Thursday, June 25, 2009

30 Second Reviews from 6/24

Record Reviews: Moby and More

Wait For Me

SOUNDS LIKE: David Lynch inspired the 43-year-old nerd to make a record for music’s sake—a little dark, sad and ominous.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Remember Play? Man, that shit was so cool 10 years ago.
FOR FANS OF: Air, soft electronica.

The Old Prince

SOUNDS LIKE: Solid beats behind the Kenyan-born Canadian rapper’s concise, intelligent flow with impressive spoken word interludes.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Dude, you’re better than Common times 10, eh?
FOR FANS OF: Mos Def, Atmosphere.

Black Moth Super Rainbow
Eating Us

SOUNDS LIKE: Dreamy, breezy, electronic psych rock that sounds like Air if they played instruments and came from Pittsburgh’s woods.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Robots swimming in a pool of synths and microphones.
FOR FANS OF: Notwist, Ratatat.

The Low Anthem
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin

SOUNDS LIKE: Charming mutt of R.I. folk born from honky-tonk, blues, lo-fi rock and Americana with tons of quirky instruments.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Perfect pub music; no wonder they’re touring the UK so hard.
FOR FANS OF: Caffeinated Iron & Wine.

Michael Johns
Hold Back My Heart

SOUNDS LIKE: Idol contestant who finished eighth filling half his record with covers of mostly feel-good American soul rock.
FREE ASSOCIATION: You know, dog, a little pitchy but I’m feelin’ you.
FOR FANS OF: David Cook.

Lymbyc System/This Will Destroy You
Field Studies EP

SOUNDS LIKE: A split EP of shoegazey wordless music where TWDY bore you to death then LS floor you.
FREE ASSOCIATION: This Will Destroy You=This Will Bore You.
FOR FANS OF: A harder Sigur Rós.

Dinosaur Jr.

SOUNDS LIKE: The longhairs are at it again with a record of J Mascis shredding his brand of speed metal and grunge that peaked 15 years ago.
FREE ASSOCIATION: You guys are starting to look like Dinosaur Sr.’s.
FOR FANS OF: Sonic Youth, Pixies.

Rod Stewart
Atlantic Crossing/A Night on the Town

SOUNDS LIKE: Rod’s ‘75 and ‘76 pop opuses reissued—he strode across the Atlantic to give us mind-blowingly tight pants and sexy times.
FREE ASSOCIATION: You play soccer with a cocktail in hand so well. Swoon.
FOR FANS OF: Post-folk, pre-disco Rod.

The real deal.

30 Second Reviews from 6/17

Record Reviews: Eels, Leslie Mendelson and More

Leslie Mendelson
Swan Feathers

SOUNDS LIKE: Earnest New York lady of pop singing airy tunes polished to inspire coffee-house dwellers.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Like a Maxwell House commercial—steaming coffee in pajamas.
FOR FANS OF: Carly Simon, long baths.

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground
Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground

SOUNDS LIKE: A Seattle trio inspired by the Jazz Age, weird psych rock, 11 people onstage.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Beirut slammed Robitussin and lost some of the pretense.
FOR FANS OF: Flaming Lips, Sufjan Stevens trying drugs.

Stardeath and White Dwarfs
The Birth

SOUNDS LIKE: Norman, Okla.’s Dennis Coyne (nephew of Wayne) debuts his brand of drug rock, acid and weed.
FREE ASSOCIATION: We’ve opened for the Lips and stuff, but we’re different!
FOR FANS OF: Starlight Mints, British Sea Power

Hombre Lobo: 12 Songs of Desire

SOUNDS LIKE: A seasoned songwriter making a pile of songs about loneliness from slow and sad to dirty and loud.
FREE ASSOCIATION: A hint to improve your love life, E: trim beard, lose glasses.
FOR FANS OF: Beck, Modest Mouse

Amazing Baby

SOUNDS LIKE: Hipster Brooklyn quintet’s debut, they’ve been opening for Phoenix with a louder, more rockin’ sound.
FREE ASSOCIATION: Despite its aura of clone, this album sounds original.
FOR FANS OF: Allright!, yeah—MGMT.

Tiny Masters of Today

SOUNDS LIKE: Sophomore (?!) LP from 13-15-year-old sister/brother garage-punkers
killing it and ignoring shit pop punk.
FREE ASSOCIATION: You’re too young for skinny jeans and greasy hair!
FOR FANS OF: Sesame Street, St. Marks Place.

Battle for the Sun

SOUNDS LIKE: A new drummer, Tool/Muse producer, a shot at a theme record and another forgettable emo-glam rock disc.
FREE ASSOCIATION: If only you could put eyeliner on that nasally voice.
FOR FANS OF: Fingernail polish on men.


