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21 February 2006

The Strugglers, You Win (Acuarela) Rating: 7
There's a certain patience to the music of The Strugglers that makes it incredibly appealing and relaxing to listen to. On first listen to The Strugglers' You Win, I was tempted to think that the music of Randy Bickford got stuck in a rut far too often, taking a theme and sticking with it, tacking on some lyrics when it was appropriate and calling it a day. Further listens, however, have uncovered that it's not that there's no musical development taking place here, it's that what development there is happens very slowly and carefully. Melodies are given a chance to expand, new instruments are introduced, and lyrical themes either blossom or come around full circle. All of it is wrapped up in a pleasant, acoustic folk shell, with interjections from cellos, pianos, and even a quick burst of banjo. Bickford's baritone vocals are a mix of the more recent, broken efforts from Eddie Vedder, though his words are as downcast and stream-of-consciousness as Conor Oberst -- there's hardly a chorus to be found in the whole set. You Win is music to wallow in, music that doesn't require much of you, but will reward you if you take the time to hear what it's saying. — Mike Schiller [Insound] [Amazon] [Myspace]
"The Cascade Range": [MP3]
"The Rejection Letter": [MP3]

Tryst, Hotel Two-Way (MH) Rating: 6
Hotel Two-Way is the third release from the New York City-based Tryst, and it is the band's best. The guitars are at once riff-happy and subtle, the vocals are warm and inviting, the lyrics are romantic and playful... it's really good. From the onset, this album establishes itself as a beautiful pop record, full of lilting pop melodies. The opener, "Jessica", shimmers like Belle & Sebastian circa Tigermilk. This is followed by the title track, a poetic and beautiful tune containing the subtly brilliant lyric (what I consider the lyric of the year), "I'm waiting for a holiday / Whether it's gray or blue / Even Columbus Day will do / So I can have a little sex with you / Before my sister gets home from NYU". Playful and tender, this is the album in a nutshell. This is the best part about Tryst and Hotel Two-Way: it makes you smile. — Dave Brecheisen [Insound] [Amazon]
"Hotel Two-Way": [MP3]
"Chain Reaction": [MP3]
"Alexis": [MP3]

Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving (Marriage/PW Elverum & Sun) Rating: 6
Thanksgiving is an 80-minute, 24-song, three-part epic spread across three 12" vinyl records, with a CD-R version of the same tucked into the triple gatefold album jacket. The records are colored red, white, and blue. A work of patriotism? Not in the overly proud or obnoxious sense... but more along the lines of Whitman and Emerson, in the the American tradition of self-analysis. The first part of the album, "Fuck the World", is bleak and overly self-concerned, with Adrian Orange expressing bitterness about the state of the world over plaintive, sparse, twisted folk music. The middle section, "I Am Yours", is the most "pop" in tone, brighter and more melodic, with lyrics directed towards opening oneself up to others. "Welcome Home Human", the concluding third, is just as rough as the first part, full of sharp edges. Yet this time he's singing with hope about discovery and rebirth. This is by all means difficult music, due to its length, its somber atmosphere, and the way the songs hover near atonality at times. But it's also rewarding, stirring, even inspiring, once you've become accumulated to Thanksgiving's style. — Dave Heaton [Insound]
"Dead Deer & Other Animals": [MP3]

El Ten Eleven, El Ten Eleven (Bar-None) Rating: 4
"You know those guitars that are like, double guitars?" asks Otto in the classic Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns (part 1)". Well, the guitarist in yet another instrumental post-rock band (I know, I know), El Ten Eleven has one. But while that in itself would be unforgivable, Kristian Dunn has an excuse. El Ten Eleven is making the sound of a full band with only two people, so he probably needs all the help he get. Along with drummer Tim Fogarty, El Ten Eleven are inexplicably compared with Sigur Ros and Tortoise, but are more strikingly reminiscent of one-off Mike Kinsella project American Football (sans the vocals). Featuring clean, intricate guitar lines, solid rhythm work and some subtly employed loops, El Ten Eleven's music is certainly pleasant and definitely inoffensive, and that's pretty much the problem. Lacking any sort of otherworldliness or adventure, El Ten Eleven's debut stays its predictable course. It's post-rock for the coffee shop, or that your Mom and Dad might like, but that I'm pretty sure you won't. — Kevin Jagernauth [Insound]
"Lorge": [MP3]

.: posted by Editor 5:33 AM

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In bold are PopMatters Picks, the best in new music.
Abe Duque
be your own PET
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
The Bottle Rockets
The Brand New Heavies
Johnny Cash
Slaid Cleaves
Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
Cut Chemist
Miles Davis
Dinosaur Jr.
Dr. Octagon
Alejandro Escovedo
Fatboy Slim
Four Tet
The Handsome Family
Matthew Herbert
Ise Lyfe
Jefferson Airplane
Lord Jamar
Mission of Burma
Mr. Lif
Mojave 3
Allison Moorer
Paul Oakenfold
Grant-Lee Phillips
The Procussions
Corinne Bailey Rae
Ramblin' Jack Elliott
Julie Roberts
Diana Ross
7L & Esoteric
Alice Smith
Snow Patrol
Sonic Youth
Soul Asylum
Sound Team
Regina Spektor
Sufjan Stevens
Matthew Sweet
Rhonda Vincent
Thom Yorke

Baby Dayliner
The BellRays
Cat Power
The Clientele + Great Lakes
The Coup + T-Kash
Mike Doughty Band
Download Festival 2006
Fiery Furnaces + Man Man
The Futureheads
The Handsome Family
High Sierra Music Festival
Billy Idol
Bettye Lavette
Love Parade
Nine Inch Nails + Bauhaus
Sonic Youth
Splendour in the Grass 2006
The Streets
Sunset Rubdown

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