Monday, April 30, 2007

May 1 Notable Releases

A few of the 1,759 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Rush -- Snakes & Arrows. Progressive. Canadian. Over 50.
Let the onslaught of babes commence.

Feist -- The Reminder. Continuing with this week's Canadian theme, we have a new album of presumably twee songs recorded in some French chateau. This sentence fulfills obligation to mention Broken Social Scene when discussing the before mentioned, Leslie Feist -- Broken Social Scene.

Dinosaur jr. --Beyond. Lou and J can now be in the same room together -- they must have heard about all the money the Pixies made the last couple of years. Presumably, they have been to Canada.

Various Artists -- Spider-Man 3: Music from and Inspired By. Much has been made of the much hipper line-up on this album replacing the likes of Canada's Nickleback. I think the most interesting thing is the inclusion of Ultragrrl artist The Oohlas. The profits from even one track on a CD like this could give Stolen Transmission some actual profits to join their mega corp seed money -- even if we never hear about The Oohlas again.

Tori Amos -- American Doll Posse. Tori gives us another album of melodramatic wig driven character narratives. Probably will be huge in Canada.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Arctic Monkeys -- Favourite Worst Nightmare

You Had Me At “That Man Just Yawned”

For many such as myself, much of 2006 was spent avoiding the non-stop media and blog buzz surrounding the UK's Arctic Monkeys debut, Whatever People How about using that bat to get an effing hit?Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. I quickly and unfairly dismissed the Sheffield band as merely a British Strokes carbon copy (Libertines?) and never gave them a chance at even cracking the iPod (in my mind). That was until I caught a re-run of their SNL performance last summer. They played their hits "I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor" and "Certain Romance, A". The latter featured singer Alex Turner pointing at an audience member while saying "that man just yawned!" seamlessly before launching into the song's finale. I bought the album the very next day and it has not left my rotation since (nor has the recording of the line left my saved voicemail messages).

Whereas Whatever People Say... covered the seedy pub and club scenes, telling tales through Yes have somesocial observations made along way, their encore Favourite Worst Nightmare moves on to love and relationships, while still maintaining their common man appeal and witty commentary on topics such as the music scene, reality tv, and not-very-married married women. Unlike many of the recent indie buzz bands (Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, come to mind), the Arctic Monkeys don't play it safe (a la The Strokes with Room On Fire). Just 15 months after their debut dropped, Turner and co kept the pedal to the metal and somehow manage to follow-up a triple platinum debut with, what could be considered one of the better UK sophomore albums in recent memory.

Much like an early Oasis with the working-class background and work ethic, the band has kept improving and that is extremely obvious at first listen. While the strength of their debut was theirI'll 'it yous in da face wit dees I will chaotic energy and Turner’s words, this time everyone in the band is vastly improved to the level of Turner. Drummer Matt Helders was no slouch before, but reportedly took up boxing to be able to appropriately pull-off the new material in a live setting. He impressively attacks the drum kit throughout (most notably on opening track "Brianstorm"), quickly putting himself in the same league as Muse’s Dominic Howard and Editors’ Ed Lay. New Bassist Nick O’Malley took over for the departed Andy Nicholson, a move which can surprisingly be considered a major upgrade in hindsight. Bass lines are quick, deep, bouncy and danceable throughout. The band is much tighter collectively, and are now really to start combining strong melodies and harmony with their brand of rock, taking the listener along for a fun night as they figure it out.

‘Teddy Picker" sees Turner throw in another Duran Duran homage with “I don't want your prayer. Save it for the morning after” (from "Save A Prayer"---More like Simon Le Bonerthe first being “Your name isn't Rio, but I don't care for sand” from "I Bet You Look Good…"). Variety is a spice of life on this album and the Arctic's show that they’re no one trick pony. They bounce back and forth effortlessly from prog rock songs ("Brianstorm", "Balaclava", "This House Is A Circus") that would make Rush and Muse fans giddy, to the expected traditional brash chaotic rockers ("D Is For Dangerous", "If You Were There Beware", "The Bad Thing", "Teddy Picker") that were worn on their debut, and surprisingly some poised slower songs ("505", "Only Ones Who Knows"). There’s even a dancey reggae tinted song, "Fluorescent Adolescent", which is arguably the standout track and will be a huge summer hit with the chorus “oh the boy's a slag, the best you ever had”.

