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The Cassettes, The Cassettes (Lovitt)
The Cassettes are the post-punk, psychedelic spawn of one Shelby Cinca, ex-member of the vastly underrated Frodus. Leaving behind his angular, Jawbox-ish roots, Cinca teamed up with Dead Meadows bassist Steve Kile, to search out some tie-dyed pastures. Problem is, they were waylaid by bad production, and a lack of ambition, and never quite get to where they're trying to go. The band sounds muffled, as if they covered the mics with blankets, and then placed them outside of the studio before recording. Compounding the weak recording is Cinca, who sounds as if he could barely be bothered to sing. His disaffection culminates with him releasing one of the weakest "whoos" in rock history. The Cassettes aren't all bad, as Cinca and Kline have a good ear for melody and pop tunes. When the band gets going, which they do on tracks like "Girl with X-Ray Eyes" and "The Sound", they pull out some nice jingly, jangly songs that make for good head bopping music. The Cassettes were going for Beatles meets Flying Burrito Brothers, but ended up with Lemonheads meets Meat Puppets.
Mary Lorson & Billy Coté, Piano Creeps (The First Time)
Mary Lorson is from Madder Rose, Billy Coté is from Saint Low, and this is one of the most boring albums I've ever heard. Mostly instrumental (with the occasional echoing breathy vocal from Lorson) the forgettable sounds trickle by like an ambient art-flick soundtrack, and damn near every moment will test your patience. The most tolerable tracks are the ones with both drums and vocals spicing up the twinkly sonics: the whomping "Dig a Hole" is an entertaining Portishead rip, and "See the Stars" is actually a plain-old beautiful song with dynamics and melodies and even a hint of cacophony. The worst tracks are the ones with one tame violin generating the atmosphere: the unbearable "Old Man Dance" is the worst offender, but "Newfield Baptist Church" (despite the evocative title) is duller than a glass of soy milk. On the whole, it seems that Mary Lorson is the talent here, since things only liven up when her voice starts swirling around the mix. Indeed, the most intriguing track is the strangely beautiful "Americana #1", the only song written solely by Lorson. If you're an obsessive fan of either Madder Rose or Saint Low, you may enjoy this disc. Otherwise I urge the listening public to steer clear.
The Lucksmiths, "Midweek Morning" (Matinee)
Releases between full length albums can be a blessing or a curse, either holding over die hard fans until the next larger collection or throwaway tracks that musicians have no business putting out. This trio of songs from another lovable pop-oriented Australian trio called The Lucksmiths joyously falls into the former collection. Resembling fellow label mates The Windmills as well as The Smiths to a certain extent, the title single starts things off. "You were never one for sleeping late/But the working week can wait," is the opening couplet over an engaging guitar and mid-tempo arrangement. It evolves from there with a faster beat and some well-placed horns courtesy of Craig Pilkington. "Point Being" is very melodic, consisting of handclaps, tambourine and acoustic strumming rooting the tune. The song's give and take harmonies are another plus, resembling The Housemartins in some respects. The closing song, which will be a non-album track, pays tribute to the watering hole the group have frequented often. "Requiem For the Punters Club" is a ballad of drowning sorrows and loneliness. The Beautiful South could do this in their sleep, but it doesn't negate the short but excellent amount of music presented.
Belleville, My Friends are My Estate (Del-Tona)
Belleville is the beast that would no doubt emerge from the floor should Rodney Crowell, John Fogerty and the Gin Blossoms ever be drinking at the same pub when gamma rays strike the Earth. A dramatic mix of stilted vocal rhythms, classic Depression Era twangs and a sultry alt.country swagger, My Friends are My Estate, improves on the band's self-titled debut release from a few years ago with obvious lyrical development and a far more relaxed experimental melding of styles. This time around, the band enthralls with superb tracks like "Out on the Side", the jazz-fuelled "Sunday", and the excellent "Cabin in the Woods", a riotous channeling of The Soggy Bottom Boys. And, just as they did with Neil Young's "Everyone Knows this is Nowhere" on their debut, the Belleville boys add their own capricious vibe to The Pernice Brothers' "Wait to Stop", before bringing it all home with the haunting, instrumental title track. With alternating lead vocalists (Mark Caputo, Rob Zapata and Bruce Drake) and stripped back instrumental work complete with pedal steel, trumpets and the always reliable Roland XP-50, Belleville's latest is crammed with enough country goodness to keep you goin' till sundown.