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November 2007 Reviews by

Ahleuchatistas*
All Night Chemists

Audubon Park
Beautiful Leopard
Blowing Up The World

Bottomless Pit
Boy/Girl

Brilliant Fanzine
Doug Burr*
Bush Tetras

Alex Clements
Columbine Kids

Cross Dump Applaud
Dan In Real Life
Darlington
Democratic Choice

The Dimes*
Doing Not Doing

Elizabeth The Golden Age
Everything, Now!
Extreme

4 Bonjour's Parties
The Fairer Sex*
Fantastic Merlins
The Forms*
Freescha
Germs

Brian Grainger
Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble
Marla Hansen

P J Harvey
*
Honeymoon

Jesca Hoop*
Japancakes
Gintas K
The Korgis
Larry The Cable Guy

Love Is Shit
Magnet School
MGMT

Minipop
Mouse Fire
Salim Nourallah

Nathan Oliver
Oprah, How Could You?

Origami Arktika
Pedro
Pet Targets

The Pillbugs

Primes
Prize Country
John Ralston
*
Chris Rice

The Rumble Strips
Saint Bernadette
Scum of the Earth
The Shroud of Who Cares
Spain vs. Mexico Revisited

Aaron Stout
Steel Train*
Chris Stills
*
Superman: Doomsday

These Are Powers
Toilet Boys
The Treats
Underwater Tea Party
Utensils

Viva Voce
World Unity

The Yarrows

*Top Picks

Additional Items Received

RATING SYSTEM:
= UNBELIEVABLY INCREDIBLE
= EXCELLENT
= VERY GOOD
= GOOD
= FAIR
= SHITTY

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Ahleuchatistas - Even in the Midst... (CD, Cuneiform, Progressive/instrumental)
If you think you've heard everything that is possible using the traditional setup of guitar, bass, and drums...then you probably haven't heard the music of Asheville, North Carolina's Ahleuchatistas. These three guys play extraordinarily complex instrumental music that doesn't sound like anyone else currently cruising the planet. This, the band's fourth full-length release, contains strange, frantic, obtuse music that will astound and amaze many listeners...while sending others running for the hills in a thick cloud of confusion. This trio's music sounds something like an instrumental punk version of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band. Unlike many loud progressive bands who play talentless junk, these guys are unbelievably proficient and tight on their instruments. Many of the passages on this album have to be played several times before the ideas fully sink in. We particularly like the herky-jerky rhythms and nervous, staccato instrumental sounds. Even in the Midst... is a wild ride indeed...giving the listener the feeling of being on an out-of-control roller coaster flying through space in the middle of the night. Challenging cuts include "...Of All This," "Cup of Substance" (great song title, that one...), "Elegant Proof," and "Swimming Underwater With a Cat on Your Back." Unique. Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

All Night Chemists - Spots (Independently released CD, Pop)
Cool, hummable guitar pop that occasionally recalls Ben Folds, Harry Nilsson, and even Rick Springfield at times (the vocals sound very much like Springfield). The three guys in All Night Chemists aren't following current trends in popular music. Instead of playing present day crap hop pop or fakey overproduced digital rock, these fellows play classic music that would have fit very comfortably in the charts in the 1970s and 1980s. But Spots isn't a retrospective album, mind you. The songs just have a sound and feel that recall classic pop from eras gone by. The band is the trio consisting of Len Monachello, Andy LaDue, and Brandon Wilde (along with several friends and/or associates who lend a helping hand on different tracks). Spots features eleven slices of groovy singalong pop music that is well arranged and well executed. If you're seeking noisy alternative stuff this CD may not rock your little blue boat. But if you're in the mood for some great seemingly familiar oughta-be-hits that you've never heard before...well, you will certainly find them here. Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5+)

Audobon Park - Teenage Horses (CD, Pox World Empire, Pop)
Okay, before we get started here...we're going to admit that this is a difficult one to describe and summarize. The most appropriate word that probably comes to mind here is...loose. The guys in Audobon Park present their debut album...seemingly rather pleased with their rough-around-the-edges approach to underground pop music. And pleased they should be...because even though some may be frightened away by the frayed edges on Teenage Horses...in the end, the band manages to effectively convey their ideas. Some of the songs sound slightly unpracticed...while some may feel that the vocals are off-key on other tracks. But we've always been suckers for substance...even at the mercy of other key factors that are usually considered integral to quality music. Lest we give the wrong impression here, let us clarify...this is not a piece of sloppy garbage. Just the opposite. This band just allows their music to sound real. And that is, of course, a very different approach from so many twenty-first century bands who bury their tunes in technology. These guys let their songs shine through...and that is the real beauty of this music. Oddball underground pop tracks include "Winter Gala (Jesus Wasn't a Doctor Either)," "Ghost City," "Sympathy for Youth," and "Window Lifestyles." Clever and unusual. Not all of the tunes are as good as others...but the ones that are cool are really, really cool... (Rating: 4+++++)

Beautiful Leopard - How Long Will It Take? (CD, Artoffact, Progressive pop/rock)
Where droning psychedelic rock and delicate smart pop collide...therein lies the odd music of Beautiful Leopard. How Long Will It Take? features ten tracks, most of which involve a combination of soft, intricate pop melodies and mind-numbing walls of sound. Some of the softer moments on this album may remind listeners of bands like Pink Floyd and Mercury Rev...while the louder segments recall the disturbing blur of Spiritualized. These folks aren't recording catchy pop nor are they leaning towards heavy, hard rock. These songs could probably best be described as art rock, because the band seems to be recording music that disregards specific genres. The more we spin this CD...the better it sounds. Cool, slightly obtuse cuts include "Same Old Things," "The Worse I Am," "New Times," and "Things Are Real." (Rating: 4+++++)

 

BLOWING UP THE WORLD

The answer my friend is
Blowing up the world.
The answer is blowing up
The world.

(Rating: 1)

Bottomless Pit - Hammer of the Gods (CD, Comedy Minus One, Progressive pop/rock)
Bottomless Pit is the quartet consisting of Tim Midgett, Andy Cohen, Chris Manfrin, and Brian Orchard...fragmented members of the bands Silkworm, Seam, and .22. These guys play good guitar pop/rock that doesn't follow traditional formulas. The music is kept simple and to a bare minimum...usually only featuring what sounds like two guitars, bass, and drums. Some of the tracks on Hammer of the Gods are reminiscent of the heavier side of Lou Barlow's Sebadoh. Unlike most bands, the lead vocal is usually just that...a single lead voice without any doubling or overdubs. This band's music does not quickly sink into the brain. The odd melodies and spontaneous guitars take a bit of getting used to. But after a few spins...the substance lurking beneath the waves breaks through. Top picks: "The Cardinal Movements," "Human Out of Me" (our favorite), and "Sevens Sing." (Rating: 4++++)

Boy/Girl - Secret Secret Secret Singles (CD EP, 307 Knox, Rock)
This is a very short EP consisting of five tracks ("Alcohol and Certain Medications," "The Shakes," "Stare to the Sun," "Kill Kill Kill," "Rorshack"). Boy/Girl is the duo consisting of Eric Stiner and Lisa Cusack. The songs on this EP are noisy and gritty...and seemingly fueled by sexual tension and psychedelia. In some ways, these folks' music is reminiscent of Patti Smith's first couple of albums (the guitars and vocals are particularly similar at times). While the overall tone is rough and ragged...Stiner and Cusack provide substance that makes the listener want to come back for repeated doses. Hard to come up with an overall feeling about a band based on such a tiny initial dose...but we are initially impressed with what these folks are doing... (Not Rated)

Brilliant Fanzine - Then Comes Monday (CD, Popboomerang, Pop)
Nice warm, hummable guitar pop that is occasionally reminiscent of bands like Dumptruck, The Shoes, and Starflyer 59. The folks in Brilliant Fanzine made a rather substantial splash in Australia with an EP they released in 2005 (One In 10,000). But shortly afterwards the band took a step back and then slowly made the necessary steps toward recording this, their debut album. Recorded in producer Simon Polinski's home studio, this album has a nice organic vibe...sounding very much like albums from the 1980s that were created entirely on analog equipment. The sound of the vocals is particularly inviting. Instead of the tinny overprocessed voices so common in twenty-first century pop, the vocals are super warm and depthy. The first single from the album ("Change For You") is the perfect lead track and sets the mood for the following tunes. The folks in this band have a very simple sound that is instantly recognizable. Soft guitars chime while neat, soaring melodies drive the music. This is definitely one of those albums that grows on you over time. Cool classy soft pop cuts include "Make It Yourself," "One In 10,000," "When It's Through, It's Gone," and "Then Comes Monday." (Rating: 5++)

