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Real Estate

Days

(Domino; US: 18 Oct 2011; UK: 17 Oct 2011)

Review [17.Oct.2011]


Real Estate
Days


With Days, Real Estate has crafted a soundtrack for doing nothing and whiling away the time. Real Estate’s loosey-goosey aesthetic is quintessentially indie, but the New Jersey outfit’s languorous melodies seem to revel in ennui even more than your average slack-rock band. So while Real Estate is basically a straightforward, stripped-down guitar-based affair, there’s something almost luxurious and extravagant in the way its rich vocal harmonies and the jangly guitars unwind themselves in their own sweet time. The gem of a single “Green Aisles” all but announces Real Estate’s m.o. when frontman Martin Courtney sings on the chorus, “All those aimless drives through green aisles / Our careless lifestyle / It was not so unwise.” That’s certainly true in the case of Real Estate, a band that’s going places, just taking the scenic route to get there. Arnold Pan


 

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Todd Reynolds

Outerborough

(Innova; US: 29 Mar 2011)

Review [19.May.2011]


Todd Reynolds
Outerborough


When a calendar year wraps up, most of the previous 12 month’s best music neatly falls into some specific category. Todd Reynolds is one of those unfortunate souls designed to slip through the cracks every December because he just doesn’t seem to conveniently fit anywhere. From the perspective of a classically-inclined violinist, Reynolds has left no stone unturned and his 2011 double album Outerborough is proof positive of that. You’ve got a old blues samples (“Crossroads”), a first-person account of a gay soldier struggling in the military (“and the sky was still there”), tense modernism (“A Needle Pulling Fred”), heavily manipulated strings (“The End of an Orange”, “Fast Pasture”) and a brand new instrument invented just to play a particular piece (see video). Outerborough may be sprawling and lacking in consistency, but it proves that those things can have upsides. Sometimes, they’re even good enough to be a slipped disc. John Garratt


 

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Gruff Rhys

Hotel Shampoo

(Turnstile; US: 22 Feb 2011; UK: 14 Feb 2011)

Review [2.Mar.2011]


Gruff Rhys
Hotel Shampoo


While we’ve all been awaiting for the follow to Dark Days/Light Years from the Super Furry Animals frontman Gruff Rhys has one heckuva solo/side project career for himself—Candylion, Neon Neon, that one with the Brazilian TV repairman—that it’s become easy to take his consistently high output level for granted. That certainly seems to be the fate that’s befallen the excellent Hotel Shampoo‘s XXX songs that play to Rhys’ neo-psych-tropicalia tendencies. There’s no duds here, and indeed, “Shark Ridden Waters”, “Honey All Over” and “Christopher Columbus” all rate as top-tier Rhys material. Had a new artist debuted these songs, the blogosphere would be heralding the arrival of a major new force. As it is, we’ll have to content ourselves celebrating talent, clever (“like Christopher Columbus, you have a lot to answer for”), victim-of-his-own-dependability ol’ Gruff Rhys as he adds yet-another gent to the embarrassment of riches that is his discography. Stephen Haag


 

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The Roots

undun

(Def Jam; US: 6 Dec 2011)

Review [5.Dec.2011]


The Roots
undun


Easiest justification for leaving Undun out of the “Best of 2011” list? It came out nearly two weeks after our deadline. Had it been released a few weeks earlier, Undun would have been granted almost immediate entrance into the “Best Albums” category. Amazingly released only one year after their superb How I Got Over, Undun ups the ambition by having a story start from the grave and eventually gives its flawed, fated character a voice. Yes, it’s a concept album. And yes, the last songs are best described as a free-form jazz composition, but what makes Undun so irresistibly playable is its simple collection of truly great songs. Other Roots albums have rewarded listener’s patient ears, but songs lie “Make My” and “The Other Side” waste no time in sinking in. Undun, despite its bleak premise, locks you in it its first moments and never lets up. Sean McCarthy


 

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S.C.U.M.

Again Into Eyes

(Mute; US: 4 Oct 2011; UK: 12 Sep 2011)

Review [2.Oct.2011]


S.C.U.M.
Again Into Eyes


Ironically taking their name from Valerie Solanas’s notorious radical feminist SCUM Manifesto, East London band S.C.U.M. showed a great deal of growth on their much-ballyhooed debut album. Unlike the quintet’s overtly gothic, atmospheric early singles, Again Into Eyes was much more polished and streamlined, and that new sonic clarity worked tremendously in their favor. Sure, we have heard this all before, as the band treads the same well-worn territory as Echo and the Bunnymen and Simple Minds, but the way they throw themselves completely into the aesthetic and bombast of the music is likeable, creating a series of concise songs that are as haunting as they are single-worthy. Bolstered by the brooding affectations of singer Thomas Cohen, S.C.U.M. could be on the similar receiving end of major critical praise in the future as their peers in the Horrors are now. Adrien Begrand


 

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SIXX A.M.

This Is Gonna Hurt

(Eleven Seven Music; US: 3 May 2011)


SIXX A.M.
This Is Gonna Hurt


SIXX A.M., the side project of Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx (along with singer/songwriter James Michael and Guns N’ Roses guitarist DJ Ashba), offers a sophomore effort that borders on performance art. Intertwined with a Sixx-penned book of the same name featuring photographs of human oddities, the songs on This Is Gonna Hurt are finely-cobbled from both a musical and lyrical standpoint, allowing the listener to pick out something new on each listen. The lyrical content is worlds away from the party-hearty lyrics of Mötley Crüe, showcasing Sixx’s versatility and growth as an artist over his 30-year career. Songs range from personal introspection to brutal criticisms of a world obsessed with a rigid standard of media-dictated “beauty”. Sixx pushes the envelope, campaigning hard to become the Deepak Chopra of Rock. It’s more than just an epithet, however, as his lyrics urge listeners to examine their own lives (particularly on the outstanding “Are You With Me Now”) to find out just what makes them tick. Lana Cooper


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