Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 
Music
Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA


cover art

The Go! Team

Rolling Blackouts

(Memphis Industries; US: 31 Jan 2011)

Review [3.Feb.2011]


The Go! Team
Rolling Blackouts


There’s really no concise way to sum up what you’re hearing when you listen to Rolling Blackouts, despite the unmistakable Go! Team-ness of every single one of their songs. It’s difficult to parse the common bond between the marching band-inspired noise-pop of “T.O.R.N.A.D.O.” and the jangly ‘60s girl group charm of “Ready to Go Steady”, or the link between the shoegazey masterpiece “Buy Nothing Day” (featuring Bethany Cosentino of Best Coast, for extra street cred) and “Yosemite Theme”, which would nestle comfortably among the J-pop fantasias of the Katamari Damacy soundtrack. The Go! Team is a band willing to serve up an homage to just about everything, as long as it’s big and bombastic and crackling with energy; the X factor is rapper/vocalist Ninja, whose attitude-laced delivery forms a linchpin for the group’s chaotic sound. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a 2011 album I had more fun with than Rolling Blackouts. Billy Hepfinger


 

cover art

Rachel Goodrich

Rachel Goodrich

(Yellow Bear; US: 21 Feb 2011)

Review [20.Feb.2011]


Rachel Goodrich
Rachel Goodrich


Miami-based songwriter Rachel Goodrich is quirky and fun. Her second full-length album veers all over the map from silly little ditties like the 30-plus second “G-Dino” to the junkyard clank of a feminine Tom Waits on “Fire”. However, the album’s centrepiece is the mesmerising “Let Me Go”—a tender and yearning piano ballad that commands the listener to sit up and pay attention. “Let Me Go” is so good and sweet, in the best pop sense, that I consider it my No. 1 pick for Song of the Year, which is astounding considering the relative obscurity of the artist and the klatch of great songs that came down the pipes in 2011. “Let Me Go” gives the loopy Rachel Goodrich a centre of levity that shows just how versatile and capable of a songwriter that this artist is. You’ll probably laugh and sing along to most of this record, but when you get to “Let Me Go” you’ll probably be (and justifiably so) shedding real tears of joy at the touching pain that Goodrich conveys through her rending of the song. On its own, “Let Me Go” alone makes Rachel Goodrich a vital and important statement from a maturing, budding young singer-songwriter. And the rest of the album is pretty damn good, too. Zachary Houle


 

cover art

The Great Book of John

The Great Book of John

(Communicating Vessels; US: 16 Aug 2011)

Review [14.Aug.2011]


The Great Book of John
The Great Book of John


Ladies and gentlemen, with the arrival of the sophomore album from Birmingham, Alabama’s Great Book of John, I can happily announce that America finally has its own Radiohead. Or Radiohead if they were cross-bred with a country rock band. The Great Book of John is a consistently strong album, one that turns up the amps a few notches from their debut, and lead singer Taylor Shaw has an impressive vocal range that recalls the swoop and grandeur of one Thom Yorke. What makes this an indispensible album, though, is the broad range of songwriting—from choppy, piano-led rockers (“Brown Frown”) to American pastoral (“Wise Blood”)—that gives the band an indelible stamp of their own. The Great Book of John is an album that one won’t grow tired of, with its odd sonic curveballs here and there. Even though it may draw comparisons to a certain British band, it is a fully realized work of its own. Zachary Houle


 

cover art

Ha Ha Tonka

Death of a Decade

(Bloodshot; US: 5 Apr 2011)

Review [20.Apr.2011]


Ha Ha Tonka
Death of a Decade


Ha Ha Tonka’s 2011 album is an intricate balance of playful musicianship paired with some of the year’s finest lyrical wordsmithery. Each track is a vignette and their lyrics present a continuum of emotions and histories that drive the narratives. The band toys with genre, constantly changing their sound and manipulating stale musical conventions thus keeping the music fresh and engaging. Their sound clearly stems from the band’s origins in the Ozarks, but arguably also takes influence from old-timey, classic rock and roll, and contemporary indie rock. Still, they maintain a clear and distinct sound despite a diverse influence base. These are just the band’s roots, and Ha Ha Tonka masterfully takes these pieces and creates a musical whole that is unwavering. Ha Ha Tonka stands apart from the rest with their ability to musically and lyrically sadden, enrage, tickle and enchant listeners in one album, sometimes even in one song. Elisabeth Woronzoff


 

cover art

Hail Mary Mallon

Are You Gonna Eat That?

