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26 May 2006


Foundry Field Recordings, Prompts/Miscues (Emergency Umbrella)
Foundry Field Recordings is no indie rock irony. Here the studio mingles with the outside world, the common denominator being men with microphones and a mission. The blending of the two is most apparent in the first and final songs. In "Battle Brigades Part 1", a man's voice recites coordinates over the click-clack of a train pulling from a station as the music builds to a shoegaze roar. In "110304", a complex field recording called The Alarm Clock Radio Experiment is layered over an acoustic performance by bandleader Billy Schuch. FFR are morose in many of its forms. Lo-fi, shoegaze, slow-core, and even the grey theatricality of the Arcade Fire help the group extricate their feelings. Schuh floats words on a disfigured sine wave through the air, with all the crests and troughs you remember from physics plus all of the emotion you don't. The driving guitar fuzz in "Buried Beneath the Winter Frames" and Schuh's repetition of "All those crates / All those graves" in "Circuits on Board" may lull you to rest, but something less tangible will hold you alert. Prompts/Miscues is a fascinating fusion of the familiar and the strange. [Insound]
      — Nate Seltenrich
"Battle Brigades": [MP3]
"Buyselltrade": [MP3]
"Dancing Lightsslow Machines": [MP3]
"Beneath the Winter": [MP3]
Pop / Rock / Indie  

Lotus, The Strength of Weak Ties (Harmonized)
Electronica and rock music have always had a cautious relationship, hooking up for the occasional one-night stand but still avoiding each other at parties. Sure, sometimes the match up is kinda fun (Fatboy Slim...), but only for awhile (...until he released Palookaville). For Lotus, the mix moves slowly into jam-band status, creating instrumentals that -- for the most part -- don't go anywhere, but occasionally pulling out something that is genuinely thrilling, and making you think the courtship can continue again. "Epidemic", the most Bonaroo-ready track of the whole bunch, is also one of the best, following a true jam aesthetic while actually incorporating many different styles of electronica into its mix, making it one of the most genuinely memorable songs on The Strength of Weak Ties. Unfortunately, it's those very weak ties that pull the album apart, mini-epics like "Kesey Seed" and "Blue Giant" wandering around but never finding any melodic place. Leave it to jazzy instrumentals like "Drunken Giraffe" and "When H Binds to O" to save the day, leaving you thinking that someday Lotus is going to bloom into something beautiful. [Amazon | Insound]
      — Evan Sawdey
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [player]
Progressive / Ambient / Psychedelic  

The Tall Boy, Go Forth (Banazan)
Hey there ol' James, let's start a band!
C'mon, whaddya say, it'll be grand!
I'll sing and play guitar and Jamie drums.
Shall we go 'head and ring our mums?
You're on bass, Yosh' keys and trumpet.
Don't answer now; think about it:
Do you mind if we call it the Tall Boy?
As you can see, I'm one tall boy!

But Matty, what'll we sound like?
Something Ocean Blue and Smiths-like?
And oh Matty, what'll you sing about?
Our lives and lasses I don't doubt.
Write some good tunes, play them around.
We'll be known far beyond our town!
The Tall Boy -- the toast of many a fan.
Okay Matty, let's start a band!

Righto James, let's make an album.
All four of us as one, how fun!
Start with an EP, seven songs only.
Mellow, inoffensive, poppy.
From Glasgow to Cal'fornia.
Banazan Records, thanks to ya!
Hope they like us here and across the sea.
Tall Boy brings you adequacy!
[Insound]
      — Nate Seltenrich
multiple songs: [official site]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Alternative / Pop  

