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16th-Mar-2015 06:09 pm(no subject)
"I wasn't a quick learner. I'd always been okay at counting--I had fingers like the other kids--but always a little disappointed by arithmetic itself. I thought multiplying would mean more than adding over and over again."
--Leslie Jamison, The Gin Closet, 2010
23rd-Jan-2014 08:27 am(no subject)
"Why would a plant care about Mozart? And even if it did, why should that impress us? They can eat light, isn't that enough?"
--ethnobotanist Tim Plowman, on the pseudo-science of The Secret Life of Plants (1973)

25th-Oct-2013 04:29 pm(no subject)
"I did have interludes of monogamy with a few women....Were they beautiful? We were all beautiful. We were in our twenties."
--Steve Martin, Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life, 2008
20th-Sep-2011 11:03 am - The Ettes, Wicked Will (2011)

Who They Are: A trio that formed in Los Angeles and moved to Nashville, undoubtedly because the country music capital of the world was a better match for their retro, rockabilly-tinged style. They've been churning out music with admirable regularity over the course of the past few years. Wicked Will is their fifth full-length.

First Impressions: Punchy, smart and good. There are sharp lyrics throughout and a fine driving force to the music. It's the pure definition of a solid rock 'n' roll album, nothing bothering to try and reinvent something that's been dandy as can be since it was invented in the first place.
16th-Sep-2011 02:59 pm - St. Vincent, Strange Mercy (2011)

Who They (She) Are (Is): St. Vincent is the performing name used by Annie Clark. A former member of the Polyphonic Spree, Clark released her first album under the St. Vincent name in 2007. Entitled Marry Me, it was a big success on the cool kid circuit, but not as impressive as her follow-up, 2009's Actor, which was one of those albums that everyone who follows indie music was required to have an opinion on. Actor garnered enough acclaim, that Clark undoubtedly felt a level of pressure she was previously spared of as she worked on the material that would become her third album, Strange Mercy.

First Impressions: This is pretty great. Part of the association undoubtedly comes from Clark's lovely vocals, but the album consistently reminded me of the sort of inside-out pop wonders Kate Bush used to make before her inner kookiness took over completely. If this pop music had followed this route instead of rushing salivating to the canned nonsense that now dominates Top 40 radio, it would have been a better outcome for us all.

Who They Are: A six-person band out of Portland, Oregon (which leads to the obligatory hat-tip to the wondrous and famous jupiterjuniper) that's just released their sixth album overall (can that be right?) and third on Sub Pop (I know that's right).

First Impressions: It sometimes sounds like the kind of album Wilco would have made if they'd kept treading the path they cut with Being There, although it harkens more overtly to nineteen-seventies classic rock radio than Jeff Tweedy and company ever did. It winds up fairly hit or miss, but I think it's best when it fully embraces the temptation to wallow in retro excess. "Street Fighting Sun" is the clearest example of this, but a less willfully wild track like "Astronaut" accomplishes the same satisfying result. It didn't totally grab me right away, but I have a feeling this one might grow on me.

Who They Are: An indie rock quintet that benefited from launching out of the painfully cool locale of Brooklyn. Their first album was one of those insanely buzzy debuts that inspired swarms of admires, followed by, almost inevitably, an equally impassioned legion of detractors. Hysterical is the band's third full-length effort, released about four years after the fairly underwhelming Some Loud Thunder.

First Impressions: The vocals from lead singer Alec Ounsworth kept reminding me of Rufus Wainwright, although mostly in the lower held tones, the portions of Wainwright's songs before the emotive soft growl gives way to falsetto floridness. Overall, it's a nice pop album with little bits of forced grit into the sound, not unlike the Killers if someone had convinced them to back away a bit from adding the Duran Duran candy apple coating to everything they kid. I mean that as a compliment. Honest.
7th-Sep-2011 11:04 am - Loney, Dear, Hall Music (2011)

Who They Are: Loney, Dear is the pseudonym of Swedish musician Emil Svanängen. His first album in the States came out in early 2007, and I remember it as one of the albums on the new music shelf at WPRK that I returned to regularly during my last months there. It was just sturdy, one of those excellent radio records that delivers a good song wherever the metaphorical needle was dropped (the laser was directed?). Nothing stood out, but everything was good enough to trip my little mental flag that sent me regularly returning.

First Impressions: My gosh, this record is dull. Svanängen favors lush, orchestral pop on this outing and many of the songs swell into sonic puffballs of languid nothingness. It certainly might grow on me, but it certainly didn't excite me the first time around.
5th-Sep-2011 03:18 pm - I Break Horses, Hearts (2011)

Who They Are: I Break Horses is a Swedish duo: Maria Lindén and Fredrik Balck. Their officially bio states that they met online when they were both patronizing a website targeted at hypochondriacs, but that sounds to me like some of that rock star cheeky misdirection akin to Jack and Meg White's old "sibling" relationship. They put out a couple singles before working their way up to a full-length debut, the title of which I really love (given the band name, of course; by itself, the title is admittedly nothing special).

First Impressions: It's the sweetest darn shoegaze you're ever likely to here, thanks in large part to Lindén's vocals which have some of that airy, spectral quality I usually associate with Cocteau Twins. But the music is gentle, too. I've seen some write-ups that compare it to My Bloody Valentine, but I Break Horses rarely generates the same force. It's floaty instead of pummeling. Sometimes it's a little too flowy for my tastes, leaning on a twinkly sonic prettiness that can become numbing across a whole album. In smaller doses, though, it's pretty nice.
31st-Aug-2011 10:33 am - Jacuzzi Boys, Glazin' (2011)

Who They Are: A trio from Miami that gets described as being part of every raunchy rock 'n' roll subset in the Rolling Stone encyclopedia: garage, punk, glam, on and on. Glazin' is their second full-length effort, following a debut in 2009.

First Impressions: It's tough and cool, all right, leaning on "oh oh" and "whoa whoa" in the lyrics in a way that I honestly appreciate. Sometimes rock music is at its best when it's at its most primal, and indulging in those pure nonsense syllables to fill out the song can be the best way to burrow down to that. The guitar sounds is agreeably dirty, but it seems more workmanlike than something that's really trying to pin anyone to the back wall with the sheer force of it. One of the songs includes the line "I've got a feelin' that you're listening to Zeppelin," and the band sounds like the sort of grinding seventies outfit that would have been left behind as most rock fans embraced the bloated pomposity of bands like Led Zeppelin. It's good stuff.
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