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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
27 March 2006
JigGsaw, Zero Generation (Playing Field) Rating: 6
They're a little bit naÔve, a little bit rough around the edges, but mostly it's fun to listen to a band like JigGsaw. They haven't even smelled the faintest whiff of major-label success, they're still writing songs that they believe in, and they put their all into their performance, all of which makes their debut album Zero Generation a modest success. Zero Generation comes with most of the typical problems of an independent debut -- songs that don't quite sound like finished products, a mix job that flattens the entire dynamic range of the band, and a garish, vaguely annoying fluorescent album cover, to name a few -- but a couple of these songs have the potential to command arenas. "Mona Lisa's Mirror" is particularly fun as JigGsaw goes with upbeat power-pop for an entire song, "Holly Brown" is a little bit sinister in its new wave leanings (despite some cringe-inducing lyrical choices), and the title track is a surprisingly well-thought out bit of "get off your asses and stop believing your TVs"-brand rock 'n' roll. Unfortunately, for every highlight, there's something like "Swimming in a Sea of Alcohol", which just seems to lurch aimlessly until it finally ends. There's not a lot to separate JigGsaw from the rest of the independent rock 'n roll pack just yet, but as the band finds a better sense of identity and production that befits its spunky, dynamic style, it could absolutely be worth paying attention to.
"Mona Lisa's Mirror": [MP3]
"Pretty Pride": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
El Hijo, La Piel Del Oso (Acuarela Discos) Rating: 7
The Skin of the Bear is the sort of album you find yourself burrowing into as you listen. Abel HernŠndez's strong, snuggly-warm voice sits at the core of the music like the boy inside the bear skin on the cover while the violins dart in and swing away in open loops. A glockenspiel makes a whimsical plinging. RaŁl Fernandez strums the acoustic guitar and Piotr Karasiuk contributes a cello. Fernandez's arrangements are layered and luscious but not over-rich; they're charming without pretension. HernŠndez is perhaps best known as the singer of the Madrid band Migala, who have released albums through the same label, Acuarela, but with El Hijo, his new side project, he seems to be moving away from Migala's sometimes avant-garde sound toward a more plainly indie vein of music. This EP has five songs and runs narrowly under 20 minutes. It could run twice as long without outstaying its welcome.
Nic Garcia, The Desperate Ones (Yer Bird) Rating: 4
Engaging is a term most musicians -- even those building on a minimalist or ambient foundation -- would want applied to their music. Memorable couplets, intriguing compositional elements, or a warm, lo-fi production may help the artist hold the listener. Engaging is, arguably, the most important adjective for those singer-songwriter albums filed under "Last Name, First Name." The latest album by "Garcia, Nic" is a desperately dark album, where strings swell, pianos chime, and keyboards brood around Garcia's gruff, spoken-word eulogies. But, engaging it is not. There are few strong melodies, and almost no choruses. From the second song, the album seems to trudge through a vacuum of light, with little variation in tempo or orchestration. Drums appear on only three of the thirteen tracks, courtesy of Joe Bailey and Secretly Canadian's June Panic, and they provide welcome buoyancy. In fact, the twelfth track "The Ones Who Waste the Day" is the album's brightest spot, if only for an upbeat drumbeat and some conventional -- and yes, engaging -- compositional elements. One opens the liner notes expecting to find lyrics, sketches, or production notes -- but is only offered a bleary, rain-splattered window pane. It's an appropriate image. I've nothing against a wallowing record, even one that is stark, skeletal, and minimalist. But The Desperate Ones gives the listener little to engage with.
Mark W. Adams
"The Black Turn Pink": [MP3]
Lokyata, Purified By Anger (Indianola) Rating: 4
Jacksonville hardcore band have all the spit, chops and polish of about 24,108 other hardcore bands out there today, with lead singer Dustin growling and wielding blood-curdling wails during the cheerful "You Can't Say Much with a Gun in Your Mouth". The saving grace, if there is one, is the guitar work of Tony and the triple-time drumming of Alan. When that take the metallic road, as they do primarily with "What You Have Given to Me", it's slightly better with some intricate but beefy, machine gun-like riffs accenting the lyrics. The title track and "Cover Up My Eyes" don't have much distinction between them, although the latter is a slight improvement with more energy and oomph. Perhaps the most entertaining of the half-dozen on this EP is "Wretched Inside" (spelled "Wrtetched Inside" on the album).
"You Can't Say Much": [MP3]
.: posted by Editor 8:10 AM