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24 February 2006

Matters & Dunaway, Hightech (Symmetric) Rating: 6
Matters & Dunaway are up to their necks in electronica, but is a very good kind of electronica that brings to mind M83 at times. Sweeping arrangements make songs such as "Rna" soar without sounding too over-produced. Meanwhile, "Memorial" features a darker mood along the lines of The Cure or Moby on a downer. A few tracks stretch out into six to seven minutes, including a punchier "Vitrify" that is driven heavily by the electronica but again takes on a mournful, somber tone at times, bringing to mind Air without the funny, inane capes that they wear. There isn't much diversity in the album, but the tandem does make each song count, including another rather electro-lush ditty entitled "Align" that contains an intricate bass line. Other highlights include "Fire Drips Down" with its ambient flare and tension. As well, the lengthy and interesting "Traveler" moves from some simple piano on the intro into something rather experimental yet ethereal. — Jason MacNeil [Insound]
"Memorial": [MP3]
"Keep Reachin'": [MP3]
"Fire Drips Down": [MP3]

Head Wound City, Head Wound City (Three One G) Rating: 5
Anyone curious what a collaboration between members of the Blood Brothers, the Locust and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs would sound like can now rest content: Head Wound City has answered the query. Actually, the band mostly sounds like the Blood Brothers circa two albums ago, since BB singer Jordan Blilie and guitarist Cody Votolato are running the show here with hyper vocal shrieks and squeals and manic guitar spasms; the Locust's rhythm section appears in order to occasionally shove things in a more grindcore direction, but Head Wound City never approaches the Locust's extremism. YYY's Nick Zinner contributes plenty of screeching feedback and probably most of the fanbase, who will not find a follow-up to "Maps" here. Instead, we get seven songs in ten minutes that leave little impression. "Prick Class" has some amusing lyrics ("So you've aced the prick class/Moustache for extra credit"), and things pick up in intensity as they go, but given how musically promiscuous all involved are, it's no surprise that Head Wound City suffers from side-project-burnout: it sounds like five mutual admirers getting together, spending a week hanging out, and writing and recording an EP as an afterthought. — Whitney Strub [Insound]
multiple tracks: [myspace]

Brian Blain, Overqualified for the Blues (Northern Blues) Rating: 6
If you don't mind cutesy-poo song titles like "Saab Story" and "Hi-Tech Blues" and the one that gives this album its title, this isn't too bad. Blain's been making records for more than 30 years, and he's got a little charm and some nice chops. This is the kind of record that appeals directly to other people just like Brian Blain (60-year-old white blues-loving guys with beards), but it might have some appeal outside that demographic as well, especially when he bags on stupid label guys who don't actually listen to poor hard-working Canadian blues singer-songwriters in clubs. Because that's, like, punk rock, right? — Matt Cibula [Insound]
"The Big Fire": [MP3]
"No More Meetings": [MP3]
"Blues Is Hurting": [MP3]

Various Artists, Comomusic Anthology 1990-2005 Volume 2 (Painfully Midwestern) Rating: 4
This compilation would be a great souvenir for a week spent exploring Columbia's music scene (which must be composed largely of straightforward rock bands), but it doesn't work so well as a general music collections. Too few of the bands distinguish themselves, leaving the two discs to be primarily a series of forgettable bar band numbers. The groups who do stick out, like post-punkers Untamed Youth, deserve the attention they might get from this disc. Oddly, the collection's best music finds itself buried in the middle of the second disc. In a four-song run, Digiki (plus guests) drops a fun hick-hop number, Mark Speckman creates a soft atmposphere through his glitch-pop, The People's Republic of Klezmerica performs the comp's least likely style, and Bald Eagle brings dance-rock riffs that are sure to incite, well, at least dancing. Over the course of 44 tracks, though, you're unlikely to stay hooked unless you're already familiar with the scene. Or had a really good visit. — Justin Cober-Lake [Insound]

