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Deerhoof

Friend Opportunity

(Kill Rock Stars; US: 23 Jan 2006; UK: Available as import)

Review [14.Jan.2007]

Super-weird, semi-prog rock is often too cerebral to be visceral, too complex to be groovy, or too dense to be soulful. This record, the best from the San Francisco three-piece, overcomes the limitations of the genre (such as it is) and succeeds at making its batshit mini-symphonies rock like mad. Exuberantly expressive instrumental work and hugely satisfying dynamic flourishes define the album from start to finish. It is this close to being a party album. And though each track has sections that will keep many listeners at arm’s-length, these inevitably segue into classic, guitar-driven sections that are undeniably attractive. Throughout, Japanese-American bassist and front-woman Satomi Matsuzaki’s delightfully twee delivery plays perfect counterpoint to the raw, rocking underbelly of most of the tracks; as sweet and tender as she comes across, there are shadows preying underneath her every melody. Exciting, disturbing, and yet darkly humourous, Friend Opportunity is unstoppable. Stuart Henderson


MP3: +81
MP3: The Perfect Me


Deerhoof - The Perfect Me





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DJ Hidden

The Later After

(Ad Noiseam; US: 16 Jul 2007; UK: 9 Apr 2007)

Noël Wessels of The Netherlands has consistently produced dark and nasty jungle singles and EPs under the DJ Hidden moniker since the turn of the millennium. Over that time, his craft has perfected itself into the hardest high BPM electronic music you can get without becoming breakcore. As such, fans were not surprised when his long-awaited debut long-player blew 2007 wide open. So epic, intense, and industrial while being amazingly minimal, The Later After is the drum and bass album to end all drum and bass albums. His stuttering basslines, anvil percussion, and mutant synths may be logically beyond notation, yet they move together as liquid, flowing in and out of each other imperceptibly from beginning to end. It’s the most fully realized album to hit junglists since Goldie’s Timeless. Filmore Mescalito Holmes


Multiple songs: MySpace


DJ Hidden - The Ignorance [audio only]





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The Fall

Reformation Post T.L.C

(Slogan; US: 27 Mar 2007; UK: 12 Feb 2007)

Review [27.Mar.2007]

The god-awful wreck delivering the lines is Mark E. Smith, the last necessary genius of punk rock circa 1977. In fact, gazing upon him in the “Reformation!” video, with his clumsy hand signals and his bunny and his toothless gape, you see exactly where punk as a vital resource still dwells (cf. his first appearance in Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll just last year). What, did you think punk rock was supposed to get handsomer and more elegant as time passed? Parade your vacant Lydon’s and corpse Strummer’s and oldies-act Shelly’s and vampire Vanian’s across the ears and they all sound like a sad joke. MES looks a sad dissipated Chuzzlewit, but he doesn’t sound like it. He still sounds 2007 which still takes me aback as I play the record for the bazillionth time this year. “This is what it’ll sound like / This is what it sound like!” Repetition, incantation, a Merle Haggard cover, even a stand-up comedy routine. Also there is an explanation for his entire career: “Systematic abuse, it is the truth.” I should also mention that the closest analogue for this groovy record is a little something called Sex Machine by James Brown. Just like James in 1970, Mark E. Smith’s band abandoned him acrimoniously mid-tour in 2006, and he was forced to hire some local kids (largely culled from the California band Darker My Love) to replace them. Mark Desrosiers


The Fall - Scenario [Live in New York]





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Fall Out Boy

Infinity on High

(Fueled by Ramen; US: 6 Feb 2007; UK: 5 Feb 2007)

Review [4.Feb.2007]

Fall Out Boy’s breakthrough From Under the Cork Tree was the latest pop-punk album with great singles and suspect filler. Sure, the band had successfully turned emo into cock rock for passive aggressive people on tracks like “Sugar We’re Going Down”, but not many expected them to have a career arc any different from New Found Glory. And no one anticipated the meta-pop of Infinity on High. Not even The Raspberries and The Cure, arguably the greatest singles bands of all time, released an album with the diverse sounds and killer pop instincts as this. From the string-laden pop-punk of “Thnks fr th Mmrs” to the spartan piano arrangement of “Golden”, the band visits Leonard Cohen torch songs, Babyface-produced gloss-pop, and even a little melodic subtlety. This album is as much about being an asshole in 2007 as Surfin’ Safari was about being Californian in 1962. Robert Short


Multiple songs: MySpace


Fall Out Boy - Me & You





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Federation

It’s Whateva

(Reprise; US: 2 Oct 2007; UK: Available as import)

Whereas, say, Ghostface Killah has no problem aiming his product at every glib pointy-headed hepcat in Williamsburg, the Federation open this record with a very exclusive announcement: “This album is intended for those who ride with their doors open, blow purple, wear oversize sunglasses—excuse me, stunner shades—gold teeth, dreadlocks, go dumb, and scream, ‘like what’.” A “Keep Out” announcement from a hyphy subculture which was already in backlash mode. But who cares? This strange, wondrous record was obviously designed to be a masterwork: eighty minutes of whips, energy drinks, college girls, and flow in a multitude of styles, including noise (“Black Roses”), snap (“Scraper to a Benz”), and gospel (“Fly Away”). In other words, a genre record without any identifiable genre (other than the subculture it’s celebrating). Mark Desrosiers


Federation - Happy I Met You (featuring Snoop Dogg)





