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21 April 2006

The Doers, Whatcha Doin'? (Red Cat) Rating: 7
The Doers are a band that is quirky, quite quirky. Whether you're trying to figure out what the slow jazz, bilingual spoken word "Hello Horsey" is all about or the poppy follow-up "We're Open" that sounds like an acoustic-laced Arcade Fire or Diableros, you won't be bored. At 19 songs, it's ambitious with tasty tracks such as "No Right Now", with the male/female harmonies which resemble the New Pornographers on speed. Meanwhile "Everyman" could be mistaken for Sweden's Quit Your Dayjob. Most of the tunes fall around two minutes, with no steam lost in that short time. Highlights include the early Elvis Costello-like "Step to the Left, Step to the Right" and the lovable Cure-ish instrumental kicking off "Moment Noticed". Sparse and rather barren most of the time, The Doers do a lot of minimal pop rock, particularly with the play-by-numbers of "Don't Know Bros" (not the flash in the pan British pop duo, at least I don't think so). No real lowlights, although "Sports Cars For Everyone" can be a tad grating. All is forgiving with a grin-inducing cover of Daniel Johnston's "Wicked World". [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
"We're Open": [MP3]
"Don't Know Bros": [MP3]
"Just Sayin'": [MP3]
"Sports Cars For Everyone": [MP3]
more tracks from earlier records: [MP3]

Fightstar, They Liked You Better When You Were Dead (Deep Elm) Rating: 4
The good news here is that Charlie Simpson (a.k.a. Charlie Busted a.k.a. "that guy in Busted") has a new band that's not Busted, and it sounds like a real band rather than a frustrated popper's lame stab at critical credibility. The bad news is that it sounds like Stain'd crossed with Cold mixed with a bit of Chevelle and a healthy dollop of early '90s Seattle. That is to say, Fightstar is trying too hard. They Liked You Better When You Were Dead is actually a re-release of the band's UK debut EP with a few tracks from the Paint Your Target EP thrown in to fill things out to album length. There are good moments -- Simpson doesn't have a bad voice, particularly when he's singing rather than growling, and the slower tunes (particularly the lovely "Amethyst", which closed the original EP) shine brighter than the quicker, harder ones. The rest of the band is pretty tight and appropriately crunchy as well. The main problem, however, is that there's no joy whatsoever to be found here. Not that a nü-band need be happy, per se, but it all sounds like a shell of music with no substance beneath, no catharsis, no raison d'être. There's the basic equivalent of a Nirvana tune that eventually turns into a power ballad ("Until Then"), and plenty of hard rock by the numbers ("Paint Your Target", "Lost Like Tears in Rain", etc.), and all of it is just enough to make you sigh "whatever". They Liked You... sounds like Simpson's way of proving a point, and if nothing else, I guess he does that. But really, so what? [Insound]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]

Erin Boheme, What Love Is (Concord) Rating: 4
Am I a grumpy old man if I'm immediately put off by a 19-year-old making an album called What Love Is? Maybe. Am I a grumpy old man if I think it unlikely that this 19-year-old's optimal mode of musical expression is a rhythm section and string orchestra circa 1955? Maybe less so. Look: Erin Boheme can sing, and she's got all the moves down here. Her voice is less old school than her musical setting -- she's got a variety of come-hither inflections and pouty tones than sound more Christina Aguilera than Peggy Lee. She's at her best when she's accompanied by young label-mates Taylor Eigsti (keyboards) and Christian Scott (trumpet) in a more contemporary mode, like on "Give Me One Reason". But when she's singing about wanting "One Night with Frank" (Sinatra), it's a little child-molester creepy, even though she's the one making the moves. You can't help but cheer on a gorgeous, ambitious young singer who wants to work in the jazz tradition, and I hope this album is success for everyone involved. But, despite some talent for writing original songs that suggests that Ms. Boheme may yet have a real future as an original artist, it's not easy to understand why listeners would prefer this disc to either the old stuff it's aping (actual Sinatra, say, or Nancy Wilson) or the genuinely new stuff it can't touch coming from jazz singers like Cassandra Wilson or Carmen Lundy. [Insound]
      — Will Layman
multiple songs: [player]

