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The Snow Fairies, Get Married (Total Gaylord) Rating: 7
Four out of five dentists agree that brushing one's teeth after listening to The Snow Fairies Get Married is the best way to prevent tooth decay. Over the course of 24 minutes on their sophomore full-length, the Philadelphia fivesome pack a dose of pure pop so sweet that diabetics should steer clear. Anyone else looking for upbeat twee pop, however, should seek out this album. Lead singer Rose Bechanky's sweet, innocent voice is the icing on a cake made of Laurence Margaritas' poppy guitar and Melissa Kramer's bubbly keyboard. Lame "sugar" jokes aside, in a world brimming with bad news, cute, cheerful moments like the bouncing bass of "Railroad Tracks", the "bah bah bah" backing vocals on "The Life of a Total Square" and Bechansky's assertion, on "The Stone Pony", that "New Jersey is only good for two things -- beer and bowling" will bring a smile to one's face... even if that smile is full of candy-ravaged teeth. I'd say more about The Snow Fairies Get Married, but I've sapped my supply of sugar/sweet/candy gags. A very fun pick-me-up album.
Yip-Yip, Pro-Twelve Thinker (Strictly Amateur Films) Rating: 5
Put Yip-Yip's first proper full length album in your computer, and a two-minute QuickTime film pops up. This two-minute film looks like a heavily edited take on the Yip-Yip live experience, complete with two guys in poorly-designed white bodysuits (with goggles so they can see) hitting keyboards and bumping into each other a lot. And there's music, too -- a vaguely sinister bass synth workout that incorporates traces of other keyboard noises over a simple but constantly morphing beat. Technolonoise? Synthcrunch? I have no idea what to call this. Whatever it is, though, it's all over Pro-Twelve Thinker, Yip-Yip's first foray into the full-length album format. The duo, made up of two fellows named Brian Esser and Jason Temple, combines silly song titles ("Big Bass with the Platinum Limbs", "Banger: An Eating Contest") with bass-heavy electronics and beats that skirt the line between IDM and synthpop. Sometimes it works -- "High Heel to Mammal" is bouncy and quirky in all the right ways in the minute before it devolves into a formless razorblade mist, and "Familyman Conundrum" (the song in the video) is sort of like a dance tune on valium and painkillers. Unfortunately, at 24-ish minutes, it's too short to make much of a statement, and only maybe five of those minutes are intriguing enough to remember once the CD's over. Even so, that live show looks fun as hell.
Trillville feat. E-40 and 8-Ball, "I'm Pimpin'" [single] (Warner Bros.) Rating: 3
Between 8-Ball and E-40, Trillville has two of the three coasts covered -- 8-Ball from the Dirty Dirty (deep Memphis), E-40 from the West (Vallejo to be exact). The multi-regionalism is to be admired, but the results can't escape a vague sense of torpor. I'm sure these guys are absolutely sincere in their attempts to assure the listener that they are, indeed, "pimpin'", but I have to say that I remain thoroughly nonplussed as to how they can rattle off so many clichés about how they're "pimpin', mackin', hustlin', stackin'" and how "everything they touch go gold or platinum", and then turn around and maintain with a straight face that "ya'll niggas ain't talkin' 'bout nothin'". I'm afraid that this is definitely a case of the gentlemen protesting too much...
The Exit, The Exit (Wind-Up) Rating: 6
I'm sure The Exit and their handlers are lovely, good natured people, but whoever designed this promo CD package/envelope should be tarred and feathered. Sheesh... anyway... the four-song EP from this trio has "Don't Push" being a rather odd effort to get the ball rolling. It's primal in spots but the drumming of Gunnar makes it a winding, gear-changing song that veers from a galloping to a mellow tempo. They sing about seeing better days but I've also heard better songs than this one. Packing more substance is the dramatic, tension-filled "Let's Go to Haiti" which bludgeons you with a great and relentless riff. Big and bombastic without any sense of self-indulgence, the tune grows and grows. Yet as hard as that sounds, "Back to the Rebels" makes Maroon 5 almost menacing. It's hard to get a feel for The Exit from this hit and miss release. But when they hit, it's a homer.
