Monday, September 23, 2013

Deer Tick Hits Sour Note on Negativity

Deer Tick - Negativity
Partisan Records
-out tomorrow
3 / 5

The famed Providence-based rock quintet has come back. They've hit up Rolling Stone on several occasions, and make frequent pit stops on our regional radio over here, and here's the reason why: songs like "Christ Jesus," "Smith Hill," and "Ashamed." And now, on their fifth studio full-length in as many years, "The Rock." Leadman and writer John Joseph McCauley III is quickly gaining a reputation for quality (and quantity) rock - the man's been in side projects galore, including the absolutely brilliant collaboration of Middle Brother. And he's back, at least initially, but we can't lie here - McCauley's extreme prolificacy has caught up with him, at least here.

The fact of the matter is that these songs, comparatively speaking, lose their immediacy, their personal nature, closeness. "The Dream's in the Ditch" is one of these songs: a tame beat, not especially memorable lyrics, nor especially driving performances. Compared to "The Rock," where McCauley goes all out on his vocals, this album is a mixed-bag. And compared to the stunning War Elephant and Black Dirt Sessions (which was our album of the year), it means we've got to be extra harsh: you're going to want to get his first three albums far before you get to Negativity. We suspect Deer Tick fans will also find songs like "Mirror Walls" a bit plodding and not up to their usual standards of songwriting. It's simply not there, people.

So, for the first time in five years, we're suggesting you take a pass on a Deer Tick album. It's just not what its predecessors are; go through the back catalog (and Middle Brother) first.

But don't take our word. Check it out on Soundcloud.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Don't Wait on London Grammar's Debut

London Grammar - If You Wait
Columbia Records
-out now
4 / 5

It's simple, really: just have one gorgeous, haunting voice and support it with piano and light (light!) guitar, drums, and set it to simple but powerful melodies... well, now you've got the UK trio known as London Grammar. We're not usually one to nod along to such straightforward, well, bliss, but lead vocalist Hannah Reid just pulls, pulls us in, all without belting, all within a comfortable range. You can barely hear her stretching, which is all the more remarkable, considering that she makes us, the listeners, stretch. It's emotive, minimalist, direct and just unmitigated joy from edge to edge.

"Strong" is their lead single here. But if you think that their uplifting single is all they have, then be sorely mistaken. Each track has a great build, a great arc; "Sights" likely has the most developed song arc of all of them, and like half of the other tracks, is strong enough to be another single on its own. There are no throwaways here, and each track is written well; but make no mistake, we're here to enjoy Reid's voice here. This isn't one of those brilliant albums, not in a cerebral sense, but it's just pure pleasure - as music was made to be.

We're going to throw this at you as a recommendation. It's straightforward, down-tempo pop, but we just can't help but enjoy it. Check it out at the link below, then check it out at your retailer; recommended.

Check out these guys (and gal) on Soundcloud.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Brown Bird out of Touring for a Year for Medical Reasons; Need Your Help!

Hello all! Special weekend update here - While we're not always crazy about the music behind Brown Bird (they're 1-and-1 with us), we do appreciate their rough times right now. Mr. Lamb has undergone treatment for leukemia and has serious medical expenses; on top of that, he can't tour or work for a year due to recovery. Whatever you can pitch in will help:

Oh, and check out their Salt for Salt. It's worth its salt, definitely. Later!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Miniboone No Boon To Rock

Miniboone - Self-Titled
Ernest Jenning Record Co.
-out today
2.5 / 5

"I Could, I Could." Just so much fun. When the New York rock/pop quintet hit it on their debut, they really hit it. But our issue with this album is that a lot of the material is filler. There just isn't that much that begs replaying, despite the fun, vivacious style! Their tracks bleed youthfulness (often to the point of nausea); they rock out, albeit somewhat uncreatively; they shout their beliefs from the top of their lungs (the exuberance of 90s ska). And yet, there isn't really a whole lot to commend the gents here. This album simply feels like any normal rock band.

"Rollerskates" is one of those annoying, "we're young and going to complain" kind of songs that you really wish you didn't hear. Which is unfortunate; "I Could, I Could" is bright, poppy, layered fun. But time and again, Miniboone puts out a song that simply falls flat, that doesn't engage much of anything. We're thinking some of the elements just haven't lined up right: "Magic Eye" could be a real great moody piece, but comes off slow. "Gimme Gimme Gimme" isn't anthemic, but just kind of minor and unimportant. But that second great song here, "Baby, I Hope So," is that perfect groove pace, that perfect mix of laid-back and hip, drive and chorus, that we suspect there might be a second band working on the album. On the whole, however, the tracks are mediocre to plain whiny (lyrically and sometimes vocally), with two fantastic exceptions.

Therefore, on the whole, take a pass on this one. We do suggest listening to those couple tracks we pointed out (check "I Could, I Could" below), but we don't see this album being worth your ten shillings.

Miniboone's on Soundcloud! How unexpected!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Four or More!!

Nice slogan, yeah? You may have noticed some much-needed cleaning up on the links on the side; well, now you can navigate them much easier. We're going to clean up the interviews a bit later on, but the most important thing to know is our Four or More link on the right over there: it's our critically-acclaimed albums link, just on the side there. Why? So that you can sort through what we think you might like (musically speaking, anyway). It's all the stuff that we still have on our ipod, right now, even. Except for about two of them.
Hope y'all enjoy!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Paper Lions Just Another Paper Tiger

Paper Lions - My Friends
Fountain Pop Records
-out now
3 / 5

Pop-foursome Paper Lions sing clear, straightforward pop on their sophomore full-length. Hailing from Belfast, Prince Edward Island, (that's in Canada, in case you were wondering), their melodies are youthful, bright and polished, nostalgic and playful. It's not just the polaroid that reminds us of a guitar-centric Vampire Weekend - they're both pop lead by very clear male vocals. But we weren't huge fans of Contra, nor of My Friends here because these songs simply aren't dense enough, and don't quite bring their subjects to a precise and memorable point. Let's call that issue one. Issue two is the instrumentals, and we must've mentioned this before, notice the drums! they hit simple beats, which is just no fun. Half the time a melody is interesting enough to cover it up, but the other half, when the melody is bare, those drums are all you've got, and man, are they boring. The band works together, but they're not always entertaining.

Our picks here are "My Friend" and "Pull Me In." That first one shoots a clear 80s vibe on the keyboard; and then it drives right into a falsetto chorus. It's layered and produces a full sound, backing the otherwise weak-ish vocals by Rob and John MacPhee, filling out the speakers rather well. "Pull Me In" has one of those choruses that just sticks with you on random mornings, simple but fulfilling, a bit more of a rock song. The other songs here get pretty close to these two in terms of enjoyment, and they're really not awful, just not worth your 14 or however-many dollars. They play nice, they're fun, but we're kinda glad to get this one out of the way and move on to something else.

Some of the songs may be pleasant, but the whole of the album is still a disappointment. It's worth a few spins, but not really much more than that; take a pass.

Several songs on Soundcloud.