March 2009 Archives

Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart (Mercury) [audio] [upcoming shows]

In the past year, this album has been self-released, released by a major label, dropped by a major label, self-released again and picked up by a major label for release stateside. Every step along the way, tracks have been added and dropped, and the upcoming version is pared down to only ten (unfortunately). However, it still has "Oh My God," "Queen of the World" and "I Like You So Much Better When You're Naked," on which Ida Maria shines the brightest. Gritty vocals and loud guitars, courtesy of Scandinavia.

The Oranges Band - Are Invisible

The Oranges Band - Are Invisible (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Oranges Band smacked us with three sinfully good eps in the early part of this decade, but followed them up with two weak albums for Lookout. After a four-year silence and a roster shuffle which introduced guitarist Doug Gillard, Are Invisible proves The Oranges Band aren't as challenged by the lp format as it once appeared. Here are nine tracks of band-in-a-van pop rock 'n' roll that fit right in with the Ted Leo or Spoon ideal; edgy, smart and extremely danceable. Welcome back, Oranges.
Various Artists - MT6 Records Sampler: Early 2009 (MT6) [audio]

No one but Jason Sigal would have predicted Baltimore emerging as a haven for underground garage, punk and DIY indie rock, but with the 29 tracks here, there is plenty of poorly recorded punk, electronic glitch rock and indiciperable screaming present to make that case. Legendary weirdo Jad Fair and Jason Willett are the known names here, but bands such as Herschel Hoover, Bad Liquor Pond, Chin Forces and Decapitated Hed have standout tracks that should serve as an inspiration to explore their back catalogs.

Loney Dear - Dear John

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Loney Dear - Dear John (Polyvinyl) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Emil Svanängen's fifth album as Loney Dear is the one he claims he's always been trying to make. And with that in mind, the deeper exploration of his own craft comes across in these eleven songs. "Under a Silent Sea," for example, is an ever-swelling surge of sound and intensity that becomes something altogether unexpected. Dear John is secretly a sophisticated romantic pop album stripped down to acoustic guitars and twinkling keyboards. How sneaky, Emil.

Home Video - It Will Be OK EP

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Home Video - It Will Be OK EP (self released) [download] [upcoming shows]

Home Video is a band so good that it drives me absolutely crazy they've released music so sparingly over the last five years (two singles, one album). Returning after a three-year break with It Will Be OK, it's evident they've been saving their best work for now. Moody and ambitious, the four songs on this EP recall a less art-damaged Radiohead. It's cinematic electro-rock balladeering with a live pulse; walking, breathing, human music from the future.
The Inevitable Backlash - My Two Brookes (Hegemony) [audio]

Despite overturning almost the entire band from their Sex for Safety EP, this full length continues the heavy bass groove over growling vocals, referencing Tar, other Am Rep bands or mid-period Afghan Whigs. Aggressive at some points, dark and sullen at others, always eventually exploding into hard rock. There's lots of vulgar proclamations that drive the point home that anger is the fuel but given enough drinks, he'll break down, beg for an apology and sober back up only to tell you to go fuck yourself again.
William Elliott Whitmore - Animals in the Dark (Anti-) [audio] [upcoming shows]

He may slightly resemble Dave Matthews but his gravelly voice and stripped down roots music could certainly teach DMB fans what genuine soul sounds like. Whitmore is a throwback to the turn of the last century where bluesmen and banjos combined to form blues and eventually rock 'n' roll. While the lyrics can be rightfully accused of recycling from recent history, singing about his grand dad's grand dad and unashamedly copping the sounds of a century ago now appears original and authentic compared to his peers.
The Blizzard of 78 - Book of Lies (Killing Floor) [audio] [upcoming shows]

On their second release, The Blizzard of 78 capture their signature rock 'n' soul sound perfectly, which is what makes them one of the most original bands in Boston. "The Song", "Pray" and "The Last Temptation" lean toward some of the more rocking songs TBO 78 have recorded, while "Philadelphia", "The Game" and "Well Enough Alone" are cloaked in soul and slow things down a bit. Recorded in bassist Chris Cugini's home studio, the production on Book of Lies is nothing short of professional without being overly "produced" or glossy.

Chris Cornell - Scream

Chris Cornell - Scream (Interscope) [audio] [upcoming shows]

If you give it enough time, eventually every singer/songwriter will break down and make their own McCartney II. Scream is that album for Chris Cornell, and if you plan on listening, understand that it will require a lot of patience. This is not so much a solo record as it is a 50/50 collaboration between Cornell and Timbaland. The in-the-studio experimentation has produced a sound of electronic/alternative R&B, similar to Gnarls Barkley, but not nearly as interesting, or perhaps The Postal Service, but not nearly as good.
The Diaphanoids - Astral Weekends (Bear Funk) [audio]

If Philip K. Dick novels came with a musical score, Astral Weekends is what it might sound like. Grounded in funk and disco, the alternating use of analog electronics and spacey guitar effects transform what would ordinarily be lackluster groove exercises into trippy, celestial anthems. If you can imagine the atmospherics of Boards of Canada with the dance sense of Daft Punk using the vintage technology of Tangerine Dream, you're halfway there. Strap on your rollerskates and head for the center of the Milky Way.

Hurt - Goodbye to the Machine

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Hurt - Goodbye to the Machine (Amusement) [audio] [upcoming shows]

For hard rock outfit Hurt's latest effort they decided to shed the ills of modern digital technology and record using analog gear. The result is a very rich production which pumps up the band's solid performance. The songwriting is diverse, drawing influence from many styles, but as a whole remains very cohesive. Each song highlights different facets of their character and keeps you engaged right to the end. It's been a long time since I've heard a rock album that sounds this good.

Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew

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Lisa Hannigan - Sea Sew (ATO Records) [audio] [upcoming shows]

After a not-entirely-amicable parting of ways with Damien Rice, Lisa Hannigan is finally front and center with Sea Sew. Good for her, but also good for us. It's not an album wrought with the kind of self-flagellating emotude Rice is known for, but a sunny blast through the clouds instead. The arrangements are full, sometimes ornate, and compensate for Hannigan's hushed vocal style. Sea Sew is like a weekday sweetheart meet-up at a coffee shop when you should be at work; frivolous but not soon forgotten.

Morrissey - Years of Refusal

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Morrissey - Years of Refusal (Lost Highway) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It took 20 years, but Morrissey finally recorded an album that captures the feel of his live show. Years of Refusal is a loud, often rousing collection that not only sounds electric, but also finds the Mozzer's voice in top form. The notes he climbs to get during "Something is Squeezing My Skull" are astounding, while "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" revisits the strong pop songwriting of his earliest solo work. "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore" lives in the median; both powerful and profound. You can't pass on this one.

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