Sunday, February 25, 2007

February 27 Notable Releases

A few of the 2,580 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Money Mark -- Brand New By Tomorrow. First solo album in several years from this long time Beastie Boys collaborator.

Manowar -- Gods of War. Let me just start with a direct quote from the band's pr-o-machine. "Manowar's First Volume in a Cycle of Concept Albums; Each a Tribute to a Different War God. This 2007 Limited Edition Issue Comes in an Embossed Metal Slipcase Containing a High Grade Mediabook Bound in Leather, also featuring a Bonus Dvd with Previously Unreleased Material About the Making of this Album and Special Behind-the-scenes Footage." This is special edition is really good news for those of you who couldn't wait until April 3 for the regular version of the album. Also in case you didn't know, Manowar once came in number 1 in a Russian poll of the greatest rock bands of all time (Beatles a lowly number 2). They also actually look like their cover art in real life; naked, rippling muscles and so gay, a pile of naked women cannot distract from their gayness. Not that there is anything wrong with that, obvs.

Dean & Britta -- Back Numbers. 50% of Luna bring us their second post-Luna album with a mix of loungy originals and covers. P.S., Luna.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Aqueduct -- Or Give Me Death

Not related to Commodore Perry or Lionel Richie for that matter.David Perry, first came to my attention a couple of years ago with his first full album under the Aqueduct moniker (sorry, he's just not cool enough for an alias), I Sold Gold. It wasn't a hit, it wasn't an "auspicious" debut, but it was promising.

I Sold Gold is quirky bedroom pop. Despite being released under the name of a band, it is clearly born from and executed by a single musical mind. It had weird little synth blips, heavily effected drums and a vocal style that would have felt comfortable with Yoshimi and her Pink Robots.

Most noticeably it had lyrics that fed on plenty of pop culture amongst the fairly standard broken love of indie rock. Coupled with connections to Modest Mouse, Ben Gibbard and housed on Barsuk Records it was perhaps preordained to have a song on an O.C. compilation -- that is was "Hardcore Days & Softcore Nights" and not "Growing Up with GnR" was probably just to remind us old farts that plenty of OC fans are to young to remember skinny Axl.

Getting ready to die on a toilet?Or Give Me Death doesn't come off so much as a sophomore slump, as it does an album distracted with trappings and the peripheral. Previous Aqueduct recordings felt cleverly cobbled with available resources: Musical, technical and monetary, but it was the thought that counted. Or Give Me Death is still quirky, but where the use of horns, strings, big grand pianos and presumably gobs of real studio time should support some musical purpose, they often seem like the whole point.

The little deceits of relationships (both told and received) are a driving topic of most of the lyrics and could be found on a whole host of other indie records and probably done better. That said, tracks like"Living a Lie" are largely a success, with energetic drums and a tasteful application of electronic blips.

Mrs. Gorilla likes the Rock, I like Spy Hunter. These are the things that make a marriage work.However, the ode to The Princess Bride, "As You Wish" falls flat as an overly contrived attempt to hook up with young women nostalgic for a film of their youth. However, no one who rhymes "This is a song for all the lovers," with, "or anyone who's playing Spy Hunter," as Perry does on "Zero the Controls" is all bad.

In the end, despite a few nice moments, Aqueduct remains basically where he was after the last album -- merely a promising artist, rather than one moving into his prime. I have little doubt that he'll get a chance to make more records -- hopefully he'll be able to better discern where his burgeoning studio craft can be put to use in support of great songs, rather than in lieu of them.

Rating: 3/5


Or Give Me Death is streaming in it's entirety for free at

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February 20 Notable Releases

Aqueduct -- Or Give Me Death. New material from the one-man Barsuk band.

Jill Cunniff -- City Beach. Arguably the brains behind easily the third or fourth best chick band of the '90's, Luscious Jackson (but number one in our hearts), Jill's new record gives her a break from her new day job producing music for kids shows and cartoons. If you still can't remember her, she's not the cute one and she's not the one that was in the Beastie Boys.

Trans Am -- Sex Change. D.C. electro-rock deconstructionists/satirists went to New Zealand and ended up recording this album. 'Nuff said.

The Kidz Bop Kidz -- Kidz Bop 11. Come Tuesday, Kids everywhere will be grovin' in their mini-van booster seats as the Kidz sing slightly reworked hits about sex, adultery and mental illness/suicide. Maybe they're "Crazy"? Probably.

Calla -- Strength in Numbers. If you believe the critics, indie-pop comes in only a couple of flavors. Ethereal. Blistering. And jagged. Calla is jagged.


Monday, February 12, 2007

February 13 Notable Releases

Lucinda Williams -- West. New Material from one of America's most respected singer-songwriters.

The Doobie Brothers -- Very Best Of. Like many of the boomer FM hit makers the Doobies have once again repacked their material so that it demands a better price premium (i.e. not a super saver) and gets better placement and push at retail. It does bare noting that this 2 disc package is "remastered"... slow down there Michael McDonald, the compact disc has only been around since 1982, why not wait 24 years to get a decent digital mix of "China Grove"? It also gives me an excuse to link to this, cause it's so effing smooth!

