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Evol Intent to Frightened Rabbit

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Firewater


 



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Evol Intent

Era of Diversion

(System Recordings; US: 4 Mar 2008; UK: 4 Mar 2008)

Review [9.Apr.2008]

Most often in collaborative electronic efforts, a dominant personality emerges and the other players work to support and accent that one vision. Pendulum is a trio and they keep making the same standard club tracks over and over, as is Cobblestone Jazz, who make solid but consistent house. With their impressive debut long-player, Atlanta threesome Evol Intent rocked the final year of King Bush II’s reign with righteous social commentary and a stunning assault on the senses.


Knick, Gigantor, and The Enemy pooled their influences to produce a full-length cornucopia of democratically approved hip-hop, industrial, IDM, and every shade of drum and bass, from angry club jungle to angelic breakcore. And they fit all that in without a single sound seeming out of place. They didn’t kowtow to the word from the White House or to a hipster niche market, like you pretty much have to as an electronic music act to get anywhere these days. They were merely true to themselves, their educations, their influences, and their fans. Long after the Girl Talk fad dries up and blows away to Macarena Land and Obama leads the world into a slightly less terrible age, the quality variety demonstrated in Era Of Diversion will still be talked about. Filmore Mescalito Holmes


 

 



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Firewater

The Golden Hour

(Bloodshot; US: 6 May 2008; UK: 14 Apr 2008)

Review [6.May.2008]

Lots of people talked about leaving the country when George W. Bush was re-elected, but Firewater frontman Tod A. was one of the few who actually went through with it (although a divorce didn’t help). A., however, turned his self-imposed exile into a musical journey through Indonesia, India, Pakistan, and Turkey as he recorded off-the cuff sessions with local musicians playing traditional instruments.  There’s no scholarly approach to world music here, though. This is a Firewater record, and that means a bigtop/barstool/goodfellas vibe with the gruff-voiced A. sounding like what you’d get if the Pogues’ Shane MacGown had been raised by carnies instead of a whiskey bottle. As The Golden Hour progresses, often bitter lyrics take us from his initial bridge-burning exit to his ambivalent return (“everything’s the same / Or maybe just a little bit worse”). Sombre stuff, but on an album where lively “cannibal drums” provide the bulk of the percussion, things never descend into pensive self-pity. This might just be Firewater’s best record yet. Andrew Gilstrap


 

 



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The Fleshtones

Take a Good Look

(Yep Roc; US: 22 Jan 2008; UK: 26 Jan 2008)

Review [29.Jan.2008]

What a golden era for the Fleshtones faithful. First, a remarkably detailed biography pops up in late ‘07.  Then word of a documentary makes the rounds.  Then they demolish the gates of ‘08 with their finest album yet, Take a Good Look (and top the year off with a Christmas record, Stocking Stuffer). Produced by Ivan Julian, Take a Good Look is a “super rock” wonder that clocks in at around 30 minutes, which is A-OK for something so well-suited for steady rotation. The thing to remember about the Fleshtones, you see, is that once they start making longish “album of the year”-type albums that give reviewers lumps in their throats and prompt them to use words like “nourishing”, they stop being Fleshtones. Take a Good Look, thankfully, showcases the fellas doing exactly what they do best and authoritatively justifies all of this brand new attention. Kim Simpson


 

 



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Flipper

Album - Generic Flipper

(Water; US: 8 Dec 2008)

Now that it’s been reincarnated (reissued) twice, what could be the ultimate hardcore statement might show the world why Kurt Cobain and Rick Rubin worshipped this compelling, hilarious platter. Originally unleashed in 1981, with its anti-consumerist title and cover, the album was defined by the sheer wind-tunnel sound of Ted Falconi’s guitar and the biting humor of bassists/singers Bruce Loose and Will Shatter who lambasted hippies (an easy target, especially for San Francisco natives) and their own punk brethren (a harder target). As such, it became the ultimate parody and celebration of the movement. Who else could come up with a monumental minimalist spit-ball “Sex Bomb” which mostly featured the title howled over and over? Though history’s come full circle with Nirvana’s bassist has joining the band’s latest reunion & the album out yet again, rest assured that it’ll find its way out of print again, waiting to be discovered by yet another disillusioned generation. Jason Gross


 

 



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Flobots

Fight With Tools

(Universal Republic; US: 20 May 2008; UK: Available as import)

Review [10.Jun.2008]

“Handlebars” is the kind of song that gets people’s attention, but this song is more than just a catchy hook and a pop culture phenomena. It is a moving critique of various forms of power. This song is emblematic of the album, which includes a variety of socially conscious tracks. And Flobots aren’t just creating music about action; they are also creating ways for people to put into practice what their music is about through their Street Teams and community building. “Same Thing” critiques foreign policy and the hypocrisy of the U.S. government. “Anne Braden” tells the story and perspectives of a little-known civil rights activist. And “Stand Up” and “Rise” uplift and inspire. With sharp lyrics and eclectic sounds (rap/rock and violin) this “experimental rap” album is an important addition to hip-hop’s social and cultural movement and a joy to listen to. Sarah Hentges


 

 



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Food for Animals

Belly

(Hoss; US: 8 Jan 2008; UK: Unavailable)

Review [31.Jan.2008]
Review [30.Jan.2008]