The Pathways, Boat of Confidence (RIYL) Rating: 7
Brooklyn doesn't have the Dodgers anymore, but they do still have a lot of great bands under the radar. The newest one of these is The Pathways, who have seen the comparisons to Pavement in abundance with this release. And for good reason as "Kid Gloves on the Packet-Boat" is rather sparse but standard indie or alt. rock. There's no buffing here, just the sound of a band honing their catchy, eclectic form of quasi art rock a la latter day XTC. While some take a while to establish the hook, songs like "Stunning Capture" are worth patiently waiting for. The vocals of Evan Kindley and David Yourdon have that earnest feeling to them a la Yo La Tengo or Sloan circa Underwhelmed, particularly on "L'Enfant Plaza". Not to be outclassed is the hi-hat-fuelled "Miserable In Coat + Tie" and the bass line propelling "No Cops". Drawing you in with "The Carolers", The Pathways mix things up slightly for an inviting and appealing piece of ear candy with "You've Got to Look Inside Yourself" the album's apex.
The Time Flys, Fly (Birdman) Rating: 5
According to Groucho Marx, time flies like the wind, while fruit flies like bananas. Oakland, CA, foursome the Time Flys may like the wind as well -- the band's bio never discusses the members' stance on wind-appreciation -- but on their energetic debut, Fly, they prove a love for scuzzy garage punk. Even by the genre's lo-fi standards, the Time Flys sound like shit (the way the best garage punk bands do) -- Eric Johnson's yelled vocals are buried under Andy Jordan's mountainous guitar for 11 of the album's 12 tracks (they do manage to clean up nice on a fun doo-woppy cover of the Ly-Dells' long-forgotten "Teenage Tears"). The band covers all the thematic bases: anarchy ("Offin' the Chief"), sniffing glue and having illicit sex ("Jailbait") and their own awesomeness ("Cool! Is the rule," notes Johnson on "In My Skool"), and every tune sounds the same, but you already knew that. Fly breaks no ground that hadn't been dug up repeatedly by, say, mid-1978, but it's still DIY-basement rock churned out in two days at its finest.
Ebony Eyez, "In Ya Face" [single] (Capitol) Rating: 7
"Ladies..." Ebony says, "the next time a dude tells you to drop it like it's hot, or bend over and touch your toes, tell him that the only way he's gonna see that is if you can put your ass in his face." As degrading as some recent club hits have been for the fairer sex, there has not yet been a female MC (with the sole exception of spoken-word artist Sarah Jones) to call all the chauvinists on their horrible gender attitudes. Like an avenging angel of the club, Ebony Eyez is here to level the death-ray to any man intent on objectifying her or her posse. She knows she's hot and fine, and she doesn't need to put on a show for our benefit, thank you very much. Why don't one of you nice boys bend over for her? I do believe that's the idea. The beat wonderfully replicates the sensation of being stuck in the middle of the dancefloor in a jam-packed club -- the Trackboyz are on their way to becoming some of the most dependably funky hitmakers in the business.
Voxtrot, "Raised By Wolves" b/w "They Never Mean What They Say" [7" single] (Magic Marker) Rating: 6
Voxtrot take their most obvious influences '80s groups like the Cure and the Smith, but they pour it through a moddish filter. The group keeps "Raised By Wolves" upbeat, and it takes a while until you realize that the pride in being "young and stupid and raised by wolves" is a just a cover for the realization that the narrator "will never live like you do / [He] will never love like you do". The b-side offers a piano/acoustic guitar ballad that builds nicely. Vocalist Ramesh Srivastava mixes nostalgia and weariness into a melancholy that's half as dramatic and twice as effective as the typical pop song. The first song will get you moving, but it's partner will move you into a sway, hugging either your own partner, or your lonely self.
