Thursday, October 30, 2008

Free MP3: Keane - The Lovers Are Losing (CSS Remix)

Normally I'm not much into remixes, but I'm digging this new one of Keane's "The Lovers Are Losing" by CSS. The original track is from their recent release Perfect Symmetry which is their strongest collection of tunes yet.

The best part is that Keane want YOU to have this for free, so download it here!

Keane - Lovers Are Losing (CSS Remix)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Review: Roll The Tanks - Suffer City (* * * *)

Occasionally, a band comes along that reminds you of how great punk rock can be when it isn't being sung by whiny little pukes who miss their girlfriends and loathe themselves (probably because they wear makeup and girl pants). One such band is Roll The Tanks, a new quartet hailing from Los Angeles who strive to bring back all that is good about the genre by channeling past greats like The Clash, The Ramones, and The Sex Pistols into a slightly more modern skin.

Roll The Tanks find the right balance between melody and noise throughout most of Suffer City, creating catchy tunes full of raw energy. First single "Police Me" is a good example of the group combining pop sensibility with a harsh, anti-authoritarian message and delivery which ends up being both pointed and fun. The album keeps a solid musical theme throughout, but the band make sure to shake things up with a few departures. "Kid Can't Catch A Break" and "Look At Me" are intense and angry, but "Gameshow Love" is a catchy pop-punk tune that would make The Ramones proud, while "Saddle Up" brings piano and banjo into the mix for a truly unexpected and impressive detour.

The lyrics are usually simple and occasionally juvenile, but rarely distract from what is a solid record from start to finish. Suffer City is a refreshing update of a classic sound and proof that punk is not dead.

Favorite Tracks: "Blood Flow," "Gameshow Love," "Saddle Up"

Get a free download of their song "Police Me" at!

Review: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology (* * * *)

Another year, another Ryan Adams album. One of the most prolific singer/songwriters of this generation presents another solid set of songs after last year's Easy Tiger. Adams has spoiled us into expecting consistently great music and he and backing band The Cardinals don't disappoint.

After apparently cleaning up his life and kicking drugs in 2005, Adams continues his messages of hope and of recovery from a broken heart and a battered life. True, the topics are not exceptionally original, but Adams excels at explaining ideas and stories with beautiful simplicity. It's occasionally discouraged; "I wish I could tell you just how I felt/I don't pray I shower and say 'Good night' to myself." but generally the music retains at least a bit of light shining through the gloom. The opener "Born Into A Light" is an encouraging tune, urging us all to "keep the faith" and reminding us that we will "heal inside eventually," which serves as something of a theme for the album.

Cardinology is decidedly less "country" than it's predecessor ("Evergreen" excluded) and more focused on rock with traces of blues and folk. Adams and crew turn up the volume slightly on the first half of the album, especially on "Go Easy," "Fix It," and the harder-edged "Magick." Later, the songs are often more subdued and relaxed, like the wistful "Crossed Out Name" and the slow piano and vocal combination of "Stop." The band sound comfortable and confident, providing elegant touches on Adam's more thoughtful moments and exclamation points on his declarations.

Nothing on Cardinology could be considered a musical revelation, or even a true step forward for Ryan Adams, but the music, the writing, and the execution make for an album that is easy to love*. Here's to hoping for more next year.

Favorite Tracks: "Born Into A Light," "Evergreen," "Let Us Down Easy" "Crossed Out Name"

*In fact, though this review is fairly short, it's taken me several hours to write because I've had to stop, get my guitar, and play/sing several of the songs before being able to focus on the task at hand (really).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Worth Hearing: October 28

I've already reviewed four albums coming out this week; Snow Patrol's A Hundred Million Suns, Kaiser Chiefs' Off With Their Heads, Los Campesinos' We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed., and Bloc Party's Intimacy. Here's a list of a few albums that might be worth your time.

Ryan Adams & The Cardinals - Cardinology
I've been listening to this quite a bit over the last few days. I'll post a review up here very soon, but for now, just know this is an album you should hear!

Jesse Malin - On Your Sleeve
A nicely executed collection of covers from from The Ramones to Sam Cooke done with Malin's relaxed, comfortable style.
Listen at Spinner

O'Death - Broken Hymns, Limbs, and Skin
Fiercely played fiddle, guitar, and banjo serve as the background for singer Greg Jamie's howled, dramatic narratives. It's folk, bluegrass, and punk all rolled into one exciting package.
Listen at Spinner

Eagles Of Death Metal - Heart On
At first listen, Heart On is a solid rock 'n' roll album with big, crunchy guitars that's sexy, exciting, and fun.
Listen at Spinner

School Of Seven Bells - Alpinisms
School of Seven Bells is the side project for Secret Machines member Benjamin Curtis featuring twin sisters on vocals. They have an interesting and unique sound, much more so than Secret Machines ever did anyway.
Listen at Spinner

Monday, October 27, 2008

Bloc Party: physical release of Intimacy

Features four more tunes, creepy cover art
Bloc Party are finally giving their most recent album, Intimacy a proper release after a download-only deal a few months ago. Previously featuring simple album art with white block letters on a plain black background, the updated version is more...provocative (read: sleazy).