.: posted by Editor 7:29 AM

23 February 2006

Yoko Solo, The Beeps (Quake Trap) Rating: 8
Ambient electronic music with ideas in it is pretty damned rare, so when not-actually-Japanese-person Yoko Solo gets it going, The Beeps is pretty exciting. I mean, you'd expect that, what with song titles like "Don't Fall Asleep I'm Warning You Don't Fall Asleep" and "Covered in Feces... Stronger Than You, Rotten." Dude likes to inspire aural whiplash, like when the ticky-ticky beats on "Partial Collapse / Useless Control Systems (I've Got No Rights)" turn into metal monster drums, or when the freaky voices on "Nowave" melt into whatever the hell that boinging noise is. This record will give you a juicy headache and perhaps get your mind laid. — Matt Cibula [Insound]
MP3s from Weese EP:
"All The Worms Shall Rise from the Mud": [MP3]
"Party Røk / Disko Flux": [MP3]
"Disfigured Chicken Blues": [MP3]
"Enter the Weese": [MP3]
"KrakHopBaySludgeXciter": [MP3]

Armin van Buuren, Shivers (Ultra) Rating: 4
Armin van Buuren is one of the top trance DJs in the world, presumably because he knows what it takes to get people dancing. So why is it that whenever he puts his name on the 'artist' credit for an album, he seems to forget everything he knows? Shivers is van Buuren's second foray into composition, this time with a heavier focus on the songwriting than the beatmaking. Occasionally, he finds a nice melody -- Justine Suissa's vocals on "Wall of Sound" are engaging and well-written, and former post-Phil Collins Genesis vocalist Ray Wilson does a nice turn on "Gypsy", which actually has lyrics that can be described as better than banal -- of course, that's likely because it's a remake of a Ray Wilson solo track, a fact more or less ignored by the misleading liner notes. As for the purely instrumental tracks, "Zocalo" (in which van Buuren gets some help from fellow dance stalwarts Gabriel and Dresden) does a good job bumping up the energy with some inventive drum programming and twangy guitars, but most of the tracks fall into the typical trance clichés of constant gated synth work and BUMPchaBUMPcha drums. Shivers is trance for a crowd who's growing older and less interested in dancing -- undoubtedly, there is an established audience for this stuff, but nobody outside that audience has any reason to care it exists. — Mike Schiller [Insound]
"A State of Trance Radio Compilation": [MP3] not from this album

David Aaron, From Brooklyn (David Doobie Aaron Music) Rating: 6
David Aaron uses samples, loops and backbeats to get his meaty, funky tracks across. It also works well on the big kickstarter "The Mourning" that could be a mashup of Nickelback and Depeche Mode. "Mr. Sam" however falls back into a safety net -- a song that tries to be edgy but is too formulaic. Aaron fares better on the somber "Everyday" although his voice isn't what sells it, rather a good background of piano and electronica. Aaron often resembles Everlast or J.D. Fortune (you know, the new INXS singer) on some sort of mellow trip, especially on the soft-then-hard arrangement on "Wild Garden". Despite residing in Brooklyn, Aaron sounds like his from some Southern rock lineage on "Leave Today" with a thick swampy rock riff and some heady harmonies. Three out of the final four numbers are pale efforts as "Advancement" sounds like Aaron is stuck in some sand dune with the late Jim Morrison. After a brief but pretty instrumental entitled "Baby Bias", Aaron takes a page from Everlast and sings/speaks the lyrics for "The Jesus Orphan's". Starts off well then gets a tad tedious, despite some of Aaron's best vocals saved for the closing "Waiting". — Jason MacNeil [Insound]
"Leave Today": [MP3]
"The Mourning": [MP3]