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Fountains of Wayne

Traffic and Weather

(Virgin; US: 3 Apr 2007; UK: 2 Apr 2007)

Review [1.Apr.2007]

Even after the success of “Stacey’s Mom” in 2003, maybe it was inevitable that the public would miss the continued charm of power-poppers Fountains of Wayne. Traffic and Weather delivered 14 character-driven short stories cloaked in ingeniously catchy melodies—with little in common with the Fergalicious radio hits of 2007. But it’s a shame and a shock that the public did not embrace these quirky tales: the unrequited crush a narrator in a DMV line has on “Yolanda Hayes”; the true love near-miss of “Someone to Love”, the local anchor-folk romance of “Traffic and Weather”; and the ill-fated interstate yearning of “I-95”. These songs are arguably the pop music equivalent of recent movie hits like Garden State, Napoleon Dynamite, Superbad, and Juno. Incisive characters and troubling/touching scenes attach to great hooks, harmonies, and guitars, making Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood the Judd Apatow and Steve Carell of contemporary pop. Will Layman


Multiple songs: MySpace


Fountains of Wayne - Someone to Love





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Future of the Left

Curses

(Beggars; US: 29 Jan 2008; UK: 24 Sep 2007)

Review [13.Feb.2008]

Songs that provoke and piss-take, voices that taunt and tatter, guitar tones that sound like quicksand gargling with salt water: Picking up where the defunct Mclusky left off, Future of the Left delivered one of the year’s most delightful platters of aggressive irreverence. The Welsh trio—Mclusky’s Andrew Falkous and Jack Egglestone with Jarcrew’s Kelson Mathias—takes aim at social niceties and moderation with an ambush of sonic trash and barbed humor that smacks like a sardonic wrecking ball. “Plague of Onces” and “My Gymnastic Past” set off herky-jerky rhythms amid punk ransacking, while “Real Men Hunt in Packs” coolly hisses at conformity and “Fuck the Countryside Alliance” bites the class divide (“Take a man to his nightmares in a Land Rover!”). This is demolition-rock that turns absurdism into revolution—or perhaps it’s the other way around? Zeth Lundy


Multiple songs: MySpace





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Gogol Bordello

Super Taranta!

(Side One Dummy; US: 10 Jul 2007; UK: 9 Jul 2007)

Review [11.Jul.2007]

Pundits and fans know that there’s no way to capture the fierce, fun insanity of a Gogol Bordello show on disc; it’s an experience. If there were, it would be an instant classic. And perhaps after the deservedly-touted Gypsy Punks Underdog World Strike, it seems like a cleaner, almost poppier Super Taranta! is less fresh, even less like the chaos of the band’s live-show legend. But that’s where you’d make your first mistake. Super Taranta! is just as diverse as ever, and if anything the polish results in focus. From the shout-along of “Wonderlust King” to the wry and unspokenly-nostalgic critique of “American Wedding” (seriously, America, what is up with our idea of weddings?), Eugene Hütz still comes across like the younger cousin of Andre Codrescu, because seemingly without conscious effort Gogol Bordello consistently works on two levels. One the one hand the band’s multicultural stew is intelligent, even when it’s partying, and it’s very nature forces us to think outside the box of monoculture. And on the other hand, the music is just balls-out fun, slipping through styles and world geography with ease and entertainment at the fore. Your second mistake would be thinking that Gogol Bordello has made their mark and their best work is behind them. Patrick Schabe


Multiple songs: MySpace


Gogol Bordello - Wonderlust King





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Golden Arm Trio

The Tick Tock Club

(Shamrock; US: 5 Jun 2007; UK: Unavailable)

Review [22.Oct.2007]

One minute, skittering, careening, squalling, and caterwauling, and the next moment suspicious, sinister and sideways-glancing—welcome, listeners, to The Tick-Tock Club.  Entering the world created by these 12 horn- and strings-propelled pieces is akin to throwing yourself into a high-drama mystery full of adrenaline and suspense. “Bulldoze: The Super Power Dance” is edgy gangster swing, while “Disco””, sounding nothing like its namesake genre, is hands-down my favorite track of the year: bursting at the seams, utterly captivating, and perfectly executed. Throw whatever filmic terms at this record that you can—cinematic, widescreen, noir cine-jazz—and the record will project them back to you in saturated Technicolor. Mark Adams


Multiple songs: MySpace


Golden Arm Trio - Star Trek Medley





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Grand National

A Drink and Quick Decision

(Recall; US: 24 Sep 2007)

Grand National’s use of ‘80s-styled, pulsating synthesizers is addictive ear candy. Equally at home in club haunts as they are strumming guitars in open air, Rupert Lyddon and Lawrence Rudd are emerging as a dependable outfit for shimmering pop melodies and juicy hooks.  The songs on A Drink and a Quick Decision are tighter and more focused than those of the album’s predecessor, Kicking the National Habit (2006), a characteristic which wasn’t as noticeable upon its digital release in June. Somehow, the quality of Grand National’s excellent sophomore set improved markedly between June and September, when the album’s physical incarnation debuted (or maybe the pre-release advance I heard had poor fidelity). The mixes were far better and Lawrence Rudd’s trademark vocals were crisper on key tracks like “Animal Sounds” and “Going to Switch the Lights On”. A Drink and a Quick Decision is intoxicating proof that the art of album-making, especially where this notable release is concerned, cannot be absorbed as adequately in the digital world. Christian Wikane


Multiple songs: MySpace


Grand National in New York



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