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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
14 June 2006
The Bees (U.S.), High Society (ROAR)
Nashville indie breakouts The Bees have made the unfortunate mistake of sharing a name with an already-established British band, leading to confusion on the part of those who might discover them (thus the parenthetical). Those who have, however, will assure you that this band can stand on its own. High Society, the follow-up to their lush 2004 debut Starry Gazey Pie, is a deliciously fizzy '70s throwback with short, spunky tunes that are devoid of any jaded indie pose. The freshest tracks, opener "This Country Life" and the smooth "Hard Luck Tom" recall Elton John and Ben Folds, while others ("Ms. November", "Imaginary Girl") bring a breezy surf sound. The ending of the album drops off a little when Daniel Tashian's Rufus Wainwright-ish vocals become a bit too croon-y, but any missteps The Bees make are saved by their winning melodies and laid-back appeal. They've adapted the silly-smooth radio sound of the '70s for a new generation, sounding like Phoenix would if they came from Nashville, not France. These guys are certainly worth keeping an eye on -- it's only a matter of time before they knock out any similarly-named competition.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Pop
TiŽsto, In Search Of Sunrise 5: Los Angeles (Black Hole Recordings)
When TiŽsto cut the definitive remix of Delerium's "Silence" in 2000, it was the TiŽsto In Search of Sunrise Remix. It seems the incredibly popular Dutch trance DJ has been in that one long night for six years now. His characteristically shiny commercial trance is less of a novelty in the mainstream of dance than it was back then, but since we're in the business of selling an image, I can't imagine a style more fitting for Los Angeles; like a piece of clothing by Versace, TiŽsto's music is colourful, decadent and the slightest bit trashy. Think diva vocals and shiny, pulsing beats... and that's about it, for two hour-long CDs. Highlights come and go (like any night at a club) Ė- Fonserelli's "Moonlight Party" has a vocal that's infectiously, breathlessly enthusiastic, and Progression's "Technophobia" introduces a cool Tetris vibe. Other songs, though, like "Novocaine" by Kalafut & Fygle, feel like the soundtrack to a bad coming-of-age telemovie. But in general, at least the mixing's consistent, full of light and life. A little too treble-heavy to be a true reflection of a TiŽsto club night, but a competent and confident summer soundtrack for your headphones or car stereo.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple videos: [official site]
Electronic / Trance
DJ GQ, Let 'Em Know 17 [mixtape] (Cash Money)
None of the tracks on Let 'Em Know 17, the latest mixtape from DJ GQ (Miami's self-proclaimed "Mixtape King"), aspire to be high art. And, no surprise, none of them are. The mixtape's cover art is interesting enough in style -- oddly, sharply beautiful, like a hard-cut cutout softened at its edges -- but take a second look at what it portrays: DJ GQ and Birdman of Cash Money Records, in a luxurious Miami night scene replete with palm trees and gigantic, glittering jewelry. The mixtape itself is similar in concept: old wrapped in new, the flavor of the moment (electro-hyphy-snap-synthy beats and popular newer artists) working to enliven the same old hip-hop themes (shameless materialism, mindless machismo, and casual misogyny). If none of this bothers you, then you will no doubt enjoy this disc. In between the Busta Rhymes drone of "Love My Bitch" and too many tracks from the likes of Sizzla and Dirte Red come Biggie and Game spitting over "Tell Me When to Go" and two world premiere songs from Kanye West, but the better tracks here tend to get outweighed by the heavily-ominous synthesized club bangers from monotone hostile men. This may be commercial, disposable gangsta pop, but it's A-list gangsta pop; nevertheless, isn't an A-list shit still a shit?
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Japanese Sunday, Taps, Taps, Lights Out (Grayscale)
This San Diego quartet gets this album off on the wrong foot with "Cold Bright Blue Lights" that tedious before finally getting off the ground somewhat and leading into "Eight O'Clock Robot", trying to gain some much needed intensity. And they do reach some grand heights with this big, beefy indie rock track. But several of these songs don't live up to expectations, resulting in some noodle-ing of the highest order during "Kagaku" before again hitting some semblance of sonic pay dirt to close. However, they meander again with the rather ordinary, self-absorbed "First Shot Fired on a Blue A.M.". The record does have some redeeming moments with the somber but vast Radiohead-ish approach to "Tigers on Ships" and also with the fine Cure-lite "Search _ + Rescue" being definite highlights. Japanese Sunday though don't quite know where they're heading musically, resulting in an uneven and at times awkward listen. They show promise. They're just not quite there yet.
multiple songs": [MySpace]
.: posted by Editor 7:10 AM