Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Blackmarket doesn't have enough to sell it

Blackmarket - "St. Vincent Decor"
-out now
3 / 5

Power-pop group from AZ Blackmarket definitely sound like they're enjoying a rush from beginning to end of their second full-length album. And it's a good ride, too: there are good songs, good lyrics, good vocals throughout this album. But on a second and third spin, Blackmarket ends up lacking what's so vital in the crowded music market, which is individuality. They sound like most any other power-chord rock group, and while they're good at what they do, what they do is not particularly special, in terms of style or flavor. "Blue Lemon" is a perfect example; an excellent single with a memorable chorus, it could easily fit on an album by an acoustic Motion City Soundtrack or a more upbeat Alkaline Trio. Other than this, there's plenty to recommend it, but ultimately, what's going to keep it in your stereo is that it's good and different from all the other junk you've got. Which it's not, unfortunately. Take a pass unless you really need a quick pick-me-up.

Listen to "Blue Lemon": www.myspace.com/453173424

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sollee and Moore make for good "Companions"

Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore - "Dear Companion"
Sub Pop
-out now
3.5 / 5

It's bluegrass, Jim. And what more could you expect from Kentuckians Ben Sollee and Daniel Martin Moore on their first collaboration (along with producer Jim James of My Morning Jacket); of course they're going to pick up a jug, a jig, and start jiving. Meant to put a spotlight on Mountaintop Coal Mining in the Appalachians, Sollee and Moore compose these folk/bluegrass songs with honesty and simplicity, which here, make for good companions. "Only a Song" is the most political of these tracks, yet the basic guitar chords and cello backing aren't overbearing, nor are the lyrics. Whether you're politically minded or not (and we hate hippies, here at the blog), what it comes down to is the good music that comes from these musicians, and most listeners should find it new, clean and fresh, and articulate, unlike a hippie. Our complaint is this: that many of these songs don't stick with you like a treehugger to an oak (excuse us for the cheap shot), so you might find yourself digging out your favorite folk albums after the 6-8 spins that this will grant you. That, and we we're joking about having a jug in there (unfortunately). Still, a good listen, worth your time in the genre, and recommended.

Listen to "Only a Song": www.myspace.com/453173424

Monday, May 17, 2010

Join Tift Merrit "On the Moon"

Tift Merrit - "See You on the Moon"
-out June 1; UK May 24
4 / 5

It's strange that such an unusual song as "Mixtape" - with its staggered, clustered vocals and soft, intimate lyrics - would be so effective to open Tift Merritt's fourth solo studio. In stark contrast to her "Another Country," which at times plays by the book, the Houston-born singer-songwriter ventures into different musical flavors, darker hues of orchestration, violins, slower tempos, piano and acoustic guitar. Fans here will find a slight shift in color, but will rejoice with the title track and the trembling cover of "Danny's Song"; those unfamiliar with the young singer will find an excellent sampling of an artist stretching her musical voice. "Feel of the World," we find, is an excellent example of Merritt tapping into instrumentally heavier material than she normally explores, and probably our favorite selection. Expect a more sober, contemplative side to this versatile musician; that and well-crafted, enjoyable music. Recommended.

Listen to "Mixtape": www.myspace.com/453173424

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mid-year review coming up!

Which means:
-We're going to return to the albums we're still listening to
-A review of some CDs we might've missed earlier in the year
-It's finally time to break out the flip-flops and chicken-stained beaters

Okay, so we're not passing out food-stained beaters to our staff over here. But it's almost summer, and man, it's been one heck of a year of music! Unfortunately, we missed most of it...
Like "Surfer Blood," Yeasayer, Heligoland, a couple others. If you or someone you know (that smelly, mid-30s guy who lives in his mom's basement) has a CD out this year that you want reviewed, feel free to send it here. That email's up at the top bar.

Time to get back to work (hopefully Dead Weather will come through!). Thanks for keeping up with this little 'ole blog, and feel free to post comments! Even if you totally disagree (though I'm always right, 'natch). Peace out,
-The Mgmt.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sandoval shows good timing on "A Time for Love"

Arturo Sandoval - "A Time for Love"
Concord Records
-out today!
4.5 / 5

It is to Mr. Sandoval's credit that his style is never forced, his tone always gorgeous, his timing impeccable. His latest album, "A Time for Love," selects several American classics as well as a handful of classical pieces; the first of these, "Apres un Reve," shows such a tender side of Sandoval, that it might pull you from the cookers on his magnum opus "Trumpet Evolution." While our preferences lie just partial to "Evolution," these love standards here are so well-crafted and honed that it's difficult not to kick back and pop open a bottle of wine. "Oblivion (How to Say Goodbye)" featuring Monica Mancini, showcases the highlight of the album, with Sandoval's muted trumpet playing off of Mancini's delicate vocals; our personal favorite is "Speak Low," a groovy little number that sizzles just a little while maintaining all the cool, casual charm that might come from a trumpet-playing Sinatra. "A Time for Love" is an excellent, intimate album that begs a special occasion and someone to share it with. Recommended.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The National lacks musical color on "High Violet"

The National - "High Violet"
4ad Records
-out May 11
3 / 5

This is a tough cookie for us at the blog: following their breakout 2007 album "Boxer," the Brooklyn, NY band release their fifth album to anxious indie crowds. The verdict is... well, we'll get to that in a bit. Here's what we hear, though: droning, monotone vocal range, excellent backing instrumentals, and similar-sounding, monochromatic songs. Their music is an acquired taste, one that we don't have yet, and while we don't want to write off The National, the first 3/4s just don't pull you in. What we do appreciate is the explosion of sound and emotion starting at "Conversation 16"; it is vibrant and upbeat, and more importantly, breaks the vocal drone established in the preceding eight tracks. The album feels as if it were slow build to this coda, and while an interesting concept on paper, it makes you appreciate the last few tracks far more than the rest of the album; the whole should sound more like "England" than what they have leading up to it. If you're already a fan of The National, or don't mind Matt Berninger's lack of vocal variety, it works well enough; otherwise, it slips from getting a recommendation.

Listen to "Afraid of Everyone": www.myspace.com/453173424

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

New Pornographers bring it "Together" again

The New Pornographers - "Together"
- out today!
4 / 5

The first thing to notice on the fifth album by Vancouver's New Pornographers is the heavy, deep cello and guitar providing the opening bassline to what is, for many, a highly anticipated return. To judge that this particular release is more "Together" as the name suggests, is to overlook the groups already gorgeous sense of balance and musical coherence; in fact, "Together" is just slightly less so than their previous (and wonderful) album "Challengers." While that cello provides satisfying contrast on "Crash Years," it seems slightly overbalanced on that opener "Moves," and on "Your Hands (Together),"earning "Together" just a hair lower than we'd give "Challengers." Are we complaining? I hope not, because this still is a fantastic album, and a breath of joy to anyone unfamiliar with the Pornographers. Recommended.

Listen to "Crash Years": www.myspace.com/453173424