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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
14 July 2005
Montag, Alone, Not Alone (Carpark) Rating: 7
Antoine Bedard's effervescent electro-pop floats like bubbles blown from a bottle in shiny, otherworldly orbs. At once stylized and idiosyncratic, the Montreal native's songs lull with dreamy French-accented English lyrics. Notable here are his enlisted collaborators, among them members of the group Stars, an ensemble of strings and horns, with mastering by Canadian producer Sixtoo. Bedard writes in circular strokes of lilting harmonies and swooning vocalizations. Heartbreak and casual crushes get prime time in this world. The overall pastoral homage to everyday surroundings filters through a gauze of gurgling electronics and percussive arrangements. A myriad of textural instruments like marimba, vibraphone, and harp open up the subtle, pensive tone of these songs, not unlike British provocateurs Monochrome Set. Mr. Bedard's unique penchant for mixing bittersweet and bliss rings true here, as a new French-Canadian songwriting voice.
James Apollo, Good Grief (Aquarium) Rating: 4
With dust flaked on its lens and multiple states' worth of soil caked on the soles of its boots, James Apollo's Good Grief is a baker's dozen of Americana hallucinations. Led by visions of crows, mercenaries, and the Alamo, Apollo works a back porch/side barn vibe that's full of crooked atmosphere but lacks more immediately memorable moments. He can't be faulted for not trying; throughout the course of Good Grief, his third full-length release, Apollo tries on the slo-hysterics of Ryan Adams ("The Alamo"), the antiquated minor jump blues of Tom Waits ("Spring Storm"), and even spurts of left-field psych-folk ("Long Rope"). But despite these restless stylistic taste-tests, the album never connects with strong melodies or hooks, leaving it somewhat anonymous in the end. Listening to Good Grief is a bit like looking at a photo album of unidentified landscapes; while you get a sense of what they are, you don't feel compelled to pack the car and plan a trip anytime soon.
Great Lakes Myth Society, Great Lakes Myth Society (Stop Pop and Roll) Rating: 6
Great Lakes Myth Society is sort of like that uncle who has been rooted in the same place for 50 or so years. He can revel with stories of greatness and extreme sadness, all of them filled with absolute wonder and a good deal of lies, but it doesn't matter because the stories are just that damn good. Similarly, the aptly-titled eponymous debut from Great Lakes Myth Society is full of fantastically spun yarns about the great American North. Not all of the stories are mind-boggling and a couple sound like that uncle may have lost some of his lucidity. It's no matter. Tales with subject matter swinging broadly between Big Jim Hawkins to the Northern Lights are rooted in the great American tradition of songwriting.
Girl Friday, Swimmer (Get Fresh) Rating: 5
On its debut album, Girl Friday manages to keep its music intense without ever losing control. The band restrains itself even as it reveals a secret stash of energy. The key to group's sound lies with Amanda Dora's vocals. She shifts effortlessly from aggressive pop vocals to soft lilts over more ambient tones. Along with guitarists Dora, the musicians show flexibility in creating their atmospheres as well as their hooks. The production on Swimmer (although a bit heavy-handed at times) is very clean and gives the band a true sound. The group's only problem is that it doesn't do anything to grab you. Careful listens are rewarding, but Girl Friday hasn't quite found that way to demand repeated spins yet. It's a talented trio, but one still discovering how to make its mark.
Slightly Stoopid, Closer to the Sun (Stoopid/BMG) Rating: 6
Slightly Stoopid might be seen as a very silly punk band, but that name gives off a very different vibe. Here is a lightly and extremely soothing reggae (are there any other kinds?) that starts with "Intro" and leads into "Babylon Is Falling". Although it's not reggae throughout, it's an acoustic/island/roots feeling on "Somebody", sort of like if Jack Johnson was tutored by George Clinton. This is a very summer sounding album you would have to be a twit not to get into, especially listening to "Bandelero" and "See No Other Way". And there are some songs about various medicinal products such as "Fat Spliffs" and "The Joint". Other tracks keep the same vibe, be it "Older" or "Don't Care" with its infectious groove. Aside from a few punk rock attempts, tunes such as "Up on a Plane" and "Waiting" will put you to sleep. And I mean that in the nicest, most complementary way.
.: posted by Editor 7:18 AM