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 #302 reviews
Another one of those perfectly-titled albums. Andrews plies the laptop pop waters with new wave sails and a big beat keel. These songs have an astonishing amount of heft to them.
These songs are lushly appointed, but the construction is strikingly sprightly. Andrews likes to populate his pieces with all sorts of ornaments, but he makes sure that the center can support the weight. These songs simply bound out of the speakers.
The production is unusually full for a laptop offering. Andrews has big ambitions, and perhaps someone with a bit more a budget will help him create one of those albums for the ages.
For now, though, this will more than do. Because in the end, production and sound are secondary to the songs themselves. Andrews writes with confidence and economy, and that gives his work the energy that drives this album. First rate.
Best of Luck
There aren't many anarchic pop bands around anymore. I can't recall the last Fall album, and old soldiers like the Flaming Lips have cleaned up their act. Those two bands were listed in the press notes, I must admit, but along with Pulp (also noted), the reference points for Condo become increasingly obscure and defunct.
I'm not sure why this sound disappeared. Perhaps the endemic non-commercial aspect has something to do with that. I happen to like this sound a lot, though. Condo rolls out its songs with very little pretense and simply lets the pieces fall as played. Sometimes the listener has to pick them up, a certain form of respect that I've always appreciated.
Indeed, Condo has no intention of talking down to its audience. Rather, it challenges. Which is not say these songs are particularly difficult. The rhythms are almost always engaging and the thoughts (musical and lyrical) are clear, if somewhat disjointed.
Ah, such fun. I don't know if this sound will prove any more popular for Condo, but good music usually attracts a fair crowd. In this case, such attention would be more than deserved.
Kinda like Royal Trux playing early-70s Rolling Stones (or even early Springsteen), Everything, Now! blasts out rambling, rollicking rock and roll. There's just enough mannered craft to provide a bit of a wink toward the listener, but that's simply part of the fun.
What I like is the use of horns and piano and other unabashed old-school sounds. These songs are rendered impeccably modern (and possibly even cynical) by plenty of silliness on the edges--off-key shouting, sing-song choruses, etc. But again, that's the Royal Trux side of the equation.
What seems apparent is the respect these folks have for the basics of rock and roll. A good beat, slinky lead guitar and chunky work from the rhythm section. All the extra stuff gets a little goofy at times, but it doesn't detract from the whole.
Rather, it lends a bit of a party atmosphere to the disc. Sometimes I think these folks are trying a bit too hard, but on the whole they hit these songs right on the head.
Head Resonance Company
19 Tracks for Unknown People
Truly old school, as these songs were recorded between 1980 and 1984. Funny thing is, they don't sound old. In fact, my first impression upon hearing them is how forward-sounding they are. Then again, what's old is new again.
This is the sort of album that leads me to talk in circles. The electronic rumblings are, indeed, decidedly Teutonic in nature, but there's a playfulness to them that is generally missing from such stuff, especially when talking about music from this time.
Perhaps most importantly, this isn't strictly electronic. There are "real" instruments included along with the samples and surfeit of keyboards. The bass work in particular keeps these songs from simply freezing into nothingness.
A whole lot more fun than the bio might suggest. This isn't just for fans of the sound. Anyone who likes to give their brain a whirl ought to find a few smiles here.
Leopold and His Fiction
Ain't No Surprise
Kinda like the Kings of Leon before that band got dull, Leopold and His Fiction plays meta-rock with all sorts of rootsy trappings.
The thing is, this stuff is anything but simple and unrefined. The entire "rough" sound is carefully constructed. Even the raucous moments sound a wee bit crafted. Which does make it hard to get lost in the sound.
Funny thing is, I managed anyway. Part of it is the pure intellectual appeal of the songs. I like trying to figure out what subtle references the band throws in with its distortion and reverb. I even like trying to puzzle out the meanings behind the lyrics.
Best of all, this stuff is played with style and energy. Yes, it's crafted, but it's hardly stilted. These boys may be merely playing at the rough and tumble, but they might actually have a line on deeper things.
This Portland duo recalls some of the chilliest German engineering from the 70s and 80s. Imagine Air playing Kraftwerk. There's almost no there there sometimes...and those moments happen to be merely transcendent.
It is difficult to grasp much of anything often enough. This duo has listened to a lot of William Orbit as well, as the burbling electronics prove. Quite the sound this sound is, I'd say.
Frozen back to the depths of the last ice age, this album almost becomes inviting in the lush choruses. The discordance of musical ideas is positively invigorating.
Not exactly fun, I guess, but quite fulfilling. Fans of current acts like Ming and Ping ought to groove on this as well; the sound isn't identical, but there are plenty of reference points. I can feel myself floating away.
Man at Arms
A Waste of Time and Space
If you can imagine the Minutemen playing math rock, you might get an idea of the mania here. This is music for mutants, pure and simple. Humans need not apply.
Luckily, this web site is for mutants, so Man at Arms is more than welcome. If my first reference is confusing, perhaps the notion of Ween playing Voivod might help you out. No? Hmm. The Jesus Lizard under the boot of a minimalist dominatrix? I have a feeling none of these are making any sense.
So I'll just say that Man at Arms plays highly-technical, highly-crafted songs that sometimes sport an actual melody. The vocals trip over the music as often as not, but they're kinda effective that way. The result is a disjointed mish-mash that sounds positively wonderful.
To mutant ears, of course. Humans will wonder what the fuck is going on. That's okay. Leave them to their Mantovani. Oh wait, another now-obscure reference. Sorry about that.
Mostly Other People Do the Killing
This Is Our Moosic
Four guys from Moosic who really like playing jazz. The liners say this explicitly, but it's even easier to hear. They don't stick to any particular style, they don't seem to hold to any particular theory...they just like playing jazz.
And having fun with it. So one song might steep itself in New Orleans, while another jumps straight into deconstruction. There are plenty of hard bop moments interspersed with some gorgeous melodies and smooth rhythms. There's also a version of "Allentown." The Billy Joel song.
Most jazz musicians take music far too seriously. Most of them play good stuff, but the best are willing to let go a bit. Branford Marsalis in the 80s and 90s comes to mind, I suppose. MOPDTK pays copious homage in the liners to Ornette Coleman, another artist who has defied all labels. The quartet's skill and writing isn't quite up to those standards, but its sense of adventure certainly is.
The reason this album works so well, though, is that the guys had so much fun making it. That feeling is infectious. It makes listening to this album a real blast. Don't worry. It's okay to smile when listening to jazz. In fact, it ought to be required.
Paper the Operator
Solemn Boyz EP
Six doses of that power pop stuff that's passed for emo the past few years. I know, that sounds positively dull, but there's a bite to this that I haven't heard in ages. Think Ruth Ruth's The Little Death EP, which turned out to be the only great thing that band ever did.
There's not a concept here, but the songs are nicely dark and mean, and the hooks are sharp and barbed. The time passes quickly, and I hit repeat. More times than I'd like to admit.
An instant stunner. I wonder if the boys can keep this up for a full length. There were a couple spots that threatened to lag here, though the band stamped those out quickly enough. Whatever. If this is the best thing this band ever does, well, it's done good.