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28 April 2006

The Texas Governor, The Experiment (Archenemy) Rating: 8
A man with a chimp's head graces the cover of the Texas Governor's new album. Is this some kind of Dubya reference? Hard to say, but obscure motives are part of the Goolkasian mystique. After fronting the semi-campy Boston alterna-glam Elevator Drops in the 1990s, the first-name-dodging singer-guitarist formed this loopy group, and The Experiment is its second album. A decidedly low-key affair (at one point it lapses into a near-ambient drone), it's nonetheless packed with exhilarating moments. Opener "Shortwave Radio" sets a winning tone with its infectious, lo-fi pop melody (the whole album revels in its marginal sound quality, which brings an intimate spontaneity to the proceedings), while other tracks range from country influences to charmingly cheap electronica, and even to the bashed-out "1234," a mostly instrumental track with the freewheeling glee of Stevie Wonder's "Fingertips Pt. 2." Consistent in sound this Experiment is intentionally not, but consistent in recapturing the breathless wonder of the '90s lo-fi revolution it is; that it does so without wallowing in imitative nostalgia earns it even higher marks. Elect to hear it. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Mason Proper, There IS a Moth in Your Chest... (Mang Chung Rec.) Rating: 7
Let the music do the talking they say. And for Mason Proper, they are on the mark with the winding and engaging "A Chance Encounter" that sounds far more crafted and powerful than any band should sound with its opening track off its debut album. From there, "Miss Marylou Carreau" is a slow-building pop song that comes off as a cross between Sloan and Guided By Voices with an axe to grind. The album is never dull or boring, with the punchy, old-pop style of "100 Yrs". Meanwhile the short and sweet "Intimidation" has an angular, arty style to it a la Franz Ferdinand. From there Mason Proper do things quite properly on the infectious, punchy and winding "Mr. Charm" that oozes, well, charm. They can crank things up as they do with the edgier "Lights Off" with the same flare and substance as they polish off the melancholic, somber "Life's Cornucopia". And things never come apart at the seams, with the rudimentary but catchy "My My (Bad Fruit)" as alluring as track one. Topping things off is the swaying and lush neo-power ballad "Carousel! Carousel!" that resembles Death Cab For Cutie backed by the Polyphonic Spree. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
"The World is Smaller Than You Think": [MP3]
"A Chance Encounter": [MP3]
"Mr. Charm": [MP3]
"Chemical Dress Eliza": [MP3]

Morgan Doctor, Is This Home (Aporia) Rating: 7
Is This Home begins with the sound of a woman talking -- she's talking about her home -- and then an electronic trickle comes from below and the woman is swallowed by a dense swell of sound which rises from some deep place. It surges back and forth; a violin comes in over the top, played by Karen Graves. We stay with this swell, and variations on it, for the rest of the album. Is This Home is built around patterns of noise that repeat themselves -- a guitar playing three short phrases in "Helms in the Morning"; Leah Saloma's voice singing the same words again and again in "Dromla-la"; a tabla tapping out bunkabunka ba-ba and a keyboard playing la la la LA for eighteen minutes in "Centre Island" -- until everything comes together into a druggy, heaving haze. It's relaxing music, thoughtfully executed. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Pedro, Pedro (Mush) Rating: 5
My... My... My... How Pedro the wunderkind sounds well, so aged. In this reissue of his much-heralded debut, bundled with the remixes EP Fear & Resistance, everything just sounds so inconsequential in the light of the recent stellar efforts by Madlib, Diplo and Jason Forrest. To his credit, there is a reason for his current reputation of good stature, displaying a perchance for creating maximum atmosphere with minimal tools. It is Zen meditation shaped with hip-hop beats, the trickling of bloops and bleeps that etch miniature carvings of snowflake-shaped droplets into our consciousness. Unfortunately, to stretch the metaphor, even though it's pretty and unique enough, but it melts away when the sun comes up. Alas, it suffers ambient's curse of being pleasant yet unmemorable. The remixes EP fares much better. Featuring the likes of Four Tet and Danger Mouse, the reimaginings of Fear and Resilience takes one of Pedro's strongest tunes and warps it into unrecognizable, though interesting shapes. Anyway, this mediocre release is not really his fault. After all, who can predict the indietronica glory-to-glory growth that has happened the past few years? Given the benefit of the doubt -- I'm quite sure that Pedro has improved exponentially as well. Thus, I am looking forward to his upcoming release. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Kenneth Yu
"Fear and Resilience": [MP3]