More interesting is the addition of FOUR tracks, one of which we heard way back when (Flux) and three that are brand new. Although I like some of the new stuff ("Talons" especially), the additions haven't changed the way I feel about the album in general, which I reviewed previously.

You can hear the album in its entirety this week on Spinner.

Reviews: Los Campesinos!, Kaiser Chiefs, Snow Patrol

This week is a big one for bands hailing from the U.K. Here are a few reviews of albums making their way across the Atlantic.

Los Campesinos!
- We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (* * *)
Los Campesinos! went into the studio to record an EP and emerged with a full-length album. We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed, is the group's second release in well under a year and provides another (mercifully) short blast of hyper-literate indie pop sure to have the music scene in a frenzy.

Those who liked Los Campesinos! before will love this record, but it probably won't win over legions of new fans. The opener "Ways To Make It Through The Wall" and the title track showcase the band at their best, full of energetic storytelling and boy/girl harmonies. The act is getting a little worn, though, and by the end of the album I found myself bored. The stories are cleverly and earnestly told, and the music is brimming with ideas, but I became less and less interested in each passing tale of complex relationships and lost love. Even at 32 minutes, the album felt stretched. We Are Beautiful includes some solid songs but not enough to keep me from wishing Los Campesinos! had just stuck with producing what could have been a fantastic EP.

Like I said before, if you liked it then (Hold On Now Youngster), you'll like it now, but don't expect much you haven't heard from them already.

Kaiser Chiefs - Off With Their Heads (* * 1/2)
Kaiser Chiefs bring more of their retro-flavored pop rock with their new release, Off With Their Heads. The five-piece from Leeds shake things up a bit this time around, featuring rapper Sway, Brit-pop queen Lilly Allen, and composer David Arnold during 11 tracks of synth and guitar-driven tunes.

Off With Their Heads is, at least, a fun album, but unfortunately it's also derivative, repetitive and frequently uninteresting. The band certainly seem to be enjoying themselves, especially on upbeat numbers like "Never Miss A Beat" and "Half The Truth," but the hooks wear off fast, and singer Ricky Wilson never seems to have much to say. Granted, simple lyrics don't always sink an album, but the music here isn't so distracting as to draw attention away from some fairly boring writing.

In the end, most of the songs end up sounding like good ideas poorly executed. Nothing on Off With Their Heads is especially bad (with the exception of the rapping on "Half The Truth"), but there is little that's very good either.

Favorite Tracks: "Never Miss A Beat," "You Want History," "Addicted To Drugs"

Snow Patrol - A
Hundred Million Suns (* * * 1/2)
Snow Patrol found a smash hit in "Chasing Cars," their 2006 single that vaulted the Scottish lads into superstardom and beyond. Bearing the weight of sky-high commercial expectations, the band release their latest effort A Hundred Million Suns on Tuesday behind the lead single "Take Back The City."

A Hundred Million Suns follows a pattern similar to Snow Patrol's last album, Eyes Open, though it's clear the band intended to take some chances as well. While "Take Back The City" and "Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands
" sound like carbon copies of previous hits, the simple, beautiful "Set Down Your Glass," and the 16-minute, 3-part epic that is "The Lightning Strike" are examples of a band trying to stretch themselves while retaining their radio friendliness. Even with improved talent and execution, however, A Hundred Million Suns feels overblown and overlong (almost 60 minutes!) and sounds as if the band can't quite reach the heights to which they aspire.

While Snow Patrol have crafted perhaps their best album (and one that I admit I enjoy), it still feels like a guilty pleasure instead of a truly compelling collection of songs.

Favorite Tracks: "If There's A Rocket Tie Me To It," "Lifeboats," "Set Down Your Glass"

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Artist: Matt Morris

While Matt Morris might seem new to the music scene, he's anything but. Already an accomplished songwriter, his tunes have been sung by pop stars like Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, and Christina Aguilera. Remember "Miss Independent"?

Now he's adding singer and musician to his resume with plans to release a full album next year. Meanwhile, he recently released an EP called Backstage At Bonnaroo And Other Acoustic Performances, an obviously titled collection of five acoustic tracks for fans of his stripped-down performances. Though Matt's songwriting credit points to a more mainstream approach to pop music, the EP showcases his versatility as an artist with little more than just his piano and guitar. "Money" brings to mind a more soulful Jack Johnson, "Bloodline" is a country-tinged folk ballad, and "The Un-American" sounds something like a Queen song with its bouncing piano and Morris' Mraz-meets-Mercury tenor voice.

Backstage At Banaroo is a fun introduction to Matt Morris as an exciting and talented new singer/songwriter. I'll be looking forward to hearing more about him in the upcoming months.

The EP is available now on iTunes; check out "Money" on his MySpace page.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Concert Review: Fleet Foxes (* * * * *)

Since hearing their stellar debut earlier this year, I've been dying to see Fleet Foxes in concert. I was a little worried that my high expectations wouldn't quite be met, but that fear proved to be unfounded as I was totally blown away by this young band's performance. The venue, a small, crowded music club called "In The Venue," seems an unlikely place to have a transcendent musical experience, but it was packed full of people hoping for just that.

