September 2009 Archives

Pinhead Gunpowder - Kick Over the Traces (Recess) [audio]

Pinhead Gunpowder has been occasionally releasing the best pop punk around for almost twenty years, so in their case it is only slightly bizarre for an indie punk band to have a greatest hits disk. And although this band includes a rock & roll millionaire, it has always been drummer Aaron Cometbus's baby; a chance to showcase his lyrical stories by magically bouncing them back and forth from Billie to Jason. With 23 songs in 43 minutes, they could easily tack on another dozen songs and there wouldn't be a dud in the bunch.
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Higher Than the Stars EP (Slumberland) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I've had my eye on The Pains of Being Pure at Heart since late last year, and was occasionally impressed by a single or outtake that leaked out. Then the album arrived and revealed a band with self-assurance and complete mastery of their own aesthetic. This ep goes leaps and bounds further in cementing their notoriety as incredible dream pop revivalists, with "Higher Than the Stars" possibly being the greatest thing they've recorded yet. Three other new tracks follow, each good enough to be its own single. Wow.

The Vaselines - Enter The Vaselines

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The Vaselines - Enter The Vaselines (Sub Pop) [audio]

This impolite, sex-obsessed, anti-twee twee-band spent the late '80s making only two EPs and an LP, but what The Vaselines lack in quantity they more than make up for in quality. They combined elements of fuzz rockers like Sonic Youth, alt-folk originators a la The Velvet Underground, and peers like Beat Happening. Collected are all the songs Nirvana fans know, songs they should know, a few demos, and messy live tracks. It's sloppy, it's fun, and it's all in one package.

T.H. White - Company Book

T.H. White - Company Book (Sky Council) [audio] Focus Group review

Electronic big beats, possibly trance, glitching, vibrating waves panning back and forth over pumping beats, even traces of the Happy Mondays, or a much more updated Crystal Method or Prodigy. "The Darkest Horse" has Meghan Wolf playing the role of disco diva, but the track "Rekognize Real" is the stand out, crossing over into hip hop thanks to vocals from Oktober Zero. This works perfectly as a dance party for your codeine-sipping friends, as well as the theme show to your favorite version of CSI. - mark

Back about ten years ago I had this friend that was really into electronica. All of it — house, techno, trip hop, remixed hip hop club songs. He liked his grooves to be slow, his bass to be loud, and his beats to be block rocking. What was repetitive and mindless to me was hypnotizing to him, and he could somehow dissect it to hear the influences of funk, classic rock, old-school rap and new-school hop hop. I haven't seen him in a while, but I hope somewhere he's listening to T.H. White. - cormac

Truth be told, I'm really not ready to go back and relive the late '90s through new music. I wasn't a big fan of it the first time. T.H. White apparently is, though. From what I've read, he spends half his time making incidental music for television and commercials—you know, the kind of stuff that sounds almost like something you recognize, but really isn't. Well, Company Book is almost like The Crystal Method or Propellerheads or any other late '90s big beat electronic music, but it isn't. It's completely incidental. - paul

Pearl Jam - Backspacer

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Pearl Jam - Backspacer (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

After nearly 20 years together, Pearl Jam finally relaxed enough to bang out a quick and dirty album without the pressure that comes from being Pearl Jam. The opening three-song salvo conveys in just eight minutes what the album's really about; a vehicle to go back to the beginning. Not Ten, but the very beginning. There's so much positive energy here that it sounds like the work of unjaded twenty-somethings. "The Fixer" is one their best singles to date, but it's really a case of pick-your-favorite with Backspacer.

Wallis Bird - New Boots

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Wallis Bird - New Boots (Rubyworks) [audio] [upcoming shows]

New Boots is the sophomore album from Wallis Bird, and it moves her into the major league ranks of similar folkrockpop singer/songwriters like Melissa Etheridge and KT Tunstall. Bird's advantage is the youthful aura that surrounds her songs and her strong voice. While it's not typically the music itself, but the lyrics, that garner attention in this genre, Bird even ups the ante there by including dynamic complexity within the quieter songs and instrumentation on the upbeat songs that's actually interesting. Expect great things.
The Postmarks - Memoirs at the End of the World (Unfiltered) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The Postmarks are taking their brand of lullaby-rock to yet another new place on their third full length, following up their album of covers with what could be the soundtrack to the next Bond film. Blaring horns, menacing guitars, and breathy vocals are blended with precision into the lush instrumentation of The Postmarks' already established retro-euro-pop sound. Indie pop has never sounded so sweetly sinister.
Over the Wall - The Rise and Fall of Over the Wall EP (Motive Sounds) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Glasgow-based Over the Wall does a lot in the span of four songs with just a few instruments and a drum machine at their disposal. On "Gimme Five," the duo creates an honest and bare folk sound over a rigid beat as though New Order and Ryan Adams had a meeting of the minds and got it on tape. The layered vocals and minimal accompaniment of "Floods" recall Bon Iver, while "Thurso" pulls it all together and hints at something bigger we've yet to hear anywhere. A strong debut.

Megafaun - Gather, Form & Fly

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Megafaun - Gather, Form & Fly (Hometapes) [audio] [upcoming shows]

Listening to Megafaun is like listening to an Americana mix tape, with highlights from artists of the past like Gram Parsons and The Band beside folksters of today like Fleet Foxes. Their music can be rusty and blaring, but often is a peaceful, mournful hush with soaring harmonies and plenty of banjo picking. The standout track is "The Fade", a magically emotive song that seems to perfectly capture the best of their sound.

St. Vincent - Actor

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St. Vincent - Actor (4AD) [audio] [upcoming shows]

I got around to this album really late, in no small part because of how wispy and floaty Annie Clark's first album as St. Vincent had been. The differences between Marry Me and Actor are minimal in the grand scheme, sure, but in context they are huge. Actor is not only more forceful and direct, but also the work of someone more confident as a songwriter. Instead of existing in the periphery, the songs that comprise Actor demand attention. It's a rhythmic, elegantly-voiced, sometimes simply complex record. Good and interesting.
Little Tybee - I Wonder Which House the Fish Will Live In (self released) [audio] [upcoming shows]

It's common to hear a new indie band and have them instantly hold your attention for the length of an ep, but it's rare that you feel this way because of a violin. It's Little Tybee's softly sweet violin that is the cornerstone of the band's charm, and once the strings have you so will the voice, as it glides from gruff to falsetto. Foes of electric keyboards and synthesized drums may find these elements too obtrusive, but those who can hear past them will be glad they're listening.
V.V. Brown - Travelling Like the Light (Island) [audio] [upcoming shows]

The rockabilly influence on Travelling Like the Light is overemphasized in most reviews of V.V. Brown's debut. Sure, it shows up from time to time, but it's not the driving force behind the record. Like most of the current class of UK ladies, Brown dabbles in electronics, big beat r&b, and quirky dance pop to assemble a competent and mostly enjoyable collection. The only prominent flaw is that some of the tracks (e.g. "Shark in the Water") smell of lazy Americanism. Don't stake your rep on our style, V.V. It's not good enough for you.

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

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