Harvey Danger, "Cream and Bastards Rise" [7-inch single] (Kill Rock Stars) Rating: 6
Harvey Danger holds nothing back on their latest 7-inch, maintaining their edge as they move in a more pop direction. Sean Nelson delivers the vocals for "Cream and Bastards Rise" with acerbity, yet the guitar-based song could work as a car-windows-down, summer-singalong. It might not be the fun pop of picnics, but it will help the kids vent their anger at their summer-job boss (and the rest of us get out our frustrations at whatever bastards we're watching rise). The b-side "Picture, Picture" has more of a bar band feel with a touch of alt-rock, whatever that means these days. Less catchy than the lead track, it holds up as a b-side. This little disc isn't going to push Harvey Danger to the front of the public's mind, but it does serve as a reminder that they're still worth paying attention to. — Justin Cober-Lake [Insound]

.: posted by Editor 6:11 AM

22 February 2006

Koenjihyakkei, Angherr Shisspa (Skin Graft) Rating: 8
For the better part of 20 years, Tatsuya Yoshida has been blowing minds as the leader of bass and drum duo Ruins. Though the template was fairly straightforward -- bass, drums and no rules -- Yoshida managed to not only gain a lot of mileage from the minimal set up but to also set the bar for likeminded acts to follow while continuing to raise it himself time and again. Koenjihyakkei, one of many Yoshida side projects, have been granted their first North American domestic release by the good folks at Skin Graft, and Andherr Shisspa as another mindbending look into Yoshida's ever-expanding creativity. The five-member band takes Yoshida's love of prog, strips its metallic and classical leanings, and injects it with a heavy dose of jazz fusion leanings and operatic weight. Some of the basic Ruins trademarks are here, particularly the non-linear song structures and the stop-on-a-dime tempo changes, but the songs themselves are fleshed out with a wider array of instrumentation including reeds and keyboards. The final result is an album that sounds like Pagliacci on speed. Yeah, I'm not quite sure what that means either but Angherr Shisspa is heady, precision-timed, explosively executed blast of prog-goodness that blows the dust off some of the highly revered and protected genres of jazz and opera, dismantles it and hands it over to the young folks in a package that is both mesmerizing and jaw-dropping. This is an essential addition to Yoshida's growing catalog of groundbreaking, avant-garde work. — Kevin Jagernauth [Insound]
"Rattims Friezz": [MP3]

Various Artists, We Reach: The Music of the Melvins (Fractured Transmitter) Rating: 7
Way back when, tribute albums were cool, novel ways for young artists to pay homage to their elders, such as the Leonard Cohen tribute I'm Your Fan and The Bridge: A Tribute to Neil Young, but today, the concept has been done to death so much, it's hard to get excited about the idea at all. Nowhere do we come across more tribute albums than in the world of metal. They might act all tough, but metal bands are a bunch of softies when it comes to praising their peers, and the latest veteran band to receive the "I love you, man!" treatment is The Melvins, and deservedly so. If there was one band who was tragically ahead of their time, it's the Aberdeen, Washington trio, as their sludgy variation on stoner/doom metal has been co-opted by everyone from the mighty Mastodon to indie buzz bands like Early Man and The Sword, and for the most part, Fractured Transmitter Records does a good job assembling a fun CD, featuring some of the best bands in the genre today. Sure, you get the usual note-for-note covers, but established bands like Mastodon ("The Bit"), The Dillinger Escape Plan ("Honey Bucket"), Strapping Young Lad ("Zodiac"), Pig Destroyer ("Claude"), and High on Fire ("Oven") all put their own stamp on the original tunes. Other standouts include a fantastic collaboration between Isis and Agoraphobic Nosebleed on "Easy As It Was", Mare's completely unrecognizable rendition of "Nightgoat", and Pincer 2's incredible a cappella rendition of "Echohead/Don't Piece Me". Most tribute albums are a complete waste of time, but We Reach holds our interest throughout. — Adrien Begrand [Insound]