First though, we were all treated to the twangy, blues folk of opener Frank Fairfield. If I didn't know better, I would say Frank had arrived via time machine directly into the club from somewhere in the deep south circa 1940. His carefully parted hair, slightly antiquated dress, and worn instruments (banjo, fiddle, guitar) combined with his muddled, howled vocals made for a truly unique show. It was clear Frank was extremely talented and sincere, though his delivery and his voice became a bit grating after a few tunes. I probably haven't captured the experience well, so check out his MySpace page for live concert videos. Trust me, it's worth a look.

As Fleet Foxes made their way from the back of the club to the stage, two things crossed my mind: 1. Whoa, Robin Pecknold just brushed my shoulder! and 2. Maybe Frank picked these guys up on his way here as he flew through the 70s. Sporting mountain-man beards and long hair, Fleet Foxes looked a little like an old folk-rock band on a reunion tour. After a few minutes of noodling around with the equipment, they starting singing their A Capella opener "Sun Giant" to the eager crowd. I was stunned, amazed, absolutely blown away that four guys (guitarist Skye Skjelset is the only one who doesn't get a mic, or a beard for that matter) could harmonize so well. It was only a couple minutes long, but it was worth the price of admission.

After that, the band continued with the full-bodied "Sun It Rises," and "Drops In The River," sounding just as unified with the two guitarists, drummer Joshua Tillman, bassist Christian Wargo, and keyboardist/mandolinist Casey Wescott all proving themselves more than able. At no point did the band ever seem anxious, uncomfortable, or jittery, though they did all look a little road-weary. Some highlights include "White Winter Hymnal," "Mykanos," and my personal favorite of the evening, "Ragged Wood," which showcased Robin Pecknold's impressive vocal ability (There's nothiiiiiiing, I can dooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!).

Though each band member seemed crucial to the Fleet Foxes' unique sound and presentation, credit should be given to Pecknold, who gave an obvious 110 percent throughout the set. He sang with such fervor that his voice started to get just a touch scratchy by the end of the show. On two occasions the band took a breather while Pecknold played a couple solo numbers, including the gorgeous "Oliver James" and an old folk tune called "Katy Cruel," both of which were exceptional. This young singer/songwriter just about oozes talent.

The band played through most (if not all) of their catalog, throwing in a couple covers and a new song (which was amazing, of course) and the set lasted for an hour and twenty minutes or so. I know I've raved about the performance to the point of exhaustion, but this was a truly special experience. Make it a priority to see these guys play as soon as possible; you'll be glad you did.

Set List

Sun Giant
Sun It Rises
Drops In The River
English House
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
Your Protector
Crayon Angels (Judy Sill cover, Pecknold Solo)
Oliver James (Pecknold Solo)
Quiet Houses
He Doesn't Know Why
Katy Cruel (Old folk song cover, Pecknold Solo)
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song (Pecknold Solo)
(New Song!)
Blue Ridge

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

New Releases Worth Hearing: 10/21

Here's a list of this week's releases that I've been listening to:

Matisyahu - Shattered [EP]
I'm not Matisyahu's biggest fan, but I'm really digging a couple of tunes from his latest EP. Check out the fantastic 'Smash Lies' here.

Parts and Labor - Receivers
This is the first I've heard from this Brooklyn-based noise-rock outfit and I find their unique take on the genre fascinating. Check out the album this week on Spinner, especially "Nowheres Nigh."

The Sea and Cake - Car Alarm

Breezy, low-key indie pop tunes with a slightly jazzy twist make up the majority of Car Alarm, the latest from vets The Sea and Cake. Listen at Spinner.

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping
Another strange concoction of funky pop tunes from one of indie rock's most prolific bands.
My review

Roll The Tanks - Suffer City
Roll The Tanks are a new punk-rock band from L.A. reminiscent of classic punk groups like The Clash and The Ramones. It's noisy, melodic, and fun. Listen at Spinner.

The Dears - Missiles
The Dears make beautiful alternative rock with both organic and electronic elements. Their new release Missiles is one of my favorites this week. Listen at Spinner.
My Review

Her Space Holiday - XOXO, Panda and the New Kid Revival
An indie pop album full of sunny melodies, pleasant harmonies, and bouncy acoustic guitars Listen at Spinner.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Review: The Boxing Lesson - Wild Streaks & Windy Days (* * * 1/2)

You might not have heard of The Boxing Lesson, a relatively new psych-rock band from Austin, Texas, but they've been playing with some big acts (Secret Machines, Interpol, The Bravery etc.) and making a name for themselves in their hometown. A group of three led by singer/songwriter/guitarist Paul Waclawsky, the band apparently formed sometime in 2003, though the bio is so full of references to various planets, stars, and space missions it's a little difficult to divine much else.