Da Muzicianz, "Camera Phone" (TVT) Rating: 4
Look, asking for tact from a group like Ying Yang Twins is like asking for paradiddles from Rick Allen: it's just unreasonable. So, when Da Muzicianz (D-Roc, one half of the Twins, and his two brothers Birthday Boy and Mr. Ball) cut loose you can't expect anything beside that stoopid, dumb ig'nance. "Shake something for the camera, ho," goes the original edit, responded somewhat more artfully by the radio edit, "Take a picture for the camera phone." In theory, "Camera Phone" should be a timely and salacious slice of popular club culture. Unfortunately, Mr. Collipark selects an unusually dated sound (didn't Nelly ride these pops and squeals to death six years ago?) and sound effects (were these flashing bulb sounds taken from a '50s-era effects record?), dulling much of the potential humor. [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 7:31 AM

20 April 2006

Fucious, The Journey (self-released) Rating: 6
The album cover is a ruse. It looks sedate, almost boring; Fucious is a "soulful", goody-goody conscious rapper, and he threw this all together with PowerPoint, right? But The Journey is a refresher course in just how wrong preconceptions can be. Fucious is a soulful (sans quotation marks), nimbly-flowing, solid rapper, with a strong delivery and a surprisingly authentic reggae vibe. The album begins with an ominous rush of wind; then mysterious synths cut in, and Fucious flows near-abstractions in a tight pattern of thick circles, setting a perfect mood. The overall feel of the album is raw and reggae-soaked, supported by production from the likes of King Tuch and Ras Hugh and flavorful contributions by featured artists from Krucial and Professa to, notably, Capleton on "Heaven". Fucious even sings his own hook on the catchy "Temptations", and he isn't bad. His lyricism ranges in subject from the more considered reflections of songs like "Living This Life" and "Calling" to more conventional cuts like "Badoom Boom" and "Oochie Cah", but stays solid throughout. "The General", with Michael Rose of Black Uhuru handling the beautifully, nasally mournful reggae vocalizations alongside some fast prison raps from Fucious, is a definite highlight, as is "All That I've Been Through", featuring addictively tight harmony from guest singer Marsha. All things considered, The Journey is, despite appearances, a surprisingly strong debut that is definitely worth picking up. [Insound]
      — Michael Frauenhofer
multiple clips: [MP3]

Bathtub Shitter, Dance Hall Grind (Super Hit Jam) Rating: 5
They never promised you a rose garden, but Bathtub Shitter bring plenty of fertilizer. Anyone distraught upon hearing this band will find little sympathy; given their name, you can't really approach them innocently. A more likely reaction will be some level of disappointment among extreme-music fans expecting the breaking of new boundaries -- the transgression factor here is lower than the name suggests. Bathtub Shitter play midtempo death metal with liberal patches of heavy funk, over which Masato Henmarer Morimoto's vocals jump from guttural grunts to high-pitched shrieks. In short, the Japanese band sounds vaguely like the Boredoms covering Funkadelic and Deicide simultaneously. The songs are generally engaging but overlong, with such exceptions as the tender instrumental (I'm serious) "Shit Drop." As might be predicted, the lyrics bring new meaning to the phrase "scat singing" (typical example: "Dry each underwear under the same sun/Many shit, everybody has the wet"). This is kind of fun, in the way Beavis' Cornholio act was good for a laugh or two on a slow day; at 40 minutes, it suffers from a bit of logorrhea. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Various Artists, All Tomorrow's Parties: 3.1 (ATP) Rating: 6
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening curated the 2003 Los Angeles edition of the All Tomorrow's Parties music festival and offers his compilation-assembling skills for this companion CD. The tracklisting (and, one must infer, Groening's taste) touches on oily garage rock (the Stooges' "Fun House", the Magic Band's "Dropout Boogie") and skronky art-noise (Sonic Youth's colicky cover of The Simpsons' theme song, an unreleased Jackie-O Motherfucker tune). But mostly it's a round-up of some of the more popular indie bands from recent years, including Spoon, the Shins, Modest Mouse, and Deerhoof. Groening, who used to work as a music critic, selected participants of the 2003 ATP festival for the compilation, so the format isn't necessarily one that allows for revelations and obscurities. As a result, All Tomorrow's Parties: 3.1 is hardly a necessity -- the best songs here are taken from great albums that stand up on their own, which most fans likely already own. If there's a lingering issue here, it's this: what are compilations such as these supposed to achieve beyond providing proof of a happening for the sake of posterity? [Insound]
      — Zeth Lundy

