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The Singing Adams, Problems (The Track and Field Organization) Rating: 7
Oh, how I love some albums that come months in advance. Song titles can change as can running orders. But when an album comes with no song titles at all, well it is an adventure. So, here goes, described only as track numbers. The side project of Steven Adams opens with a tune possibly titled "You Can't Stay in This House Anymore" that could have fallen off Suede's Sci-Fi Lullabies as an acoustic guitar strums along to Adams dour delivery. Fans of James Yorkston and also Alasdair Roberts would enjoy the second track ("Keep My Distance"?) as it's a folksy, cozy little gem that sounds like it's been recording at a kitchen party while "Don't You Feel For Me" (track three yes, but is that the title?) is a lovely little Celtic-flavored gem. But it's not all so formulaic as the gorgeous fourth track nails a fuzzed out sound in the vein of Jesus and Mary Chain and the Velvets. After another folksy, mountain-esque ramble, the seventh song is more of a mournful dirge with a line talking about defecating where you eat as a guitar slowly enters the fray. The dichotomy in some songs might be a disaster waiting to happen, but Adams is more than capable of fusing the best of both worlds. Other highlights are "I Don't Believe in Love Anymore" (track eight) and the ensuing ninth ditty.
Johann Johannsson, Dis (The Worker's Institute) Rating: 6
Johannsson typically composes music that can lazily be described as "cinematic". With Dis, based on music from an actual film, he shifts from atmospheric (and often minimalist) scoring to more of a poppy soundtrack. Of course, "pop" in Johannsson's range isn't anything you're likely to see with music videos. In this case, it's an electronic construction that takes as much from contemporary instrumental rock as from traditional classical composition. "Efripides og Nedripides" starts out with a mellow, space-y groove, but shifts abruptly into a guitar-led stretch of rock. The burst lasts briefly, and Johannson drops from it into a clean chord progression that he repeats less frequently than you anticipate. We even get some female vocals on the title track that (even if they'd be in your first language) function as much as an instrument as a content-provider. Johannson takes an unlikely direction on this release, but proves he has the skills to score. [Amazon]
Glow Stars, Raised on Pong (Levitation) Rating: 2
Raised on Pong, the debut album from Glow Stars, blazes a trail of mediocrity so dull, it's hard to summon the will for a second listen. The home-brewed concoction of Thomas Bedlam, Glow Stars try a little bit of everything, from new wave to power-pop by way of indie-rock and emo -- all blended and molded into a lo-fi package. The record's uninspiring analog production desperately wants to be an aesthetic crutch for the poor songwriting, but from the first note, this star fades quickly -- although in all fairness, its glimmer was faint from the start. Such well-tested patterns as pseudo-Cure-tinged guitar and bass riffs are merged with huffy, somber synthesizer wails, culminating in tracks like "On a Rainy Day", a piece characteristic of the band's insatiable appetite to ape a myriad of alternative musical genres. This craving fails at every level and is the band's chief shortcoming, nearly matched by lyrics, which are yawn-inducing undergrad-level poetry workshop fluff. Thankfully, Raised on Pong is the kind of musical blip easily ignored, something it deserves.
Whiskey Daredevils, Greatest Hits (Drink and Drive) Rating: 6
The Whiskey Daredevils are rockabilly-meets-country pure and simple, with songs that revolve around girls and cars, such as "AMC Hornet". Lead singer Bob Lanphier and crew are to the point with hordes of boogie-based rock riffs that bring to mind Stray Cats or Mike Ness (mentioned on "Ironic Trucker Hat") and his solo work. "Jesus Walks Beside Me" is a slower paced honky-tonk type of tune, while the quirky "Let's Lynch the Landlord" recalls the Blasters. The first of many highlights has to be the catchy and meaty rocker "Mickey's Bigmouth", and the toe-tapper hoedown of "Ida Jane", but "Don't Go" is a mediocre tune that is padding at best. The disc closes fantastically with a rousing "Greasy Box", which channels Bo Diddley. Finally, a greatest hits package that lives up to its billing.