What's easier to tell are the band's influences. On top of the list would be Pink Floyd, though I suppose that's obvious when the album starts with a song called "Dark Side of the Moog," a fantastic tune slightly reminiscent of its namesake. From then on it's a trippy and gloriously weird ride through variations on psychedelia.
Wild Streaks offers some truly breathtaking and beautiful moments when The Boxing Lesson are at their best, combining their traditional psych-rock sound with shoegaze textures on songs like "Muerta," "Timing," and "The Art of Pushing Me Away," all swirling mixtures of synth, guitar, and epic vocal choruses. When they take a break for pop songs, however, the album feels disjointed and confused. While "Brighter" is a decent, almost danceable 80s pop tune, "Hopscotch & Sodapop" and "Freedom" come across as unnecessary experiments in comparison to their more interesting and better executed counterparts.

While The Boxing Lesson seem more focused than some of their peers (Apollo Sunshine, Darker My Love), they feel just a step away from creating a truly exceptional album. The talent is certainly not lacking, with magnificent guitar work and a dynamite rhythm section it's apparent the band are more than capable. Once they find the best way to present their ideas, The Boxing Lesson should really take off.

Favorite Tracks: "Dark Side of the Moog," "Timing," "Scoundrel"

Check out some tunes on their MySpace page!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: The Dears - Missiles (* * * *)

It's a rare thing for a band to have the majority of the members leave during the recording of an album and still complete the project. I imagine it's even more unusual when the resulting record is worth hearing. Yet this is the case with The Dears most recent effort, Missiles, a fascinating blend of organic and digital elements that, apparently, is much better than it should be.

I suppose the success of any record hangs on the creative force behind it, which in this case is the husband and wife duo of
Murray Lightburn and Natalia Yanchak, the only two band members who survived the writing and recording process. Missiles sounds like a very personal and private work as a result of a more concentrated sphere of influence, despite the fact that the liner notes show well over a dozen people contributed to the playing and production of the music.

While there are numerous flourishes including plenty of keyboards, the occasional fiery guitar solo, and even a children's choir, the music has a minimalist feel to it, occasionally sounding almost unfinished, though the overall tone is surprisingly warm. With traces of soul, jazz, and prog rock, The Dears have subtly expanded their indie rock sound. The Songs rarely have immediately recognizable structures, instead they flow from section to section until they eventually reach their dramatic climax and fade away.

The tunes are quirky and occasionally strange, but they are also intricate and melodic. "Money Babies," the first single, describes a desperate economy but with a deceptively pleasant sound filled with layers of synth and guitar, while "Crisis 1 & 2" features beautiful harmony and percussion behind the singers describing "a suicide mission that has us by the balls," and thinking "a surprise attack should do the job." Missiles is an album with personality and character and better for it, even if The Dears occasionally stretch their ideas too far or are unwilling to self-edit. The title track, "Missiles" is a lyrically and musically over-dramatic, and "Savior" doesn't really need to be over 11 minutes long, but every eccentricity is part of the experience.

Missiles, at the very least, defines Lightburn and Yanchak as artists dedicated to their work and true to their vision. Their diligence has paid off in an album that can be both appreciated and enjoyed for its creativity and intelligence.

Favorite Tracks: "Dream Job," "Money Babies," "Demons"

Check out the new video for "Money Babies"

Friday, October 17, 2008

Coldplay to release EP November 25th!

If you liked Coldplay's latest album, Viva La Vida (I did), then you should be excited about some brand new music from the band coming your way next month! Prospekts March will be released on November 25th in the U.S. and includes SIX new tracks along with "Lost+" and a remix of "Lovers In Japan."

Here's the cover art and track list:

1. Life In Technicolor II
2. Postcards From Far Away
3. Glass of Water
4. Rainy Day
5. Prospekts March / Poppyfields
6. Lost +
7. Lovers In Japan (Osaka Sun Mix)
8. Now My Feet Won't Touch The Ground

Should be an interesting set of songs as it seems many of the tunes just missed the cut from being included on Viva La Vida. According to the band, the two discs are connected, but I suppose you can see that from the cover art. The EP will be available individually as well as in a deluxe package with Viva La Vida.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Preview: Cardinology

Two weeks to go until Ryan Adams & The Cardinals release their eagerly-anticipated new album, Cardinology. The band has released clips from five of their new songs, which you can hear here!

Cardinology Audio Clips

Born Into A Light
Fix It

I'm pumped about the new album, and I'll put up a review here when I can. Apparently iTunes is offering an exclusive Pre-order deal with a bonus track called The Color Of Pain, if you're interested...and really, who wouldn't be.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Review: Annuals - Such Fun (* * * *)

You might have noticed the cover art of Annuals new album Such Fun is by none other than Bob Ross, the late painting-made-easy guru famous for his perm-fro hair and "happy trees" artistic style. When asked about the connection, Annuals had the following to say:

"The way that Bob made his paintings, and the way he paints in particular, is pretty similar to the way that our band makes a record," the band explained. "Bob Ross starts his paintings with simple little smudges and blotches, making 'happy trees' or 'cute little bridges.' But when it’s finished, and his blotches take form, we see that his paintings are actually intricate landscapes."

