May 2009 Archives

Sahara Hotnights - Sparks

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Sahara Hotnights - Sparks (Stand By Your Band) [audio] [upcoming shows]

When you're out of ideas, play covers. Sparks works to Sahara Hotnights' advantage, since their last album found them at an all-time low. Taking the opportunity to cover everyone from Steve Miller Band to Janet Jackson to Foo Fighters, the burden of writing is lifted and the task of making themselves over becomes unquestionably freeing. Vintage synth sounds are mixed with danceable grooves, best showcased on their cover of Dusty Springfield's "In Private". Sparks is a great starting point for the next record.
The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love (Capitol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Like a moth to a flame burned by the fire, rock bands are oft drawn to making concept albums only to disappoint longtime fans by creating sappy songs with no discernible beginnings or ends. The Decemberists have surpassed expectations by combining folk, mountain music, and sludge rock into a lush opera about the hazards of love, witches, infanticide, and shapeshifters. And for non-nerds, the guest vocals of Becky Stark and Shara Worden serve not only to breathe life into their characters, but also into this epic and remarkable album.

Megasus - S/T

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Megasus (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is the debut album from filling-rattling metal Providence-based supergroup Megasus. "Swords", "Hexes/Szaadek" and "Iron Mountain" all are over six minutes long, combining slow dirge, distorted blood curdling screams, massive riffs and furious double kick pedal mayhem. At some points, I thought of a gonzo Saint Vitus. But on top of the music, this has one of the most impressive vinyl packaging ever to pass through these hands. I doubt I could withstand their live show, as whenever I see the "No Wimps" sign I always turn around and go home.
Ram Di Dam - A Liar to Admire EP (Mock Turtle) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Sweden's Ram Di Dam sort of meets a need for me, in so far as they channel the whole post-Strokes thing far better and less one-dimensionally than most New York bands. To boot, they also mix in a little bit of funk on the low end like Franz Ferdinand or the new, improved Modest Mouse. A track like "Chances" is a textbook example of a song waiting to be heard in a sports drink commercial, but I guess Ram Di Dam needs to be discovered first. Paging Stereogum!

Anni Rossi - Rockwell

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

Perhaps Steve Albini should have taken two days to record Rockwell, because the one day it took produced some utterly uninspired and uninspiring tracks. Rossi's voice easily soars over her sparse instrumentation, but the passion and intensity heard on last year's Afton EP just isn't there this time around. And considering that almost all of those songs were re-recorded, and that so many of the songs are so good (including the Ace of Base cover), this mild collection of recordings is genuinely disappointing.
Cheap Star - Speaking Like an Elephant (Z & Zoé) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Does Cheap Star sound so much like The Posies because Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer produced their album, or did Stringfellow and Auer produce Cheap Star's album because they sound so much like The Posies? It's an infinite riddle. What's important here is someone picking up where The Posies left off, writing perfect power pop with sublime harmonies and messy fuzz guitar that had gone acutely unreplicated until now. Speaking Like an Elephant is a total must-have.
Green Day - 21st Century Breakdown (Reprise) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Thank goodness The Clash didn't even last 10 years. Seems like everything went south for Green Day with American Idiot, and it gets so much worse with 21st Century Breakdown. Pseudo-heady material flattened by Butch Vig in the studio, this album completely overreaches (its 18 songs are split into 3 acts, oh jeez). Take "Last Night on Earth" for example. As a rock ballad, it's weak. As a Green Day song, it's actually offensive. This is a band aging disgracefully, and they just lost me for good.

The Thermals - Now We Can See

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The Thermals - Now We Can See (Kill Rock Stars) [audio] [upcoming shows]

After a few albums of hard rocking, irresistibly quirky, catchy, shout-along indie rock, I figured that there was nowhere else to go but slower and more poppy on this album. I was right. It is slower and poppier, but sticks to the basic formula of their sound and it may be just a bit more catchy with lots of references to "I" and "We" in the song titles. Basically, it's not-as-rocking irresistibly quirky, catchy, shout-along indie rock. Your older brother will be telling you how awesome The Thermals are now.

AT - S/T

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AT (Corleone) [audio] [upcoming shows]

While not emulating the dire religious overtones of the Violent Femmes' Hallowed Ground album, the nine tracks here fall into a similar genre and there are also plenty of references to Jesus, the devil, and angels. This is casually recorded, edited and largely country and blues influenced, frail wavering high pitched vocals a la Unbunny, gentle acoustic strumming, a few rag tag acoustic singalongs, a learn as you go whistling chorus, and an instance of singing the chord changes as they happen.

The Poles - Twelve Winds

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The Poles - Twelve Winds (Double Plus Good) [audio] [upcoming shows]

While always I thought Eric Bachmann was the only singer in Archers of Loaf with the deep baritone vocals, I realized thirty seconds into this album I was dead wrong. Joined by former members of Band of Horses and H.Chinaski, Twelve Winds is evidence that it is the older guys who are being relied upon to put the "rock" into indie rock, as it drifts into Seals & Crofts-ish territory. If the varied experiments of Crooked Fingers have left you wondering what happened, someone else has finally landed on their feet.

Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear

Jeremy Enigk - OK Bear (Lewis Hollow) [audio] [upcoming shows]

News of a Sunny Day Real Estate reunion got me much more excited than the prospect of hearing another Jeremy Enigk solo record, because they were vibrant and loud and solo Jeremy is largely the polar opposite. OK Bear follows the same track as the rest of his albums; a muted version of what we all know he can do. The limitations of his (literal and figurative) voice really stand out in these less electric moments, but it's not a dealbreaker. It's just a substitute.
Aria Orion - Let the Sharp Stone Fly (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Aria Orion remind me of Dead Can Dance. I thought the first track was in Latin or Catalan or whatever it is that Lisa Gerrard sings. In fact, the phrasing just makes "Dark and Light" sound like a foreign language. As for the music, it veers from industrial cello to nervous oboe to what sounds like The Alloy Orchestra scoring a Buster Keaton flick. The entire album has the vibe of an experimental "Peter and the Wolf," eliciting characterization through instruments and making each song a mini epic. What do you see when you listen?
Slayer - Psychopathy Red 7" (American) [upcoming shows]

Slayer may be more Slayer-ish now than ever if "Psychopathy Red" is any indication. At just 2:22, it revisits the pummeling brevity of Reign in Blood and maintains the punkish edge that's always been vital to the Slayer sound. Based on the tale of Russian serial killer Andrei Chikatilo, this wholly disturbing track is paired with b-side "Untitled," a spoken addition to Chikatilo's story (presented backwards, of course). Hope you picked this up on Record Store Day, because it's history now.

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This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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