Sting and Edin Karamazov -- The Journey & The Labyrinth: The Music of John Dowland. You know it's a slow week for new releases when I get exited to find a release of a live album and DVD of a PBS special that features the Stinger playing the lute compositions of a guy who died in 1626; because it gives me something to link to. It's not even new material, it's a live album of the same lute music he released before, but without all the digital editing and effects that pollute so many of the classical lute studio recordings that come out these days.

Various Artists -- Hills: The Soundtrack. From the people who brought you Laguna Beach: The Soundtrack, more crap. However, I should note that this is a great place to get tracks from artists like Pink, Good Charlotte, Augustana and Lindsay Lohan, who are otherwise terribly difficult to find in our pop-star hating mass media.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Apples in Stereo -- New Magnetic Wonder

Apples in Stereo, were always a band I always wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. Coming out of the music collective Elephant 6Gorilla 6 is better a little more than 10 years ago, they were oft described as sunny, low-fi, beatle-eque pop with more than a hint of Zombie-fied power chords. But for me, the sunny adjetive was the only one that ever really fit well. The Apples were never as low-fi as their collegues (and shared members) in Neutral Milk Hotel, and while their arrangements and songs openly drew from the late '60's and early '70's, the Beatles comparison was probably a bit overstated. Add to that the band's virtual disappearance for 5 years and the Apples were likely to fail to be known as much more than a Powerpuff Girls footnote.

Since they've been gone, other bands like Death Cab for Cutie and it's sister the Postal Service have taken the quirky indie-pop consortium model the Elephant 6ers established to the big time. Not to mention that New Pornographers batch of Canadians do almost everything the Apples do and do it better.

Wry pop lyrics. check I ring twice bitches

Panel of shifting collaborators. check

Shinny inter-gender harmonies and switching lead vocalists. check

Love of mid career Beatles and late career Beach Boys. check and mate

In a way, all that somewhat negligible history and makes New Magnetic Wonder even more refreshing. It is a truly joyous album of well arranged and very listenable pop-rock. Frontman Robert Schnider's craft seems to be in full force and the result isn't just an album that sounds fun, it actually is. The arrangements are often layered, but they sound effortless and intuitive, where so much current music feels sculpted within an inch of it's hard drive.

If you are too jaded to find the fun in the doubled guitar and piano chords of "Can You Feel It?" with its classic FM command to "turn up your radio1", then you might as well hang up your little white ear buds.

The two numbers sung by recently departed drummer, Hilarie Sidney, "Sunndal Song" and "Sunday Sounds" could have been totally disconnected from the rest of the album in less capable hands, but they fit in neat and trim like the songs themselves.

He must be really sick of this shitNear the end of the album are the 4 parts of the "Beautiful Machine" broken into two distinct tracks. The first half displays the power pop prowess of the first half of the album, anchored by Schnider's vocal that displays a grittiness that carries over into the second half. The indie grit hinted at under the pop sheen of the first half really blossoms into the full Elephant 6 effect in parts 3-4. The arrangement, recording, and odd instrumentation play out as pleasant reminder of the best work of Neutral Milk Hotel, who's Jeff Magnum also surfaces on this album.

There are also plenty of quirky gimmicks through out the album. Little synths pop up and out as little pieces of ear candy. Back up vocals are run through a variety of modulation effects that recall ELO more than the Beatles directly. And there is a reoccurring use of vocoded vocals (think every Daft Punk song ever) that is pleasant enough. The only gimmick that really doesn't add to the overall effect of the album are the short sonic interludes that account for about half of the album's 24 tracks. I often love the use of short interludes, but they need to guide you from one song to the next or at least echo a consistent musical or sonic motif (a la' Badly Drawn Boy's brilliant Hour of the Bewilderbeast or About a Boy).

Still, it's hard to say that the interludes, which only account for a few minutes of the overall 53 really diminish the album as a whole. If you really don't like them, hit fast forward or edit them out of the playlist,2 but don't sleep on this album.

Rating: 4/5


1They still make those right?
2You've been effing with album order since you got your first dual cassette deck, so don't act like you don't do this.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

February 6 Notable Releases

A few of the 1326 new and reissued releases coming out this week.

Bloc Party -- Weekend in the City. Upcoming tour with Albert Hammond Jr. seems promising, let's leave other comments to this week's review.

John Digweed -- Transitions Vol. 2. Unce music for those who like to get their unce, unce, unce on.

Patty Griffin -- Children Running Through. I could have come up with something nice to say about the self-made singer/songwriter out of Beantown... but ya' know, whatevs.

Apples in Stereo -- New Magnetic Wonder. Georgian indie rockers' first album in 5 years released under the auspices of the homoerotic hobbit, Elijah Wood's new label. Huh, huh, I said Wood.

Yoko Ono -- Yes, I'm a Witch. Yoko pulls a Santana and tries to show that she can play nice with the kids.

Sondre Lerche -- Phantom Punch. Creepy Scandinavian eyes make me feel like Ms. Modernage is watching me at all times.