SOUNDS LIKE: Awesomely whacked high-energy spaz-rock from Ohio dudes. Think Oneida, but much better.
FREE ASSOCIATION: So good you’ll want to freak out and/or explode!
FOR FANS OF: Slow appreciation, sick drumming.

The real deal.

Otep blows

Otep earns its name from its lead-singer, professed poet Otep Shamaya. According to several sources, the outspoken lesbian politico actually insists that her real name on her birth certificate is Otep, an anagram for poet. This is just the kind of nonsense that dictates her records' esoteric new metal pseudo-mysticism, masked as genuine darkness, macabre, and strife. In accordance with typically outdated metal tropes, Otep screams really loud to assert their rage and connect with angst-ridden teens. Screaming metal has rightfully tapped this vein for decades but Otep's last LP, 2007's The Ascension, is a dreadful attempt.

The Ascension has only moments of mild brutality. The most bearable songs maintain a low level of clichéd screaming and churning ("Invisible," "Ghostflowers" or her cover of Nirvana's "Breed"). Elsewhere, laughable opener "Eet the Children" starts with a ridiculous "hush little baby" lullaby before kicking into boring chords and repeated yelps to "eet the children rawwwww!" It seems clear that Shamaya aspires to impress by creating dynamics within songs - taking a hushed whimper and gentle melodies to screaming and chugging conventional metal chords. "Perfectly Flawed" executes this intention relatively well and that's probably because there is hardly any screaming, save for haunting background noise. Shamaya can impressively execute the whisper-to-howl range necessary to out-goth similar bands like Slipknot, Marilyn Manson or Mudvayne, but too much of this record is easily dwarfed by other contemporaries like Lamb of God, Isis or Metallica.

Even more frustrating is the lyrical content that would seem important to such a politically aware, poet-led metal band. On the downright obnoxious "Noose & Nail" the listener is subjected to these little couplets: "Jesus needs his prescription filled / Buddha's usin' too many pills / In volatile bottles marked RELIGION KILLS!" If that weren't enough, the chorus of endless screams is comprised of "Get down and crawl, crawl!! You fucking insect!!"

Otep and her minions may have been impressive when they debuted in 2002, but she's going to have to dig deeper for some kind of relevance in a listening base tired of pathetic metal cliches.

The real deal.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Record Reviews: The Phenomenal Handclap Band and More

Also: Mat Kearney, Pink Mountaintops, A Camp, mewithoutYou, Tortoise, Grizzly Bear and Tori Amos.

The Phenomenal Handclap Band
The Phenomenal Handclap Band

Sounds like: A mega-supergroup of indie soulsters spewing funk, disco and electro that’ll make you dance your face off.
Free association: Crowded Brooklyn dancefloor of sweaty kids drinkin’ cans of PBR.
For fans of: !!!, Justice, LCD Soundsystem.

Mat Kearney
City of Black & White

Sounds like: Coldplay-inspired singer/songwriter from Nashville written explicitly to soundtrack Grey’s Anatomy.
Free association: Gavin DeGraw and John Mayer make love while “Apologize” plays.
For fans of: ABC, ABC Family, CW, MTV, CBS.

Pink Mountaintops
Outside Love

Sounds like: Loud Vancouver stoner-rock army marches to blistering reverb, and quirky vocal teamwork.
Free association: Eyes glaze in a haze of hash, heroin and piles of weed.
For fans of: Black Mountain, Low.

A Camp

Sounds like: Cardigans frontwoman’s sophomore solo inspired by African kings, queens and colonialism.
Free association: Country meets Sweden, flies to Africa.
For fans of: Cardigans (duh), Beth Orton.

it’s all crazy! it’s all false! it’s all a dream! it’s alright

Sounds like: PW cover-boys tone it down a bit with a folksier, acoustic (but not soft) approach to their spiritualized bizarro rock.
Free association: egetable oil-run tour bus full of animals like Noah’s Ark.
For fans of: Mountain Goats, post-post-Christianity.

Beacons of Ancestorship

Sounds like: Sixteen-year old Chi-town mainstay bakes up trippy post-rock, dub, electro and Krautrock souffle.
Free association: Did you slip something in my drink, or is the drummer this awesome?
For fans of: The Sea and Cake, Mogwai.

Grizzly Bear

Sounds like: The best record of the year—full of modern indie compositions that swell and climax.
Free association: Timeless and contemporary like high arched ceilings.
For fans of: Digestible Animal Collective, Beach House.

