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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
22 March 2006
Stoley P.T., Lesson #1 (In Music We Trust) Rating: 8
Stoley P.T used to be the lead singer for The Lupins, a band whose claim to fame might be appearing on the Dumb & Dumber soundtrack of all things. However, since that time Stoley P.T. has often garnered a spot on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. The music here is extremely good and hook-riddled, with the singer sounding a bit like Westerberg with a bit more bite during "T.Y.S." with horns thrown in for good luck. From there, Stoley ventures down a mid-tempo pop rock song that would fit perfectly on Stinson's Bash & Pop side project with a memorable chorus. Using keys to color "Buttercup", Stoley can seemingly do no wrong thus far, although it's a tad too rich at times. Perfect pop/rock is what he aims for and succeeds repeatedly, whether it's the lighter "The Dull Before" with its angular art-rock touches or the rather routine roots-meets-rockabilly "Cat Bong". Nonetheless, Stoley shines on the thick, meaty "Amateur B.S." Tight and poppy, the album flows thanks to an ear for hooks and some well-timed, well-structured arrangements judging by the bubble-gum, foot-stomping flavor to "Sunshine". Not bad for the gun-toting, NASCAR-driving Jesus!
"The Dull Before": [MP3]
The Beautiful Girls, We're Already Gone (San Dumo/Cornerstone) Rating: 5
Smoke curls thick around The Beautiful Girls' happy-man songwriting. And no, there aren't any girls in the group, just four Aussie kids in roots-out glory. It's Ben Harper, it's Jack Johnson, it's that deep debt to Mr. Marley. Simpler and more genre-constrained than The Cat Empire, they also lack the other group's infectious enthusiasm -- it doesn't help that Mat McHugh's voice sounds like a constrained version of Harry from TCE. The group broke through back home with 2003's Learn Yourself; their follow-up effort unfortunately sounds a little like a hangover. Still, there are some truly gleeful moments, like when McHugh sings "and we'll dance on the ashes of what's left", in the song of the same name. Actually, they sound a bit like late Paul Simon on "Let's Take The Long Way Home" -- bluesy and sweet. Standouts "The Wrong Side of Town" and "Shot Down" are pure reggae -- nothing more, but done rather well.
multiple songs: [MP3]
Tom Hunter, Here I Go Again (FS Music) Rating: 6
Pianist and singer Tom Hunter starts his album off strongly, with the B.B. King-inspired "I Underestimated You." Hunter immediately reveals his penchant for both classic jazz and urban blues while letting guitarist Jon "Gunner" Gunvaldson take the spotlight. This song also has fine production (done by Hunter himself), but some of the tracks put the piano too high in the mix or sound a bit tinny. It's a shame, because these are mostly interesting takes on tracks culled from jazz, R&B, and pop traditions, including "Tenor Madness" and the especially well-executed "Basin Street Blues". The disc's only severe mistake comes on Billy Joel's "New York State of Mind", which Hunter somehow manages to add an additional layer of lounge-y schmaltz, too. Amid the 10 covers are two originals, including the title track, which shows off Hunter's virtuosity, which is usually overshadowed by his strong baritone singing.
"Here I Go Again": [MP3]
"Nothing's for Free": [MP3]
"Basin Street Blues": [MP3]
"Drown in My Own Tears": [MP3]
The Collection, Love Will Never Be The Same (Blue Room Studio) Rating: 4
Twenty seven songs in 42 minutes is a badge of honor or courage for some musicians. You don't waste time, packing as much as you can into each song. The side project of Edgars Legzdins, who works primarily in Chicago new-wave/electro band Plane, has made sure each song is memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. The album is basically one raw, live take of songs that should still be on the cutting room floor. Thirty-five seconds is devoted to the opener "Flashback to the Time", that is rough and ragged, with Legzdins trying to strut his stuff vocally with mediocre results. "Crackwhore" has talking and "clucking" one's tongue while a phone message plays over the lyrics. Think of something you might have heard on Pink Floyd's The Final Cut and you get some semblance of the song's tone. There are ideas here that are worthwhile, such as "Katie" and "More Than Love", but too often they run off the rails. "Lauren Pagni" is a keeper ballad despite being less than 100 seconds. The biggest drawback is the musician's insistence on including asinine 10-second clips alongside fully-develop tunes like the Bowie-esque "Kristen's Traffic Lights" and the troubadour-sounding "Eileen Hayes". Other rockier numbers are "Want It" while "For Sharyn" peters out quickly. One highlight is the hi-hat led "When Sex Is More Than Love". But plodding clunkers like "Hands Up" make this album more tedious than eclectic.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 5:31 AM