Welcome to A&A. There are 12 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
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A&A #289 reviews
Kasey Anderson could write songs like Tom Petty or Steve Earle. In fact, he does. Almost. And then, right before the rousing (or bitterly melodic, depending on the song) hook kicks in, Anderson subverts the whole thing one way or another.
Which is why he's Kasey Anderson and not a renowned singer-songwriter. Thing is, I like his shtick. I also like Petty and Earle, who are two of the great songwriters of the last 30 years. Anderson isn't quite in their league, but he says interesting things in interesting ways. And he writes songs that are almost anthems.
What a nice grumble he has. Really. And he uses it singing as well as talking. There's an attitude to these songs that is pretty tough to beat.
Just like Dead Roses, this album could be a kick-out-the-boots foot-stomper, if not for Anderson's idiosyncrasies. But the very instincts that subvert his commerical appeal make this multifaceted album something well worth hearing.
Keith Gladysz and Fred Sargolini with a few friends here and there (the Ess brothers, Alan and Vin, are also listed as band members, though they appear on only about half the songs). While I'm tempted to refer to this as laptop pop (this album was seriously assembled), there's not a whole lot of pop going on.
Rather, what we have here is kind of a modern version of Die Warzau or something, hyper-catchy vocal lines sneered over snappy electronic tuneage. Rock, not pop. With killer hooks.
At times, this stuff gets positively Strokesean, which is both impressive and more than a little silly. This isn't garage fare. Almost the opposite. Truly a genre-blurring effect for the ages.
The main element here is fun. There's nothing ponderous or particularly profound going on. Just a good time spread out over a fabulous musical tableau. Nicely done.
How to Swim and Live
Lee Barker is Little Name. He's from somewhere in England, which doesn't really matter. This is Britpop of a sort (Belle and Sebastian-y, I guess), but it really has the feel of the obsessive American one-man-band sort.
First, the man adores Bacharachian melodic lines. Hell, don't we all? And he doesn't make things too pretty. There are some nicely-chimed harmonies here and there, but rarely does a song enter treacle territory.
Rather, this has the feel of a well-crafted lark. All the pieces are perfectly placed, but they don't sound forced. This album moves along like a warm spring breeze, all wafty and the like.
Sometimes it's nice to relax into a comfy pillow and let the day drain away. Little Name knows all about it and is ready to wash your cares away.
I threatened this last month, and in fact, I've done it. The Mabuses get a full review. And damned if it only took me 20 listens to pull the trigger.
In truth, I'd decided after about five, but the other 15 simply confirmed my second (and third and...) impression. This is mordantly obsessive pop with more bits and pieces floating around in it than Pamela Anderson's chest. I'm not entirely sure why I didn't fall in love at first listen, but then, the best albums never hit me the first time.
Naw, this one takes a little getting used to. Mabuses have this habit of sewing two or three songs together into a single piece. Nothing unusual about that, except that the parts assembled rarely have a lot to do with each other--sometimes even when smashed up together.
The bouncy, bounding sound on this disc truly sells the songs properly. The music and lyrics are quite ambitious, but what comes out strongest is the fun these folks are having. Their music isn't quite conventional, and they're really damned happy about that.
So am I. This might well be my favorite album of the year. I'll have to listen to it another hundred or so times and then decide. There's a task I can definitely embrace.
Emotive Americana played with strident attention to rhythm and attendant aggression. Leigh Marble starts off raucous and keeps the energy up throughout. The tension intensifies when Marble slows things down--a sign that the songs are really working.
Rowdy but refined, I suppose. Marble throws plenty of rock and roll into his rootsy delivery...I suppose another Tom Petty reference wouldn't be amiss, though Marble's approach to this style is anything but southern.
There is an underlying bitterness to some of the lyrics, but Marble generally comes off as hopeful. Hoping, anyway. Even if things aren't going well now, the future might be different. Maybe
Marble channels too much energy to make these songs dreary. Even the slower ones have plenty of punch. This album crackles. That's always nice to feel.
Mother and the Addicts
Science Fiction Illustrated
To reference two of the bands listed on the promo sticker, Mother and the Addicts is nothing less than Roxy Music fronted by Mark E. Smith. The music is all over the place--most often giving off a vague new wave vibe. You know, bouncy with lots of keyboards and the occasional guitar.
No harmonies to speak of, of course. There are background vocals, but they really don't harmonize much. These songs have enough hooks in the music without worrying about finding them in the singing.
I really like the sound of this album. The production is just lush enough to evoke an 80s feel, but there is a modern edge that places these songs in the now. One more check in the "Yesssss!" column.
One of those albums that will either immediately charm or utterly annoy. Kinda depends on what you think of the Fall or P.I.L. or the like. Dissonant vocals paired with tight melodies have always made me smile, and so I thought this album went down as smoothly as single-barrel bourbon on ice.