September 2008 Archives

Underoath - Lost in the Sound of Separation (Tooth & Nail) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I'm hard pressed to write anything significantly positive or negative about the latest album from metalcore act Underoath. This album is what it is. They nailed putting out a polished and solidly written album, and it is one of their heaviest to date. It holds up against the works of their contemporaries like Haste the Day and As I Lay Dying, but I kept trying to listen for the special spark that would separate this album from the pack. It failed to ignite.
Various Artists - Bones Original Television Soundtrack (Nettwerk) [audio]

Everyone knows Bones is a really bad show. A terrible, horrible, no good, very bad substitute for a television program. Its terrible acting and writing has caused most viewers to either change the channel or experience mild nausea. And I'm basing all this on the four minutes I watched once (by mistake). One might imagine that the harebrained idea to manufacture a soundtrack for such litter would result in a mess of big names and unknowns handing out their worst material just to make some easy cash. It is.
ZZ Top - Eliminator: 25th Anniversary Collectors' Edition (Rhino) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Let's not mince words. Eliminator is the definitive rock/new wave hybrid album. In its remastered and expanded state, it's even better. The most noteworthy inclusion here is the original non-truncated version of "Legs," unheard since the album's first pressing in 1983. Several live cuts are tacked on, as well as an additional dvd with all the videos (and even more live footage). More vital than all the bonuses, though, is the improved sound (the synths really pop now). Intended to be played loud, and preferably while driving.
Tracy Shedd - Cigarettes & Smoke Machines (Teenbeat) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Tracy Shedd isn't a household name. In fact, she's a songwriter's songwriter the way Ron Sexsmith and Mary Lou Lord are. And when she releases an album (which isn't often), more critics and music know-it-alls will buy it than average people will. I only mention all this because of how perplexing it is. Cigarettes & Smoke Machines is sharp and upbeat and, at the same time, intimate, confessional and bittersweet. Quality from beginning to end.

Liz Durrett - Outside Our Gates

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Liz Durrett - Outside Our Gates (Warm Electronic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I am no connoisseur of female musicians, but when I fall, I fall hard. I still have no clue what the hell Jewel was singing about and am puzzled by Regina Spektor and her barrage of "uh ohs" at the end of every line of every chorus. With a raspy voice backed by gentle string arrangements and the help of Vic Chestnutt, Liz Durrett's album lets mellowness reign with exceptions: the upbeat groove of "Wild as Them" and the heavier moodiness of "Always Signs". If Cat Power and Nina Nastastia need some company, the potential is certainly here.

Banner Pilot - Resignation Day

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Banner Pilot - Resignation Day (Go-Kart) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Fuck yeah. Another band that gets it: Banner Pilot. I listened to the record over a bowl of cereal and cleaning both cat litter boxes and I was stoked. You can hear the influence of The Lawrence Arms and Dillinger Four for sure, but with a hint of some Face to Face. Minneapolis, MN has better punk coming out of it than most cities I can think of, and the record's under 33 minutes. Great job!

John & Jehn - S/T

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John & Jehn (Faculty) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This wasn't the easiest album to get into. It's sooo French; and not that really cool, sexy Serge & Brigitte kind of French either. It's more like that grainy, black and white Godard movie kind of French. They make quite a racket for just two people, mostly with Farfisa and drum machines. "Fear Fear Fear" comes closest of anything here to sounding like what I suspect they were going for (The Velvet Underground), but over all it satisfies in unexpected ways.

Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty

Cold War Kids - Loyalty to Loyalty (Downtown) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Maybe you already downloaded "Something is Not Right With Me," the song Cold War Kids were giving away for free all summer. Did you like it? STOP. GO NO FURTHER. The rest of Loyalty to Loyalty is a complete and catastrophic mess. This band turns a deaf ear to melody in favor of droning, seemingly endless piano-centric jams that belong in only the worst, most depressing and sparsely attended dive bar in the world. I will never listen to this again as long as I live.
Jean-Jacques Perrey & Dana Countryman - Destination Space (Oglio) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is the 22nd album from the 80 year-old French electronic pioneer. Focusing almost exclusively on instrumental lounge and laid back surf, a la Martin Denny or Esquivel, there are many goofy sound effects to lighten the mood—dogs barking and crowd noise usually closely followed by Moog madness and the rare vocoder drenched vocals. Even the more poignant tunes, "Rhapsody" for example, are dripping with Moog, turning a funeral dirge into an upbeat toe tapper. Lounge is the novelty that is always in style somewhere.

The Very Sexuals - Post-Apolcalyptic Love

The Very Sexuals - Post-Apolcalyptic Love (Subroutine) [download]

In the great tradition of not-quite-psych, not-quite-pop bands like The Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals comes The Very Sexuals. Too bad I found Post-Apocalyptic Love so late in the summer, because tracks like "Bowie Eyes" and "Wrecked This Century" are made of 100% sunshine and the album's centerpiece "Anti-Valentine" is a big wet goodbye kiss in grandiose Phil Spector fashion. I'm crushing so hard on this right now, I'd make my girlfriend jealous...y'know, if I had one.
Sad Day for Puppets - Hush/When You Tell Me That You Love Me 7" (Fastcut) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Sweden, the country that keeps on giving, now gives us Sad Day for Puppets. Led by the finespun voice of Anna Eklund, this is a band worshipping at the altar of their dreampop ancestors The Sundays and Lush. A-side "Hush" was the standout on their debut ep earlier in the year, with its wavy guitars and celestial melody colliding in a whirlpool of color and sound. B-side "When You Tell Me..." is balladry-by-candlelight, more in the vein of early Mazzy Star. Exquisite in every respect.