The Friction Brothers, The Summer of Friction (SFR) Rating: 6
Four guys with guitars and a rapid garage rock sound. Sound familiar? Well, The Friction Brothers try to match the intensity of some of the genre's forefathers. At least that's the idea with the first tune. And while the intensity of "Everybody's Gotta Get Some" isn't on par with that of Mooney Suzuki, it still isn't bad for two minutes. The group then tries to give you a soppy roots ballad on "Don't Leave Me Alone Tonight" that putters along without much oomph. The same can be said for the lackluster "We Almost Lost the World" that again, seems to stall from the opening notes, then attempts to be arty and falls flat on its face. Just as mundane is "It's a Crazy World We're Livin' In" that could have been a lost b-side from an unsigned Black Crowes. Far from consistent, the band strikes a bit of gold with "I'm Sorry I Ever Felt That Way", a near nine-minute track that finds the band in a prog-rock, psychedelic sort of zone and jams the hell out of the song a la My Morning Jacket. A rocking version of Ike and Tina's "River Deep - Mountain High" is okay at best. — Jason MacNeil [Insound]
"Don't Leave Me Alone Tonight": [MP3]
"All Women Deserve the Best": [MP3]
"The Big Thing": [MP3]

Marcos Hernandez, C About Me (TVT) Rating: 6
There's not much to Marcos Hernandez other than a pretty face and a pretty voice and some more-or-less up-to-date teeny-bopper swoonbeats... hey, that actually sounds like a pretty good combination. He does melty love ballads with almost hip-hop beats with titles like "Call Me" (produced by the great Happy Perez!) and "C About Me" (produced by the undistinguished Bronze and Brainz), but probably not as well as Frankie J, whose last album fell off like it was a watermelon balanced on a soccerball. Marcos calls girls "Mami", tells them that their bodies are off the chain, and tries to entice them into "Latin Escapades", which should have guaranteed him big success. But somehow TVT failed to put him across, which I guess is a shame. — Matt Cibula [Insound]
C About Me: [stream album]

.: posted by Editor 5:59 AM

21 February 2006

The Strugglers, You Win (Acuarela) Rating: 7
There's a certain patience to the music of The Strugglers that makes it incredibly appealing and relaxing to listen to. On first listen to The Strugglers' You Win, I was tempted to think that the music of Randy Bickford got stuck in a rut far too often, taking a theme and sticking with it, tacking on some lyrics when it was appropriate and calling it a day. Further listens, however, have uncovered that it's not that there's no musical development taking place here, it's that what development there is happens very slowly and carefully. Melodies are given a chance to expand, new instruments are introduced, and lyrical themes either blossom or come around full circle. All of it is wrapped up in a pleasant, acoustic folk shell, with interjections from cellos, pianos, and even a quick burst of banjo. Bickford's baritone vocals are a mix of the more recent, broken efforts from Eddie Vedder, though his words are as downcast and stream-of-consciousness as Conor Oberst -- there's hardly a chorus to be found in the whole set. You Win is music to wallow in, music that doesn't require much of you, but will reward you if you take the time to hear what it's saying. — Mike Schiller [Insound] [Amazon] [Myspace]
"The Cascade Range": [MP3]
"The Rejection Letter": [MP3]

Tryst, Hotel Two-Way (MH) Rating: 6
Hotel Two-Way is the third release from the New York City-based Tryst, and it is the band's best. The guitars are at once riff-happy and subtle, the vocals are warm and inviting, the lyrics are romantic and playful... it's really good. From the onset, this album establishes itself as a beautiful pop record, full of lilting pop melodies. The opener, "Jessica", shimmers like Belle & Sebastian circa Tigermilk. This is followed by the title track, a poetic and beautiful tune containing the subtly brilliant lyric (what I consider the lyric of the year), "I'm waiting for a holiday / Whether it's gray or blue / Even Columbus Day will do / So I can have a little sex with you / Before my sister gets home from NYU". Playful and tender, this is the album in a nutshell. This is the best part about Tryst and Hotel Two-Way: it makes you smile. — Dave Brecheisen [Insound] [Amazon]
"Hotel Two-Way": [MP3]
"Chain Reaction": [MP3]
"Alexis": [MP3]

Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving (Marriage/PW Elverum & Sun) Rating: 6
Thanksgiving is an 80-minute, 24-song, three-part epic spread across three 12" vinyl records, with a CD-R version of the same tucked into the triple gatefold album jacket. The records are colored red, white, and blue. A work of patriotism? Not in the overly proud or obnoxious sense... but more along the lines of Whitman and Emerson, in the the American tradition of self-analysis. The first part of the album, "Fuck the World", is bleak and overly self-concerned, with Adrian Orange expressing bitterness about the state of the world over plaintive, sparse, twisted folk music. The middle section, "I Am Yours", is the most "pop" in tone, brighter and more melodic, with lyrics directed towards opening oneself up to others. "Welcome Home Human", the concluding third, is just as rough as the first part, full of sharp edges. Yet this time he's singing with hope about discovery and rebirth. This is by all means difficult music, due to its length, its somber atmosphere, and the way the songs hover near atonality at times. But it's also rewarding, stirring, even inspiring, once you've become accumulated to Thanksgiving's style. — Dave Heaton [Insound]
"Dead Deer & Other Animals": [MP3]

El Ten Eleven, El Ten Eleven (Bar-None) Rating: 4
"You know those guitars that are like, double guitars?" asks Otto in the classic Simpsons episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns (part 1)". Well, the guitarist in yet another instrumental post-rock band (I know, I know), El Ten Eleven has one. But while that in itself would be unforgivable, Kristian Dunn has an excuse. El Ten Eleven is making the sound of a full band with only two people, so he probably needs all the help he get. Along with drummer Tim Fogarty, El Ten Eleven are inexplicably compared with Sigur Ros and Tortoise, but are more strikingly reminiscent of one-off Mike Kinsella project American Football (sans the vocals). Featuring clean, intricate guitar lines, solid rhythm work and some subtly employed loops, El Ten Eleven's music is certainly pleasant and definitely inoffensive, and that's pretty much the problem. Lacking any sort of otherworldliness or adventure, El Ten Eleven's debut stays its predictable course. It's post-rock for the coffee shop, or that your Mom and Dad might like, but that I'm pretty sure you won't. — Kevin Jagernauth [Insound]
"Lorge": [MP3]

.: posted by Editor 5:33 AM

20 February 2006

Everlovely Lightningheart Cusp (Hydrahead) Rating: 7
One gorgeous and atmospheric track runs the length of this 40-minute EP, sweeping uninterrupted past lyrical runs of piano, through gritty intervals of abrasive mechanics, past tranquil tinklings of string-dangled chimes and through brief but chaotic percussive stomp-downs. This Los Angeles-based performance art/sound experiment collective uses traditional and alternative instruments to create a glowing, post-industrial landscape. Live, video and visual art accompanies each performance. Here we make do with an internal movie that manufacturers narrative out of shimmering electronic tones, the sound of grinding chains and violin that notes swoop like swallows through mysterious clouds of feedback. Despite the association with Hydrahead and tour slots with Pelican, Isis and Red Sparowes, there's nothing particularly metallic about this disc. Cusp turns loud, but not crushingly so, a couple of times, but only as a means to an end. That end is an ever-changing array of sonic landscapes, dreamlike yet full of mystery, charged with longing and half-heard secrets. [Insound]
      — Jennifer Kelly

