August 2009 Archives

Among the Oak & Ash - S/T

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Among the Oak & Ash (Verve Forecast) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Josh Joplin and Garrison Starr have taken long-lost Appalachian folk songs and turned them into pop songs. Songs gathered from centuries ago, a somehow not-too-out-of-place Smiths cover, and a couple of originals make up this record which at its root is a simple collection of folk tunes. Only this folk is really catchy. This folk is ready to start a revolution at one moment, and sweet and tender the next. Just watch out—Garrison Starr has a voice that can break your heart if you let it.
Liam Finn & Eliza Jane - Champagne in Seashells EP (Yep Roc) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Even buried under all the distortion of Betchadupa, you could tell Liam Finn had a rare songwriting gift. Now that he's working solo, the volume has been turned down and his songs have only gotten even better. This five-song ep, despite its shared billing, is his strongest collection of material yet (only "On Your Side" features an audible Eliza Jane Barnes). Literate, melodic pop is the Finn family business. Neil is his dad, Tim his uncle. Any of these songs could be mistaken for the work of an elder Finn, and that's a high compliment.

Nous Non Plus - Ménagerie

Nous Non Plus - Ménagerie (Aeronaut) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I typically don't mind listening to bands with non-English lyrics. But when that band is made up of New York musicians, it seems a little more like a gimmick. That colors everything else about Ménagerie, from the tongue-in-cheek disco tracks which sound like Scissor Sisters cast-offs to the bossa/yé-yé moments that pale in comparison to France Gall or Sylvie Vartan. In fact, I'm not sure there's anything about this album that isn't a complete facade. Just some good ideas that are ruined by ham-handed impulses.

Cheap Trick - The Latest

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Cheap Trick - The Latest (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

This is not as good as any album Cheap Trick made in the 1970's, but it's probably better than anything they've made since the 1980's. First, the good. The loud 'n' fast songs really feel like the band is having fun banging them out, and that's contagious for the listener. Now the bad. The best of these songs, "When the Lights Are Out," is a Slade cover and was recorded in 1976. Also, half of The Latest is comprised of ballads. Slowed-down Cheap Trick is usually good too, but never so much in one place. Likeable, not loveable.

thecocknbullkid - Querelle EP

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thecocknbullkid - Querelle EP (I Am Sound) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Anita Blay performs as thecocknbullkid, mashing up the sound of Prince's numerous '80s protégés (like The Time and Vanity 6) with modern electronics and styles. The resulting Querelle ep is dripping with midnight sensuality. No detail has been overlooked, from the wavy synths and thumping bass to the mantra-like phrasing and counter-melodic passages in every song. Blay has been on my radar for about a year now, so I was glad to finally see this released. Next up, an album. I hope I don't have to wait another year.
Richard Lloyd - The Jamie Neverts Story (Parasol) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Television and Jimi Hendrix are not normally connected, considering Hendrix died a few years before Television existed, but, as the liner notes detail, Hendrix and Lloyd had a brief but complex relationship. While Lloyd has nowhere near the acclaim Hendrix has as a guitarist (no one does), this album should expose Lloyd to an entire new audience of classic rock fans. The reality is that this won't happen, but even while avoiding most of Hendrix's best-known songs, Lloyd is one of the few who can pull this off.

The Cave Singers - Welcome Joy

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The Cave Singers - Welcome Joy (Matador) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Cave Singers originally sounded to me like this flowing, shapeless folk band performing songs that were more concepts than actual songs. Two years and one new album later, they've sculpted that shapeless quality into something really wonderful. Pete Quirk's vocals have traveled down from his head to his diaphragm, adding a deeper dimension to the sound while the melodies move in unanticipated ways all through Welcome Joy. Indie folk is an overcrowded scene for sure, but The Cave Singers deserve to be noticed.
Various Artists - Porno Groove: The Sound of 70's Adult Films (Secret Stash) [audio] [video]

"Bam-chicka-waw-waw" is the universal sound for pornography, and it's become a joke all on its own that has nothing to do with the actual music from the vintage films. When listening to this compilation of unearthed soundtracks, sex probably won't be the first thing that comes to mind. There's some hard, gritty funk and expertly composed rock and soul sounds to be found here. My only complaint about Porno Groove is that, at 11 tracks, it's just way too brief. I'm looking forward to future installments in the series.