While most bands would probably prefer to associate themselves with artists of greater depth and more intricate style, Annuals seem to find something profound in the simplicity of Ross' art. However, simple isn't a word I would use to describe much of their sophomore effort, a wide range of musical styles and complex arrangements supporting the beautiful melodies of singer Adam Baker's crystal clear tenor voice.

Perhaps the idea of simplicity can be linked to Annuals ability to make covering such a broad spectrum of musical ideas with such seaming ease and abundant talent. Throughout Such Fun, the band enhance familiar elements of folk and Americana music with a variety of unique and fascinating flourishes. The beautiful piano on "Springtime," the flowery string arrangements on "Blue Ridge" and the twang-meets-punk of "Down The Mountain" are just a few examples. The music swells from soft, gentle melodies into anthematic rock tunes and back again, often in the same song. It's always interesting and often fantastic.

Annuals occasionally overdo it, attempting to squeeze too many large ideas into small spaces, but Such Fun is a refreshing and, indeed fun, set of 11 tracks that seeks to both surprise and please, and succeeds in both.

Favorite Tracks: "Hardwood Floor," "Springtime," "Down The Mountain"

Get the single and watch the video of the lead single "Confessor" a few posts down!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Review: Ray LaMontagne - Gossip In The Grain (* * * 1/2)

Ray LaMontagne has, in the past, been one of those artists who takes himself quite seriously. He deals with the subjects of loss, pain, and emptiness, all with his wounded-soul whisper and his heart displayed plainly on his sleeve. Those familiar with Ray's past albums may have received a bit of a shock hearing one of his tunes from his third album Gossip In The Grain, "Meg White." Yes, THE Meg White of White Stripes fame. LaMontagne's ode to rock's most famous female drummer is quirky, funny, and even silly, definitely not what we've all come to expect.

Through the ten tracks of Gossip In The Grain, Ray covers quite a bit of new territory, such as the soulful anthem "You Are The Best Thing," the twangy, back-country romp "Hey Me, Hey Mama," and the gritty rocker, "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)." All his experiments succeed, so well, in fact, that while the rest of the album is mostly on par for his previous work, it seems tame and, occasionally, boring by comparison. The vocals on "I Still Care For You" are so weightless they seem to almost dissolve into the background, while the album's closers "A Falling Through" and "Gossip In The Grain" are pleasant songs that just don't provide enough of a reason not to restart the disc again to hear the best material. That's not to say that all of his slower tunes aren't worth the time. "Let It Be Me" is a tender and emotional song for a friend that hits home, while "Sarah" is muted, yet melodic and ultimately redeeming. It's just frustrating to be teased with a good time and denied it in the end.

As a soft-spoken, withdrawn, folk musician, Ray LaMontagne has proved himself more than able, but when he branches out, he reaches heights previously unheard. The lighter, broader sound combined with Ray's obvious sincerity and emotional touch make for a truly enjoyable experience. If only he would let us see that side of him more often.

Favorite Tracks: "You Are The Best Thing," "Henry Nearly Killed Me (It's A Shame)," "Sarah"

Oh, and I almost forgot; you can listen to the whole thing this week at Spinner!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Reviews: Keane, Benoit Pioulard

Keane - Perfect Symmetry (* * * 1/2)
Ten seconds into the first track and lead single, "Spiralling," you might be wondering when Maroon 5 became such a big influence on Tim Rice-Oxley and Co. Having previously suffered (unfavorable even) comparisons to Coldplay and other sensitive piano-rockers, Keane seem to be seeking to set themselves apart from the pack.

Admittedly, I've never been a big Keane fan, but "Spiralling" was so funky, groovy, and just...un-Keane like that I decided to give Perfect Symmetry a try. While they haven't completely abandoned their piano pop sound from previous albums (You Don't See Me, Perfect Symmetry, etc. sound familiar), the band does make a serious effort to jazz things up. The bouncy, hand-clap filled "Better Than This" and the soul-meets-80's pop anthem "Pretend That You're Alone" show a side of Keane I hope they continue to show more often.

Perfect Symmetry still relies on too many of Keane's old tricks, but it also contains some of their strongest and most interesting material. At the very least, it's a promising step in the right direction.

Favorite Tracks: "Spiralling," "Better Than This," "Pretend That You're Alone"

Benoit Pioulard - Temper (* * * *)
Benoit Pioulard is the stage name of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Thomas Meluch. Temper is Meluch's sophomore effort, though he's been self-releasing music since 2001. Other than that, I haven't been able to find out much about him except that he was a drummer for several other bands before starting Benoit Pioulard. What is apparent, though, is that Meluch is a young, ambitious, and talented artist who has crafted a unique and fascinating ambient folk album.

Temper is an album much better appreciated and enjoyed when listened to in one sitting and in order. At 16 tracks and only 38 minutes, the tracks blend together almost seamlessly, with plenty of spacey, ambient interludes and few tracks approaching the three minute mark. That's not to say that Temper doesn't have it's share of worthwhile singles; "Ahn," "Golden Grin," and "Idyll," among others, sound fine in isolation, but even better in context. The album has a dark, ethereal sound that stems from Meluch's soft, haunting vocals and love for textures and details; primarily using the guitar and a variety of ambient effects and sounds.

