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 #312 reviews
Curtains for You
What a Lovely Surprise to Wake Up Here
(Spark and Shine)
Exceedingly crafted pop. Layered harmonies, jangly guitars and all that mess. Oh, and lead guitar work that occasionally reminds me of George Harrison.
So you know where these folks are aiming--somewhere between Nilsson, the Beach Boys and All Things Must Pass. There are worse targets out there. Even better (depending on your point of view), this is an increasingly well-traveled road.
More to the point, Curtains for You generally hits the mark without aping any particular song or artist. There are echoes of modern popsters like the New Pornographers or the Shins, but these folks walk their own trail. There's plenty of craft but little artifice to these songs. Everything is upfront and earnest, and the production makes sure that comes across quite clearly.
The sort of pop album that makes discriminating listeners smile. Just a bit. Pleasant, but with enough bite to satisfy. A fine set.
Death to God
(Noise on Noise)
Travis DeVries (once of the Turn Ons) moved from Seattle to New York and started anew. This newest incarnation in full of intimate and shimmery pieces.
Somewhere between the Brian Jonestown Massacre and mid-70s Bowie, I suppose. There's also an interesting T.Rex splinter in the sound, though these songs rarely bound.
Most of the time the pieces move by at a modest pace, inviting introspection and engendering a certain languid mood. The sound is fairly muddy, lending even more of a hang-out feel to the disc.
Indeed, you've really got to sit still for this one. By and large, Travis DeVries doesn't write songs that are immediately arresting (though "Boys are Bores" is an obvious exception), and his band seems intent on moving at his pace. Hey, it works, so no complaints from my end. Something to chew on.
The King Can Drink the Harbour Dry
Taking a late 60s/early 70s hippie vibe and sliding it into an americana album cover, the Dimes end up sounding decidedly timeless. That's probably the most impressive thing about this album--and to be honest, it's about as impressive as anything I've heard all year.
Yes, you have to appreciate the component parts, but the Dimes spin these sounds into something much greater than their influences. This is music that sounds great and has great things to say. All without hitting the listener over the head.
The production is quite clean, leaving the songs to speak for themselves. There's just enough smudging to fill in the empty spaces, but each element comes through loud and clear.
An album that impresses more and more with each listen. Give this one an inch, and it just might steal your soul. The hooks are damned tenacious.
Globes on Remote
Laptop meets indie meets cheese pop. With more than a bit of German engineering lying in wait. Globes on Remote aren't shy about spinning eclectic sounds. Even better, the songs come together most of the time.
Sometimes they don't, though I think that might well be intentional. After all, many of these pieces sound like some sort of inside joke that I (for one) don't get.
I'm not going to worry about it too much, though. The gentle throb and whimsical bleeps are more than enough to keep my head bobbing. I suppose Globes on Remote might be annoying if its songs were more insistent, but these gentle-hearted ramblers are utterly charming.
Something of a mess, but a pleasant mess. I'm not sure more coherence would help, as much of the whimsy comes from the random thoughts tossed around. Settle in and see how the water suits you.
Hymns in the Key of 666
More than a decade ago, my brothers wrote a stoner play (never performed, of course) that featured a fantasy of Metallica playing Vegas. The band opened with "Blackened." In a lounge style. Somewhere, somehow, the members of Hellsongs came across that play, even if their versionof the song tends more toward Donovan.
Or maybe not. But the notion of recasting hard rock anthems as Nick Drake-y folk or jaunty hippie pop is so arresting as to verge on parody. I'm not suggesting that's the case, of course. But still...
These songs have been drifting around the web for a while, and this album has been available as an import since the first of the year. But Minty Fresh, purveyor of the finest tastes in alterna-pop, is doing up the official U.S. release. So, y'know, maybe it's not all a joke.
All I'm saying is that anyone who can turn "Seasons in the Abyss" into a chamber pop piece or extend "We're Not Gonna Take It" into five minutes of introspective folk has a talent. Any one of these songs will stop you in your tracks. Soiled garments are strictly your concern.
(Wall of Sound)
Cosmo Jarvis is British. So is his record label. And, yeah, this is pretty much throw-shit-on-the-wall Britpop. The influences rush by faster than prostate cancer survivors at a Sarah Palin rally, but unlike most politicians, Jarvis knows how to pull everything together into a coherent package.
I suppose keyboards are at the center of the songs, but that's a guess. There's a busking ballad and a brain-throttling hooky monster. And a lot of stuff from all sides of the pop universe, all wrapped up in stellar harmonies. I guess Brits have a shorter attention span than Yanks.
The sound is shiny, though there are some moments of startling intimacy. Imagine the Streets as a pop singer/songwriter. Oh, and perhaps slightly less jaded.
A wild ride, one that I'm loathe to get off. I don't have any idea how the masses will react, but I'm sold.
Leigh Marble's Red Tornado was a fairly typical singer-songwriter album. Twister is a much more intriguing creature.
Marble has a background in producing, so it shouldn't be particularly surprising that he would be able to find some serious talent to remix a number of songs from Red Tornado. He does a couple of the twistings himself.
What results is something fresh and exciting. Those young enough to remember the remix of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" might begin to understand the radical departure of these pieces even as they generally retain the spirit of the originals. Not to take anything away from Red Tornado, but this effort is superlative. It's much more interesting to play in a sandbox full of toys, and Marble seems to be enjoying every minute. Most invigorating.
Mid-60s pop that flies straight through a new millennium art rock filter. The pieces are then reassembled into something that resembles greatness.
The easiest reference point is the Flaming Lips, but Morningbell is much more minimalist (Flaming Lips circa 1988, let's say) and a bit less crafted. Just as crafty, though, and the asides (musical as well as lyrical) are gratifying.
The ambition of this album is stunning, and Morningbell pulls it off better than anyone might have imagined. The melange of sound that rolls through the speakers is simply overwhelming.
One of those albums that provides an immediate rush and then continues to bring pleasure for years to come. One of the year's best, to be sure.
Future Automatic EP
Club-ready new wave retreads. Of course, bringing a new wave sensibility to late 80s dance music is, in itself, an innovation. Some acts came close to this ideal, but New Order was always a bit on the chilly side, and dance floor masters like Clivilles and Cole were always more about bombast than cleverness.
And so the Perfects may well be, indeed, perfect. Pretty damned close if you like to shake your ass and have a certain predilection for understated, ironic pop. This is more a band than a studio creation, though there are plenty of bells and whistles. After all, we are talking about dance music.
A fine pick-me-up for these mid-autumn days. And if you like guitars with your drum machines (or throbbing bass with your new wave), the Perfects will fit the bill. Perfectly.