome Home) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Golden Shoulders' instrumentation is similar to pre-Nels Cline Wilco and has a vocal delivery sounding like Unbunny. "I Will Light You on Fire" has a delicate piano melody with double tracked non-matching vocals creating a shambling indie pop masterpiece. "The Committee" simultaneously cops licks from both Pavement and The Pretenders and is so irresistible it must be considered a homage instead of a crime. Originally released with 12 tracks in 2004, it now comes with two bonus tracks that previously appeared on compilations in 2005.

The School - Let it Slip EP

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The School - Let it Slip EP (Elefant) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If your least favorite thing about early Belle & Sebastian albums was the material featuring Isobel Campbell on lead vocal, you (like me) might be inclined to turn and run at the mention of The School. The girlish voice of headmistress Liz is sugary to a fault, and the accompaniment is as wimpy a take on soul music of the '60s as you're likely to find anywhere. Yet despite their shortcomings, The School have turned out four irresistible songs that kick off the summer with a smile. Reluctantly recommended.

Melvins - Nude With Boots

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Melvins - Nude With Boots (Ipecac) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Nude With Boots opens with "The Kicking Machine," a song which begins with a subtle musical crescendo that quickly builds into driving drums, bass, and guitar driven riff rock. Just when it really starts to take off, the vocals kick in and ruin it. The vocal issues seem to be caused by severe production shortcomings. I found it extraordinarily frustrating to hear music so good completely fouled up by shitty vocals. That pretty much sums up the entire album. Go buy Senile Animal instead.

Robyn - S/T

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Robyn (Cherry Tree/Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

A musical hitchhiker of sorts, Robyn (and Robyn herself) has been moving west towards North America continent by continent in yearly intervals. Originally a Swedish release in 2005, it hit Europe in 2006, the UK in 2007 and now here in 2008. It's changed over time, tracks have been pulled and replaced, but it's still the most excitingly "pop" pop album of the decade. If every former pop princess had the daring to start her own label and blow minds instead of just do blow, TMZ might cease to exist.
Various Artists - Chamber Music: James Joyce (1907). 1-36. (Fire) [audio]

36 tracks over two cds paying tribute to the 1907 James Joyce poem. Established acts such as Minus 5, Mike Watt, Bardo Pond, Mercury Rev, Flying Saucer Attack, Califone and Kinski deliver as expected. The biggest surprises are Mountain Men Anonymous, who contribute a spaced out piano ballad (possibly with extra-terrerestial vocals), and Venture Lift, who channel their inner Spacemen 3 by using salt shakers for percussion and layered guitar vibes. A few pieces utilize some spoken word. Over all a sullen, but quality collection of tunes.
Nathan Xander - Swiftly, Surely (Aww...Rats) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Reminiscent of Jim James, Townes Van Zandt and a (sometimes) very Dylan-esque midwestern drawl, it's mellow folk that, as the songs pass gradually, abandons country and the harmonica for heavier, meandering slow core. The middle tracks are like Jason Molina and the entire Magnolia Electric Co. got a nice swift kick in the pants, told to add some gusto and hurry that shit up (not an uncommon thought). It ends right back where it started; the plaintive singer/songwriter with bare guitar and vocals.

The Weepies - Hideaway

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The Weepies - Hideaway (Nettwerk) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Boy writes songs. Girl writes songs. Boy meets girl, and the couple dub themselves The Weepies. Boy and girl make beautiful music together. In the last year, the dynamical twosome have toured the country, co-written songs with a movie star, married, had a child and made their second proper studio album. Hideaway is a mature, honest collection of bittersweet melodies arranged in simple, comforting songs. Undeniable beauty, undeniably weepie.

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