Robert Pollard - Elephant Jokes

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Robert Pollard - Elephant Jokes (Guided By Voices, Inc.) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Elephant Jokes is the latest release (as of this week) from former Guided By Voices leader Bob Pollard and, of his post-GBV work, it's one of the best. However, when considering this era of work, it's important to note that, though much of it is consistently good, the amazing highs common in the GBV days are seldom found. "Johnny Optimist" and "Stiff Me" are the most blockbuster rockin' songs in this set, but ultimately come up short if you fall into the comparison trap. It all used to sound like play. Now it sounds like work.
Pomegranates - Everybody Come Outside! (Lujo) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I first heard Pomegranates a few years ago when they were giving away some demos on their blog. I didn't think much of them. They've since matured into a really ambitious indie pop band, with the talent to support it. Everybody Come Outside! recalls the best sonics of the E6 years, the pop sense of Stephin Merritt and the penchant for impulsive left turns of The Flaming Lips. This may not be anyone's favorite album of the year, but if you hear it once you'll want to hear it again.
Watts Ensemble - Two Suites for Crime & Time (Kill Shaman) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It takes a 17-piece unit (no robes), which then adds another seven players to pull these songs off—hell, they even have a conductor. With two suites broken into four or five movements each over 45 minutes, you'll think of '70s detective tv show themes, post rock, subdued piano-led vignettes and even chase scenes from Truffant films. Either way, this is truly a mini-orchestra and, as the back cover photo shows, there's lots of sheet music and one very crowded stage.
Various Artists - "Radio Riot!" Volume One (Brown Bag Propaganda) [audio]

A collection of 26 tracks from locations as diverse as the U.S., Spain, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and Sweden. There's no shortage of amusing band names (Cooter Punch, Americans UK, Bitch Slap Barbie, Lugosi's Morphine among others) on this collection of garage and punk rock tunes. Plenty of old school punk with shout-along choruses, lots of swear words, with a couple of good ol' "1-2 fuck you!"'s thrown in for good measure. Overall, great sound, production and sequencing, and highly recommended for fans of the Ramones, Misfits and The Cramps.

Bad Veins - S/T

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Bad Veins (Dangerbird) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Bad Veins could easily be grouped in with other very polite, very warmly-recorded indie rock bands like Rogue Wave or The Essex Green or Band of Horses, and it wouldn't be an injustice for anyone involved. The Cincinnati duo's debut album is packed with 10 songs that sound absolutely wonderful while you're in the act of listening to them, but little remains when the final note fades. This is disappointing with many records, but in the case of Bad Veins it just makes each reacquaintance a pleasant experience.

Bellows - S/T

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

When not being pummeled by the bludgeoning drums, the sax skronks and bleets it's way deep into your brain and when the instruments are not on full blast, feedback fills the gaps and it is just a matter of time until you get knocked back on your ass. Although the vocal contributions are kept to a minimum, what is here can be described as indecipherable growling. The gonzo saxophone and crazed drums stretch the five tracks over 43 minutes so what you really have is hardcore jazz for noise addicts.
Various Artists - New Tales to Tell: A Tribute to Love and Rockets (Arsenal) [audio]

If you are a fan of (or ever even cared about) Love and Rockets, skip this. Sure, Frank Black covers "All in My Mind" and The Flaming Lips take on "Kundalini Express" half-cocked, but they're just the window dressing for the most uninspired tribute I've ever come across. Hell, when Better Than Ezra turns in one of the set's best performances with "So Alive," you know you've wasted your money. With 26 tracks to pick from and not one of them worth hearing a second time, the only truly good thing about this is Shepard Fairey's artwork.
The Jim Jims - Bottom of the City EP (Fly Apart) [audio] [upcoming shows]

A deep-throated vocalist in the style of Interpol, angular guitars shifting between an amped up Sonic Youth when it's loud and early U2 when it's soft. In either case, everything is much more catchy than dissonant. The lyrics on the Devo-esque "Horny" blatantly crow "She's drunk, I'm horny, we're gonna have some super sex tonight" while "Strobe Light" directly quotes Men Without Hats. If this is what's to come from what the kids are calling aggressive nu-wave, as long as the emphasis remains on aggressive, I am sold.

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

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