Doug Burr - On Promenade (CD, Velvet Blue Music, Pop)
Doug Burr is a refreshing new voice in the world of music. Our guess is that On Promenade will end up on a lot of "best of" lists for 2007. Burr writes and records soft, melodic, pensive pop music that incorporates elements of American folk and classic pop...and there is a slight Irish flavor in some of his songs. On the first spin you might mistake Promenade for any other twenty-first century soft pop album. But on the fifth or sixth listen...the substance and genuine spirit of the music begins to shine through. These songs have a nice warm organic sound and Doug's super subtle vocals are exactly perfect for the style of songs he writes. The more we spin this album...the more impressed we are. Wonderfully sincere tracks include "Slow Southern Home," "Graniteville," "Thing About Trouble" and "Blood Runs Downhill" (easily one of the most beautiful songs we have heard this year). This is an album that is bound to stand the test of time. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Bush Tetras - Very Very Happy (CD, ROIR, Pop/rock)
A partially new album from Bush Tetras...and a partially great one at that. Six of the tracks on Very Very Happy were recorded by the band this year...and they sound absolutely killer. Throbbing bass lines grip the listener on "Nails," "Too Many Creeps" (our favorite), "Page," "Voodoo," "Punch Drunk," and "Jaws." These tracks find the band in truly fine form. Instead of sounding like they did on their past records from the 1980s, their sound has mutated and is now as vital and relevant as it ever was...and the vocals still sound superb. This album also contains five songs that were previously released as Tetrafied in 1996 and a tune that was included on 1997's We Will Fall: The Iggy Pop Tribute CD. These songs are pretty cool, but nowhere near as nifty as the band's new recordings. The bonus tracks are two live recordings that pretty much serve as filler. So...what we have here are some great songs, some good songs, and some extra live cuts. Hopefully this CD will ignite fans and the band to the point that they will record a totally new album of material. If that is the case...then Very Very Happy will have served its purpose well. (Rating: 4++++)

Alex Clements - Waiting For You... (Independently released CD, Jazz)
Our first reaction to this music was that it sounded much too much like Kenny G. But after spinning Waiting For You... a few times we eventually warmed up to the soft, cushy jazz music of Alex Clements. Unlike Kenny G...who creates light, surface music...Clements creates easy listening jazz that has substance lurking beneath the waves. As such, Waiting can be listened to in two ways. You can either spin the disc while paying close attention to the intricate and precise instruments...or you can simply use it as background music. Either way, you're bound to get bang for your bucks with this one. Clements has racked up some impressive achievements over the years and seems to be connected with all the right people. This is a slick and impressive album...even more so when you consider the fact that this is an independently released project. Cool tracks include "Blues for GB," "Old Balsam," "New Horizons," and "All I Can Give." (Rating: 5)

 

COLUMBINE KIDS

Those Columbine kids
Were so groovy and cool.
They carried out dreams
Shared by everyone in school.

(Rating: 1)

 

CROSS DUMP APPLAUD

While he was hanging
On the cross,
Bleeding and dying,
Jesus shit all over
Himself and
The crowd roared
With approval.

(Rating: 1)

Dan In Real Life - Original Soundtrack: Music by Sondre Lerche (CD, Virgin, Soundtrack)
This soundtrack reminds us very much of the soundtrack to the film About A Boy...mainly because that soundtrack was really a collection of pop songs by Britain's Badly Drawn Boy. The soundtrack to Dan In Real Life is, essentially, a collection of pop tunes by Norway's Sondre Lerche. Listening to this CD, in fact, you would probably never get the impression that it contains music recorded specifically for a film. Lerche's light, easy listening pop music is smooth and hummable...probably the perfect backdrop for the film (which stars the increasingly oversaturated talents of Steve Carell...he's great, but if we see and hear much more of him we're going to change our minds). In addition to original tunes, this CD also features interesting covers of Elvis Costello's "Human Hands" and Pete Townsend's "Let My Love Open the Door." In addition to the Sondre's tunes, the album also includes one song by the critically acclaimed band A Fine Frenzy (a cover of Peggy Lee's "Fever"). Soundtracks that are nothing more than various artists compilations are, in a word, BORING. Accordingly, the new wave of soundtracks that offer substantial music by a single artist are a breath of fresh air. This disc will no doubt have a dramatic effect on Lerche's career in a big, BIG way... (Rating: 5)

Darlington - Live Dallas 2007 (Independently released CD, Rock/pop/punk)
To delight his fans in between studio albums, Darlington offers a limited edition independently released live CD (only 1,000 copies were pressed) of the band playing live to tape/computer in Dallas, Texas in 2007. As such, this CD offers a precise snapshot of the band's sound. Darlington has never been afraid to let his influences be known. Two tracks on this CD were recorded in honor of his favorite bands, The Ramones and The Queers. The man with the bright pink guitar and the most colorfully overtatooed arms on the planet is sounding more and more like Joey Ramone these days. Supporting Darlington in this show were Brad (guitar, backing vocals), Tanner (bass, backing vocals), and Matt Morris (drums, backing vocals). Fans of the man...and anyone else into modern buzzsaw punk/pop...will love the rough and raw sounds of tracks like "SUV," "Pajama Party," "The Sweetest Kiss," "Judy Jetson," and "Ocelots." Definitely makes you want to catch the band in concert. (Rating: 5)

 

DEMOCRATIC CHOICE

Force democracy
Down everyone's throats
So that no one
Will have a choice.

(Rating: 1)

The Dimes - The Silent Generation (CD, Pet Marmoset, Progressive pop)
To whomever wrote the "Like Peppermint Candy?" press release that accompanied this CD, we have to hand it to you...because we had pretty much already decided that we were in love with this band before we even heard the music. Fortunately and in fact, the songs live up to the hype. The guys in The Dimes play music that is absolutely wonderful and absorbing. These folks effectively combine elements from 1970s European progressive rock with sounds from 1990s underground pop to create their own unique sound. Amazingly, The Silent Generation is the band's debut full-length release. Many artists spend their entire career trying to come up with something this mature and substantial. There's a lot of creative studio noodling going on here...but rather than detracting from the music it adds additional unique layers to the listening experience. But songs should be the central focus of any great band...and great songs abound on The Silent Generation. The Dimes occasionally sound something like a less poppy and more progressive, subdued version of The Hang Ups. The layered vocals sound fantastic...as do the subtle and slightly unpredictable arrangements. Oddly reserved and out-of-place in today's sometimes disappointing musical climate...The Dimes are clearly one of the most credible new artists we have heard in 2007. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

 

DOING NOT DOING

Anything worth doing
Is not worth
Doing.

