Thursday, October 9, 2008

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.