MMMMMMM Coachella PreservesIf you’ve been avoiding over-hyped buzz bands, do yourself a favor and give this album a shot. There’s more maturity and depth on this vs their debut, but without compromising their energy and charismatic charm for the sake of stateside success. After 10 listens or so I can definitely see this album emerging as a top 10 of ‘07, and it’s only April. The band kicks off its US tour on April 27 at the Coachella Festival in Indio, CA.

Standout Tracks:
"Old Yellow Bricks"
"Teddy picker"
"Fluorescent Adolescent"
"Do Me A Favor"

Rating: 4/5


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Monday, April 23, 2007

April 24 Notable Releases

A few of the 2,182 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Arctic Monkeys -- Favourite Worst Nightmare. London lads look to out limey Liam.

Patti Smith -- Twelve. Former St. Clair Shores coffee shop enthusiast and proto-punk-poet-priestess celebrates her Rock Hall induction with a set of classic covers.

Simply Red -- Stay. In what perhaps is the WTF release of the week, Mick "Red" Hucknall conspires with 1986 and his carrot top haircut to blow your mind. "Holding Back the Years" indeed. PS, Hucknall still under suspicion for being a really ugly woman.

Bebel Gilberto -- Momento. The superlative Brazilian pop star delivers her third album of blended bossa nova, samba, pop and electronica. I don't know what she's singing about, but I like to imagine it's jiggling boobies.

Various Artists -- A Tribute To Joni Mitchell. Elvis Costello, Prince and Bjork among others pay tribute to the folk icon.

The Original Off-Broadway Cast -- Evil Dead: The Musical. "Groovy."


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Avril Lavigne -- The Best Damn Thing

Where does an artist go after just two albums and 26 million units sold? For anyone not named Note, drinking air conditioning liquids will KILL YOU!Avril or Norah, one would assume the supreme awesomeness of gravity eventually takes hold for the inevitable Nestea plunge (remember Alanis Morissette?). Avril looks to maintain her top-of-the-food-chain status once again with her first release since 2004's Under My Skin. She sounds pretty much like her old classic teenage self on her third LP, The Best Damn Thing.

Lavigne reportedly presided over the band auditions for the album, making all cut decisions herself (sans RCA label input). Maybe that's why it has so much of a Blink182 / Sum41/ Simple Plan feel to it. Well that and Travis Barker Travis likes his broads classy!(Blink182) plays drums on the album. Additionally, “Contagious” sounds like it got a bad case of the Blinky’s “What’s My Age Again?”, featuring the same guitar line and drums. Since falling out with the Matrix production team after her debut Let Go, and writing much of Under My Skin with Chantal Kreviazuk, Lavigne now allegedly penned most of the songs herself. The only proof needed is one listen. There are some cringe-worthy moments at several points. She teeters back and forth song-to-song from catty/bitchy/insecure/ANNOYING to over-confident bravado, making the album very schizophrenic and uneven. Avril spends half of the album shadow cat fighting with the Paris Hilton's and LiLo's of the world (i.e. skanks and sluts) about trying to steal her boyfriend, or the guy she wants to be her boyfriend, or some other mindless crap like the lack of cell phone coverage. She sounds like a complete bitch when she yells “I don’t have to try, to make you realize, anything I wanna do anything I’m gonna do anything I wanna do, I do...HUH!”

Ultimately, a big problem with this album is the poor decision not to have Butch Walker produce it entirely (he's only on for 3 tracks-"The Best Damn Thing", "When You're Gone", "Everything Back But You"). The two exceptions would be the surprisingly good ballad, "Innocence", which was produced by Rob Cavallo (Green Day, MCR, Goo's), and "Keep Holding On" with Co-Producer Luke Gottwald (Kelly Clarkson, Pink). Avril's Fan Club takes Damore's advice and decides to wait for the Clarkson jawnAdditional Co-Producer credits go to Lavigne's husband and Sum41 guitarist/vocalist Deryck "Don't Spell me Derek" Whibley, herself, and the aforementioned Walker.