Temper is probably too abstract for some and too light on substance for others, but the patient listener will be richly rewarded by the Benoit Pioulard's beautiful arrangements and careful presentation. The album provides an experience both strange and wonderful.

Favorite Tracks: "Idyll," "Ahn," "Hesperus"

Sunday, October 12, 2008

New Artist: Ed Laurie

I briefly mentioned Ed Laurie a few weeks ago, but he's recently popped up on my radar again. This guy has some serious potential and for folk fanatics (like myself) he's an artist worth looking into. Check out this cool widget that gives you the opportunity to listen to a song, purchase the album, etc.

Also, here are a couple videos you should take the time to see.

"I See No End" (Video) on Imeem

"Meanwhile In The Park" (Video) on Death + Taxes

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New Single: Annuals - Confessor

I realize that the album has already dropped, but for those of you who haven't heard the Annuals first single "Confessor" from Such Fun, you should check it out here. It's a melodic, breezy tune with great harmonies and dynamics.

Confessor - Annuals (MP3)

Also, while music videos aren't generally something I get excited about, Annuals take a different approach, using their songs as the background for animated stories. Here is the video for "Confessor;" you should also check out the video for "Sore" on the same YouTube channel.

Confessor - Annuals (YouTube video)

Reviews: The Panics, Black Gold, The Little Ones

So many little time. I'm doing another trio of reviews here in the shorter format again in order to cover everything I'd like to get done this week. I still have a review of the Annuals new album Such Fun coming soon (hopefully).

The Panics - Cruel Guards (* * * *)
The Panics make their U.S. debut with Cruel Guards, released yesterday. These guys have been big in their native Australia for a while now, though I imagine you, like me, have never heard a thing about them before now. Their soulful take on adult alternative rock should have no trouble finding its place in the American music scene.

Sounding like something of a mix between Destroyer and the Wallflowers, The Panics seem at once familiar and unique, always slightly restrained but never dull. The highlight of the album is the lead single, "Don't Fight It," a delicate anthem with a sticks-in-your-head chorus and beautiful piano and horn arrangements. The production on Cruel Guards shines throughout, with eerie background vocals (Something In The Garden) and brilliant strings (Get Us Home, Ruins) among other tasteful flourishes. It's an album made by a band who understand how to play to their strengths and avoid their weaknesses.

Cruel Guards takes a couple spins to truly appreciate. While my initial impression of the album was certainly positive, subsequent listens have revealed a thoroughly interesting and enjoyable record that deserves our attention here in the States.

Favorite Tracks: "Don't Fight It," "Cruel Guards," "Something In The Garden"

Check out their MySpace page for a listen.

Black Gold - Tragedy & Legacy (* * * 1/2)
I've never actually reviewed an EP before, but I am impressed by this new band, Black Gold. I mentioned it last week as a project between Eric Ronick (touring member of Panic At The Disco) and Than Luu (tours with M. Ward and others) who wrote and recorded their upcoming debut, Rush between other commitments.

The sound is tough to categorize in the three songs (and one remix) because the duo incorporate a little bit of everything into their music. It's rock music with a sizable portion of electronica, a dash of funk, a bit of soul, all led by Ronick's smooth tenor voice. "Idols" has a much more organic sound, while "Detroit" and "Breakdown" incorporate synthesizers and dance beats.

Everything works well and feels fresh, though it's hard to say if the band will be able to reign in their wealth of ideas into a cohesive LP. Tragedy & Legacy is a promising start for this ambitious new group.

Check out RCRD LBL for a band bio.

The Little Ones - Morning Tide (* * * 1/2)
Morning Tide is the debut album for the Los Angeles-based five-piece The Little Ones. After releasing two well-received EPs, the group faced a fair amount of hype accompanying their new record which dropped yesterday.

Though it seems as though many of the early reviewers of Morning Tide have been less than impressed, I found the album to be a fun blast of 60s-style indie pop. It's consistently bright and sunny, with catchy melodies and sweet harmonies at every turn. Lead single and title track "Morning Tide" sounds like Oasis meets The Shins, while tunes like "Rise and Shine" and "Like A Spoke On A Wheel" seem imported almost directly off the oldies station.

Though Morning Tide is rarely great, it's frequently good and occasionally remarkable. "Gregory's Chant" is a beautifully composed and produced pop song, and "Boracay" is an example of The Little One's ability to make something so splendidly joyful it's almost impossible to hate. Through the 11 tracks and 40 minute running time, the album doesn't ask for much, just sit back and let it put a smile on your face.

Favorite Tracks: "Gregory's Chant," "Boracay," "Like A Spoke On A Wheel"

Listen to the album the rest of this week on Spinner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Interview Alert: Ra Ra Riot

Captain Melody has recently posted another great interview of which I am very jealous. The band is Ra Ra Riot, a white-hot indie rock group that released their debut album this year entitled The Rhumb Line. They've been on Conan already, so you know they're kind of a big deal... Check out the in-depth interview over at Captain Melody, and read his review here.