Not all albums reveal their strengths and weaknesses over the course of just a few listens. For this reason, we critics must concede that the process of experiencing music is sometimes too iterative to be summarized with the finality of a review. In January of 2008, I unfairly maligned aspects of Food For Animals’ Belly, a glitchy, experimental hip-hop record that I really liked but felt was held back from greatness by a handful of nagging flaws. While I stand by my statements about the album’s strengths—namely, its fractured, IDM-influenced production, rhythmically complex beats and blisteringly abrasive sound—I now realize that I was wrong about one of its perceived weaknesses, its lyrical content. After spending more time with the album and interviewing FFA’s lead MC, Vulture V, for another publication, I now realize that while Belly‘s lyrics are less overtly political than those found in the band’s previous work, they’re also less accessible. Given time, however, they blossom, revealing, in some cases, deeply personal narratives of loss, grief and uncertainty. Take for example, closing number “Grapes”, which details the death of a loved one with devastating frankness (“Every time I hear the word ‘cancer’ I need a cigarette/I’m not sure I get it yet”). After a full year spent obsessively listening to Belly, I’m still not sure if my original review accurately describes all of the album’s contours. And if that’s not a compelling reason to listen to a record, I don’t know what is. Mehan Jayasuriya


 

 



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The Foreign Exchange

Leave It All Behind

(Hard Boiled; US: 14 Oct 2008; UK: 20 Oct 2008)

Review [24.Nov.2008]

Transitioning from rapper to singer could not have been easier for Phonte. Sure, he sang some hooks on his albums with Little Brother and on the Foreign Exchange’s fantastic debut Connected. But a whole record dedicated to his crooning? Could it work? Short answer: hell yes. Long answer: The Foreign Exchange’s sophomore effort Leave It All Behind turned out to be one of 2008’s finest R&B albums. The pairing of Phonte’s sometimes-witty, honest, and personal vocals with Nicolay’s lush, soulful, and dynamic production made for an effort that begs to be played to death. Choice cuts include the heartbreaking lead single “Daykeeper”, which features a duet with siren Muhsinah, and the undeniably fun “Something to Behold”, also featuring Muhsinah and Darien Brockington. Whether you’re in the need of something fresh or want a soundtrack for your troubled relationship, make sure you do not sleep on Leave It All Behind. Andrew Martin


 

 



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Julie Fowlis

Cuilidh

(Shoeshine; US: 19 Aug 2008; UK: 26 Mar 2007)

Review [28.Oct.2008]

Living in the Outer Hebrides, Julie Fowlis sings a flow of Scots Gaelic. Cuilidh is folk music accompanied by fiddles and pipes. The sweetness of this one could put some people off—“Oh no,” you might say to yourself, “it’s a nice album by a nice woman being nice”—but this sweetness is the sound of her sincerity shining through, a devout beauty rather than an artful prettiness. I was only modestly impressed by Cuilidh when I first heard it, yet since then there have been numerous times when I’ve wondered what to put on and the answer has come to me like this: Julie Fowlis, Julie Fowlis, Julie Fowlis. Deanne Sole


 

 



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Friendly Fires

Friendly Fires

(XL; US: 1 Sep 2008)

As one of the many free-floating pieces of space junk meandering about in the wake of the Rapture’s big bang “House of Jealous Lovers”, St. Albans, UK’s Friendly Fires are likely to face an uphill battle against a seething wall of cynicism. Even though the band sounds like everything you might have hoped to hear out of !!!, Fujiya & Miyagi, the Klaxons, the Editors, and the like, it’s Friendly Fires’ unequivocal distinction as a pop unit that makes them stand out from their peers. There’s no incentive within the croon of singer Ed MacFarlane to be anything other than the contemporary of Justin Timberlake and Michael Jackson. MacFarlane’s electronic roots (he released a solo IDM EP and the band covered Frankie Knuckles on an early single) augment the sound even further with the help of ebullient new wave synths and mountains of smartly-tuned effects on each of the album’s ten delectable gems. The sound of their self-titled debut is massive, reaching neo-shoegaze (think M83) levels of wall-of-sound earphoria throughout what seems like a consistent plateau of peaks. Yet, despite this mishmash of sounds, Friendly Fires never seem to be gagging on their influences or even breaking a sweat within the breathtaking breadth of the album’s 37 minutes. Timothy Gabriele


 

 



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Frightened Rabbit

The Midnight Organ Fight

(FatCat; US: 15 Apr 2008; UK: 14 Apr 2008)

Review [14.Apr.2008]

If Raymond Carver, the American short story writer, was born in Scotland in the late ‘70s, and into playing a folk/rock amalgam injected with flourishes of R.E.M.’s early jangle, Frightened Rabbit might have been the band he formed. Head rabbit, Scott Hutchison, cribs Carver’s anorexic approach to storytelling for a post-coital breakup album that burns with caustic yet simple caution. In Hutchison’s world, naked flesh is kept under favorite dresses, wrong names are whispered during sex, and people drink to forget. Yet, despite all the drama, the heartbreaking laments are emotive but never overwrought. Talking about his own classic breakup album, Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan once said, “A lot of people tell me they enjoy that album. It’s hard for me to relate to that. I mean, it, you know, people enjoying the type of pain, you know?” And while it might be difficult to hear Hutchison’s own brand of dirty realism, the hummable melodies do their best to distract from the relationship woes. Kevin Pearson


 
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