.: posted by Editor 9:14 AM

27 April 2006

The Late Cord, Lights from the Wheelhouse EP (4AD) Rating: 7
John-Mark Lapham (from the Earlies), and Micah P Hinson (from Micah P Hinson) may seem like strange collaborators, but in returning to their hometown of Abilene, Texas, they have struck upon a haunting, completely formed idea -- The Late Cord. Powerful and strange, serenity wells from the organ pumps and the broken electronic wells of this alt-country-tinged melancholia: it's in the evocative cello wail on "Chains/Strings"; cuts right through the country accordion and ghost's calls of "Hung on the Cemetery Gates". "My Most Meaningful Relationships Are With Dead People" is the haunting core of the EP, built off tinkling electronics and a serene piano progression; Hinson mumbles like Luke Steele in "Fill Me With Apples", minus the affectation, and the whole song builds to glory to the sound of wind through the trees and electronic rain. 4AD doesn't usually get these things wrong, and they've picked another quality act: watch for The Late Cord's debut full-length. Here's hoping it comes soon. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Dan Raper
"My Most Meaningful Relationships Are With Dead People": [MP3]

Niyaz, Remixed EP (Six Degrees) Rating: 6
"Rarely," wrote Steve Horowitz, reviewing Niyaz's debut album in April of last year, "does a voice get raised or the instrumentation build to a climax. This music... would seem appropriate to accompany meditating more than dancing." The Remixed EP turns things around. All four of the tracks here are aimed squarely at clubbers, and you're only going to be able to meditate to them if your idea of meditating incorporates the kind of deep, penetrating beats that try to thump your bone marrow into jelly. Junkie XL's nine-minute version of "Dilruba" is the deepest, while the MIDIval PunditZ make "Allahi Allah" rattle and jump with pattering tablas, and Carmen Rizzo, who is already part of the Niyaz trio, takes the same song and briefly tries to fool us into thinking that the meditative atmosphere of the original album is going to reassert itself -- but no -- he's only getting his footing before building up to one of those winding, hysterical climaxes that go higher and faster and whinier and whirlier and squigglier and then pause for effect before the music kicks in again. Andy Gray repeats "Dilruba" at a driving pace. If you're not a DJ looking for new material then the main attraction of this album will lie in hearing how pieces of music change when they're fed through the brains of four different people -- a dance version of the novelty song. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Rock Kills Kid, Are You Nervous? (Reprise) Rating: 6
This four-song EP is the baby of Jeff Tucker, someone who has taken the darker tinged alt-rock of yesteryear and buffered it up a bit a la The Killers. This is quite apparent from the introductory notes of the big and bombastic "Hide Away" that sounds like a cross of The Cure and U2. A gem of a tune thanks to drummer Ian Hendrickson and the trio of Tucker, Sean Stopnik and Reed Calhoun on guitar. Meanwhile, the title track is another infectious rocker that you know is going to grow and burst out shortly. And it does, but not as over the top as song one. Rock Kills Kid show another side with the funky, dance rock of "Paralyzed" that sounds like Franz Duran, oops, I mean Duran Ferdinand. "Raise Your Hands" is another sleeper pick but on the whole, this is a very tight and strong EP, albeit only four tunes. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]

M.O.P., M.O.P. Salutes the St. Marxmen (Koch) Rating: 3
M.O.P. are hip-hop prize fighters, the epitome of aggression born out of pain. This time around, though, they sound worn-out. They're on the verge of their next level of success, now part of 50 Cent's G Unit, but they too often sound weary of the fight, retreating into a cocoon of weak R&B hooks and insignificant beats. And when they break from the slow beats and try to sound as wild and angry as they used to, the results are even worse: messy and strained. Their St. Marxmen compadre Teflon shows them up on his own "Suicide", an excellent mean-streets tale framed with cinematic strings. DJ Premier's production shows them up on "Pop Shots (remix feat. ODB)". 9th Wonder's production does the same on "Instigator"; no matter how loud they yell or how many f-bombs they drop, they sound surprisingly tired. They used to be undisputed showstoppers, and now they can barely hold the stage for a whole track. [Insound]
      — Dave Heaton
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 7:55 AM

