February 2009 Archives

Jonquil - Whistle Low EP

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Jonquil - Whistle Low EP (Acuarela) [audio] [upcoming shows]

They're one of those bands of late who try incorporating any and all instruments they can find into their sound, and where it fails to gel for others, it works for Jonquil. At the heart of these complicated songs is a melody, and rather than let that get obscured by a wall of sound, Jonquil simply uses the sound to enrich what's already there. This is detail-oriented stuff, but light and easy at the same time. The perfect middle ground between Crooked Fingers and, say, Arcade Fire.

The New Standards - Rock and Roll

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The New Standards - Rock and Roll (Princess) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The New Standards continue their path of reinterpreting classic and recent alternative rock into piano and vibes. Of all the songs they cover, The Replacements' "Androgynous" was a piano based song to begin with and is immediately recognizable. But hearing radical reworkings of Lou Reed, Elvis Costello, Outkast and The Clash is no longer surprising as more punk and new wave songs find themselves as jingles in television commercials. The muzak versions of these and other contemporary indie songs will be waiting for you someday.

Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You

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Lily Allen - It's Not Me, It's You (Capitol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Compared to other points in time over the last couple decades, pop music is reasonably strong right now. Stronger still is the continued presence of Lily Allen. Between her first album and her second, all the tabloid attention only served to fuel her creative fire. It's Not Me, It's You doesn't sound like a second album, but like the work of a tested veteran. Her voice is stronger, figuratively and literally. She's become a peerless storyteller and songwriter. Suck on that, next week's indie band du jour.
Company of Thieves - Ordinary Riches (Wind-Up) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The alternative rock leanings of Company of Thieves are highlighted by a highly creative songwriting style. All of the songs on this album are dynamic and surprisingly polished for a freshman release. Genevieve Schatz's breathy vocals sound spectacular on outstanding tracks such as "Oscar Wilde", "Under the Umbrella", and "New Letters." These tracks are truly brilliant and help set the flow of the entire album. This is a damned good recording from a very promising new act.

Housewife - Triangulation EP

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Housewife - Triangulation EP (Domestic Junkie) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Scrappy yet persistant indie rock transported through a time tunnel into 2008. One point of reference is early Eleventh Dream Day; that trebly, urgent Americana that went out of fashion the moment Yo La Tengo broke the eight minute mark with one of their songs. The track "Sex and Violence" has spiraling guitars that sound like an airplane plummeting out of the sky. Call me a sucker, but anytime someone works the lyrics "rubber glove with two brown fingers, bloodstains, urine" into a song, count me in.

Fare Soldi - Sappiamo Dove Abiti

Fare Soldi - Sappiamo Dove Abiti (Riotmaker) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Absolutely bursting at the seams with sweetness and light, Fare Soldi's third album Sappiamo Dove Abiti is a sample-laden dance-a-thon. A good percentage rolls forward without the aid of vocals, but the production and structure are so elaborate that you don't notice what's missing. Making mincemeat of everything from old Italian television to Billy Squier's "The Stroke," Fare Soldi come across like The Avalanches 2.0—except they sing some songs too, which ups the game even further.

Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna

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Gang Gang Dance - Saint Dymphna (The Social Registry) [audio]

I put off exploring Saint Dymphna for a long time after hearing "House Jam," figuring it to be some kind of anomaly. I'd heard their older records, and all of them were droning masses of beats and noise. My loss, because once I came around I discovered that Gang Gang Dance have substantially reinvented themselves into a pulsing machine of demystified rhythms and spacious atmospheres. Mutant disco echoes (a la Arthur Russell) and shimmering shoegaze (like MBV) bring both future and past to the present.

Anni Rossi - Afton EP

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Anni Rossi - Afton EP (4AD) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Anni Rossi is a mesmerizing one-woman show, and she may be out of her mind. As a vocalist, she can magically combine voice cracks, raspberries, squeaks, squeals, roaring and bah-bah-bah'ing into a sound that is shocking at one second and mellifluous the next. As a violist, she plays with many a finger-plucking and the traditional bow, creating a unique sound of folk masterfully combined with dreamy alternative rock. Afton is a soothing, fun, and raucous debut EP that will easily make many fans.

Spinnerette - Ghetto Love EP

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Spinnerette - Ghetto Love EP (Anthem) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you ever followed The Distillers, you know Brody Dalle was just a pop rocker trapped in the world of punk rock. Now she fronts Spinnerette; a flashy, amped-up and well-produced band with scene vets Alain Johannes and Jack Irons. Her softer, more new-wave-influenced side reveals itself on "Distorting a Code," but it's the upbeat and relentless hookyness of "Ghetto Love" and "Valium Knights" that makes this debut EP worth the money as well as an impressive teaser for the impending album.

The Vibrarians - Red Light 7"

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The Vibrarians - Red Light 7" (K Records) [audio]

All three of these songs teeter on a razor-thin wire between complete awesomeness and maddening beginnerism. "Red Light" is the most developed of the bunch, with a rumbling marriage of bass and drums and riffy breakdowns. But like both "Modern Walker" and "The Woods" which follow, the vocals are distant and ghostly and the production is about as lo-fi as lo-fi can get. Even working against itself in these ways, this is a charming little single. The Vibrarians are probably the life of any house party.