(Rating: 1)

Elizabeth The Golden Age - Music From the Motion Picture (CD, Decca, Orchestral)
This is the follow-up film to Elizabeth (which was nominated for seven Academy Awards) and once again stars Cate Blanchett and Georfrey Rush. The music for Elizabeth The Golden Age was composed by Craig Armstrong and Ar Rahman. Armstrong previously wrote music for the films Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge and has worked with some big name artists including Madonna, Bjork, and Massive Attack. Rahman wrote the music for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Bombay Dreams and wrote the score for the stage play Lord of the Rings. Now that the facts are out of the way...onto the music at hand. This 20 track CD features some wonderful music that undeniably captures the spirit of the times in which Queen Elizabeth I ruled (as if we were there to know what things were like then...not!). The instrumentals are great...but the tracks that feature haunting walls of choral voices are just fantastic. This is very weighty cerebral music will likely thrill serious music enthusiasts. There's no telling how long it took to compose these tracks. The preciseness of the recording and the exacting nature of the players is remarkable. Truly compelling stuff. (Rating: 5+)

Everything, Now! - Ugly Magic (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
Indianapolis, Indiana's Everything, Now! is, without a doubt, one of our favorite up-and-coming obscure oddities. At this point in their career, the folks in this band are doing everything themselves...recording and releasing their own music...and even making their own CD covers. Ugly Magic is, not surprisingly, a weird spin. The band continues in kooky pop territory that lies somewhere in between The Flaming Lips and Claudia Malibu. The first track ("Cursed be the Everything, Now! and All Who Sail With It") seems to be a jagged satire on popular music. It's a very funny song indeed. There are lots of frenzied, urgent pop oddities here...and the band seems to be delving more and more into multi-layered instruments and vocals. While we certainly enjoy the sounds on Ugly Magic...we were more impressed by the band's songs on their last release (Bible Universe). Whereas the last album seemed to emphasize songs, Magic seems to place a heavier emphasis on the recording process. But hey...no matter. Even though this is not their best album, it is still light years beyond what most independent bands are capable of producing. Odd tracks like "Babyshaker," "I Was on a Quiz Show," and "Dreamin About Bein Well-Hung Blues" certainly cannot be ignored. We sure wish these folks would include lyrics with their albums...because the words are almost always intriguing and hilarious. Another great little album from a truly great little band. At some point in the near future...we'd be willing to bet these folks are going to be hugely successful... (Rating: 5++)

 

EXTREME

Extreme hair,
Extreme clothing,
Extreme wrestling,
Extreme music,
Extreme racing,
Extreme makeovers.

When everything
Is extreme
Nothing is extreme
Anymore.

(Rating: 1)

4 Bonjour Parties - Pigments Drift Down to the Brook (CD, Mush, Progressive)
4 Bonjour's Parties is a seven-piece band based in Tokyo, Japan consisting of Ayumu Haitani, Koji Ueno, Tomomi Shikano, Hirokasu Kusakabe, Daisuke Kurihara, Yukiko Hamada, and Masashi Tabei. Pigments Drift Down to the Brook is an intriguing collection of tunes that range from soft and subdued progressive pop to slightly jazz-flavored pieces that occasionally (and very slightly) recall the sound of Stereolab. Some of the band's songs are sung in English while others are in Japanese. One thing is certain. These folks are taking an approach that doesn't sound like any other Japanese band we have heard of late. Except for some of the lyrics, this band's music sound has much more in common with America's modern underground progressive artists. These tunes feature dreamy, complex arrangements with unusual layers of instruments...and vocals that are simultaneously familiar and peculiar. Pigments is a strange spin with lots of subtle sounds that only become apparent with repeated spins. Curious cuts include "Magpie Will Peck a Hole in My Plaster Cast," "Your Chill Long Hands," "Amalthea," and "Otogima Horse." (Rating: 4++++)

The Fairer Sex - Two Can Win (CD, Ionik Recording Company, Pop)
We had to listen to this album a few times before we finally came to the conclusion that the music on Two Can Win is strangely reminiscent of the vastly underrated and criminally overlooked band The Hang Ups. Considering the fact that The Hang Ups are one of our favorite bands of all time, this is a rather substantial compliment to the folks in The Fairer Sex. This Lawrence, Kansas band consists of Tim Schapker, David Wetzel, Ed Epps, Zack Hart, and Charlie Naramore. This, their debut album, is a collection of pure, clean pop tunes delivered with sincerity and style. These songs sound nothing like the current overproduced dribble churned out by all the carbon copy dime-a-dozen pop artists that the public adores. These tracks are sparse and simple...and feature wonderfully gliding vocal melodies. Twelve inventive cuts including "At Last At Least," "Be Long," "Nadine," "The Days," and "I Have a Friend Who Can Sail." Recommended. (Rating: 5++)

Fantastic Merlins - Look Around (CD, Innova Recordings, Instrumental)
Fantastic Merlins is the four piece group consisting of Nathan Hanson (tenor saxophone), Jacqueline Ferrier-Ultan (cello), Brian Roessler (bass), and Federico Ughi (drums). Together, these four individuals play unpredictable improvisational instrumental music that incorporates elements of jazz, modern classical, and modern mood music. The seven-plus minute opening track ("Look Around") is a rather wild way to begin an album. The piece is heady and meandering...often relying more on sounds than on melodies and the percussion that is present is rather random and spontaneous. But just when you think the band is heading too far into the deep end, they snap back with a slightly more conventional modern jazz piece ("I Was Behind the Couch All the Time"). The third track ("A Very Small Animal") is odd and strangely spooky and confusing. These folks' ability to alternative between atmospheric mood music and esoteric modern jazz is impressive indeed. Other standout tracks include "Dance Partner," "Lenny," "Line," and "Bright and Wide." The playing is precise and determined and the sound quality is exceptional. The folks in Fantastic Merlins teeter in and out of experimental territory...while retaining enough familiar elements to hold their listeners' attention. Excellent. (Rating: 5++)

The Forms - The Forms (CD, Three Spheres, Progressive pop)
The Forms is the quartet consisting of Alex Tween, Matt Walsh, Brendan Kenny, and Jackson Kenny. When we last heard from The Forms back in 2002, like other writers around the globe we were rather impressed with their Icarus album. At that time, we compared their music to Drive Like Jehu and XTC. While these comparisons still hold true to some degree, at this point it is difficult to adequately compare these guys' music to other folks because they have managed to craft their own unique sound on this self-titled album. On this CD the fellows in this band manage to do a lot using only the bare essentials. Considering how many guitar bands there are on the planet, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other. On the surface, it might be easy to dismiss The Forms' music as more of the same. But if you pay very close attention, you will notice some very subtle but striking differences that make this band's songs stand out from the pack. Strange, obtuse differences...the way the guitars are played...the way the melodies are constructed...arrangements that are almost straightforward and conventional but really aren't... After spinning this CD several times...we finally came to the conclusion that these guys have truly outdone themselves this time around. The Forms is bound to blow lots of folks away by year's end. Strangely compelling tracks include "Knowledge In Hand," "Focus," "Blue Whale" (love the warped record sound in this one), "Transmission," and "Getting It Back." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Freescha - Freeschaland (Double CD, Attacknine / Darla, Instrumental/experimental)
Even though Freeschaland is a collection CD, it serves as our initial introduction to the world of Freescha. These CDs contain all the tunes from the band's first two 12" releases, the Lift EP, an on-line download, sound bites, and alternate versions of songs. As is the case with most Darla releases, we had to spin this one several times before coming to conclusions about the music. Freescha is the duo consisting of Nick Huntington and Michael McGroarty. Together, the two create instrumental music with a difference...that main difference being the instruments and sounds used. The synthesized sounds on these two discs remind us very much of keyboard sounds from artists from the past like Gary Numan and Devo. But instead of danceable new wave music, Huntington and McGroarty create subtle, hypnotic music that is difficult to describe. The rhythms are particularly out-of-place in today's clean-cut world. Instead of using the latest phat drum sounds, these fellows use percussion that seems to be purposely dated and tinny (on many occasions sounding like an old Dr. Rhythm machine). These discs contain a wealth of material...twenty-three strange instrumentals with funny names. Our favorites are the tracks that sound like soundtracks to old science fiction television programs (like "Making Oranges" and "Making Oranges (Version)"). The first disc is quite long...lasting well over 70 minutes...while the second CD features just over a half hour's worth. Neat stuff from a different universe... (Rating: 5+)

 

GERMS

Our children are our
Germs.
Eradicate the
Germs.

