Thursday, May 01, 2008

(Relatively) New Albums Worth Checking Out

Sonic Youth - SYR7
Finally, the 7th installment in this ongoing, must-have, Sonic Youth experimental series. This is not for you Daydream Nation-only fans. Long-winded instrumental noise-weirdness. The best part is this series is it is actually a series. Each installment has consistent-looking album art. In addition to showcasing Sonic Youth at their most avant-garde, each album looks good together on your shelf. Sadly, this is the first vinyl only release of the series, which may destroy the uniformity of your SYR CD collection. Collect them all! Lee Ranaldo interview I did back in 2006 where we discussed this release coming shortly...

Thee Oh Sees - The Master's Bedroom is Worth Spending a Night In
Formerly OCS and The OhSees -- now Thee Oh Sees. Is this spelling change a Billy Childish reference/homage? Either way, John Dwyer (The Coachwhips, Yikes, Pink and Brown) and his band deliver yet another solid album. Keep them coming! This band has everything good: Punk, Folk, Experimental, Psychedelic, Soft, Loud, Male Vocals, Female Vocals. And John Dwyer will be happy to know that I think this sounds nothing like the B-52s...

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent
It wouldn't be proper if a year went by without The Fall releasing an album. Mark E. Smith is back with a brand new band (that shouldn't be surprising). This is their 27 (or 28th?) studio album. I'm not sure if it is available in the U.S. yet but I know all you Fall freaks will find a way to get your greasy hands on it. Must. Have. Complete. 28. Album. Discography...

Rhys Chatham & His Guitar Trio All-Stars - Guitar Trio is My Life!
Table of the Elements has released another nicely packaged Chatham box. This 3 disc set features recordings from Chatham's recent North American guitar trio tour. Over three hours worth of repetitive dissonant guitar strumming! Included in the recordings: Lee Ranaldo, Alan Licht, Thurston Moore, David Daniell and Tony Conrad. Each performance of the piece at first sounds identical, but those who are patient will be rewarded after each uniquely slow-building climax...



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The band you'll hate at the end of the year

Vampire Weekend.

Their album was officially released today (basically, its the same as what was going around last summer, just with strings added and 2 new songs), and really, every song is great. You can read all sorts of bullshit about the atmosphere and the preppiness-hipster battle thats deep within the album on pretty much all of the big music blogs today, but there isn't really a clunker to be found on the album (M79 comes the closest). Here's the thing though, they're a bunch of preppy, Ivy League dudes, and the album isn't that far separated from OAR-esque jam band douchiness (separated just enough to be great). Vampire Weekend is going to be everywhere. It's only a matter of time before the backlash comes, and in a big way too. Enjoy the album while you can, there's a lot to enjoy.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rafter - Sex, Death, Cassette

Rafter Roberts writes music for commercials (like Michael Bluth in Juno!*) , and he's part of the Sufjan Stevens crew. Therefore, he already had two strikes against him as I started to listen to Sex, Death, Cassette. Fortunately, Rafter was able to come up big with two strikes. Sex, Death, Cassette obliterates any possible genre classification but still manages to sound like a cohesive album, even with upbeat indie songs like "zzzpenchant," an Afrobeat impersonation in "Love Time Now Please," and (shudder) Sufjan Stevens-esque folk making frequent appearances. This is a testament to how well produced this album is, not surprising given that Rafter has produced for artists like the Rapture and Fiery Furnaces. Songs like "zzzpenchant" make you want to dance, while on the other end of the spectrum, "Tropical" is more heartfelt and somehow absorbing. Sex, Death, Cassette may be coming out in the winter, but it sounds like the perfect soundtrack for a drugged-out summer adventure. Oh, to be out of the cold...

Standout tracks: zzzpenchant, No-one Home Ever, How To and Why
Rating: 7/10

* I know his real name is Jason Bateman, and that he's been in many other things. I just refuse to accept that Arrested Development isn't real

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - Living With The Living

Ted Leo is the Billy Bragg of the 2000's. It's a comparison that he doesn't seem to like, but an apt one: he's the thoughtful punk with a conscience, he's content to let his lyrics do all the talking and with his Pharmacists, doesn't try to overwhelm the solid musicianship with volume and speed. He does try to branch out on his new album, Living With The Living, but the end result is the same - another great album. There's a lot of the Ted Leo standard of "thinking man's punk," but on "Bomb.Repeat.Bomb" he sounds more like Dexter Holland of the Offspring - and it's better than you'd think. His attempt at a reggae-influenced song, "The Unwanted Things," is, unfortunately, not better than you'd think, but when he takes a stab at a dancier song with "The Lost Brigade," it works, and well.

