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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
27 July 2006
Mew, The Zookeeper's Boy EP (Red Ink/Columbia)
Mew, a pop band from Denmark, may be in for some more international attention with their upcoming CD, And The Glass Handed Kites: their brand of pop prog has enough high-flying choruses, perhaps, to find an audience Stateside. "The Zookeeper's Boy" is Mew's triumph, a vast Neverending Story of a track with, of course, the kind of sky-high chorus gets stuck in your head for days. "Apocalypso" is a lesser version of the title track, with the same high-flying chorus backed with swirling sonics, strings, and polyphonic guitar lines just filling up the space. "Special" is more baroque, with a dance-rock beat obscured beneath layers of multi-tracking. After the third track, though, the shadow of that triumphant chorus from "Zookeeper" keeps poking its head back, so you find yourself anticipating "Are you my lady?" at the end of "Am I Wry? No" even though you know it's not coming. The nine minute "Comforting Sounds" passes by in Mew's ablest Coldplay impression (repeated bass, soaring strings), and the EP's done its job: an able appetite-whetter for the upcoming full-length.
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Violet Nine, Any Wonder (PKG Entertainment)
In my hands I hold two CDs. I have Maroon 5 in my left hand and Violet Nine in my right. Sure, the names are similar -- a color plus a number -- but that doesn't mean much. If I start a band called Canary Yellow 12, it doesn't automatically mean I'll be recording the next "Harder to Breathe". Yes, the bands are composed of similar elements -- five dudes covering bass, drums, guitars, keyboards, and vocals. And, sure, Ben Consoli, the voice behind the Nine, shares some tonality with Maroon 5's Adam Levine. But that's about it. Violet Nine's guitar work makes for a grittier, edgier sound, which works out considerably well on Any Wonder's 10 full-length songs (there's a 1 minute, 12 second outro), most notably on "Yell It Out", "All That Glitters" and "Proposal". By not connecting its title to anything "gold", "All That Glitters" demonstrates Consoli's knack for fresh songwriting, carefully sidestepping clichés even when the subject matter is love. On "Leaving Rain", he sings, "This gift is caged in my body / The flesh that I live in / This gift is not a prize at all / It is my sentence / Do you feel love? Come with me love". Consoli's soft, melodic vocals create an intriguing tension with the band's aggressive soundscape. The best tunes are "Out Loud" (track 1) and "Yell It Out" (track 2), as well as the daring falsetto in "Imagination", "All That Glitters", and the rock ballad "Leaving Rain". Produced by industry veteran Greg Archilla, fans can look forward to hearing more from this Boston band.
Quentin B. Huff
video: [official site]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]
Indie / pop
The Grismore/Scea Group, Well Behaved Fish (Accurate)
"Dancing in Your Head" could be redone with Caribbean tuned drums and a fiddle in the opening ensemble. It goes nowhere and Brent Sandy's trumpet entry is too soon skewed by Paul Scea's soprano, winding up sounding lost. Brent Sandy's "Cletus N'Gugu" has Anthony Cox dynamic and grumbly on bass guitar, a nice riff theme for trumpet and flute, Steve Grismore tearing off on guitar synthesizer, and Paul Scea's flute barks then flies like some relative of the bumble bee before an uncredited Donald Duck descendant does some fast scat singing. Grismore's "Baghdad" evokes bassoon and sitar, and has some neo latterday George Russell ensemble Arabiana. Scea's "Spinach Dip" is Cox, drums, and a piping flutter of flute and trumpet, the latter pairing to be heard again on Scea's "Introductions", which also has a repetitive Arabian figure behind a drum solo. Things mostly start well but don't maintain substance. The title track is nearly nine minutes of neoMessaien to a hip-hop rhythm. "Pigs at the Trough" harkens back to the Caribbean, with sounds close to car horns, after which Jamaican traffic jam "Benevolent Psychopathology" features real and synthesized soprano sax, and an impression of actual car horns in ensemble. Yes, it's lively, and repetitive. "Good God" begins like, well, waiting for James Brown. Sandy's constrained by insensitive overstated frogmarching escort rhythms, Scea plays lot of notes on tenor within the same hex machine. A noise pops up now and then as if there was a football game over the wall, and the crowd suddenly got excited. Just as the last note sounds of this sometime synthesizer-burdened set of too many mere introductions, a last burst of the crowd noise suggests somebody just scored a goal.
Robert R. Calder
Velvet, The Juggernaut (Double Decker Bus)
A Chapel Hill trio led by Jane Francis, Velvet is velvety smooth with the shimmering, polished pop style of the summer-sounding "This Is For You" that sounds like a distant cousin of contemporary Metric. Other touchstones that are obvious include Blondie and New Pornographers, particularly on the sugary "Cracker" and "Winner" which is, well, a winner. The same can be said for "No One Here" that is extremely hard not to like, even if it comes off a tad too slick. The title track also contains a memorable lyric talking about being run over by a bullshit stampede. Not everything comes up aces, especially the tired and mundane "Bossa Nova Robot" which has them on cruise control a la Sheryl Crow. The retro-electro factor also rears its synthetic head during "Girl Fan" that could be one of the best tracks by The Pretenders in recent memory. As the album reveals itself, the pop feel is replaced by a Southern pop/roots flavoring on self-assured tunes like "Something My Brother Said". "New Day Witch" is an acquired taste, a kind of ambling McCartney-ish track that bobs along with nary a care in the world. And fortunately it ends with another bang and not a whimper with the pleasing, well-crafted "Monika".
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock / pop
Del Castillo, Brotherhood (Smilin' Castle)
Robert Rodriguez likes Del Castillo enough to have used their music in the soundtracks of Once Upon a Time in Mexico and the third Spy Kids movie. Brotherhood gives you some idea why. This rock band has energy, a lot of it, and they like punchy climaxes and escalating, complicated bursts of Latin guitar. The first track starts with a shout and a bang and then they charge into the album at a hundred miles an hour. Most of the singing is done in Spanish. The English lyrics are standard-issue rock affirmations about living for today and everyone being the lead singer's brother, but then you're not here for the wordplay. You're here to rock out. You might also be here because you want to hear the band duet with Willie Nelson on "I Never Cared For You". That's possible as well. But I'm going to guess that it's for the rocking out.
multiple songs: [streaming]
.: posted by Editor 8:27 AM