(Rating: 1)

Brian Grainger - Eight Thousander (CD, Attacknine / Darla, Instrumental/experimental/atmospheric/ambient)
Peculiar. Very peculiar. This, the first solo release from Brian Grainger, is an ambient/atmospheric/instrumental release that can really alter your consciousness. The eight tracks on this album are improvisational compositions recorded using only a guitar and an organ...and there are no overdubs. But what is most intriguing about this album...is that the sounds in these songs sound nothing like a guitar or an organ. Grainger saturated the sounds coming from his instruments to the point where they are truly unrecognizable. His subtle drones are foreign and strangely calming. It's almost as if you are deep, deep, deep in a cave and you can hear something in the distance that doesn't sound quite like music...perhaps echoes from the ocean or the wind. Very slow and subdued, these pieces are bound to please anyone who ever loved Brian Eno's early ambient releases. If you want to create a weird mood in your living environment, this one will surely do it. Ahhhhhhh............ (Rating: 5)

Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble - Steve Reich: Music for 18 Musicians (CD, Innova Recordings, Modern classical)
Students and volunteers from Grand Valley State University spent about a year rehearsing and recording this project. Serious music critics and reviewers will no doubt be rather knocked out by their recreation of Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicians. This is by no means an amateurish student project that doesn't add up. This is an excellent recording that has even been endorsed by Reich himself. Steve was decades ahead of his time when he composed this music in the 1970s. Not surprisingly, the material sounds anything but dated. Music features fourteen pieces which often recall the music of Phillip Glass. The music is hypnotic and slightly surreal...ultimately serene and essentially cerebral. The is a stereo/multichannel hybrid SACD that can be played on any standard CD player. We haven't heard it in 5.1 surround sound yet...but our guess is that the multichannel experience will be absolutely mind expanding... (Rating: 5)

Marla Hansen - Wedding Day (Independently released CD EP, Soft pop)
Marla Hansen's music sounds something like a cross between Linda Draper and Sufjan Stevens (who, coincidentally, plays on this EP). The first thing that stands out about Hansen's material is the fact that her songs are based around a gently plucked viola. The second thing that stands out...is the fact that she can write such genuine and mature songs at such an early stage in her career. This is a short EP that features six tunes that clock in at just over 25 minutes. Our guess is that, based upon these recordings, Marla will quickly generate substantial word-of-mouth that will have a great many people anticipating her next full-length release. Soft, smart, subdued tunes include "A Friend Indeed," "Wedding Day," "All Clear," and "Hollow and Bold." Uniquely genuine and real. (Rating: 5+)

P J Harvey - White Chalk (CD, Island, Progressive pop)
Way, way back...many years ago...we were eager to heap plenty of praise upon young P J Harvey. Early in her career, she was a truly compelling and unique voice that was impossible to ignore. Over the years, however, our interest waned and waned...until we had just about given up on her. While we admire artists who take different approaches with their albums, we just didn't really care for the directions that P J was taking. Never say never, however. And thankfully we didn't just toss White Chalk to the side...because this is easily Harvey's best album in years. We did a bit of internet reading on this one before writing this review...and were not surprised in the least to find that Polly Jean's diehard fans are quite evenly divided on this one. Many just don't care for the album at all...while others feel (like us) that this is Harvey's best album since Rid Of Me. That said, White Chalk is obviously not for everyone. This is a very odd, personal, subtle, reflective album. The tunes are extremely restrained and peculiar...and P J's vocals sound simultaneously fragile and occasionally unrehearsed. Although the overall sound is very different, Polly Jean's approach on this album reminds us very much of Lisa Germano. In fact, we can't help but believe that Germano's music must have influenced these recordings in one way or another. Whatever the case, in our minds this marks the triumphant return of P J Harvey. Eleven odd, peculiar, pensive tracks that sound absolutely...heavenly. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Honeymoon (DVD, Brink / MVD Visual)
Talk about an unusual view. Honeymoon is a documentary that takes viewers behind the scenes at Paradise TV, a 24-hour television sex channel in Tokyo. The film presents some of the day-to-day occurrences in the life of producer Eno, a man who freely admits that the main reason he directs is that it gives him a chance to talk to girls (because he himself has never had a real relationship). All of us have seen tons of pornography of course...but how many times have you seen how things really operate behind the scenes...? If you think the actors and actresses are sincere while they are sucking and screwing away, you are living in dreamland. There's a lot of giggling going on behind the scenes at Paradise TV as the employees laugh openly at all the ridiculous things they are doing. And while callers are oh-so-serious while jacking off as they watch sexy kittens on the screen...the guys in the control booth are laughing their asses off at how stupid and ridiculous the men are. It is particularly hilarious when the girl is right in the middle of some lewd, dirty act...a little bell rings...and she quickly stops and apologizes to the caller because the timer has run out. There is no narrator in this documentary because it was unnecessary. What you see is what it is. Although this film is certainly absurd and very, very funny...there are also some very sad undercurrents. Considering how many millions of people there are in the world...it seems very sad and depressing that it is apparently so difficult for many people to make any real physical contact with one another. Honeymoon succeeds on many different levels. The film sheds humorous light on what is often presented as a very serious topic... (Rating: 5+)

Jesca Hoop - Kismet (CD, Columbia, Pop)
The first time we listened to the debut from North California's Jesca Hoop we thought...hmmm...the lead track ("Summertime") is fantastic...but the rest of the album seems confusing. By the ninth or tenth spin we changed our minds completely. "Summertime" is a great song with true hit potential...but the remainder of Kismet is even more spectacular. Young Jesca Hoop has recorded an album that is bound to be interpreted many different ways by many different people. Most artists have one sound or style...while Jesca has many. This album has true staying power that makes it an instant classic. Whereas the average pop album gets old after a few spins, Kismet retains its attraction long, long after the newness has worn off. Actually and in fact, we put this in the same league as Kate Bush's first couple of albums. Jesca is a complex young lady whose music has real depth and substance. She has a voice to die for...but her songs are the real centerpiece. Her vocals sound very much like Kirsty MacColl at times...but her tunes are very different. Now that we've spun this one fifteen times or more...we can honestly say that we are totally in love with this music. Eleven killer tracks here including "Seed of Wonder," "Money," "Love Is All We Have" (intoxicatingly beautiful), "Havoc In Heaven," and "Love and Love Again." HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. (Rating: 6)

Japancakes - Loveless (CD, Darla, Instrumental)
This is a CD that is bound to cross-pollinate...as the members of Athens, Georgia's Japancakes offer a cover version of My Bloody Valentine's Loveless album complete in its entirety. The main difference between the two is that pedal steel guitar and cello now take the place of vocals. This must have been quite an undertaking...but it was obviously a labor of love. What we find interesting about this album is how much some of the segments occasionally recall instrumentals by Electric Light Orchestra (!). The folks in Japancakes must be on a roll...this is the second full-length we have received by the band in less than a month. Will diehard My Bloody Valentine fans be drawn into these tracks...or repelled by the fact that another band would attempt to recreate the holy grail? Our guess is that even the most serious fans will be impressed. Heady, dreamy, and slightly surreal...in our opinion this time Japancakes have come up with a recording that is just as unique and satisfying as the original. (Rating: 5+)

Gintas K - 13 Tracks (CD, Percepts, Noise/experimental)
Given the fact that his full Lithuanian name (Gintas Kraptavicius) would be difficult for most Americans to remember and/or pronounce, Gintas K has probably made a wise marketing move by making the decision to shorten his name. 13 Tracks is weird...really, really weird. And it is also bound to alienate 99% of those who hear it. Gintas records from the "noise is music" school of thought. He has been involved in the undercurrents of the music scene since the mid-1990s. This lengthy album (over 70 minutes) features strange, cold, electronic instrumentals that don't involve traditional instruments and/or song structures. Gintas takes sounds and manipulates them into music. The results...are stark and peculiar. Many of these pieces spin like the soundtrack to a really weird science fiction film. Quite difficult to describe indeed. While we certainly can't recommend this to everyone...folks into the more peculiar sounds of the universe will be enchanted with oddball compositions like "Nezinau," "Ritmas," "12-03," "WWW," and "Maiden." While some folks may hate this kind of stuff...we absolutely love it... (Rating: 5++)

The Korgis - This World's for Everyone (Import CD Reissue, Angel Air, Pop)
Deluxe reissue of The Korgis' 1992 album This World's for Everyone...complete with five bonus tracks. For those who are not familiar with them, The Korgis were one of those bands that had a brief glimpse of fame in the early 1980s...and then, for the most part, disappeared into obscurity (this album closes with a re-recording of the band's most well known hit "Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime"). While this album was originally sold in several countries at the time of its release, up until this point in time it had never been made available in Great Britain. The songs on This World's for Everyone are very different from the sound of the band's first couple of albums. They are much more glossy and overproduced...possibly and seemingly recorded with the idea of garnering a hit (?). As such, the material is nowhere near as cool and nifty as the band's early 1980s recordings. Still, considering how many folks have turned onto The Korgis over the years, this release will undoubtedly be welcomed by pop historians around the world. (Rating: 4++)