Tori Amos
Abnormally Attracted to Sin

Sounds like: Seventeen (!) songs of her creepy piano and toned-down banshee voice.
Free association: Tenth record + too many concepts / Lilith Fair.
For fans of: Martha Wainwright, weirdo women.

Grizzly Bear live at the Trocadero

It seems as though the four boys from Brooklyn are stepping into their moment in the sun. They sold out the Trocadero last night, most likely behind the booming success of their new LP Veckatemist. Even more so, the single “Two Weeks” is getting some serious airplay. And why shouldn’t it? It’s so catchy that those who hum find themselves singing along to the rise-fall-rise higher repetitions. And tonight Philly got a surprise little treat when Grizzly Bear played their big single—a guest appearance from the rather adorable Victoria Legrand, vocalist for Beach House. Her high-waisted mom slacks and bowtie were louder than her hushed contribution; a barely audible background vocal to Ed Droste’s crystal clear lead.

Their set included a welcome mix of 2006’s Yellow House standards but electrified and energized. “Knife” and “Little Brother” sound almost like countrified folk jams on disc. But after some trouble tuning Droste’s guitar, lead guitarist Dan Rossen came to the rescue so both guitars could chime in at the right moment for “Little Brother”’s many crescendos. Rossen shares lead vocal duties on some songs and his “My God That’s Not the Way” was one of the highlights of the set, as was the unforgettable galloping drum and haunting reprise of “I want you to know” and “I think it’s alright” from “Knife.”

Veckatemist highlights included the set and album opener “Southern Point.” Its slow and soft start with a buildup to a climactic guitar and drum explosion is characteristic of several strong Grizzly Bear songs, and Rossen can really shred when he gets hyped up, throwing in extra notes and strums as the moment requires. “Cheerleader” and “While You Wait for the Others” were other new standouts. Rossen’s slightly higher vocal fits very nicely over the rest of the bands howling, including drummer Chris Bear and bassist Chris Taylor. It’s on “While You Wait” where you can really appreciate that all four band members contribute to the vocal delivery while Rossen reaches over the top with “And what was there / The perfect cleft / We all fall through.”

It’s nice to love a new record, but even better to be assured that the guys making it aren’t just studio nerds. It would’ve been a boring show if they’d only thrown in one or two Yellow House jams, but Grizzly Bear are shaping up to be one of the best indie rock bands of the 2000s.

Record Review: Passion Pit and More

Passion Pit, Conor Oberst, Charles Ramsey, De La Soul, The Ghost Is Dancing, Wolff, Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard, Elvis Costello

Passion Pit

Sounds like: A lumpy puree of Hot Chip, Phoenix, the Notwist, Junior Boys and Four Tet that needs salt.
Free Association: Dance, hipster, dance!
For Fans Of: Any ole hot high-pitched vocal buzz band.

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Outer South

Sounds like: Conor really loves Texas and let his clone bandmates write.
Free Association: 16 songs of extra organ.
For Fans Of: Indulgence.

Charles Ramsey
Good Morning and Good Night

Sounds like: Sophomore effort from State College, Pa., kid whose emulation of Brian Wilson turned left at indie pop and got lost.
Free Association: Nearly empty bar, strumming on a stool.
For Fans Of: Morrissey after the Smiths.

Elvis Costello
Secret, Profane & Sugarcane

Sounds like: Elvis takes his toned-down whine to an acoustic bluegrass place that is surprisingly beautiful.
Free Association: Emmylou Harris at a picnic surrounded by tall grass.
For Fans Of: Dolly Parton.

Jeffrey Lewis & the Junkyard
‘Em Are I

Sounds like: Eerie at times, Strokes-y at others, a clever record from a comic artist with guest banjos and mandolins.
Free Association: Smirks, bus naps, notebooks and doodles.
For Fans Of: Neutral Milk Hotel without drugs/whining.

The Brass Ceiling

Sounds like: Mm hmm, tuba rock, done slowly with ominous guitar distortions and patient drums—tubas rock!
Free Association: Hold the suspenders/laderhosen, add a dirty rat tail.
For Fans Of: They Might Be Giants with ‘tude!

De La Soul
Are You In?
(Nike Sportmusic)
Sounds like: De La’s classic delivery meshed with that Nike exercise series thing.
Free Association: Sweaty headphones in my lawn.
For Fans Of: 3 Feet High and Rising.

The Ghost Is Dancing
Battles On

Sounds like: Toronto’s redheaded stepchild in the shadows of their more talented older brothers Metric and Broken Social Scene.
Free Association: Cute girl singer only gets you so far.
For Fans Of: Chairlift/loud Death Cab.