26 April 2006

Jake Stigers, Comin Back Again (Jake Stigers Music) Rating: 8
Jake Stigers has a great voice that seems to blend the pipes of front men of rock's glory days with the swagger of more contemporary artists. Radio-friendly and note perfect, songs like the John Mayer-meets-Tom Petty "Do You Feel High" take off from the start, while "Another Negotiation" is a fine piece of pop rock with some Keith Richards-like riffs to boot. Meanwhile, the slow Southern-tinged soul of "Only Wanna Be With You" sounds like Chris Robinson (who has nothing but praise for the artist) on a Beatles binge. And don't for a minute think "We Don't Need Anybody" isn't something that wouldn't fit on The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion. Even less than outstanding tracks such as "Flys on Your Skin" bring to mind an American version of Oasis. One surprise is the soulful "Marlena" that has him hitting notes on guys like Prince should be able to reach. And if the first nine didn't knock your socks off, then Stigers ups the ante with the no-BS of "That Ain't Livin". If only they all came this great... [Amazon | Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
"Do You Feel High": [MP3]
"Only Wanna Be with You": [MP3]
"Flys on You Skin": [MP3]
"That Ain't Livin": [MP3]

The Colonies, A Shipful of Chandeliers (Shipwreckords) Rating: 4
You come across these strange discs from time to time. The four members of The Colonies are cobbled together from South Africa, New Zealand, England and France but there's nothing unique about the sound, a sort of college-rock/arthouse swagger without much by way of a recognisable hook. You sense attempts at humour, too, but the swooning lyrics are more narrative-driven, not as smart as Art Brut's. Instead, we get a nautical conceit, and wildly varying styles -- from the sing-along shanty "Sister Ship" to college rock "Green Is For Go" to psychedelia in the throwaway "Something's Going to Give". The disconcerting thing is that the songs are so short, hardly giving you time to reorient yourself before a new song, practically a new genre. A Shipful of Chandeliers could be at least a very interesting record, if the band sat down and patiently worked out all the ideas into some sort of coherence. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Dan Raper
multiple songs: [player]
"C'mon Chief": [MP3]
"Done Got Died": [MP3]
"Beauty Be Booty": [MP3]

Jane vs World, 56k Hearts (Popboomerang) Rating: 6
Kate Duncan and Jadey O'Regan's indiepop album has the chirpy teen-adult sound of some 1960s girl groups -- they made me think of The Angels singing "My Boyfriend's Back" -- but their subject matter is specific and modern. The Canadian friend Duncan sings about in "Boy From Canada" and Sebastian in "Sebastian Says" sound like real people, not the generic everyboys that sometimes crop up in lyrics. "I told you about what's in Vegemite," she sings in "Boy From Canada." "You said that it was totally gross and foul / Boy from Canada is kinda cool. / We met on the net last year.../ I've waited online for the past half hour." They sing about the internet in such a matter-of-fact way, that by the end of 56k Hearts I was wondering why more musicians don't do the same. We know that bands have blogs and message boards. When are more of them going to be willing to work "lol" into a lyric? And when they do, will it sound as cute and giddy as this? And will it come with na na nas? [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Tigercity, Tigercity (Forge) Rating: 5
So I put Tigercity's new self-titled EP in the player, and immediately there were very obviously electronic beats and repetitive chords. Despite the fairly pleasant vocals that followed, I was sure I was hearing the next band to ride the electro-clash wave. Then the slappy bassline of "Cloakrooms" hit, and I thought maybe I was listening to a New Order tribute band with David Byrne handling the vocals. Then "Landline to Germany" happened, and suddenly I was hearing a cheesy '80s synthpop ballad. Toss in a track where the trio's Michael Jackson infatuation gets the best of them and a closing tune that finds a lot in common with neo-retro artists like Franz Ferdinand, and we have an EP that has no consistent identity, but sure is fun to listen to. The one common thread that can be said for every song on this EP is that they will absolutely make you dance. Without more of a sense of its own identity, Tigercity will never establish its own name without inviting comparisons to others. As a slice of digital dance, however, the Tigercity EP is a fun little one-night stand. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 8:42 AM