Larry The Cable Guy - Christmastime in Larryland (CD, Warner Bros., Comedy)
Just in time for the 2007 holiday season, the-most-famous-of-them-all redneck comedian Larry The Cable Guy releases his latest Christmas CD. Christmastime in Larryland is loosely centered around the theme of an old-time radio show. Like Lily Tomlin's Modern Scream album from decades past, Christmastime is a studio album in which various sketches are presented (as opposed to basic stand-up comedy). Larry's comedy is interesting in many ways. When he isn't funny, he comes across as an artificial redneck. But when he's funny...well, he's just really, really funny. It isn't surprising that Cable humor has caught on in such a big way with so many people. Larry's humor is extremely juvenile (just like most people, including us...). He comes across very much like a full grown man who has the mind and sense of humor of a twelve year old boy. We came to a couple of conclusions while listening to this. First, Larry is funnier seeing him perform (rather than just listening to him)...mainly because he is a real funny looking fellow. Secondly, this man-boy seems to be at his best performing in front of a live audience. While Christmastime in Larryland is an entertaining spin to be certain, we're more interested in seeing Larry's upcoming (and first) Christmas DVD that will be released December 2007... (Rating: 4+++)

 

LOVE IS SHIT

Love is shit.
Shit is love.
Love is shitting,
Shitting love.
Love is asking
To be shit.

(Rating: 1)

Magnet School - Tonight! (CD, Arclight, Pop/rock)
Wow...some of the guitar sounds on this album are truly mind-blowing. The guys in Magnet School have recorded a pop/rock album with a really thick, dense, slick overall sound. This is a very strong debut...co-produced by Chico Jones and the band members. These songs and, particularly the delivery, recall some of the better guitar bands of the 1990s. The instruments and arrangements on Tonight! may remind many folks of some of U2's more epic recordings. But, thankfully, that's where the similarities end. Vocalists Michael J. Wane and Mark Ford can sing circles around tired old fart Bono. The songs on this album pack a punch...but in the end they are basically pop songs that feature loud, driving guitars. Based upon what we're hearing here...we'd bet that these guys can blow a crowd away in concert. Hummable mental rockers include "XX," "Crush," "Angeldust," and "Curtain Call." (Rating: 4++++)

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular (CD, Columbia, Pop)
Interesting stuff. MGMT is a band with a slightly unusual approach and sound. The tunes on Oracular Spectacular sound something like a cross between The Flaming Lips and...Prince (?!)...without sounding too much like either. Instead of playing overtly commercial music or underground noise, this band plays tunes that teeter somewhere in the middle. The songs are nice and melodic...but the arrangements are surprisingly creative and unorthodox. The cover art is weird to say the least. Looking at the packaging, one would guess that this was a cheaply produced homemade CD-R (which may be exactly the effect the band wanted). But make no mistake, these tunes are smooth and slick. Out of these ten cuts there really isn't a bad track. Our guess is that Oracular Spectacular will slowly gain super strong word-of-mouth support on the street and on the internet. We sure hope so...because this is an album that is certainly worthy of attention. Wonderfully nifty cuts include "Time to Pretend," "Electric Feel," "Pieces of What," and "Future Reflections." Great music for driving. (Rating: 5+)

Minipop - A New Hope (CD, Take Root, Pop)
Super thick, slick pop with female vocals that recalls early Ivy in some ways. The band's web site was being revamped when we went to visit at the time of this review, so we could not quickly retrieve any relevant information. So we'll just concentrate on the sounds we're hearing on A New Hope. Minipop is the band consisting of Lauren Grubb (drums), Nick Forte (bass), Tricia Kanne (vocals), and Matthew Swanson (guitar, keyboards). Two guys and two girls whose music has a nice familiar infectious sound that is both commercially and artistically viable. The band's hummable pop songs feature a Phil Spector-ish wall of modern electronic sound and super smooth overdubbed vocals. A nice, appropriate mix of familiar guitar sounds and experimental electronics combine to create a whirlwind type of effect. True, there are a lot of bands playing this kind of music lately. But few have as much style and personality as the folks in Minipop. Killer catchy tunes include "Like I Do," "Someone To Love," "Precious," "Wearing Thin," and "My Little Bee." (Rating: 5+)

Mouse Fire - Wooden Teeth (CD, Lujo, Pop)
An extraordinarily strong debut from Lakeland, Florida's Mouse Fire. The band sounds something like a cross between Lilys and Starflyer 59...without ever sounding too much like either one. What impresses us most about this album is the fact that the gentlemen in this band have already defined their sound and style...a feat that takes many artists several years to achieve. The band consists of Joey Bruce (vocals, guitar), Shane Schuch (guitar, keys, vocals), Aaron Venrick (drums), and Justin Cason (bass). These guys' songs have an interesting sound that teeters just over the edge of the line that separates pure guitar pop from progressive pop. The songs are smart and smooth but never samey and predictable. And the vocals are absolutely mind blowing. Super smart arrangements are integral to the band's sound. The instrumental lines are sometimes complex and studied while never sounding overbaked and unnecessarily noodle-ish. Killer modern pop tracks include "Culvaria," "Fell Good Drag," "To Celebrate a Suicide," "Chicago Ain't the Answer," and "This is How I Throw My Slider." Recommended. (Rating: 5++

Salim Nourallah - Snowing In My Heart (CD, Tapete / Western Vinyl, Pop)
We have been huge fans of Faris Nourallah and Salim Nourallah for years now (the pair originally recorded together as The Nourallah Brothers). Snowing In My Heart is Salim's most polished and accessible album yet. The disc features more of the simple, genuine, plaintive pop that has made Salim a favorite among pop fans around the world. This time around, Nourallah's songs have a sound and style that could potentially appeal to a much wider audience...mainly because of the more familiar sounding, full arrangements and more conventional sounding melodies. Twelve satisfying tunes here including "Hang On," "The Wicked Are Winning," "It's Okay to be Sad," and "It's Lonely When You're All Alone." While this may not be Salim's strongest album, it is almost certain to satisfy his growing legion of fans. This collection of tunes is light years beyond what most modern popsters are capable of producing. Wonder what Faris is up to these days...? (Rating: 5+)

Nathan Oliver - Nathan Oliver (CD, Pox World Empire, Pop)
Nathan Oliver is the name used by Nathan White when he plays music (White is currently studying dentistry at the University of North Carolina). When he's not learning about teeth, Nathan writes and records strangely personal pop music. This, his self-titled debut album, is bound to be interpreted differently by those who hear it. Instead of writing obvious pop, Nathan writes tunes that seem driven by personal experiences and reflection. As such, these tunes are remarkably unpretentious and real. After spinning this disc a few times...we came to the conclusion that we prefer Oliver's soft side. On some of the louder tracks ("Old Slow Poke," "Greys and Blacks") the vocals seem a bit pushed. The mid-tempo compositions are much more interesting ("No Name," and "Pray Tell" in particular). But super soft tracks like "I Lived In A Crater" and "Sleep Song" made the biggest impression on us. This is not a perfect album...but it does pave the way for what is bound to be a long and rewarding career. As hard as we have tried...we can't come up with a single comparison or reference point here (???!!)...and that is a very good thing. (Rating: 4+++)

 

OPRAH, HOW COULD YOU?

Oprah, how could you?
You got caught with your
Panties down.
Doin' things to them girliepoos
That you said was so wrong.

See what you get
For tryin' to improve the world?
Slapped in the face with a lawsuit
For tryin' to mess around with them
Teenage girls.

