December 2008 Archives

The Vince Noir Project - S/T

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The Vince Noir Project (12 Stone) [audio]

With their name nicked from The Mighty Boosh, I knew ahead of time The Vince Noir Project was going to be a little bit camp and a lot of fun. This Filipino quintet has an ever-present lounge quality, but isn't timid about incorporating guitars and electronic elements into every song they've got. Bouncing between straightforward pop and dark Euro grooves with spoken vocals, the album is more like a multi-artist compilation than the work of a single band—but it works.

High Places - S/T

High Places (Thrill Jockey) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I just don't get this cd. I've given it three months to reveal its charms, but each time it plays I only hear "we're making art, aren't we cute" coming back at me. No, High Places, you aren't cute. Your music blows. If I didn't know you were a couple of art fucks from Brooklyn, I'd swear these were field recordings from a neo-hippie commune sing-a-long in rural Saskatchewan. At least if that were true, there'd be an interesting backstory for this crap.

Dir En Grey - Uroboros

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Dir En Grey - Uroboros (The End) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Dir En Grey's band members opted to write songs independently before beginning the recording process for Uroboros. The result is a creatively diverse collection of songs which sounds unlike their previous releases. The music is grounded in metal, but incorporates very different textures that range from funk to oriental and from raging to serene. These songs are combined to form a surprisingly cohesive album, which I think is one of best metal offerings of the year.
Cat Power - Dark End of the Street EP (Matador) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Chan Marshall's marriage to an idealized Memphis sound has been a rocky one, wherein she steals the best of it and it, in return, steals the best of her. Neither partner comes out a winner. The fact that the songs on Dark End of the Street were scratched from Jukebox speaks to their supreme dullness; a shame, considering the singer and the source material. This is nothing but a missed opportunity.

The Cure - 4:13 Dream

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The Cure - 4:13 Dream (Geffen) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you've had the misfortune of remaining a Cure fan in the years since Wish was released, you've been rewarded with disappointment after disappointment (something that comes with the territory, surely). But now, at last, Fat Bob and the reunited line-up from the late '80s are back with an album that's surprisingly light; comprised of short, upbeat songs and basic arrangements that sound like the singles of old. Modern production traps aside, this is almost as good a record as they used to make.
The Whore Moans - Hello from the Radio Wasteland! (Mt. Fuji) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Touches of early Rocket from the Crypt and heavy garage rock, but even the blasts of punk rock morph into songs of three to five minutes in length with plenty of transitions. The vocals remind me of Rick Sims, Lux Interior or The Blood Brothers and, while I can't always understand the singers, I am pretty sure they're pissed off about a lot of things. To further surprise me, this ended on an acoustic guitar number that would make Conor Oberst proud. One note: X's lawyers may want to contact them regarding the track "No Soul."

Future Islands - Wave Like Home

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Future Islands - Wave Like Home (Upset the Rhythm) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Wave Like Home is what it might sound like if Wire took on Judas Priest's British Steel, but instead of guitars used Jan Hammer's Miami Vice synthesizers and found a guy who sometimes sounds a little like David Byrne and, at others, a little like Accept's Udo Dirkschneider to sing. And, at the end, threw in a sweet soul tune like "Little Dreamer" which could've just as easily been sung by Sam Cooke as it could these guys. In short, this is exquisite chaos.
The Smiths - The Sound of The Smiths: Deluxe Edition (Rhino)

In the 1980s, The Smiths introduced the punk kids to goth, the goth kids to pop, and the pop kids to something called indie rock. Twenty-five years later, The Sound of The Smiths is here to introduce anyone still out of the loop to one of the greatest bands of all time. This retrospective includes the best from the studio plus the requisite demos, alternate versions, and live tracks. Not quite a box set, but a fantastic start for newbies and a welcome companion for long time fans.
Christina Aguilera - Keeps Gettin' Better: A Decade of Hits (RCA) [audio] [upcoming shows]

She was once a Britney-come-lately, but ten years later she's got a body of work that's way better than you probably remember it being. "Dirrty" especially holds up, but hardly seems as scandalous now that she's a happily married and normal mother. The best part of this compilation, though? New stuff. Reinvented versions of "Genie" and "Beautiful" showcase an icy new Goldfrapp-inspired direction, spilling into "Keeps Gettin' Better" and "Dynamite." Her next record is suddenly, unexpectedly, me.

Wavves - S/T

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Wavves (Woodsist) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I take a left turn every now and then just to see what's what in the lower-than-lo-fi music world, and I usually come back glad I did. Wavves is a one-man hit-making machine from San Diego named Nathan Williams with a knack for quick, unorthodox pop rock like Jay Reatard or Times New Viking. I realize this stuff isn't for everyone, but if you're willing to embrace the harsh recording style and dig into the songs themselves, this album is loaded with earworms from beginning to end.
The Heligoats - The End of All-Purpose EP (Greyday) [audio] [upcoming shows]

As the singer for Troubled Hubble, Chris Otepka released his free association lyrics into catchy pop punk tunes with great success and seemingly zero effort. Since their breakup, he has been busy crafting just a few songs for the release of his latest EP under his pen name The Heligoats. The sound has shifted from pop to a mysterious, absurd, epic, and (at times) wonderful collection of songs that has grabbed my attention and left me absolutely longing for the upcoming full length.
The Mountain Goats - Satanic Messiah EP (self released) [download] [upcoming shows]

John Darnielle's catalogue is so deep that there's room for hits and misses alike. Satanic Messiah definitely falls into the former category; a work of unusual subtlety based in large part on the piano and Darnielle's thin but sure voice. Only "Wizard Buys a Hat" broadens the instrumental palette, but not to the detriment of EP's overall mood. This is something of a high water mark among short-form Mountain Goats releases, consistent and dedicated to a narrative that's open to your wildest interpretation.
Lou Reed - Berlin Live at St. Ann's Warehouse (Matador) [audio]

This is the soundtrack to the Berlin concert film, recorded over four days in 2006 with Antony, Rob Wassermann and many other guests. Originally released in 1973, Lou Reed's Berlin had the unfortunate timing to be following up the massive arena rock hit Transformer and disappeared quietly before being rediscovered by critics. This was the first time Reed performed the album live in it's entirety and adds "Sweet Jane" and "Candy Says" as encores. Not only is the recording quality crisp and raw, but Reed sounds amazing.
Sukpatch - Light's End... Love's Swell EP (Heartphone) [download]

Sukpatch were so prolific throughout the '90s that it's hard to believe this is only the second artifact to emerge from their weirdpop science lab in the last eight years. "Lover Lay Down" is the best (and probably only) reggae/shoegazer anthem you've ever heard, and "If You Want Me to Stay" has a great walking tempo to compliment its gruesome tale. You could play your Ween and Jesus & Mary Chain records at the same time for a similar effect, but listening to Sukpatch is easier (and more rewarding).

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

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