(Rhymesayers; US: 3 May 2011)


Hail Mary Mallon
Are You Gonna Eat That?


Are You Gonna Eat That? is a bizarre ode to Typhoid Mary, the disease carrying cook who just wouldn’t stay out of the kitchen. Why Aesop Rock and Rob Sonic took such interest in her story is unclear, perhaps as a tribute to the perseverance of the unlucky or maybe it was just a good platform for food jokes. In any case, the duo executed it perfectly, crafting an album of witty two-man word play over swaggering beats with cuts by Big Wiz. Aesop’s long been known for being deep, complicated and inaccessible, but Are You Gonna Eat That? is refreshingly lighthearted, giving the impression that he and Rob were just trying to make each other laugh. In doing so, they found a middle ground between being profound and flippant and delivered one of the most refreshing underground hip-hop albums of the year. Kevin Curtin


 

cover art

Handsome Furs

Sound Kapital

(Sub Pop; US: 28 Jun 2011)

Review [30.Jun.2011]


Handsome Furs
Sound Kapital


Dan Boeckner has urgent things to say. He growls and yells, singing low and fast like a speeding bullet, but he never sacrifices gravity or emotional connection. In 2011, his band the Handsome Furs (just him and his wife Alexei Perry) released Sound Kapital, an album defined by brittle drum machines, pumping synthesizers, and searing slices of Boeckner’s guitar. This spare palette is filled out by Boeckner and Perry’s intensity, which provides a purity of purpose that explodes out of the speakers. It’s a hard hitting album, but it never collapses beneath the weight of Boeckner’s fears and exhortations. Elias Leight


 

cover art

I Break Horses

Hearts

(Cooperative Music; US: 18 Oct 2011)


I Break Horses
Hearts


The Swedish invasion continues! Seriously, when it comes to imperial, futurist pop the Swedes are so far ahead of the game, the game is a dot to them. Hearts sounds like it was sculpted from glaciers by unicorns and wizards with lasers ‘n’ holograms, in some magical crystal palace far beyond a thousand snow-capped mountains within deepest Narnia. It’s a perfect winter album. Breathtaking, sparkly, dreamy, childlike-yet-wistful, intimate-yet-out-of-reach, fragrantly elegant and huggably heartwarming. In fact, it’s such a ‘complete’, snowflake-unique record in itself that the main problem is how they’ll push forward without breaking the spell. For now though the golden winter sun is illuminating. That this special record is steadily snowballing a cult following through whispers and satisfied sighs is great relief as this beautiful, strange début deserves to break more than just Horses’ Hearts. Be brave, drop one hit of “Winter Beats” and brace yourself for Cupid’s arrow. Matt James


Related Articles
13 Mar 2014
The man who sampled the Clash's "Straight to Hell" for M.I.A. teams up with his heroes and Frank Ocean to bring summer to your speakers a few months early.
24 Feb 2014
With the release of her two new records, Lydia Loveless watches you watching her. Maybe you should listen, instead.
16 Feb 2014
With a graceful and gradual shift, Loveless has been carving a path toward a distinct sound. On Somewhere Else, she hits the sweet spot between where she came from and where she’s going.
By PopMatters Staff
24 Oct 2013
We are pleased to announce that punky Americana siren Lydia Loveless is returning November 5th with the new EP Boy Crazy via Bloodshot Records. Get an early taste as we premiere the title track today.
discussion by

Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.