(Rating: 1)

Origami Arktika - Trollebotn (CD, Silber, Progressive)
The story about how this album came to be is just as odd and interesting as the music itself. The folks in Origami Arktika traveled to a small island that overlooks the mythic city of Trollebotn in Norway. Once they got their equipment set up, they recorded their versions of traditional folk songs from the area...often incorporating the natural sounds of the wilderness around them into the recordings. The result...is a strange and unusual collection of tunes that stray far, far, far from the beaten path. Because of the odd, obtuse nature of this music, our guess is that this CD will have a very limited appeal. After all, how many friends do you know who can't wait to get their hands on the latest copy of a CD that features forgotten folks songs from the mythic city of Trollebotn? Probably not too many (!). One thing is for sure...this album doesn't sound the least bit like anything else we have heard this year. Thus, because originality is indeed one of the greatest traits of interesting music, we most heartily recommend this to folks into adventurous and unusual music. Extremely unorthodox. (Rating: 5+)

Pedro - You, Me & Everyone (CD, Mush, Progressive)
When we first started spinning this album we had the volume turned up very loud. But after a couple of listens we turned the volume down...and only then did we begin to appreciate the smooth, subtle sounds on You, Me & Everyone. London's Pedro creates music that incorporates ideas, sounds, and styles from a wild variety of sources...and yet the end result is strangely familiar and slightly soothing. This is the sort of music that can either be listened to intently...or played in the background to set a particular mood. Elements from jazz, pop, dub, electronica, and rock collide and paddle around in an odd swirl in these tunes. Because of the curious nature of this music, it is rather difficult to accurately describe it with words...you have to hear this stuff to get a real grip on it. The more we spin You, Me & Everyone...the deeper the impression it makes... (Rating: 5+)

 

PET TARGETS

Shoot your pet.
Put a bullet in its
Head.
Keep on shooting
Until all your pets are
Dead.

(Rating: 1)

The Pillbugs - Monclovia (CD, Rainbow Quartz, Pop)
Cool hummable pop music that effectively combines the sounds of 1960s American bands, the British Invasion, and guitar pop from the 1980s. Toledo, Ohio's Pillbugs have come up with some real winners on this album. The songs on Monclovia recall a variety of artists ranging from the poppier side of XTC to Outrageous Cherry to The Raspberries and even The Beatles at times. The band's melody-driven guitar pop features cool production tricks and nice, loopy, psychedelic guitars (we particularly love all the backwards effects and sitar). The band consists of Mark Mikel, Dan Chalmers, Scott Tabner, Mark Kelley, and Dave Murnen. Listening to this music, one can't help but get the impression that these guys truly love writing and recording. The strength of the material and the sincerity of the music clearly shines through. Nice smart heady tracks include "Here's to the End of Time," "Good to Be Alive," "Hold Me So Near," and "Liberty Town of Love." (Rating: 5+)

Primes - Facades and Pink Forms (CD, Postfact, Techno/dance/pop)
Modern techno club dance music. Primes is the duo consisting of Tanya Pea and Jack Duckworth who, in addition to playing music together, also run the graphic art company called The Wax Museum (which may explain the cool Warhol-esque artwork on Facades and Pink Forms). This album features eleven cool technology-driven dance tunes that occasionally sound something like a more tamed down version of KMFDM. The arrangements are simple and appropriate...and the vocals unemotional and distant. In many ways, the music on this album harkens back to the 1990s when industrial rock seemed to rule the kingdom in the world of underground clubs. Pea and Duckworth's music seems slightly out of place in today's market...and that just may be its greatest strength. Cool tracks include "You're In Danger," "Trojan Horse," "Consumher," and "Convert What Was." Recommended for fans of KMFDM, David Bowie, and Gary Numan. (Rating: 4++++)

Prize Country - Lottery of Recognition (CD, Exigent, Hard rock)
Good, thick hard rock that recalls the more straightforward sounds of Drive Like Jehu. The problem with most hard rock bands is that they think way too much about what they're doing. In most cases, when bands just turn up and let it rip...everyone seems to have a much better time. And that's exactly what the guys in Prize Country do on Lottery of Recognition. The album features a nice, thick, throbbing sound...huge overdriven guitars...and a real screamer of a vocalist who is not only intense and aggressive...but believable. The band consists of Jacob Depolitte (guitars, vocals), Aaron Blanchard (vocals, guitars), Josh Northcutt (drums), and Jon Hausler (bass). Hard rock fans will get a major rush out of this band's debut. Killer cuts include "Nice View," "A Wink and a Smile," "Deal or No Deal," and "The New One." Harsh, smart, and focused. (Rating: 5)

John Ralston - Sorry Vampire (CD, Vagrant, Pop)
Are U.S. rock/punk labels...turning to pop? Maybe, maybe not. But lately it seems that some of America's best-known underground rock labels are increasingly opting to sign pop acts. John Ralston is one such artist. This, his second full-length release, is chock full of slick, thick, smart, well-arranged straightforward pop tunes. So many new popsters sound like carbon copies of either Sufjan Stevens or Ben Folds (both of whom we admire greatly...but we get tired of all the imitators). Ralston is most definitely not aping the sound of others. While his tunes definitely sound very familiar in many ways, they don't quite sound like anyone else we've heard of late. His songs feature strong melodies, smart lyrics, and layers upon layers of vocals and instruments. What we find most remarkable is how incredibly mature Ralston's songs are...particularly when you consider the fact that this is only his second solo album. Sorry Vampire is a disc that will appeal to listeners of all ages. Classic memorable cuts include "Fragile," "When I Was a Bandage," "A Small Clearing," "Second Hand Lovers," and "Where You Used To Sleep." Excellent from start to finish. (Rating: 5++)

Chris Rice - What a Heart is Beating For (CD, Ebflo / Ino, Pop)
Is there any hope at all for commercial pop music in the twenty-first century? If you had asked us this question a few months ago we would have said no way in hell. But this month we were turned onto the music of both Chris Stills and Chris Rice...and our opinion has changed just slightly (i.e., there actually might be a teeny-tiny chance in hell). Rice is already a commercially successful artist whose music sells and yet we were quite surprised to find what a pleasing spin What a Heart is Beating For is. Sure, there are much more original and adventurous artists on the planet. But in the world of sellable commercial pop acts, Chris stands out because--underneath it all--his music has substance and he seems like a nice, humble fellow. But of course songs are what count...and songs are what make this album memorable. Cool, subtle, hummable soft pop tracks include "So Much For My Sad Song," "Pardon My Dust," "Lemonade," and "Kids Again." This album proves that you don't have to sell out to sell music. But if that's the case...we can't help but wonder why so many other big name commercial artists do nothing more than crank out the crap...? Yeah, yeah, we already know the answer to that one...because the general public loves the taste of crap. (Rating: 4++++)

The Rumble Strips - Alarm Clock (CD EP, Universal Island, Pop/rock)
Huh? What is this...? A ska/pop version of Devo...with horns...??? That was certainly our first impression of the tunes on the Alarm Clock EP. The United Kingdom's Rumble Strips play a hard, driving, catchy style of modern pop that is strangely reminiscent of the original Spuds (and even Oingo Boingo at times). This is the first disc by the band to be released in the United States and they are playing a small number of live shows to support the EP. The playing is tight and the songs delivered with appropriate focus. We have to admit that we have never been big fans of ska nor pop with horns so this isn't really up our own peculiar alley. But we'd bet that folks into this style of music will probably be leaping all over each other to get to the front of the stage when these guys play... (4++)

Saint Bernadette - In The Ballroom (CD, Exotic Recordings, Pop)
The sound of the past delivered in the present featuring the superb sound quality that modern technology allows. The folks in Bridgeport, Connecticut's Saint Bernadette recorded In The Ballroom in an appropriate setting. After the band members found out about about a 1908 ballroom on the second floor of an historic theatre in the city, they asked for permission to record there. The developers gave them five days...so they recorded all of the tracks for this album on the spot with everything played live. The band's songs are sultry and slightly jazzy...and feature some strangely hypnotic guitars. Vocalist Meredith Dimenna is the obvious focal point of the band. The subtle restraint of her voice often recalls the late great Peggy Lee. Instead of pushing herself or her band, she just lets the music ooze out of her consciousness. Smart, moody, and dreamy, the tracks on In The Ballroom are great for creating the mood for a really groovy evening. Top picks: "I Own The City," "She's a Natural," "Sidestep," and "No Dreams." (Rating: 5+)

Scum of the Earth - Sleaze Freak (CD + DVD, Eclipse, Rock)
Hard cocky rock with death metal guitars. Scum of the Earth is fronted by Rob Zombie's guitarist Riggs. Sleaze Freak, the band's second full-length release, is chock full of loud driving rock music that'll have kids in concert halls climbing all over one another. Unlike lots of hard rock bands, Scum of the Earth tunes are surprisingly catchy and memorable. Not surprisingly, guitars are the central focus of the music...and they sound great. Damn great. The lyrics contain plenty of dirty words and are generally negative and sarcastic. A huge plus for kiddie boosters wanting to drive their parents up the wall. Kinda like a cross between Nashville Pussy and Morbid Angel...this band was obviously born to rock and destroy. The audio CD features thirteen cranked-up rockers including "Bombshell From Hell," "Sleaze Freak," "Corpse Grinders," and "Scum-O-Rama." This package also includes a bonus DVD. Cool loud rock with a wild crazy streak. (Rating: 5)

 

THE SHROUD OF WHO CARES

Did Jesus' body
Rot into a blanket
And leave an impression
Or did it not.