Also, my review can be found here.

Reviews: Oasis, Department Of Eagles, Rise Against

There are so many albums being released this week, I can't possibly do a full review for all of them. I've already reviewed Of Montreal's Skeletal Lamping, but here are a few others I've been listening to:

Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul (* * * 1/2)
I've learned a few things from the new Oasis album. First, Oasis hasn't lost all of that fire that they exploded onto the scene with way back when. In fact, they sound better and more consistent than they have in years. Second, Liam can actually write a decent tune, as evidenced by the Lennonesque (of course) "I'm Outta Time." And third, Oasis will never get over wanting to be, tying to be, and failing to be the Beatles (but I suppose we all knew that already). Dig Out Your Soul is a rock record that, at the very least, reminds us why Oasis was such a big deal in the first place.

As with Don't Believe The Truth and Heathen Chemistry, the results are still a bit hit-and-miss, especially during the middle section of the album, but the band sounds stronger, fresher, and best of all...more relevant. Dig Out Your Soul won't as Oasis' definitive comeback, but it should satisfy long-time fans.

Favorite Tracks: "Bag It Up," "The Shock Of Lightning," "I'm Outta Time"

Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park (* * * 1/2)
Department Of Eagles is releasing the most recent record in an explosion of indie folk albums to garner some serious attention this year. Though sometimes thought of as Daniel Rossen's Grizzly Bear side project, Rossen and Fred Nicolaus, the core of Department of Eagles, have been making music together since college in 2001 when the band was formed. It's an offbeat, almost low-fi combination of electronica, folk, and classic orchestral pop.

The sparse, yet complex arrangements employ a variety of sounds and instruments, all tastefully organized to provide a unique backdrop for the soft, even vocals. At it's best, the album is delightfully quirky, like "No One Does It Like You," which sounds almost as if it could have been released in the 1950's, or "Around The Bay," a blend of clever percussion and atmospheric guitars that gets under your skin.

Unfortunately, In Ear Park doesn't make for an especially captivating listen when consumed as a whole. The album drags during the halfway point, and can't quite redeem itself even with a couple of strong songs toward the end. Still, Department Of Eagles have made a unique and legitim
ately interesting record that can at least be enjoyed for the successful integration of its influences and its beautiful composition.

Favorite Tracks: "No One Does It Like You," "Around The Bay," "Balmy Night"

Rise Against - Appeal To Reason (* * * *)
Rise Against remain one of the few truly punk bands today getting any respect. It's not hard to see why, with
a combination of ferocious vocals, blazing guitars, and thoughtful lyrics, Rise Against stand above the pack. Appeal To Reason continues the smoother, yet more explosive sound of their 2006 effort The Sufferer And The Witness, though occasionally the band branches out a bit with the old-school punk sound of "The Dirt Whispered," the 3/4 waltz bridge of "Entertainment" and the acoustic soldier-ballad "Hero Of War."

It's sometimes over-dramatic and a little too long, but Appeal To Reason is one of the better mainstream rock records to be released this year. Bringing both the melody and intensity to new heights; Rise Against raise the bar for the punk-rock genre.

Favorite Tracks: "Collapse (Post-Amerika)," "Kotov Syndrome," "Entertainment"


Also, check out some other new releases at Spinner this week that are very much worth a listen (or two).

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (see review below)

Annuals - Such Fun (will post review later)

Glasvegas - Glasvagas

Little Ones - Morning Tide

Spinto Band - Moonwink

Monday, October 6, 2008

Review: Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping (* * * )

This album is one wild ride. I thought I had been prepared; I read some early reviews, heard the lead single "Id Engager," and familiarized myself with Of Montreal's back catalog (some of it, anyway). But I knew I was in over my head with openers "Nonpareil of Favor" and "Wicked Wisdom," eleven minutes of song clips strung together seemingly at random and without any consideration of format or transition. It left my head spinning and my eyes crossed, and I still had 45 minutes to go. Skeletal Lamping is fascinating, frustrating, and completely unlike anything I've ever experienced.

Skeletal Lamping is brimming with enough ideas to fill almost a career's worth of albums. It's especially impressive given the short time between records, as Hissing Fauna, Are You The Destroyer was released just last year. At 15 tracks and just under an hour running time, Of Montreal explore every imaginable facet of funk/disco pop music with plenty of flair and bravado. Front man Kevin Barnes' performs vocal acrobatics (often in falsetto) over the complex musical arrangements featuring generous helpings of bright synths and slinky guitars. It's catchy and melodic at every turn, but getting used to the frequently jarring transitions between and within each track takes some time. While it's fun to be treated to so many exciting musical experiments, the trip does get wearying after 30 minutes.

