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Slipped Discs 2007 Part 4

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Patton Oswalt

Werewolves and Lollipops

(Sub Pop; US: 10 Jul 2007; UK: Available as import)

Review [2.Aug.2007]

Oswalt’s hardly the first profanity-prone geek comic with a closet full of Star Wars toys and comic books. But this self-described “bridge troll” may be unique for his mix of defiant pride and rueful shame about it. On this rarest of comedy albums—one that actually stays funny over multiple listens—Oswalt gets up a head of steam for rants about KFC’s “sadness bowls”, confesses his desire to travel back in time to kill pre-Phantom Menace George Lucas with a shovel, compares Bush & Cheney to the Dukes of Hazzard, imagines having a Navy SEAL son who abuses him and his geek friends, stares slackjawed at the legions of conservative retirees who pile into Vegas Cirque du Soleil shows, and reminisces about a college class called “Physics for Poets”. There’s even a lucky heckler who will go down in comedy history, not for his heckle, but for the way it sends Oswalt down a rabbit hole of unrelenting, science fiction-informed abuse. Oswalt’s longtime “day job” was the sidekick role on The King of Queens, but his rightful place might be in Judd Apatow comedies, where the conflicted man-children run free. Andrew Gilstrap


Patton Oswalt on the KFC Famous bowls





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Paramore

Riot

(Fueled By Ramen; US: 12 Jun 2007)

While emocore continues to inflate itself to ridiculously bombastic degrees, Paramore bucked the trend and kept things simple on their second album, and the end result was one of 2007’s more impressive crossover successes. Led by the powerful voice of 18-year-old firecracker Hayley Williams, the songs on Riot!, are streamlined, slickly produced, tightly performed, and most crucially, wickedly catchy, as punk, emo, and powerpop merge into an unpretentious, winsome package. Of course, the arrangements are nothing we haven’t heard countless times, especially in the last five years, and the lyrics possess all the profundity of a teen’s LiveJournal entry, but that’s where Williams, the band’s ace card, comes in, as she charismatically sells each track, be it the dance-infused “crushcrushcrush”, power ballad “Hallelujah”, or the shoulda-been-a single “That’s What You Get”. Such wide-eyed charm goes a long way, and before we know it, we’re convinced this is one of the best powerpop records since Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American. Adrien Begrand


Multiple songs: MySpace


Paramore - crushcrushcrush





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Pepe Deluxe

Spare Time Machine

(Catskills; US: Available as import; UK: 18 Jun 2007)

Most of the defining works from the last 20-odd years have come out of a sullen or rage filled catharsis (Nirvana, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails). As the second term of King Bush Jr. winds down, there sure isn’t a shortage of stuff to get pissed off about. Instead of embracing the darkness that’s so readily available, Finland’s Pepe Deluxé took a higher route, but one no less empowering. Their third album is a thoroughly brilliant achievement, a blissfully happy catharsis in the form of a psychedelic mod throwback time capsule. Spare Time Machine is the single greatest late ‘60s album not recorded in the late ‘60s, jam packed with upbeat, high tempo ragas, fuzz mangled solos, and cutesy but honestly conveyed lyrics. It’ll be years before the true ramifications of this album will be felt. Filmore Mescalito Holmes


Multiple songs: MySpace
Multiple songs: Last.fm


Pepe Deluxe - Mischief of Cloud 6





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Sandro Perri

Tiny Mirrors

(Constellation; US: 9 Oct 2007; UK: 24 Sep 2007)

Review [11.Nov.2007]

Sandro Perri followed up his EP Sandro Perri plays Polmo Polpo with this perfect full-length that is incredibly laid back but not at all sloppy. He incorporates non-rock instruments, such as euphonium, trombone, cello, flute and bass clarinet, with great care, making every song fresh, nuanced and surprising. The percussion is equally light and clear. Perri and Ryan Driver play with synth and casio a little, but the album has an overwhelmingly acoustic feel. Unusually for non-commercial-pop, nothing obscures the flow and rhythm of Perri’s playful voice. His cover of Fred Neil’s “Everybody’s Talkin” skips lightly but has a slow, sad weightiness less apparent in the breezy original. Throughout, the guitar work is judged to perfection, with gentle strumming, nylon plucking, and a slippery pedal-steel recalling forgotten quieter moments from the Layla album. Tiny Mirrors hits a sweet spot between the inclusive folk of the Copper Family and the languid funkiness of Shuggie Otis. D.M. Edwards


Multiple songs: MySpace


Sandro Perri - The Eye [part 1]





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Phosphorescent

Pride

(Dead Oceans; US: 23 Oct 2007; UK: 22 Oct 2007)

Review [1.Jan.2008]

On Pride, Matthew Houck injects his spare songs with thick layers of vocals and richer instrumentation, making it his biggest sounding record to date. But, for all the album’s size and the choir help behind Houck’s cracked singing, he sounds as alone as ever. He uses that solitary nature to sift specks of the beautiful out of the terrifying, the dangerously reminiscent, and the lonesome. On songs like “Wolves”—which is the best piece of melancholy to be heard this year—Houck’s big compositions rise up and surround him as he struggles to find hope in the darkest of places. In a day and age so hollowed out by fear and isolation, it is a sad, solid comfort for Houck to have provided us with this album, a user’s guide to the hidden beauties in this mess of a world. If 2006 found you all too pleased to Get Lonely with the Mountain Goats, then maybe, now, you should find yourself some Pride. Matt Fiander