Blindfold, Blindfold (Resonant) Rating: 7
Blindfold's eponymous LP can be a tough one to nail down until you read one word about its origin: "Iceland". Indeed, sole member Birgir Hilmarrson is from the small island with the cold-sounding name, and knowledge of said fact is enough to tell you most of what you need to know about the album -- it's a slow-tempo, spacey workout heavy on odd, high-pitched guitar melodies and airy electronics with the occasional bout of plaintive vocalizing to add variety to the proceedings. The title track is one of the more beautiful bits of thoughtful existentialist instrumentalism via heavily delayed guitars and skittery IDM-style beats you'll ever hear, and the thoughtful vocal track "Daze" is the aural equivalent of a lonely, silent November night after one too many drinks. You also get the saddest accordion you may ever have heard, on the ironically titled "Lucky Beach Riviera Song". Blindfold is a lovely 47 minutes of atmosphere and introspection, and will please nearly anyone looking for another "Icelandic-sounding" CD to put next to their Múm, Sigur Rós, and Björk collections. [Amazon]
Valencia, This Could Be a Possibility (I Surrender) Rating: 4
Haling from Philadelphia, the boys in Valencia have been out the music game for longer than you would expect. Their name may not be familiar except to those who follow the hybridized realm of pop/punk/emo but they've been fortunate enough to have shared the stage with bands like Brand New, The Starting Line, Me Without You, Senses Fail, and Hidden In Plain View. It's this kind of cred by association that's Valencia's best shot at the big time. If they can get their pop punk sound into the right ears they'll inevitably find an enthusiastic audience since the band's songwriting formula strays not one iota from those of their previously mentioned peers. The band is tight and loud, writing songs full of sing-a-long choruses with the occasional nod towards a faster harder underbelly they seem unwilling to completely unleash. Understandable, the name of the game is fame and riches after all and straying to far from the formula might alienate their marketing demographic. Valencia writes strong confident songs that you've heard a thousand times before. If you're looking for more of the same Valencia does an excellent job of providing it. [Amazon]
O-Solo feat. Rockwilder, "6 Minutes" [12" single] (TVT) Rating: 7
I must admit to being completely unfamiliar with O-Solo before I pulled this single out of the envelope. I don't think I'll never forget the name now, if for nothing else than the fact that this is one of the ballsiest debut singles I've ever heard. It takes a lot of confidence to lead off the first two verses of your first big song with straight extrapolations of two of the most famous rhymes in the history of the game: "Hi kids, / You like violence?" and "It was all a dream, / I used to read Word Up magazine", respectively. It takes a lot of guts to simultaneously step into the shoes of Eminem and Biggie, and based simply on the cleverness with which he takes these familiar verses and flips the script on the original writers, I'd say he's definitely an MC worth watching. Rockwilder's beat is a tour-de-force in and of itself -- a strange, shuffling bit of space-alien noise that sounds like DJ Screw let loose on the Kompakt catalog. For all I know O-Solo may never record another song worth hearing, but this is definitely one for the crate.
Jasy Andrews, Little Girl (Versailles) Rating: 6
Oh, the perils of a debut album. And what's that? A double album to boot? Oh boy... But don't let that fool you, Jasy Andrews is able to make this a thoughtful, laidback and quite cozy, folksy two-disc collection. While citing influences like Tori and Sarah (McLachlan), Andrews comes off more in line with people like John Denver and Emmylou Harris in terms of how easy it seems each line, each note just rolls off the tongue or acoustic guitar as it does with "Keep It Up" and the piano ballads "I'll Do That Much" and the gorgeous "Free". She can carry a note in a blackberry let alone a bucket -- clear, crisp and oh so pretty. She even makes Bon Jovi's "I'll Be There For You" bearable. But a strength can sometimes be a burden if taken to the well once too often, and this is the case with another pensive adult contemporary ballad "I Should Have". Disc Two is much of a departure from Disc One as "Slide Show" and "Little Girl" and a cover of Guns N' Roses "Patience" keeps this precious lullaby feel going. Andrews didn't stop while she was ahead, but nonetheless it's a pleasing, promising cornerstone. [Amazon]