Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vacation from the blog!

Hello all,
So we're going away for a couple of weeks! Whew! Been a lot of blogging of late; luckily, you'll still be able to view all the older episodes, such as:
-Where Tiger City is reviewed
-When we get an interview from the Antlers
-The one where Joey gets a puppy
So it's all there in the backlog; dig in and enjoy. Me, well, I'll be out cruising on Route 66, exploring new towns, beating up bad guys, and saving the hapless inhabitants. Actually, I'll probably just sleep in the whole two weeks. Catch you later,

Monday, March 15, 2010

Josiah Wolf lags just a little on latest

Josiah Wolf - "Jet Lag"
-out tomorrow
3 / 5

Josiah Wolf of Oakland Bay's indie outfit Why? has struck out on his own with his first solo album. Sonically, this album takes greatly after Jim O'Rourke's solo albums, in vocal pitch, as well as in the unusual choice of lyrics ("The way we communicate makes me feel like a snake," from "The New Car"). His strength here lies not in the hushed and somewhat warbled pitch of the vocals, but moreso in the lyrics and instrumental choice of bells, xylophone, wood block, etc. While the album is vibrant sonically speaking, it lacks a definable pull; each track passes by with quirk and charm enough, but leaves little stuck in the memory. Sometimes the sign of a good song is that it gets stuck in your head, and while that can sometimes be frustrating (Britney Spears et al.), you probably won't find Josiah Wolf humming to you during the day, which is unfortunate, as this outing would otherwise fit a great slot in your collection. Great for the diehard indie, and especially for Jim O'Rourke fans; but not memorable enough for a general recommendation.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Frightened Rabbit unafraid of good pop

Frightened Rabbit - "The Winter of Mixed Drinks"
Fat Cat
-out now
4 / 5

Selkirk, Scotland-based Frightened Rabbit has been faring well on their tours, and no wonder: their fourth studio album brings a selection of upbeat and driven originals to their stage repertoire. Their mixture of straightforward rock and Scottish vocals may not capture the imagination in the age of Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphys, but the tracks on "Winter of Mixed Drinks" are certainly satisfying: "Skip the Youth" sticks out on these 11 with an extra juicy build, and helps to support the more streamlined tracks, including the energetic break-up "Nothing Like You" and the pleasant pop of "Swim Until You Can't See Land." We're generally adverse to such radio-friendly fare, but here Frightened Rabbit does us better by focusing on singable, catchy choruses that aren't bland nor overly gushy. The results strike a well-done middle ground between radio-play with a slight indie voice. While not the most original, it's still a very solid outing. Recommended.

Listen to "Swim Until You Can't See Land":

Monday, March 8, 2010

Besnard Lakes are the Very Sluggish Build

Besnard Lakes - "The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night"
-out tomorrow
2.5 / 5

The Montreal-based Besnard Lakes are on their third dream/rock album with "The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night." While we admit this to be an utterly awesome title (and the cover's pretty cool, too), the Lakes seem too entrenched in the languid flow of their genre to fill out an entire album. Every track is a slow-build, with a classic rock feel in the vocal harmonies and guitar work, and while this isn't necessarily a bad thing, consider "Chicago Train," which doesn't hit its first chorus until about 2:30, halfway through the song. To compare, the Beatles would have hit us with two choruses and a repeat in that time; to make the sad, all too familiar refrain: 'Don't bore us, get to the chorus!' The songs that fare better are the longer ones, as they are better developed: "Like The Ocean, Like the Innocent P2" and "Light Up the Night" both satisfy in build and chorus, but at 7+ minutes each, it could be a bit much for the casual listener. The lyrics here are nothing special ("Sunshine seems so bright/ Lonely days go by," first lyrics of "And This Is What We Call Progress" at 1:20), and many of the songs don't seem to generate wholly different sounds; the closer, "The Lonely
Moan," has a different, dreamy feel to it, and this is what we feel should be happening at each track. Too slow to build, too little pay off; pass.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

"American Ghetto" presents a darker vision

Portugal. The Man - "American Ghetto"
Equal Vision Records
-out now
3 / 5

The Portland, OR based alt rock band Portugal. The Man has been up to a lot lately; about an album a year, to be precise. Such a strain of creative flow would bend or break most bands, but P.TM seems to thrive in it, with the underground "Censored Colors" and the poppy, upbeat "The Satanic Satanist" as their last two releases. "American Ghetto" returns to darker, more sophisticated colors, utilizing more distortion and processed sounds. Right from the get-go is "Dead Dog," a declaration of the band's darker approach. Throughout "Ghetto" are good choruses and hooks, almost reminiscent of their previous release, but what's missing is a bit of that joyous explosion of sound that marked "Satanist," the wondering of what is going to happen next. As a result, their sound drags a hair, and finally becomes tired around "Just a Fool" and "Some Men," which seem to fall off the album. By the time the lush, singable "When the War Ends" finishes, we are reminded both of what P.TM is capable of, and that they haven't quite reached that with this album. Not a bad album for most bands, but it just doesn't quite knock you down like it should.

Listen to "Dead Dog":

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Ruby Suns: no fight, all shine

The Ruby Suns - "Fight Softly"
Sub Pop
-out tomorrow!
4 / 5

Open this new pop/ psychedelia release and just feel it fizz with freshness and glimmer. With a sound as chromatic and vibrant as their latest cover, New Zealand's Ruby Suns exude a fondness for Animal Collective electronica and layering, while keeping clean, crisp, focused melody and vocals. "Mingus and Pike" sway with 80s-era synth and percussion, creating a soft, full sound that entrances, melodically darts to and fro like a minnow; "Why Kids Fail" is a highlight of a different color, one more earthy and weightier, combining a video-game style hook with driving drums. There is immediacy, instantaneous and sustained gratification in their joyful choruses, and a shimmering brightness to the album as a whole. "Fight Softly" plays as if it were a shaft of light cleft by a prism: singular in focus, and containing kaleidoscopic colors and textures. The only complaint one could fashion is that it isn't weighty enough material, and that might cut down just a few of the spins this material deserves; but this is joyous music, and joyous music at its most vibrant. Recommended.

Listen to: "Cranberry":