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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
01 May 2006
Georgie James, Demos at Dance Place [EP] (self-released) Rating: 8
Georgie James is one of those unexpected collaborations where the sum defies, even trumps, the parts. The parts: John Davis, formerly of DC Dischord band Q and Not U, and sweetly cinder-voiced singer-songwriter Laura Burhenn. The sum: giddy, spell-casting power pop, of all things, that crackles like Talking Heads rewriting Big Star's Radio City ("Need Your Needs", "More Lights") or a scruffier, less impenetrable New Pornographers ("Hard Feelings", "Cheap Champagne"). Davis's multi-tracked rhythm section is a one-man groove machine, stuttering out oily slick funk punches; his and Burhenn's shared vocal duties make the age-old male/female dynamic sound criminally underused. For a humble collection of demos, this EP (currently available only at live shows) has confidence and craft in spades. The band is working on its full-length debut (reportedly with Fugazi's Brendan Canty producing) for release later this year -- if Demos at Dance Place is merely a warm-up exercise for the real thing, mark your calendars with anticipatory ink.
multiple songs: [MP3]
Jetpack UK, The Art of Building a Moat (Heatstroke) Rating: 7
I don't know how to build a moat, I don't own a castle. I'm sure Jetpack UK doesn't know either, but that's beside the point. What comes across clearly is a fantastic opener entitled "Mathematics" that sounds like Costello and his Attractions with some timely sing-along cheers placed sparingly. Just hit repeat two or three times so you can hum the bloody lovely track the rest of the day. The Nashville foursome move into a cocky kind of swagger with the punchy rhythm fuelling "All Hail the Clown". The EP clocks in at 20 minutes and seven songs, so they don't waste much time despite the lackluster "Mrs. Flannery" that is basically a brief interlude or prelude to the above average People in Planes-like "Synthesizer" (don't worry, there's none to be found on the tune). "Destroy Your Hideout" nibbles at power pop but without any of the pomp or bombast many current acts seem to cling to. The pomp comes through on the cello of "Your Little Way" that instantly recalls The Beatles.
[Amazon | Insound]
Fazzini, Sulphur, Glue the Star (Locust) Rating: 7
Tom Fazzini likes the noises that come between the noises that usually make up music. He likes pauses and abrupt silences and, in "Wooky", he likes to amplify the choppy squeaks that his plectrum makes when it rubs along the guitar string between notes. In "Duplex" he makes a bubbling noise. It sounds as if he's stuck a straw into a bowl of water. When he sings on "Glare," his voice is faint, strained, anxious, and vehement. "Damn your vertical hair," he sings. "Damn your twin-set and pearls." The album starts with sampled speech from an elderly man credited only as Mr Boko. "All I know's that when we got married, this is the kind of house we lived in," says Mr Boko in a crinkly, rusty, British voice. "I don't know." Sulphur, Glue the Star is filled with connections between unexpected things, as if the album is saying, "You know that songs don't only have to be about instruments and singing. See, they can be about bubbling and Mr Boko as well." I like it.
Imaginary Johnny, Painting Over the Dirt (Unfinished Side) Rating: 5
Imaginary Johnny is your typical electro-fused indie band, with sad, simple lyrics bolstered by a young man with a voice that's a little Eef Barzelay, a little Wayne Coyne, and a little Ryan Adams. This man is Stuart Wolferman, whose website shows he's fresh from the hipster factory: a sneering, pretentious college radio DJ of the worst kind. Painting Over the Dirt, on the other hand, is mostly inoffensive and sometimes inspired, with highlights like the opener "Work Related," the ticking "Anytime Minutes," and the swelling "She's Dug." If it does recall the Flaming Lips, then it is equal parts Counting Crows, especially the embarrassing Duritz-esque lyrics of "Sad Girl." But if anything, this is what saves Painting Over the Dirt from becoming just another barely-there indie album, a rambling electro track that bands like The Books try to pass off as music. These songs are saved by their attachment to cheesy pop tradition: an uplifting, building end saves even the stone cold beginning of "Rat Race". As badly as Wolferman wants to play it cool, he can't resist some good-old fashioned rainy-day melodies. And for that, Imaginary Johnny will stay on my stereo a little bit longer.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 9:31 AM