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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
13 February 2006
Miguel Mendez, My Girlfriend is Melting (I & Ear) Rating: 7
"If you start a little fire, I'll stay a little while / And then we'll both have something good to say." So says Miguel Mendez toward the end of "Maniac Psycho", the second track on his debut solo album My Girlfriend is Melting, and it's a bit surprising how right he is. Mendez traffics in a brand of sleepy-eyed folk-rock that will appeal to fans of the early, lo-fi acoustic musings of Beck, though Mendez goes beyond that template into a space all his own. A deep, appealing voice, instrumental proficiency, and inventive songwriting all have a prominent place on Mendez's album, though much of the preceding is clouded by the hazy mood that covers the entire album. Look beyond the smoke, however, and there's everything from unexpected twists and turns reminiscent of The Shins ("May 9, 2002") to instrumental collage-making ("These Clouds are Made from Feelings") to electric-tinged mope-rock ("You Got Me All Wrong", a song written by Mendez but covered, released, and donated to The O.C. by Mendez's friends in Dios (Malos) before Mendez's version was ever released). At the center of it all is "Catchin a Wave", a song that somehow finds the link between Coldplay and Elliot Smith via the sounds of a trip to the circus through a THC haze. The end result is an album that's sometimes difficult, sometimes lovely, but always interesting.
Copy, Mobius Beard (Audio Dregs) Rating: 6
For the most part Copy does a smooth job of blending intricate electronic compositions with a general dancefloor vibe. The first three tracks show smart, subtle development while maintaining a groove. At times, as with "Backward," Copy loses his feel in trying to be too much of each, but those moments seldom occur. After "Backward", for example, he rebounds with "Calling You Back" and then stretches himself for the melodic and rhythmic develoments within the composition of "It's a Little Too Late". Copy makes a point of the influence old video game music had on him, but that's a bit of a ruse; he likes the lo-fi synth sounds, but he's spent too much getting everything in place to not reveal the IDM and disco at the real heart of his work. I imagine him in his little studio focused like someone trying to finish Zelda, not someone trying to soundtrack it. Mobius Beard isn't as good an album as Copy will make, but it's a good starting point for him.
Rihanna, Music of the Sun (Def Jam) Rating: 5
I should probably construct this review as one of those geneological illustrations you'd see in a museum. "The Evolution of Rihanna: A Study in Reception, Males 18-40". But considering I can't draw and that I almost failed first year Anthropology, I'm going to give it to you straight up in words - frustrated English grad style! I first came across Rihanna in music video form and she had me complete. From her baggy jeans to her adequate carib-inflected vocals, it all seemed so perfect (maybe a little too perfect). So yeah, she's barely 18 - so what? The "Pon de Replay" video should be held up as the prototype for shrewd star making. Charming and economical, it got me interested enough to listen to the rest of Rihanna's debut. Well, okay, the correlation wasn't exactly immediate. The next step was actually a high-minded perusal of the CD's liner notes. In which I noticed that there's some heavy hitters batting behind this marginally talented young charmer - Jay Z, Kardinall Offishall, Vybez Kartel. Next, on to the actual songs. And as hard as it is to get by "Pon de Replay" without pressing repeat, I eventually listened to the rest of the record. It's a soft footed mix of synthetic lovers rock and - okay, wait a second. Now I've heard Hillary Duff complain that adult male critics aren't exactly her audience and so their reactions aren't really reflective of her demographic. So now I'm going to shut up and just watch that video again [Exeunt, dirty old man].
J.J. Appleton, Uphill to Purgatory (self-released) Rating: 3
J.J. Appleton is an attractive man. One might even call his muscular chest and square jaw worthy of bearing the "beef cake" moniker. The music, however, is worthy of little. Most notably, it is not worthy of your time. Appleton seems sincere, as if when he sings, "The more things change / The more they stay the same", he truly believes that he's the first person who's ever thought of the line. Shifting between riff-heavy Southern rock and high-sheen pop, Appleton never strikes the right chords. And by the time the bonus track, "Downloader's Blues", rolls around, you can't help laughing at the line, "All I wanted was rock n' rock / But I ended up in a dingy hole". This is a novelty to be played at a party. I just hope people don't mock it too harshly.
.: posted by Editor 9:07 AM