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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
14 April 2006
Tartufi, Trouble (Acuarela) Rating: 7
Slash-pop exuberance erupts from Slint-ish post-rockery in a four song EP from San Francisco's Tartufi, a threesome comprised of Simone Grudzen, Lynne Angel and Brian Gorman. The band melds careening female harmonies with complex and off-kilter rhythms, sounding angular like Sleater-Kinney, but sweeter, hookier and more effervescent. "Midnight Tracks" starts with twitchy, pogo-worthy guitar strums, pock-marked with hard-hit snare shots. Atop this head-grabbing anxiety, the vocals come sweet and smooth. There's a descanting, wildly exciting vocal interlude near the end where the women's singing overlaps like a round. "This train is not derailing..." they sing, and the melody is so headlong and exhilarating that you marvel it doesn't. "Nurses" is also strong, the chaotic clatter of Gorman's drums intersecting with occasional piano chords and druggy-sweet female coos. The groove is difficult, abstract, fraught with stops and changes, smoothed on the surface by womanly calm, but roiling away underneath.
Jen Foster, The Underdogs (American Garage) Rating: 7
John Lennon was a quality songwriter and Jen Foster is doing her best to carry on that title. And being a finalist in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest for the title track certainly doesn't hurt. Foster sounds like a roots-y Sarah McLachlan or Natalie Merchant on warm, adult-contemporary pop nuggets such as "All This Time", even making the line "I was just going out for groceries" dance. "Taking Bob Dylan" stays close to this error-free formula, sounding just a bit more like Sheryl Crow on this effort. A gentle, folksy schoolyard ballad which is also the title track is a soft and lovely number that builds after the initial verse into a roots pop format. And fortunately none of the songs are too slick or glossy, even if "Without Michelangelo" sounds like it could be heading down that over-produced road. But she pares everything down to a bare-bones "Amen" that works on so many levels, including gospel and/or pop equally well. However "In Between Poses" doesn't quite make the quality cut, relying too much on the melody to carry the bulk of the song. "Everybody Goes" is a sullen and somewhat somber piano lullaby along the lines of McLachlan or Tori Amos. Counting in "Sun in Seattle", a folksy tune that seems perfect for her singer-songwriter gifts. An engaging and joyful listen!
"All This Time": [MP3]
"Taking Bob Dylan": [MP3]
Lifehouse, Everything [DVD] (Geffen) Rating: 5
Oh, Lifehouse. They're so nice, and so harmless, and did I mention nice? I mean, sure, they sing about painful things like relationships on the brink and vicious social cycles, but mostly, they're nice Christian boys, the types that might never see my baseball bat when they ring my doorbell asking to take my daughter out. Everything is the first official Lifehouse DVD, and it's a bit skimpy, but bargain-priced to make up for the lack of material. Everything contains all of the band's studio videos to date, but beware -- the video for "Hanging By a Moment" isn't the one that tore up MTV a short five years ago. This version's just a "live in the studio" take on the song, which isn't even as interesting as the other (still boring) version. The Alice in Wonderland feel of "Sick Cycle Carousel" is far more engaging, and the happy ending to recent hit "You and Me" makes me feel all warm and gushy inside. After the six studio videos are four live ones, and besides reiterating the fact that "You and Me" is the most recognizable song by the band at this moment in time (Really, there are a scant ten videos here. Did "You and Me" have to take up two of them?), it drives home the fact that Lifehouse live is a lot like Lifehouse recorded, except with more screaming girls. Really, if you enjoy Lifehouse enough to care that they released this, it'll probably be just fine for you, even if there's nothing here you haven't seen or heard before.
Tami Chynn, "Hyperventilating" [12-inch single] (Universal) Rating: 5
Listening to the pop-dancehall skip of "Hyperventilating", one is hard-pressed to sense the coming of the next big thing. With its lithe low end and gently stuttering melody, the song breezes past quicker than its own repetitive hook. Yet, in spite of the scarce semblance of a song, the singer's breathy coo hints at the industry's golden egg: mass appeal. Jamaican-born and internationally minded Tami Chynn rides dancehall-lite riddims, but with a pop singer's lilt -- just what the label ordered to further break Jamaica into the American conscience/pocketbook. The recipient of a recent four-album deal with Universal, Chynn is off to as auspicious a start as any pop hopeful could ask for. However, she has already received big league endorsement (placement on Sean Paul's most recent record Trinity), so expect plenny more noise.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 8:40 AM