Penelope Jones, "Louie" [12-inch single] (Motown) Rating: 1
Remember how dope it was when Ultramagnetic MCs looped up "Louie, Louie"for "Traveling at the Speed of Thought" and Kool Keith just went to work in under three minutes? Remember how sweet it was that the Fat Boys remade the song as a meta homage? Well, this is nothing like that. Imagine a subpar Gangsta Boo dancing like a fool over the closing credits to the imaginary Animal House 2000. Yes, mediocrity over an abhorrent and dated idea. Here's the real question: is this a worse look for Motown or for hip-hop? [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 6:45 AM

18 April 2006

The Gibson Brothers, Red Letter Day (Sugar Hill) Rating: 7
Nashville isn't far from Appalachia geographically, but its slick production values stand a world apart from the hillbilly ethos that gave rise to bluegrass. The Gibson Brothers straddle both realms, and one could easily raise ideological objections to a band that laments the passing of trusty railroad lines and the "big old barn" in the "middle of the tiny town" to a listening demographic presumably consisting of precisely the SUV-driving suburbanites who displaced that nostalgicized landscape. One could, but one won't want to after a listen to Red Letter Day, which charmed the dogma right out of this critic. On a well-balanced platter of self-penned songs and nicely chosen covers, brothers Eric and Leigh lead a tight but spontaneous set of studio vets through 15 tracks (and a cute bonus) laced with fiddles, mandolins, upright bass, and banjo. Surprising and spirited renditions of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and Bobby Womack's (by way of the Rolling Stones) "It's All Over Now" are highlights, but the Brothers often strike gold on their originals, especially the moving deathbed elegy "We Won't Dance Again." A bit of schmaltz mars the album at times (the execrable "As Long As There's You" being the nadir, sounding like song lost Lonestar b-side), and the album could use some of the grit on display in recent albums by, say, Shelby Lynne or the Drive-By Truckers. Nonetheless, this is a fine addition to the Gibson Brothers' impressive discography. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
"Walking with Joanna": [MP3]
"The Barn Song": [MP3]

Shimmer, Shimmer (Cake) Rating: 5
Maybe it's something that could be fixed in post-production with a bigger budget, but the biggest problem with Shimmer's debut LP is lead vocalist Skip Peri. The guy writes some pretty decent, sometimes catchy rock 'n roll tunes with that sort of Rolling Stones-ish blues edge, but his voice just isn't enough to carry them. His embarrassing R&B-inspired falsetto on "Here I Am (Antidote)" is enough to inspire the old reliable cringe reflex, and his thin tones just aren't enough to carry a down 'n dirty tune like "Shoulda Known". That his vocals are so often pushed right to the front of the mix doesn't help matters, as most of the interesting things that are happening in these tunes are happening in his own guitars -- the chromatic, descending staccato riff of "Don't Trip on Your Way Out" is the base of a hit waiting to happen, and "Needle to the Vinyl" is like the fantastic lost tune that Robert Palmer never quite got around to recording. Interestingly enough, the band saves its best tunes for last, as "The Violence of Love" is a fairly convincing ballad, while closer "Who Loves Ya" is the one tune where Peri musters enough swagger to keep up with his rhythm section. I can only imagine that Peri's voice is an acquired taste; a little bit of aging and a little bit of seasoning might be all it takes to make Shimmer shine. For now, though, Shimmer isn't worth a second look. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
"Don't Trip on Your Way Out": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]

Winter North Atlantic, Mercator EP (Giovanni Chrome) Rating: 4
The second release by Sheffield, UK's Ed Carter is named after a controversial 16th century mapmaker. That should give you an idea of the intellectual, precise post-rock instrumentals within. The five tracks move along on programmed beats and cyclic guitar patterns without troubling or engaging your ears. "Transport" is nicely reminiscent of Ry Cooder's Paris, Texas work, but the rest is a soundtrack in search of a suitably intellectual indie film. [Insound]
      — John Bergstrom
"3159": [MP3]

50 Cent, "Best Friend (Remix)" f/ Olivia (Interscope) Rating: 5
Ooh, Curtis can be a sweet, sweet soul brother... Well, he can at least try to act like one on occasion. Such was the presumable premise behind 50 Cent's feature film bonanza Get Rich or Die Tryin', but was anyone really keeping tabs on Mushmouth's acting potential? At least the soundtrack arrived chockfull of familiar club faves and new jawns for new jacks to slump to. Thank Hi-Tek for blessing the film's loverboy moment with the up-and-down bells and curt vocal stabs. The bounce is especially welcome, considering the otherwise unexceptional bump'n grind from lead G-Unut and mannequin dressing of Olivia. Clean and Dirty edits along with an acappella, but -- what? -- no instrumental? [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 7:28 AM