Treeball, A Cat Formation of a Mouse EP (Rhythm Barrel)
Treeball might not be out to reinvent pop music, but they do one thing really well: Across this four-song EP (stand-out track: the glorious, but unfortunately named "You Remind Me of Your Aunt"), this group -- fronted by ex-Supermodel Nick Triani -- clearly write catchy, pleasant songs that wouldn't offend you if you heard 'em in a café. Want some Tom Petty-esque country rock? Done. You want Spencer Davis Group-esque organ-squeezed soul? Done. You want some of the sweetest ping-pong-y boy-girl vocals this side of Evan Dando and Julianna Hatfield? Done. Nothing striking here, but it's pretty sweet when it hits. [Insound]
      — Zachary Houle
multiple songs: [official site]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Alternative / Pop  

.: posted by Editor 7:52 AM


25 May 2006


Carey Ott, Lucid Dream (Dualtone)
Carey Ott's current piece of pop culture's pie is having his song "Am I Just One" recently appear on the television show Grey's Anatomy. And Ott's pipes are in the vein of Jeff Tweedy's and the softness of Ryan Adams judging by the fine and subtle opener that is, well, "Am I Just One". The former singer of Chi-town band Torben Floor also exudes a lot of confidence with the strong and Americana-tinged "Daylight" that even has some hints of the Fab Four. The Beatles' hues return during the sparse "Kickingstones" It's the other tracks that will provide some oomph to the album, although "I Wouldn't Do That to You" is a roots-y pop single that pales compared to the unforced and shining "Hard to Change". And the steady, delectable pop of "Shelf Life" ensures this tune having a long shelf life on its own. Fans of David Gray or Ron Sexsmith or even Ed Harcourt would suck these songs up immediately. Even on the rather ordinary Mraz-like feel that "You Got Love" has. It's the endearing keeper "Sunbathing" that makes it a keeper and Ott the real deal. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [player]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
rock  

Grogshow, Grogshow (Future Appletree)
Grogshow's first (and only) musical offering to this world is notable at least as much for its story as its music. Specifically, Mark Kisting, songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist for the two-piece, died in 1996 at the far-too-young age of 26, of what Grogshow's short MySpace bio only refers to as a "sudden illness". All of the sales proceeds for the EP go to the Leukemia Research Foundation, however, so if you buy the disc, your money will go toward a good cause. This means that even past the EP's music, there's good karma involved here. The music itself is pretty decent if you're into the mid-'90s post-grunge indie rock sound, with strained-but-sensitive vocals and barebones production values. Kisting himself is a wonderful guitar player with a hand-picking style that simulates a dual-guitar or guitar-and-bass sound with a single instrument -- seriously, you'll hear some of these songs and swear that multi-tracking was involved, but there's nothing of the sort. The drums are adequate, the melodies are nice and rather pleasant, if a little forgettable, and the whole thing is over in just over 22 minutes. Honestly, there's more to love about the intent than the music (which occasionally reminds of Modest Mouse in a mellow mood), but it's a solid little disc for a low price and a good cause, so I can do naught but recommend it. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
"Arena Rok": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Folk Rock / Experimental  

Gat-Rot, Us Versus Them (Rotten)
Ever wondered what an album of Papa Roach b-sides would sound like? Gat-Rot has the answer. "No time to lose," the band insists early on Us Versus Them, but they're wrong: I lost 40 minutes of my life listening to this. Despite the turgid guitar riffs, unimaginative drumming that one could charitably call "minimalist," and some terrible bellowing by two meatheaded singers, the worst aspect here is the lyrics, which range from pollyannaish ("If at first you don't succeed/Try, try again") to highly unjustified 1984-era Run-DMC boasting ("Who are the masters of rock?/It's the almighty Gat-Rot!") -- and that's just on one song! There are also inept attempts at political provocation that don't bear quoting. Every so often the band works itself into a strained nu-metal lather, but this album is so uninspired that when a phone rang between tracks late in the game, I prayed it would be the Jerky Boys. It wasn't, but a bonus (if you can call it that) track does contain some feeble telephone hijinks at least as interesting as any of the songs. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
"Second Wind": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Metal / Hardcore / Punk  

