July 2008 Archives

The Cobra-Matics - Under the Hood (Original Recipe) [audio]

Recorded back in 2005-06, The Cobra-Matics sat on this until blues legend Duke Robillard agreed to co-produce. With virtuoso playing on every instrument, this album is a time machine back to the late '50s, pasting together high energy swing, blues and rockabilly—perfect for authentic swing dancers or intense toe tapping. "Rocker" takes the AC/DC classic and filters it through the rockabilly lens. Released on The Colonel's own Original Recipe Recordings, you can expect many more quality throwback recordings from the label in the future.

Gonzales - Soft Power

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Gonzales - Soft Power (Arts & Crafts) [audio] [upcoming shows]

What starts off as a different, yet positive Gonzales record gradually takes a nosedive as it progresses. "Working Together" is a fun sing-along opener, but nearly everything that follows comes off as cheesy and strange. Smothered in glossy 70's soft rock, some of these tracks sound destined to narrate soap operas. But hidden underneath are still traces of Gonzales' impeccable musical arrangements and piano skills. Soft Power results in a cluster of hits and misses.

Paul Westerberg - 49:00

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Paul Westerberg - 49:00 (self released) [download]

What a great surprise. Not just how good it is, but that it came so unexpectedly. 49:00 is Westerberg's first album of original material since 2004, just finished two weeks ago and put up for sale last Monday. Rest assured, it certainly doesn't sound like a rush job. All the proper songs (none officially titled) recall the sparkle of later 'Mats material, and the snippets, throwaways and experiments are at least interesting from a documentarian perspective. Even better, he's practically giving it away. Sold!

Jaymay - Autumn Fallin'

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Jaymay - Autumn Fallin' (Blue Note) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Jaymay's voice reminds me of Brandi Carlile (see "Sycamore Down") and Erin McKeown ("Hard to Say" could be an outtake from Sing You Sinners), but she carves out her own niche: NYC girl falling in and out of love with boys with and without girlfriends. Clever lyrics ("and he tried to win my heart but it's taken...time") are crammed, practically a syllable per note, into hummable melodies based on acoustic guitar. Now all suburban and settled, I can't relate as well to mooning about, but I do like the way she sings about it.
Bodies of Water - A Certain Feeling (Secretly Canadian) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The jubilant constructions found on Bodies of Water's debut transition to a darker vision on their followup. Opener "Gold, Tan, Peach and Grey" allows rays of sunshine to break through, but as this gives way to the organ stomp of "Under the Pines," the album arrives and remains in a cloudier mood for its duration. Thankfully, this ambitious melding of commune-folk energy and psych-rock licks yields a bigger sense of grandeur while somehow maintaining the low-key thrill of a brief encounter.

Beck - Modern Guilt

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Beck - Modern Guilt (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

With the addition of Danger Mouse as producer, Beck's reputation for experimentation goes into overdrive on Modern Guilt. With the exception of one track, it's a non-stop groove-a-thon, a reverse engineering of The Monkees' Head soundtrack minus the skits with some electronic psychedelia tossed in. It's a groovy collection of songs, easily digestable, like a collection of imaginary tv show themes from 1968-73, not including the over-ambitious electronic track "Replica", which breaks from the retro-vibe present on every other track.

Sugarland - Love on the Inside

Sugarland - Love on the Inside (Mercury Nashville) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Here's what works for Sugarland: they make completely accessible pop-country that doesn't veer into that weird gray area which makes Toby Keith and nu-century Bon Jovi indistinguishable. They throw curveballs, but they also adhere to a rich history. Here's what works against Sugarland (and always has): Jennifer Nettles' voice. That twang is pure Hee-Haw theater. People living in two-room shacks in the most remote parts of Mississippi don't even sound that southern. Easy to like, but impossible to love.

Woodhands - Heart Attack

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Woodhands - Heart Attack (Paper Bag) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Nerds and coolness are generally viewed as a universal oxymoron. But if Woodhands' Heart Attack proves anything, it proves that nerds are indeed packed with coolness. Critically acclaimed throughout Canada, this Toronto duo's debut LP is full of energetically organic beats, unapologetically danceable rhythms and loud and rough vocals. If that doesn't induce some sort of attack on a person listening, I don't know what will. Overall though, a solid album worth listening to.
Lauren Harris - Calm Before the Storm (Demolition) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Lauren Harris, daughter of Iron Maiden bassist Steve Harris, has released her debut album Calm Before the Storm. The music is fairly standard riff-based hard rock fare, though sounds somewhat dated. Harris, whose voice lacks the power and character of singers like Sass Jordan or Lita Ford, simply isn't able to put together a compelling performance. As a result, the entire album is mediocre at best. Apparently, musical talent is not always hereditary.

Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III

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Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III (Cash Money) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I'm late to this buzzfest. Nothing about Weezy's radio singles got me interested at all. But the praise was so effusive, I picked this up with extreme trepidation. And hooooly shit, was my doubt unfounded. This isn't just "best of 2008" good, this is in "best rap albums of the young millenium" territory. Like if ODB was more clever and then recorded Stankonia. The beats are varied and interesting, and Wayne handles every style effortlessly. A truly unique and important voice in hip-hop. Instant classic.
Joan as Police Woman - To Survive (Cheap Lullaby) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Stop me if you've heard this one: Attractive woman in her thirties releases pleasing but ultimately disposable piano-based album. Too smooth and wispy to really stick, the lounge-pop songs of To Survive slosh around without leaving any stains on your memory. Sadly, Joan as Police Woman will probably never live up to the greatness of her moniker, and this album presents her as the TGI Friday's of indie chanteuses—not terrible, but never anyone's first choice.
Miwa Gemini - This Is How I Found You (Rockpark) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Miwa is sultry. Miwa is intriguing. She is pop, jazz, roots, and blues in a folk package. It's easy to quickly compare to Cat Power or Jolie Holland, but she is unique, and at times confusing. Although her lyrics play out as simple narratives, there is a mystery within her sound that will arouse your interest in the individual behind the story. What sounds unstructured comes into focus within a few tracks, as her gentle voice draws you in to what becomes an intimate collection of songs.
Golden Silvers - Arrows of Eros/Fade to Black 7" (Young & Lost Club) [audio] [upcoming shows]

So now we're on to the post-post-post-punk revival and bands aren't afraid to utilize ridiculous synthesizer sounds that were widely thought to have been erased at the end of 1982. If that intrigues you, check out "Arrows of Eros" by the new UK band Golden Silvers. It's a throwback to Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love," but plenty different enough to avoid distraction through familiarity. The b-side "Fade to Black" is slower-paced and contemplative, providing a great contrast in styles on one single.

The Kills - Midnight Boom

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The Kills - Midnight Boom (Domino) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The difference in approach between Midnight Boom and The Kills' first two albums is like night and day. Once they were a trashy blues-rock band, and they did that well. Now they're a pop band with lo-fi trappings, and they might be doing that even better. "Last Day of Magic" and "Goodnight Bad Morning" betray the fact they've actually been working on composition instead of just riding riffs for three minutes. Midnight Boom works if you already liked The Kills, but it works equally well if you couldn't stand them before.

Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers

Aimee Mann - @#%&*! Smilers (Superego) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I love Aimee Mann the way I love ten year old worn-in t-shirts in the summer. The problem is, you really only need one of those t-shirts and you're covered. This disc contains 13 more tracks to tack onto the very-good-but-probably-long-enough album she's been releasing periodically for the last decade. There's no rule against writing great pop songs in the same style for years and years, but it'll be up to you whether you need any more in your collection, or just make your own t-shirt.
KT Tunstall - Drastic Fantastic (Virgin) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I woke up to an acoustic KT on television. Later, as I sat in a coffee shop, the speakers were broadcasting all KT all the time. The problem isn't her omnipresence, it's that she's not everywhere. She breezes effortlessly through one catchy song after another, showing off her best assets with the pop rockers like "Funnyman" and "Hold On". She gets you hooked in a moment and singing along by the second listen. Radio pop could be better. Radio pop should be this good.
Various Artists - Life Beyond Mars: Bowie Covered (Rapster) [audio]

Simple premise: 12 primarily electronic musicians and bands cover 12 mostly unfamiliar deep cuts (with some exceptions) from David Bowie's catalogue. I had hoped coming into this that these two factors working together would produce some interesting results. They don't. Maybe I'm being too hard? It's really not all bad; especially the contributions from Au Revoir Simone and Joakim, but considering the provocative source material and the über-modern artists covering it, this album should be amazing. It's not.
Whatfor - Sooner Late Than Never (Science of Sound) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This side project for Sleeping in the Aviary member Michael Sienkowski is a huge departure from his main group, creating a collection of flamboyant orchestral pop. "I'm a Bummer" is part of the newly defined effeminate ragtime genre, parts of which reminds me of early Of Montreal. "Call That Girl" has transistor radio vocals over a power pop rhythm from the Elephant 6 school of indie pop—cheerful, bouncy, country influenced arrangements which actually reminded me of Queen at one point, but on a much less grandiose scale.

Totimoshi - Milagrosa

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Totimoshi - Milagrosa (Volcom) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Totimoshi is taking a slightly new direction with their latest release Milagrosa. The music is still based on Tony Aguilar's punchy guitar and declaratory vocals, but evolving from their sludge rock roots. Aguilar and partner Meg Castellanos express a discontent that is the fodder for creative growth. To producer Page Hamilton's credit, the minimalistic production highlights the dynamic and the experimental elements of this recording. Milagrosa has quickly become one of my favorite releases of the year so far.

Maybe It's Reno - S/T

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Maybe It's Reno (Teenbeat) [audio]

Maybe it's Reno? Maybe it's Unrest! Technically it is. Mark Robinson, Phil Krauth and Bridget Cross have new material together. It all revolves around Bridget this time, however, and the sound is markedly different from the Unrest records. The approach is softer, more feminine and less...hmm, immediate? Many of these songs are meticulous, even labored, and lack the looseness of the old days. Fair enough, it's a different project. Approach with caution if you're expecting a familiar thing, though. It's not here.
Bobby Womack - The Best of Bobby Womack: The Soul Years (Capitol) [audio]

My first Bobby Womack record was bought only two years ago, but then I bought another, and another, and now I've got nine of them. If I were to put together some kind of personal "best of" mix, it would very closely resemble this new compilation. Womack's not as famous as Al Green or Marvin Gaye, but he damn well should be. From the heavy funk uppercut of "Across 110th Street" to the drowsy southern soul of "I'm Through Trying to Prove My Love to You," everything he touches turns to gold.

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

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