That's not to say that the old formula isn't still a good one. "Sons of Cain" is one of the best songs on the album, and "CIA," which is to Living With The Living what "Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone" was to Hearts of Oak, is right up there with it. "Colleen" is a little slower, but still great, and "Annunciation Day/Born on Christmas Day" is faster, but still great. All in all, a simply great album that makes me want to pick up a sign and go protest.

Overall: 9/10

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Monday, February 12, 2007

Albert Hammond, Jr. - Yours To Keep

Yours to Keep, the solo debut from Strokes' guitarist Albert Hammond, Jr., will undoubtedly be placed in the context of the Strokes, and for good reason. According to the NME, part of the impetus for making this album was the motherband rejecting many of Hammond's songs. And if Hammond was only the son of a famous songwriter, you could definitely hear a Strokes influence evident on the album. You would also hear a very solid CD. Owing a lot to the '50's pop of artists like Bobby Darin, it is a fun, simple, laid back album that doesn't have the same aura of 'cool' that permeates throughout Strokes records. Hammond sounds like a guy who just wants to play his guitar and sing some songs, not much more.

The stand-out track on the album is certainly "101." It is irresistibly catchy with good guitars and a big, sing-along chorus. The one downside to the song may be the female vocals that join Hammond, rising out of the background, and serve more as a distraction from the guitars at first, and when the two sing in unison, just feel too much like a top 40 pop song. Another stand-out is the first bonus track, "Postal Blowfish," which is undeniably a rock song. It has big drums and big guitars, and is still catchy as hell. On "Scared," Hammond sounds directly from the '50's bubblegum era until the chorus, which is dark and moody.

The one major knock against the album is that Hammond does not seem to know when to end songs. Often times, he will finish with the lyrics and the instrumentation of the song, then just play something totally different. This is especially evident on "Hard to Live in the City," which ends with a brass section not heard anywhere else in the album, and almost sounds like a ska song, which is the last thing you want to hear on this record. All in all, it's not hard to tell that Hammond came from the Strokes, but it's even easier to enjoy Hammond, with or without the support of Julian Casablancas and co.

Overall: 7.5/10

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Ela - Real Blood on Fake Trees

There was a time when emo wasn't such a bad thing. At The Drive-In has the e word listed as one of their styles on allmusic, and Jawbreaker's Dear You is still a classic. So perhaps it isn't a surprise that the first RIYL on the one-sheet for Ela's new CD Real Blood on Fake Trees is Jawbreaker. Ela plays an angular style of emo that doesn't share much in common with the brand of emo that is currently popular. Ela relies on dark melodies instead of comparing ex-lovers to arms dealers to create an intense disc that doesn't quite reaches the heights of Jawbreaker, but doesn't fall to the lows of what emo has come to represent either.

Overall: 6/10

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SnowLeopards - Debut

The debut CD for the SnowLeopards, aptly titled Debut, is very close to being just a generic piece of power-pop. What separates it from the rest of the pack is a retro vibe that permeates throughout the album, especially on "I'm on Fire" and "Hipmatize Me" (which may be one of the worst names for a song I've heard all year). With female vocals also, Debut isn't going to win the SnowLeopards the amount of fame that a debut such as that of the Arctic Monkeys garnered, but it could wind up being either a good guilty pleasure or a building block to successful second album - would that be named 2?


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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City

Bloc Party's sophomore effort, A Weekend In The City, sees the British band become more focused and more emotional. The album is centered around life in London, and you can tell that frontman Kele Okereke thinks change is needed. On "Hunting for Witches," Okereke wails "the newscaster says the enemy's among is not the time for liberal thought." This is also by far the album's stand out track, with big guitars leading up to big chorus, making it the album's catchiest and most anthemic song. The opener, "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)" talks about the status quo, and is another one of the album's top tracks, while "Uniform" attacks the influence of MTV. Bloc Party also slows things down a little too frequently on the album. Some of the slow songs, such as "Waiting For The 7:18" are great, resonant ballads, but other times, such as on "I Still Remember," you just want Bloc Party to speed things up again so you can get up and dance to London's shortcomings. All in all, this is a very good, if not great, album which could make Bloc Party the voice of today's youth - the same way that they criticize on "Uniform."

Overall: 7/10

The KWUR blog is back and ready to rock your out.

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