If the musical eccentricities weren't enough, the lyrics blast the album even further from anything resembling normalcy. Apparently Barnes has an alternate persona that stars in much of Skeletal Lamping, a black she-male named Georgie Fruit (seriously). While the idea is creepy, the lyrics that Barnes comes up with to describe his alter ego are even creepier. The album is full of sexually explicit and sometimes disturbing fantasies and (probably) realities. I'll spare you the details, but believe me when I tell you it's more than a little disconcerting. Supposedly Barnes wrote much of the album as a way to exorcise and explain his demons. Next time I recommend a journal...or maybe a psychiatrist. I just don't think I need to be involved.

This is music for people who like to take a bite out of everything at the buffet table, but those who like to savor an entire steak might want to find something a bit more conventional. Skeletal Lamping is certainly unique and in some ways brilliant, but the album proves to be too much to digest all in one sitting and too scattered to be effective in smaller doses.

Favorite Tracks: "An Eluardian Instance," "Gallery Piece," "Id Engager"

Saturday, October 4, 2008

New Music: O'Death - Lowtide (single)

Recently, O'Death premiered the first single, "Lowtide" from their upcoming album Broken Hymns, Limbs And Skin. It's a blast of gypsy-inspired punk rock with driving fiddles and guitars accenting singer Greg Jamie's crazed vocals and slightly demented lyrics.

Get the single here and read more about the band at RCRD LBL. The album drops 10/28 on Kemado Records.

Lowtide (MP3)


October 30 - Music Hall of Williamsburg - Brooklyn, NY (w/ Hoots and Hellmouth, La Strada)
October 31 - Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, PA
November 1 - Johnny Brenda's - Philadelphia, PA
November 2 - T.T. The Bears - Cambridge, MA
November 3 - La Sala Rosa - Montreal, QUE Canada
November 4 - El Mocambo - Toronto, ONT Canada
November 5 - Mohawk Place - Buffalo, NY
November 6 - Beachland Ballroom - Cleveland, OH
November 7 - Jakes Nightclub - Bloomington, IN
November 8 - Empty Bottle - Chicago, IL
November 9 - Hideout - Chicago, IL
November 10 - 7th Street Entry - Minneapolis, MN
November 11 - The Picador - Iowa City, IA
November 12 - The Jackpot - Lawrence, KS
November 13 - Waiting Room - Omaha, NE
November 14 - Larimer Lounge - Denver, CO
November 15 - Urban Lounge - Salt Lake City, UT
November 17 - Media Club - Vancouver, BC Canada
November 18 - High Dive - Seattle, WA
November 19 - Doug Fir Lounge - Portland, OR
November 20 - Jambalaya - Arcata, CA
November 21 - Bottom of the Hill - San Francisco, CA
November 22 - Spaceland - Los Angeles, CA
November 23 - Casbah - San Diego, CA
November 24 - Modified Arts - Phoenix, AZ
November 26 - The Mohawk - Austin, TX
November 28 - Marquee - Tulsa, OK
November 29 - Off Broadway - St. Louis, MO
November 30 - Hi-Tone Café - Memphis, TN
December 1 - Exit Inn - Nashville, TN
December 2 - The Earl - Atlanta, GA
December 3 - Local 506 - Chapel Hill, NC
December 4 - Black Cat Backstage - Washington, DC

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Review: Dear And The Headlights - Drunk Like Bible Times (* * * *)

I saw Dear And The Headlights live last year opening for Muse. Of course, Muse was headlining for a reason, and even though I enjoyed Dear And The Headlights, I only checked them out once after the show and soon forgot about them entirely. Turns out that was a mistake. After seeing Drunk Like Bible Times pop up on a few sites, I took the time to listen and was instantly impressed.

It's hard for me to describe why Dear And The Headlights are so intriguing. Their indie rock sound is not especially unique nor is their approach. Those who are more pop-cultured than I could probably list a slew of influences, but the band that comes to mind at first listen is Okkervil River (though I am occasionally reminded of Arcade Fire as well). The most striking resemblance is singer Ian Metzger's voice, which can sound quite a bit like Will Sheff's, though Metzger's is a much stronger and more emotive singer than Sheff could ever hope to be. The music is also familiar, treading mostly down territory already well-covered by a variety of indie bands.

The strength of Dear And The Headlights lies in their ability to compose strong material and present it in a mature and interesting way. Drunk Like Bible Times sounds like the work of a band that has been around for a while, yet has the energy of a group that still endeavors to impress. The opener, "I'm Not Crying, You're Not Crying, Are You?" breaks into a melody so captivating you'll be forced to continue to "Bad News," a tempo-changing number just as infectious. Other highlights include "Talk About," a catchy track full of wild imagery, and the closer "I Know," complete with handclaps and a group vocal chorus. It all sounds original and fresh even while the back of your mind is reminding you that you might have heard this before.

The solid songwriting and musicianship of Drunk Like Bible Times make it an album worthy of your attention. Dear And The Headlights are a band that will hopefully grow to make something completely their own, but for now, creating a record this good will do just fine.


I'm sure anyone that has been to the site in the last day or so has noticed that I now have advertisements on the page. I know it's a pain, but I have tried to make them as unobtrusive as possible and I hope that it won't be too much of a problem.

I also hope that the content here is continuing to be worthwhile; thanks for the support!