Screw it.

(Rating: 1)

 

SPAIN VS. MEXICO REVISITED

Spain is beautiful.
Mexico is ugly.
Spain is exotic.
Mexico is depressing.
Spain has great music.
Mexico has unlistenable cheeze whiz.
Spain has magnificent architecture.
Mexico has run down shacks.
Spain is wonderful.
Mexico is a smelly pile of vomit.

(Rating: 1)

Aaron Stout - Queens Live in Caskets (CD, Monotreme, Soft pop/folk)
The debut album from Aaron Stout is a odd collection of tunes that sound like lost demonstration tapes from the past. In order to appreciate this album fully it must be listened to with an open mind. Unlike most artists who present music that is immediately slick and glossy, Stout seems to have purposely left his songs rough and raw on this album...perhaps out of necessity or perhaps out of a desire to stray from the pack. Aaron's music comes from the same basic territory as Canada's Hayden, mainly because he writes loose underground folky pop tunes that emphasize lyrics and vocal melodies. Queens Live in Caskets is a mixed deck of cards. When Stout doesn't hit the target his music sounds similar to many other folks we've heard of late. But when he's on...he's REALLY on. "Fountain of Youth" is a particularly beautiful song and really stands out. While not a perfect album, Caskets clearly paves the way for what will most certainly be a long and determined career. The photo on the cover is AMAZING. (Rating: 4+++++)

Steel Train - Trampoline (CD, Drive-Thru, Pop/rock)
Steel Train is an excellent band...and quite different from acts we normally hear on the Drive-Thru label. The album begins with "I Feel Weird"...a hummable little tune with vocals that recall The Strokes. But that's where the similarities end. The guys in this band write and record music that is remarkably slick and accessible while at the same time totally credible and inventive. The tunes on Trampoline have a basic sound that recalls classic hits from the past but the tunes are definitely twenty-first century pop. The melodies are super catchy and the vocals are nothing short of magnificent. The arrangements are the icing on the cake. Instead of leaving their tracks sparse and open or overdoing everything to death, the folks involved in these recordings knew just when to stop. The arrangements are smart, precise, and exactly appropriate for the songs. And God...those guitars...you just have to hear some of the guitars on this album to believe them (check out the lead on "Kill Monsters In The Rain"...wow...). Some of these tracks occasionally remind us of 10CC because of the intricate overall sound...while others recall Roy Wood and/or Jeff Lynne ("Dakota" sounds like a lost track from the first or second Electric Light Orchestra album). We've always been suckers for killer pop...and Trampoline is chock full of the stuff. This will easily end up being one of our top favorite releases of the year. Superb, mentally absorbing tracks that will stick with us for years. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5++++)

Chris Stills - Chris Stills (Import CD, V2, Pop)
We tried and tried to determine exactly which version of this album we are reviewing...but without any luck. This is apparently an import CD from 2005 but the track listing is different from any album we could find listed on the Internet. In any case, Chris Stills (his second full-length album) has already become hugely successful overseas. The same was expected here in the United States...but because of problems the V2 label was experiencing here in the states (they have now stopped issuing new albums), this CD never saw a stateside release. That will change soon...and you can then probably expect to be hearing songs from this album all over the place. Stills is the son of Stephen Stills and French superstar Veronique Sanson. But if you're thinking that Chris is just another famous offspring without anything substantial to offer, think again. This guy is good. Damn good. After spinning this album several times, we can certainly see what all the fuss is about. Even though this is super slick pop stuff that is bound to appeal to millions and millions of fans...the music is absolutely great. Of course, if you hate slick sounding pop stuff you probably won't go for this. But if you like super hummable commercial music that is specifically designed to put you in a good mood...chances are that you will probably go apeshit over this album. We sure did. It represents everything that was ever good about FM radio pop. Killer hit tracks include "Flying High," "Fool For Love," "Sweet California," "Kitty Kathy," "Story of a Dying Man," and "Golden Hour." If you think all commercial music sucks, this one will prove you wrong. An easy TOP PICK for November. (Rating: 5+++)

Superman: Doomsday - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (CD, La-La Land, Soundtrack)
Sounds like Danny Elfman is going to have some stiff competition in the soundtrack market in the years ahead...and his name is Robert J. Kral. This, the instrumental soundtrack to the new Superman: Doomsday film, is a collection of twenty-six short instrumental pieces composed, performed, recorded, mixed, and produced entirely by Kral. The music is complex and intense...filled with suspense and emotion. Like Elfman, Kral creates music that is so precise and detailed that you can very easily forget that the music is programmed (much of the material here sounds like a real orchestra is playing). This music should equally appeal to both classical music fans and Superman fans. Interestingly, for this soundtrack Kral created a brand new Superman theme song. The strings sound superb in these recordings. Plenty of heady, intense music here including "Fortress of Solitude," "Killing the Hick," "Heartbeat," "Luthor's Fate," and "Smallville Elementary." (Rating: 5)

These Are Powers - Terrific Seasons (CD, Hoss, Noisy art rock)
This band's music is currently being labeled as ghost punk. While we're not quite sure what this descriptive term means, we would tend to categorize this music as goddamn good, noisy, industrial art rock. These Are Powers is the trio consisting of Anna Barie, Ted McGrath, and Pat Noecker (all three have previously been in other bands prior to forming this project). Terrific Seasons is a harsh, noisy, and adventurous spin. As such, listeners seeking nice catchy melodies and danceable rhythms would probably be best advised to stay away. The sounds in these tunes are unorthodox to say the least. But even more unorthodox are the voices. In place of regular vocals, this band provides yelps, hiccups, and voices that are completely drenched in reverb and echo. We were rather confused by this album at first. But the songs grew on us...and we eventually ended up being rather impressed. Our favorite cuts include "You Come With Nothing," "Shells for a Dead Chief," "Drawing Water," and "Nubians on Franklin Ave." Wild stuff. (Rating: 4++++)

Toilet Boys - Sex Music (CD, Dead City, Rock/pop)
The band with the homosexuality-inspired name and features a lead singer that looks very much like a girl. That being the case, it seems odd that the band's new album features the long-haired singer on the cover...when in actuality (based on the photos inside) he has now cut his golden locks. The band now consists of Guy on vocals (the one that looks like a girl), Sean Pierce on guitars, keys, and backing vocals, and Eddie on drums. Begun in 1995, the guys in this band have certainly experienced their share of ups and downs. They've toured with some legendary artists which was a big plus...but on the negative side they had really bad luck when some of their pyrotechnics set the London Astoria on fire a few years ago. Sex Music contains tunes that the band wrote the year before their final tour. For a band that has been through so much, the tracks on this album sound rather energized and vital. Guy's voice still sounds genuinely urgent...and the guitars still slice with that cool buzzsaw sound. Will the Toilet Boys still have an audience in today's oversaturated market? Only time will tell. They've still got the songs and the magic...now it all just depends on how the dominos fall into place... (Rating: 4++++)