MP3: A Picture of Our Torn Up Praise
Multiple songs: MySpace


Phosphorescent - Wolves (Live on Positively Fourth Street)





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Rob Crow

Living Well

(Temporary Residence, Ltd.; US: 23 Jan 2007; UK: Unavailable)

Review [29.Jan.2007]

Rob Crow, in an act of remarkable restraint, released only two albums this year, down from his usual billion or so. One of them was with Pinback, his standby indie-stalwart act, and though the disc (Autum of the Seraphs) was very good, it wasn’t the hands-down masterpiece that 2004’s Summer in Abaddon was. Yet right at the beginning of year, Crow also released a solo album that quietly outshined the disc of his more well-known act. Recorded by himself at home with his new child, Crow’s defiantly minimal guitar tones somehow became more fleshed out and accessible: never before had he written something as joyous as “No Sun”, so single-ready as “I Hate You, Rob Crow” (which, incidentally, was picked as a single), or so absolutely gorgeous as “Up”. Going pop without ever pandering, Crow has managed to find his heart in his home, and though such a revelation is great for him, it’s even better for his listeners. Absolutely top-notch. Evan Sawdey


MP3: I Hate You, Rob Crow


Rob Crow - Up





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Rush

Snakes & Arrows

(Atlantic; US: 1 May 2007; UK: 30 Apr 2007)

Sure, they remain an incredibly consistent live draw, but the cold, hard fact was that when it came to actual studio albums, Rush had been on autopilot for a good 14 years, at least. However, in the wake of the back-to-basics fun of 2004’s covers EP Feedback, and under the guidance the guidance of ace producer Nick Raskulinecz, the venerable Canadian power trio managed to put out one of the more pleasant surprises of the year. Not only does the band sound reinvigorated on their 18th album, but they’re downright ferocious at times, as on the bruising opener “Far Cry”, which deftly channels Rush’s different incarnations (the throttling precision of the ‘70s, the melodicism of the ‘80s, the groove of the ‘90s). Geddy Lee turns in his best vocal performance in ages and Neil Peart brilliantly anchors a pair of excellent instrumentals, but Alex Lifeson steals the show with his layered, expressive guitar work, best heard on “Armor and Sword” and “Spindrift”. Almost 34 years in, it’s yet another career milestone. Adrien Begrand


Multiple songs: MySpace


Rush - Far Cry





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Elliott Smith

New Moon

(Kill Rock Stars; US: 8 May 2007; UK: 7 May 2007)

Review [7.May.2007]

The release of New Moon brings us two discs of Elliott Smith tracks recorded from 1994-1997. Sometimes the tragic circumstances of Smith’s death seem to overshadow the limitless bounds of his talent, but these 24 tracks reinforce the fact that Smith’s popularity and increasingly large following are very much deserved. New Moon is more than just a set of posthumously packaged demos or second-takes. Most of these songs were recorded during the same sessions which produced Either/Or and his self-titled album, and with most of these tracks it is hard to imagine how Smith chose to not include them on those studio albums. Everything from the luscious chorus of “Go By” to the fierce, embittered climax of “High Times” shows that Smith was a special sort of musician we rarely see today. His goal was never fame or fortune, and yet his growing influence on musicians and listeners alike is more powerful than he ever understood. The world through Smith’s eyes was generally a tragic one, but this tragic world is made a little bit more beautiful through the rich body of music he left behind for us. This collection is now expanded with New Moon, a testament to the fact that the quiet genius of Smith’s music simply cannot be praised enough. Elizabeth Newton


Multiple songs: MySpace





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Britney Spears

Blackout

(Jive; US: 30 Oct 2007; UK: 29 Oct 2007)

Review [28.Oct.2007]

After the latest round of bad news (something about a lengthy stand-off, hospitalization, and Dr. Phil), my hope that Britney will soon begin in earnest to turn things around is admittedly starting to fade. I refuse to be flip, but realistically speaking, if she never comes back from this, at least her last album was an exceptional one. My fingers are still crossed for her, but at this point, poor Brit clearly needs more than a well-meaning think piece or even a well-received record to motivate her to make lifestyle changes. Somehow, in the studio, she’s better than ever—singing in and around and over and on top of top-flight Avant & Bloodshy and Danja compositions; we’ll always have Blackout... Josh Timmermann


Multiple songs: MySpace
Video: Gimme More
Video: Piece of Me





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Bruce Springsteen

Magic

(Columbia; US: 2 Oct 2007; UK: 1 Oct 2007)

Review [30.Sep.2007]

The most aptly-titled album of the year, Magic shows why groups like the Arcade Fire, the Killers, the National, and the Hold Steady love Springsteen: the guy gets it. He really fucking gets it.  Nobody has ever turned everyday life into opera like the Boss. He makes you feel good to be you—and that ain’t easy. Sure, Springsteen addresses the same old themes, but those themes are your life.  A starry-eyed dreamer sees redemption in the body of a bartender, a lost wanderer seeks the American mythos, and a friend mourns the loss of a lifelong buddy.  All the while the E Street Band sparkles in the background like autumn stars. The kicker, though, comes in “Long Walk Home”, when Springsteen laments how far America has strayed from its values: “It’s gonna be a long walk home / Hey, pretty darling, don’t wait up for me…”  Who else could convey the tragedy and despair of America’s Bush-era fall in two simple lines? Michael Franco


Multiple songs: MySpace


Bruce Springsteen - Long Walk Home



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