25 April 2006

Nalle, By Chance Upon Waking (Pickled Egg) Rating: 8
Nalle's MySpace page ranks the "magico-religious traditions of birds and bears" as one of their influences, and that, combined with the mysterious folktale ink drawings of wings and trees on the packaging should go a long way towards telling you if you'll like this band or not. Hanna Tuulikki's voice has crimped, crisp, zig-zagged edges; she sounds as if each note is being cut slowly out of the air with a pair of pinking shears, or as if her vocal cords have been taken over by a croaking goat. She plays the kantele and sings about the sun. Her companions, Chris Hladowski and Aby Vulliamy, play bouzoukis, ouds, clarinets, violas, and other instruments. Their tunes prink with awkwardness, a kind of willed, spiky simplicity that keeps you quivering and alert. When Tuulikki sings, "I touch a liiitttle tip," the instruments twitch in sympathy, and the emotion of the simple action -- touching -- is illustrated with such empathetic devotion that it's almost embarrassing, like watching someone get stigmata in church. I've seen the word 'freakfolk' used to describe Finnish bands such as Paavoharju. You could use it here as well. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
"Sunne Song": [MP3]
"Iron's Oath": [MP3]
"New Roots": [MP3]

Xrayok, Like Life (self-released) Rating: 7
It's amazing, the development that's evidently happened between the release of Xrayok's debut album, the clunky, overreaching Reflex, and their new EP, Like Life. Like Life is one of those CDs that you just know you're going to enjoy by its cover art, a sparse, whitewashed sky punctuated by the spindly fingers of the trees below. The music within matches that visual perfectly, as Xrayok's touch has become lighter and more contemporary via the use of those quick, new wave beats that the kids love so much these days. The keyboards are better integrated, the basslines are suitably heavy, and lead vocalist TJ Hill is establishing an honest-to-God identity with his Thom Yorke of Pablo Honey and The Bends singing old Cure songs style. The only mark against Like Life is the inability of any of its songs to truly separate themselves from the rest, though the creative synthwork (courtesy of Allison Smith, the unsung hero of the disc) and fairly catchy chorus of "Smile" and the small explosions that drive "Sunshine" are fairly noteworthy. Like Life is what happens when a band finds a sound that works -- with any luck, the next album will be the sound of that same band stretching that signature sound to its limit. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [PureVolume]

Feist, Mushaboom Remixed EP (Interscope) Rating: 3
Broken Social Scenester Feist did a little number on our hearts in 2004 with the quirky hit "Mushaboom", full of charm and Frenchie glee. The two remixes on the inexplicable Mushaboom Remixed EP don't butcher the song as much as completely re-imagine something that was near-perfect in the first place. Postal Service slows Feist's charismatic vocal down till she sounds almost as lovelorn as Ben Gibbard himself; and the "mushaboom" background of the chorus becomes a whispered exaltation: yeah, this sounds like a Postal Service track. The Knock Knock remix, on the other hand, busts out like a rap song paint-by-numbers: 1. throw an ominous rolling synth line underneath Feist's melody; 2. overlay a brief interlude of chaotic scratching; 3.add a gaggle of indecipherable voices as if about to launch into a rap verse. In contrast, the video for "Mushaboom", also included on the disc, is utterly captivating -- complete with Ikea bedsheets, flying toast, flying Feist. But as I said, the whole thing's inexplicable because -- well, really, who buys singles anymore anyway? You can watch the video at Feist's website: there is therefore no reason to give two hoots about this little disc. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Dan Raper
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Mobb Deep, "Put 'Em in Their Place" (Interscope) Rating: 3
Oh, Mobb Deep: the places you'll go! And on the strength of your new single, "Put 'Em In Their Place", here are two new destinations:

Place 1: Producer Hall of Fame. When asked to name his favorite producer, Prodigy thought hard and replied "H-A-V-O-C!". And the proof is in "Put 'Em" as "Hollywood" Hav demonstrates a mastery of that great democratizer of home-recording, GarageBand -- watch the treble on them drums! Apparently a bigger bankroll permits a 'hit' to consist solely of: a monotonous buzz, a lazy beat, and idle chatter. In another adventurous step back, maybe he'll move on to the SP-1200 next? Or "looping"??