The Treats - Reservoir Tales (Independently released CD, Rock/pop)
Pure rock music played the way it ought to be played...without unnecessary crap getting in the way of the music. The Treats is the band consisting of Andrew Isham (guitar, lead vocals), Don Isham (drums, backing vocals), and Tim Payne (bass, backing vocals)...three guys in Madison, Wisconsin who obviously love playing loud, ballsy rock. These guys aren't into gimmicks. Their tunes don't contain state-of-the-art studio tricks and sounds...and they don't wear make up nor do they sport odd haircuts. Reservoir Tales features catchy blues-infected rock tunes delivered straight-from-the-hip without pomp and circumstance. The playing is tight and determined...but the songs are what make this album such a cool spin. Eighteen groovy cuts here including "Second Hand Reserve," "Ever Been Down?", "Better Things To Do," and "Long Gone." (Rating: 4+++++)

Underwater Tea Party - Suburban Metronome (CD, Zip, Pop)
Nice, upbeat, hummable guitar pop from Madrid, Spain's Underwater Tea Party. True to the claim of the accompanying press release, this band's music recalls artists like Belle and Sebastian, Ivy, Yo La Tengo, and Stereolab. Fans of any of these bands are likely to find a lot to love about Suburban Metronome. Spain has become a real hotbed of talent over the past few years...and Underwater Tea Party is certainly right up there with some of the country's best pop acts. The band's smooth, catchy, ultimately hummable pop music is easy on the mind and spirit...while slightly exotic and rather unique. And the female vocalists sound wonderful. This ten song album is a pure feelgood experience from start to finish. Cool cuts include "Cityscapes & UFOs," "Long Island Ice Tea," "The Untold Story," and "Holophonor." (Rating: 5+)

 

UTENSILS

You don't need
Forks and knives and spoons
To eat mushrooms.

(Rating: 1)

Viva Voce - Lovers, Lead the Way! & The Heat Can Melt Your Brain (Double CD, Amore!Phonics, Progressive pop)
Folks who are into getting a lot of bang for their bucks, take note. Instead of the usual 40 to 50 minutes' worth of music...this whopping double CD set contains over two hours and twelve minutes of tunes. This is fantastic from a consumer's standpoint. From a reviewer's point of view...well, it takes a lot of extra time to take in all of the material (!). That might be difficult and tedious if the music sucked...but when the music is cool and uplifting, we certainly wouldn't call it a chore. This set features the reissue of two albums from Viva Voce that were previously out of print (Lovers, Lead the Way! & The Heat Can Melt Your Brain) as well as unreleased demos, remixes, and live performances. The band is the duo consisting of Anita Robinson and Kevin Robinson...two folks who create unique, compelling progressive pop. Their music occasionally recalls female artists from the 1960s (particularly the vocals)...while the instrumentation is straight up twenty-first century pop. This set will undoubtedly be welcomed by the band's fans with welcome arms. But in addition, it may very well also serve as a great introduction for those who have never heard Viva Voce. We fall into the latter category...but after hearing this we will be eagerly keeping our eyes peeled for the band's latest album (Get Yr Blood Sucked Out). Excellent stuff indeed. (Rating: 5+)

 

WORLD UNITY

Goddamn the United States.
Goddamn China.
Goddamn Indonesia.
Goddamn Great Britain.
Goddamn Canada.
Goddamn Africa.
Goddamn Poland.
Goddamn France.
Goddamn Australia.
Goddamn Germany.

Goddamn everywhere.

(Rating: 1)

The Yarrows - Plum (CD, Empyrean, Moody pop)
Our first reaction to the debut album from The Yarrows...was that it had the same basic sound and feel as Neil Young's classic debut. Plum is a different sort of album that doesn't sound like most CDs we've heard in the past few years. The guys in this band record subtle pop music that has a nice, loose feel. And unlike most bands that overproduce their music to death, the smart strategic decision was made to leave plenty of space in these tunes. The vocals are laidback, the rhythms smooth and natural, and the guitars played with appropriate restraint. The band is driven by the skills of brothers Matt Backes and Pierce Backes and also includes Scott Barcalow (bass, vocals), and Jack Firneno (drums). There are no easy catchy pop tunes here. These folks write and record music that must be played over and over to be fully appreciated. In an age when so many people are trying way too hard to sound original...Plum makes an extraordinarily nice impression. Top picks: "Perfect Mouth," "Nobody Knows You're Gone," "Time To Go," "Diamond." (Rating: 5)

 

Additional Items Received:

46Bliss - Wish me away
Aarktica - Matchless years
Ryan Adams and the Cardinals - Follow the lights
Cindy Alexander - Wobble with the world
Amateur Radio Operator - Sirens of titan
Amberhaze - EP
Kasey Anderson - The reckoning
April Skies - How it all played out
Archer Avenue - We watched the headlights, we watched the stars
Atris - Of the commons
Attica! Attica! - Dead skin/dried blood
Ian Axel - I'm on to you
Badawi - Unit of resistance
Bad Detectives - B-movie beat
Jean-Michel Basquiat - Downtown 81
Battlestar Galactica - Original soundtrack from the sci fi channel television series
Maggie Bell and Midnight Flyer - Live montreaux july 1981
Birdie - Catherine avenue
Jeff Austin Black - Human
British Blues Quartet - Live in glasgow
Cafe Antarsia Ensemble - Songs of the table
Chase Frank - Midnight manor
Frankie Cleary - The six year getaway
Imani Coppola -The black and white album
Corb Lund - Horse soldier! horse soldier!
Creepy - The triple EP
Digby - What's not plastic?
Jason Dove - We should be together
Jason Dove / Daniel Johnston - Live May 13th 2007 Baltimore, MD
Douglass Brothers - Full tilt boogie
Edison Glass - Time is fiction
Father Bloopy - Ginger, baby
Fishboy - With the power of rock and roll
Le Fits Sportif - Le Fits Sportif
Eliot Fitzgerald - Icarus the philistine
Flugente - Flugente
The Frantic - Audio & murder
Ginger Envelope - Edible orchids
Goldilocks Zone - Not too hot, not too cold, just right
Goodbye Girl Friday - Rusted sky
GreenTara - Global baby
Robert Grenier - Ripperfish
Harlem Experiment - Harlem Experiment
Sean Madigan Hoen - The liquor witch
I'm Not There - Original soundtrack
Infantry Rockers - Boombala
Intelligence - Deuteronomy
Jan - Everything must go
Javelinas - Seven sisters
Kissing Cousins - She's right
Kim Kline - Kim Kline
Lady Tiagra - Please mr. boom box
Seth Lakeman - Digital eps
Annie Lennox - Songs of mass destruction
Looney Tunes - Sing-a-long christmas
Darlene Love - It's christmas, of course
Tony Low - Time across the page
Paris Luna - City lights
Natalie Matthews - Natalie Matthews
Kent McAlister and the Iron Choir - The way it rolls
Mutantes Live - Barbican theater, london
New Dress - Where our failures are
Shane Newville - Formless
Oslo - The rise and fall of love and hate
Peck the Town Crier - Groundhogs day
Plastic Parachute - Elephonts & giraffes
Plumerai - Without number
Teddy Presberg - Blue print of soul
Protocol - Recess
Rahim - The same
Gary Reynolds and the Brides of Obscurity - Santiago's vest
Rubin - Let it out
Ruth - Secondhand dreaming
Secret Annexe - Seven headed monster
Shotgun Honeymoon - Foregone conclusion...
Kate Schrock - Invocation
Silence is Safety - Silence is Safety
Slo Children - Born ghost when dead
Spoon Benders - Resurrecting the giants
Soulsavers - It's not how far you fall, it's the way you land
John Southworth and the South Seas - The pillowmaker
Stobo - Stobo
Dan Susnara / Micky Saunders - EP
Anna Ternheim - Anna Ternheim
Thrice - The Alchemy Index Vols. * & II: Fire and water
Torch Marauder - Triceratops / can i get a lift?
Trakan - Opening soon under new management
Frank Turner - Campfire punkrock
TV Party - Glenn O' Brien's TV Party: the heavy metal show
Two Eyes - Pomegranates
Quinn Walker - Lion land
Rigo Waltz - There's a man
Watts - One below the all time low
Robert WindPony - Sky blue
Robert WindPony - Moon rider
Yum Yum Tree - Paint by numbers
Renee Zawawi - Legends

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