There are some catchy, hook-filled pop rock songs (“One of Those Girls”, “Runaway”, “Hot”) as well as a couple of ballads, which are the real strength of the album. Unless you're a die hard Avril fan, you probably want to sit this one out. For the more casual pop music fan, my advice would be to wait until summer for the new Kelly Clarkson jawn (My December) to drop in lieu of picking up this album. If Clarkson’s single "Never Again" is any indication, it's going to, like, totally ROCK. Clarkson is much more talented musically, has more maturity, and more guilty pleasure appeal to even the most hard-code of indie snobs. 1

While Avril’s almost 23 years old, it's still painfully obvious that for the most part she hasn't grown up much beyond the typical high school fodder lyrically, which is noted on “Girlfriend” with Motion!  NICE!“Don‘t pretend I think you know I‘m damn precious, and hell yeah I‘m the motherfuckin’ princess…she‘s like, so whatever, you could do so much better”. In fact, Avril seems to relish predicating that perception further with 3 songs sounding like a soundtrack sung by and for high school cheerleaders. “The Best Damn Thing” starts off like a cheerleader band with the tambourine/handclap intro moving into “I hate it when a guy doesn’t get the tab I have to pull my money out and that looks bad”.

Hopefully, Avril comes to her senses and realizes that she doesn't always have to have all the answers, and although she has the power to have 100% control over everything now, surrounding herself with other talented and wise individuals is ultimately her best move for maintaining career longevity. In the end it won't matter one bit commercially this time, as this will definitely go platinum 2 or 3 times easy, bolstering Avril's punkish GFY attitude and I’M SOOO PUNK decision making process. Our guess is that as the teens move further along the life line, a similarly themed and executed effort will not have anywhere near her previous commercial success the next time around, forcing Avril to grow the fuck up already.

Rating: 2/5


1ed. note: Despite what you may think, the primary audience for is not indie snobs, but rather shut-ins and tech support opperators working the night shift in Mumbai, dreaming of a better life in America.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

April 17 Notable Releases

A few of the 1,148 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Nine Inch Nails -- Year Zero. NIN and Reznor first release in several years looks to harken back to the industrial pop of Pretty Hate Machine. While Trent doesn't want us to call it marketing, the interactive game, conspiracy story, online experience that has led up to the album may be a landmark effort in both the communications industry and the major lable music industry which has been desperately devoid of fresh thinking since the invention of the super saver sticker.

Page McConnell -- Page McConnell. Phishy keyboard player releases his first solo album with a little help from each of his ex-bandmates (though not on all the same songs). I'll trade you a grilled cheese I made here in the parking lot and these far out pants I made from hemp and pubes for a live bootleg of the album, if ya' got one man.

Avril Lavigne -- The Best Damn Thing. Avril looks to prove she's got more staying power than her previous skinny ties on grrrls fashion statement.


Monday, April 09, 2007

April 10 Notable Releases

A few of the 1,910 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Bright Eyes -- Cassadaga. Coner Oberst's sixth album features an indie-star line up of players, including: Ben Kweller, Gillian Welch, and M. Ward, plus members of Sleater Kinney, Rilo Kiley and Tortoise.

Blonde Redhead -- 23. Once known for noise rock in the Sonic Youth tradition, this New York trio has increasingly embraced the layered, ethereal-ness of band's like Lush.

Sly and the Family Stone -- Collection. A seven disc box set from the funk rock pioneers. Sure, Sly has spent most of the last 30 years in a mix of a drugged out stupor and then later a non-chemically induced mental breakdown -- but don't let that dissuade you from checking out this box set which features many re-mastered tracks from classic albums that are inexplicably unavailable on cd.


Monday, April 02, 2007

April 3 Notable Releases

A few of the 1,952 new and re-released albums coming out this week.

Kings of Leon -- Because of the Times. Previously pigeonholed as the southern-fried Strokes this family band looks to transcend that reference point with the help of long time producer, Ethan Johns.

Fountains of Wayne -- Traffic and Weather. FOW give us their first album of new material in 4 years with what appears to be a tongue in cheek nod to "road songs". The bass-a-riffic Melissa Auf Der Maur provides guest vocals on one track. Auf Der Maur, fun to say, fun to listen to.

Black Sabbath -- The Dio Years. Dio has rocked for a long, long time. Now it's time for him to release a compilation of the "best" songs from his three albums with Black Sabbath with three new tracks produced last year. Caveman sceptres not included.

Beyonce -- B'day. It's her B'day and we're gonna party like it's her B'day.

Jarvis Cocker -- Jarvis. We're going to guess clever, snide and meticulously crafted. Oh and toss on pompous, jaded and arrogantly self-assured just in case.

Radiohead -- Airbag/How Am I Driving? [EP] [Limited Edition]. This re-issue of the classic 1998 EP features 6 tracks that didn't make the final cut of OK Computer. By no means is this cd just required for Yorke-ies or other Radiohead completists, it's a fine collection of songs in it's own right and for my money, "Polythelyne Part 2" is one of their best songs evs.