Place 2: Emerald City. Because they're off to find the Wiz. [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto
multiple songs: [MySpace]

.: posted by Editor 9:20 AM

24 April 2006

Anti-Social Music & The Gena Rowlands Band, The Nitrate Hymnal (Lujo) Rating: 7
There's something unearthly about photos and films of people now dead. The Nitrate Hymnal, a "post-punk opera" performed three years ago in a four-night stand in a Washington DC Masonic temple, ponders the disturbing nexus of memory, loss and public record. The Gena Rowlands Band's Bob Massey based his opera on a collection of 8mm film left to him by his grandfather, that showed his two grandparents gradually growing older and, he felt, losing their love. Here, augmented by Anti-Social Music, a punk-spirited, classically trained chamber collective headed by Franz Nicolay of The Hold Steady and Pat Muchmore of the World Inferno Friendship Society, Massey's work gets a chillingly beautiful treatment. There are serious musical chops at work here, liquid runs of 20th century classical violin, electrified and electrifying guitar buzz, discordant brass and even, at one point, a church organ. Hauntingly melancholy, restrained and minimalist, the music brings out the shiver in lyrics like "A time machine/There on the screen stands someone I long to touch, to hear, to smell again/There's a small kind of heaven in the movies". [Insound]
      — Jennifer Kelly
multiple audio and video clips: [MP3, windows, real]

Arkanoid, Get Yourself Influenced (Underhill) Rating: 5
Juanmi Martin is in pain. Or, at least, it sounds like he is for the duration of Spanish quartet Arkanoid's latest album Get Yourself Influenced. Martin has one of those voices that sounds like it's about thiiiis close to utterly breaking down and bawling for every second during which he's singing, an attribute that makes that voice simultaneously distinctive and distracting, ultimately defining Arkanoid's sound on this album. Lyrically, there's a pretty distinct Radiohead influence -- Burn the City / Burn your chances / Take the money and run / Empty shelves in empty houses is just one of the many sorta literal but also sorta impressionistic excerpts to be found throughout the disc. The band behind Martin is pretty solid as well, able to pull off long, synth-laden epics ("Ctrl+Alt+Supr") and pop songs in 7/8 ("Puzzle") at the drop of a hat. Unfortunately, without a catchy pop hook or a truly inspired lyric in sight, there's nothing at all inspiring about Get Yourself Influenced; the easiest thing to remember about the album is its see-through album cover and art, which is neat in theory, but really makes the liner notes hard to read. Of course, this makes it the perfect cover for an album with lots of great ideas that never quite get off the ground in execution. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
multiple songs: [MySpace]

Hell Promise, Aim For Hell (Rocketstar Recordings) Rating: 6
Hell Promise sound exactly the way the band name wants you to think -- thick, metal slabs of guitar supported by the screaming/wailing/raging of a lead singer that wants to rupture his vocal chords. This is evident on "Chamber 35", but the group really excels on the rapid-fire assault of "Brass Knuckle Nightmare", a song you can envision The Count from Sesame Street head-banging like mad to, losing his monocle in the process. The first highlight is the take-no-prisoners metal rocker "Venom, Vice and Valor" that brings to mind old-school metal, as does "The New Black Death" where singer Brian Johnson (no, not that AC/DC Brian Johnson) actually sings somewhat on this track. The trio is quite good when they opt for the metal and less for the emo/scream tangent, especially during "Time Bomb" and the album's finest moment "Vengeance". Although it starts off suspect, the album redeems itself with some crisp, airtight metal arrangements. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MP3]

Damian "Jr. Gong" Marley, "Beautiful" feat. Bobby Brown [12-inch single] (Universal) Rating: 5
There are two ways to take this. One, accepting/declining the song for what it is. It's a love song. It's tender. It's sweet. It has a nice beat and some of you may dance to it. Or, two, considering the song in the greater scheme of things -- as in, why is a song with Bobby Brown sitting next to one of the biggest pop-social bombs of 2005, "Welcome to Jamrock"? The juxtaposition may be befuddling to Jr. Gong's newfound fanbase (and, clearly, a song like "Beautiful" is aimed at building a new audience), but is mostly nonexistent. Bobby "sings" the hook, but his voice is buried underneath so many other "background" vocalists that his presence is hardly noticeable. In short: it's a shame there ain't more Bobby... [Insound]
      — Dan Nishimoto

.: posted by Editor 7:27 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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