Les Issambres - Folklore of Mine

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Les Issambres - Folklore of Mine (Fifth Week) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Les Issambres' charming folk pop is almost embarrassing. The type of embarrassing that leads you to publicly dance around and sing odd lyrics about how you're "lumpy like a statue made of clay" and your "lake garden kite-flying dandelion". I don't know what they're talking about, but I'm hooked. I'm a sucker for the boy/girl vocals and the cheery melodies. I'm a sucker for the foreign retro-folk sound, the confusing lyrics, the droning accented singing, and even the accordion solos. It's no surprise that Sweden is behind this.

Dex Romweber Duo - Ruins of Berlin

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Dex Romweber Duo - Ruins of Berlin (Bloodshot) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Flat Duo Jets were a landmark rockabilly duo, making a racket louder than most full bands and embracing lo-fidelity long before it became a style. After battling various substances, Dex's career is back on track and you will have a hard time finding a better trio to perform duets with than Neko Case, Cat Power and Exene Cervenka. The old-timey reverb-drenched guitar and sweet baritone voice are still there, but with somewhat fewer runaway guitar freakouts.
Scale the Summit - Carving Desert Canyons (Prosthetic) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Carving Desert Canyons is the new instrumental album from the progressive metal outfit Scale the Summit. The band stays true to the genre by creating complex and compelling compositions. This is a very ambitious recording by a talented group. While the music is good, my biggest gripe is the treatment of the production of the album. The drums are often washed out and left in the background during moments when they should be punctuating the music at the forefront.

Mia Riddle - Tumble and Drag

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Mia Riddle - Tumble and Drag (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Tumble and Drag sounds like a lot of different things, but imitates none of them. "Bird of Paradise" is sultry, floating in on a puff of smoke like a Neko Case ballad, while "City Song" is a rocker that would have fit right into either Lone Justice record. Comparisons might come easy; picking out exactly what's best about Mia Riddle comes easier. She has a natural and inviting presence behind the microphone, as if Tumble and Drag was made with you in mind.

Steven Wright-Mark - Sideshow Freak

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Steven Wright-Mark - Sideshow Freak (self released) [audio]

Male guitarist, seeking band or dedicated others to form band. Favorite artists include Jellyfish, The Cars, The Beatles, Matthew Sweet, Fountains Of Wayne... too many to name! Other influences include distortion pedals, hand claps, unrequited love, and scorching guitar solos. Dedicated to adding fuzzy guitar riffs and tongue-in-cheek lyrics to the almighty powerpop. Looking to get into the studio and blow away crowds in the NYNY area. Please contact if interested.

Sophie Hunger - Monday's Ghost

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Sophie Hunger - Monday's Ghost (Emarcy) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Sophie Hunger possesses such a rich voice, she could effortlessly transcend the bottomless pit of coffee shop folkies were she to walk that mellow road. But she instead turns up the intensity and sometimes rocks out a little (imagine Feist singing Tegan and Sara). Nothing on Monday's Ghost rewrites the rules of modern music, but it's consistently tasteful and competent—and varied when it needs to be (her folky side always provides unexpected twists). A solid first impression.
Pinhead Gunpowder - West Side Highway 7" (Recess) [audio]

The Traveling Wilburys of punk are back with a few songs that fit in quite neatly to their slowly expanding three-chord discography, and as always it's comforting to hear that familiar sound. Billie and Jason trade off vocals on the up-tempo "West Side Highway", a ditty that would fit in well on '95's Carry the Banner. "Anniversary Song" is more of a Shoot the Moon number, an example of their trademark fast-strumming three-chord reputation, while the acoustic "On the Ave." picks us up where they dropped us off in 2000.

M. Ward - Hold Time

M. Ward - Hold Time (Merge) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Matt Ward has always seemed a little distant from his own songs, which served his earlier work well by lending it an old-timey quality. They were just out of reach, yet warm and familiar. Hold Time, on the other hand, is the hangover from She & Him. It's upfront, direct and... genuinely uninteresting. This is the sound of a once-great songwriter on autopilot. There are a couple thrills here ("Stars of Leo" being one), but anybody else could've made this record by plugging variables into the M. Ward Machine™.

Crooked Fingers - Forfeit/Fortune

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Crooked Fingers - Forfeit/Fortune (Constant Artists, Inc.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Yet another musical reinvention, this highly orchestrated collection gets help from members of Silver Jews, DeVotchKa and tourmate Neko Case. "Cannibals" and "Modern Dislocation" sound more like his earlier material, but everything else is a jarring hodge podge of sax and trumpet solos, piano flourishes, carnival barker shouts, strings, distorted percussion, and radio broadcast-like vocals. Where Calexico are the kings of Mexicali, this release takes a more extreme approach to embracing horn heavy gypsy-carny-indie rock.

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