17 April 2006

Boysetsfire, Before the Eulogy (Equal Vision) Rating: 6
Screamo isn't exactly a genre (or, I suppose if we're being precise, a subgenre) that's garnered a lot of positive press over the last few years, but as with any fad genre of note, it did spawn a few decent bands. Boysetsfire is one of those bands, perhaps thanks to the fact that it wasn't so much a reaction to the movement as it helped to instigate it. Before the Eulogy is an odds 'n sods compilation that pulls together a few out of print EPs from the era before the breakthrough album After the Eulogy (hence the title), tosses a few rarities into the tracklisting and makes an album out of the result. Before the Eulogy is actually a pretty good look at the evolution of Boysetsfire, as the demos that comprise the beginning of the album are uncompromising and rough around the edges, while the later tracks are much more songs than tantrums, eventually turning into something like pop-punk on "Loser of the Year Award" from the In Chrysalis EP. "Bucket of Rain" is one of the prettier songs the band has ever recorded, and takes its place as the best of the rarities, while "Consider the Numbers" and "Feudal", both from the Consider 7-inch, are probably the best compromise for those looking for the sheer intensity of the band's early work, but can't bear the awful production on the demos. Obviously, After the Eulogy is for the fans and only for the fans, but I can't see how those fans could possibly be disappointed with these 20 tunes. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
"Turn the Key": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]

The Apparitions, As This Is Futuristic (Machine) Rating: 4
There's nothing wrong with the Apparitions, it's just -- hold up. There's plenty wrong with the Apparitions. Their accessible popsmithery is bland and derivative, they're self-satisfied and ultimately, forgettable. I've got more... their over designed album art is plug-ugly, their melodies echo like a textbook of the last decade in alternative rock, and one of their two vocalists is -- hold on. It's all forgivable. Enter the irrepressible "God Monkey Robot". Room on Fire refuse that won't easily be erased from memory. It's second-rate pop genius, but genius nonetheless. With its repetitive chorus and saccharine guitars, it's almost enough to prop up this entire exercise in mediocrity. "Again there was god, then came the monkey, then came the robot, and on and on..." The Apparitions are the Wrens annoying cousin who opines political at the dinner table (but you too watched last night's episode of the Daily Show). Inevitably, you get annoyed, the food gets cold and the cheap red wine starts to taste cheap. Sadly, there are a few things wrong with the Apparitions. [Insound]
      — Liam Colle
"God Monkey Robot": [MP3]
"Electricity and Drums": [MP3]

Nathan Fake, Drowning in a Sea of Love (Border Community) Rating: 7
Start with the album title: a descriptor of fuzzy bliss, it suits Fake's debut album, even if I suspect drowning would be more frantic than any of the tracks on theis disc. Fake starts as a house producer but leaves the danceable beats behind in favor of ones that he can build electronic atmospheres around, matching a knowledge of IDM with a desire to utterly shut down your mind. These tracks could easily have cut a few laptop drumkits and been ambient stretchings; they could just as easily have added a few guitars and fit somewhere on the electrogaze continuum. Fake wisely stays in between, where he can wander his own way. [Insound]
      — Justin Cober-Lake
"Long Sunny": [MP3]
"Dinamo": [MP3]
"1983": [MP3]
"Avocet": [MP3]

Don Omar, "Dale Don Dale" feat. Fabolous [12-inch single] (Universal) Rating: 5
Don Omar, one of the leading figures in reggaeton, further explores his crossover potential with this remix to a previous hit, "Dale Don Dale." Employing a subtle beat makeover courtesy of Swizz Beatz and a verse from young'n Fabolous, Omar revisits the formula that made his "Reggaeton Latino" (which featured spots from the States' highest profile Borinquen thug rappers N.O.R.E. and Fat Joe) with the hopes of making deeper inroads. However, where the previous song achieved anthemic status by openly draping itself in the genre's signature rhythms and sounds (from its drum hits to its native tongue), this latest single strays dangerously toward novelty. Swizz Beatz' intense Moroder-workout summons a menacing Scarface aura that matches the Last Don's ego trips, but also conjures a clichéd Scarface stereotype that shrouds Don Omar's identity. Ironically, only reggaeton fans can pull the subtlety from a confused work like this -- hardly an invalidation of the work, but hardly a compliment. [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 7:36 AM


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Abe Duque
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Dinosaur Jr.
Dr. Octagon
Alejandro Escovedo
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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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