Smoking Popes - Stay Down

Smoking Popes - Stay Down (Appeal) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Just a few seconds into "Welcome to Janesville", you realize the eleven year hiatus between 1997's Destination Failure and Stay Down had little influence on the band's sound. It could be argued there is a little less "punk" in their unique "pop punk" sound, but there is doubtlessly enough of that trademark style to satisfy longtime fans. The absolute standout is "If You Don't Care", a song that will fight "I Know You Love Me" and "Need You Around" to be called the Popes' best and most catchy.

Squeeze - The Complete BBC Sessions

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Squeeze - The Complete BBC Sessions (Universal) [audio] [upcoming shows]

BBC Sessions compilations are always a must-buy in my house, but especially for a band like Squeeze. Much of what's here hasn't been heard since it originally aired on the radio, and the biggest revelations come with the earliest material recorded for the one and only John Peel (including several non-album tracks). Spanning the years from 1977 to 1994, hits and familiar songs scattered throughout, Squeeze were always at the top of their game—even when it was just Glenn and Chris and two acoustic guitars.

Tilly and The Wall - O

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Tilly and The Wall - O (Team Love) [audio] [upcoming shows]

O is remarkable for so many reasons, perhaps most of all because it is the most compelling, complete album released by Tilly And The Wall to date. It opens with "Tall Tall Grass", an acoustic ballad sounding like a continuation of 2006's Bottoms of Barrels, and quickly shifts to a more aggressive new-wave sound on "Pot Kettle Black". It is this sound that circulates throughout the remainder of the album, shifting from punk to '80s synth to those sing-along, stomp-along songs we've come to expect.

Ice Cube - Raw Footage

Ice Cube - Raw Footage (Lench Mob) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Raw Footage is for Ice Cube what American Gangster was for Jay-Z: a second chance to be reintroduced after a minor misstep. For Ice Cube, it's even more important. After spending the whole of the decade watering down his image in family-friendly movies and releasing a pretty tepid comeback album in 2006, he absolutely devastates the mic with brute force on Raw Footage. The beats are thick and his conviction is as strong as it was at the dawn of the '90s. Welcome back, Cube. Stick around this time.

Zach Hill - Astrological Straits

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Zach Hill - Astrological Straits (Ipecac) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Chaos. Astrological Straits is an experimental collection of multi-layered compositions tied together with complex rhythms and beats. Zach Hill's creation moves at an uncomfortably fast pace, creating a tense atmosphere that leaves you on the edge of your seat throughout. Some unexpected musical transitions are quite jarring, but that's really one of effects the unorthodox nature of this recording brings out. I wouldn't want to listen to this album regularly, but there are days when chaos is necessary.
Cars Can Be Blue - Doubly Unbeatable (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) [audio] [upcoming shows]

When Western Massachusetts involuntarily relinquished Cars Can Be Blue to the state of Georgia a couple years back, it received absolutely nothing in return until now. This dynamic duo is finally releasing their sophomoric sophomore release Doubly Unbeatable on Athens' twee-rific Happy Happy Birthday to Me Records. They're back with totally fun, often filthy, lo-fi pop reminiscent of bands like Go Sailor and Dressy Bessy. There are enough two minute songs of dirty bubblegum here to make you happily dance away a good half hour, so get to it.

Takka Takka - Migration

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Takka Takka - Migration (Ernest Jenning Record Co.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

There's a palpable danger of getting lost in the crowd these days if your band goes back to Brian Eno and Peter Gabriel for ideas. Takka Takka brave these all-too-familiar waters, and do so ably. Each song on Migration has a creeping intensity, yet they're confident enough to sometimes let these songs go unresolved. It's when they follow through and carry things to conclusion that Migration reaches its highest highs. Not an every day kind of album, but worth revisiting when you're bored with last week's next big thing.

One Day as a Lion - S/T

One Day as a Lion EP (Anti-) [audio]

I've spent a lot more time dwelling on this 5 song EP than I expected to, and that is probably the best endorsement I can give it. I'm not sure what I expected out of Zach de la Rocha after a hiatus this long, but in many ways it was exactly this, and in others this is completely surprising to me. It is more traditionally hip-hop than RATM ever was, and yet the songwriting and singing is far more experimental. Some songs hit instantly and others take over after repeat listens. Color me intrigued to hear more.
Four Dead in Ohio - Jesus Won't Dance in My High Heels/Southern Man 7" (Yoyo Acapulco) [audio] [upcoming shows]

With an impenetrable wall of screaming guitars over a loose and electrified rhythm section, Four Dead in Ohio's debut "Jesus Won't Dance in My High Heels" immediately claims a place in the canon of present-day psych-rock. Like The Warlocks, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or The Morning After Girls before them, Four Dead in Ohio cherrypick bits from the '60s only to accent a completely modern style to great effect. Good times are ahead of them (and us) if this single is any indication.

Lindsey Buckingham - Gift of Screws

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Lindsey Buckingham - Gift of Screws (Warner Bros.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I love to hear Lindsey Buckingham play guitar, which he does quite well on this release. I can almost visualize the fret-board mastery of his fingers as he precisely whips through complex riffs and chord progressions. Unfortunately someone doused the vocal tracks with so much reverb and other effects that you sometimes can't even tell what language he's singing in. The entire album suffers from poor production. I now realize just how telling the album title really is; I feel like I just got screwed.

Ivana XL - S/T

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Ivana XL EP (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Turning brevity to her advantage, Ivana XL's freshman release surrenders seven bits of music that are more like kisses than actual songs. Cut with just her smoky voice and a guitar as the backdrop for it, the music made is almost formless—as if it were written in a dream and then recorded upon waking. Keep an eye on her, because this EP shows tremendous promise. Once she gets her Fisher Investments in order, she will most definitely be a force to reckon with.

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