Reverend Glasseye, Our Lady of the Broken Spine (Music for Cats) Rating: 5
Lately, when I hear Reverend Glasseye's music, I can hear where he got the first half of his name -- it's easy to picture the good Reverend at the pulpit, seven feet tall and spindly, arms and legs like chicken-wire, skin so taut you can see the contours of the bone underneath. And he's got an impossibly tall, black top-hat. Lead vocalist and master of ceremonies Adam Glasseye admittedly displays none of these physical traits, but his character evokes this odd image, the preacher preaching doom, betraying an unsettling omniscience betwixt heart-rending humility and fire-and-brimstone assuredness. Most telling of all, his tales are told in first-person parable, Our Lady of the Broken Spine constituting a set of nine character studies in which Glasseye becomes each of the characters. At the outset, he is a prom king; at the finish, he watches an old man die. All of it is set to music that relies as much on organs, horns, and fiddles as much as guitars and drums, to create a concoction as fascinating as it is odd. Unfortunately, on this particular outing, the Reverend's sermons go a little long, as a number of six-minute songs nearly collapse under the weight of their molasses-thick arrangements. By the time the disorienting penultimate tale titled "King of Men" hits, the Reverend has morphed into the ragged, homeless gentleman in the street shouting The end is near! as his listeners close their eyes, bow their heads, and move quietly on. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller

Eastern Conference Champions, The Southampton Collection (Left Wing Recordings) Rating: 7
This five-song EP from a trio of guys from Bucks County, Pennsylvania gets off to a fast pace during "Nice Clean Shirt", a tempo that could be closely described as something Stereophonics might try at some point - brimming to the surface, briefly bubbling over before moving back down to the near breaking point. It's a very, very strong track worthy of any mix tape, er, CD. Meanwhile, "Holly Wood" is sounds like a cross between a Yuletide song with a haunting female vocal veering in and out. It would fit perfectly on a Ryan Adams album. The group is rock solid on "Power Hungry Mega Heart", a slow but steady track that is led by a series of guitars and Starsailor-like desperation in the vocals. "We're not in it for money," they sing and you get the impression they really aren't. However, with gems like "Gucci No. 3", Eastern Conference Champions have their fingers in something very good. A hushed intro to "Springsteen" leads into a lush arrangement that the Boss would be proud of. Hopefully the full-length is coming soon! [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil

Doug Cox & Sam Hurrie, Hungry Ghosts (Northern Blues) Rating: 6
This teamup of pleasant folky bluesmen from the provinces is fine enough if you like pleasant folky blues. (If you don't, then you'll want to scoop out your earballs and toss them out the window.) They are both amazing instrumentalists, which is why the instrumental tracks and the covers ("No Expectations" and "Grinning in Your Face") are the best things here. The songwriting is hit-and-miss; I like Cox' sly wit on songs like "Beware of the Man (Who Calls You Bro)", but his oh-so-silly gooftrack "Nap Time for Sam" is yucky. Hurrie writes fewer songs, and is less corny, so he fares better. [Insound]

.: posted by Editor 8:05 AM


In bold are PopMatters Picks, the best in new music.
Abe Duque
be your own PET
Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys
The Bottle Rockets
The Brand New Heavies
Johnny Cash
Slaid Cleaves
Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint
Cut Chemist
Miles Davis
Dinosaur Jr.
Dr. Octagon
Alejandro Escovedo
Fatboy Slim
Four Tet
The Handsome Family
Matthew Herbert
Ise Lyfe
Jefferson Airplane
Lord Jamar
Mission of Burma
Mr. Lif
Mojave 3
Allison Moorer
Paul Oakenfold
Grant-Lee Phillips
The Procussions
Corinne Bailey Rae
Ramblin' Jack Elliott
Julie Roberts
Diana Ross
7L & Esoteric
Alice Smith
Snow Patrol
Sonic Youth
Soul Asylum
Sound Team
Regina Spektor
Sufjan Stevens
Matthew Sweet
Rhonda Vincent
Thom Yorke

Baby Dayliner
The BellRays
Cat Power
The Clientele + Great Lakes
The Coup + T-Kash
Mike Doughty Band
Download Festival 2006
Fiery Furnaces + Man Man
The Futureheads
The Handsome Family
High Sierra Music Festival
Billy Idol
Bettye Lavette
Love Parade
Nine Inch Nails + Bauhaus
Sonic Youth
Splendour in the Grass 2006
The Streets
Sunset Rubdown

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