Golden Ball, "Signature Abstract" b/w "Blank" [7-inch single] (Honeymoon Music)
Ever wanted to know how Elf Power might have turned out if an early '70s Bowie had fronted them? Now's your chance to find out! And as utterly trippy, freaky and, like, totally, far, way out! as that sounds, Philly's Golden Ball has produced something that actually is quite far from the psychedelic train wreck it probably sounds like on paper. Add a pinch of Robert Pollard's impenetrable psycho-babble ("said a message in the vortex of the discourse maelstrom broadcast / prance you sleek toy," etc.), and what you've got is a weird, interesting and somehow surprisingly tuneful concoction of neo-hippie rock existing in its own time and space continuum. Way too groovy, dude! [Insound]
      — Zachary Houle
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Psychedelic / New Wave / Folk Rock  

.: posted by Editor 7:56 AM


24 May 2006


The Solvents, I Hear the Desert Is a Lonely, Hot Place to Die (Sanitary)
Any band can milk a cello for its pathos, but the Solvents earn their melancholy on this lovely, understated album. With a seven-minute opening track that explodes from quiet folk into spazzedelic jam, the Solvents clearly aren't pandering for approval. But armed with wistful melodies bathed in violin, organ, and, yes, cello, they win it in spades. "John Lennon" pulls off the nifty trick of sounding like a typical early-Pavement knockoff for a few minutes before suddenly resolving into a surprisingly affecting childhood memory, while "The Ballad of Jack" wisely recognizes that the best tribute to a dead-and-missed friend isn't a funeral dirge but a gently uplifting tune. Lead Solvent Jarrod Bramson runs the show here, but partner Emily Madden steps up to the mic for a delightful warble on "It Doesn't Feel Like Home." The whole album has the effortless intimacy and misleadingly tossed-off feel of the best bedroom recordings, and extra kudos go to Bramson for his scrawled liner notes rejecting the pretentious fetishization of vintage recording gear. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
"Past Lives of a Broken Cello": [MP3]
"Your Sparrow": [MP3]
Indie / Folk / Experimental  

Nathan Asher & The Infantry, Sex Without Love (self-released)
"No you don't know you don't know you don't know you don't". Thus spoke Nathan Asher as behind him played the Infantry. What did it mean? Not necessarily anything, but not likely nothing at all. The song was called "Leave the South", if that helps. It doesn't, so perhaps the next track may hold a clue. "Drift Away" does just that, before surrendering any meaning. The band plays on -- languishing rock, Ian McCulloch perhaps if he was from the '90s, or Billy Bragg without a care in the world beyond an unfulfilled love life. "Sex Without Love" is not easily done; it takes gallons of wine. I like this music, but not enough; it's good, but not great. The lead guitar throughout "Storms" is great, I'll give it that, and the rest of it ain't bad. Appreciating Sex Without Love requires a tolerance for mediocrity and an ability to recognize talent. Both exist across this collection of 10 songs -- so evenly that you don' know which prevails, you don't know you don't know you don't. [Insound]
      — Nate Seltenrich
"Leave the South": [M3U]
"Sex Without Love / a war": [M3U]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock / Folk Rock  

Kid 606 / Kid Commando, "Good Times" b/w "Black Death Split" [7-inch single] (Ache)
Welcome to the split personality split seven-inch! While Kid 606 passes the dutchie with a pulsating slice of two-tone electro dancehall dub reggae, the now defunct Sweedish group Kid Commando offers up a black slab of big, noisy Monolithic punk rock on their last ever recorded song. (Heck, Commando even comes off like Sun 0))) or Boris playing speed metal.) Which band or song is better? Put it this way: Kid A, if not Sonic Youth, can quite handily beat on these brats on the playground no problem. Still, this is competent, mid-fi "experimental" drone rock for those who like their music big, loud, noisy and a touch on the predictable side. [Insound]
      — Zachary Houle
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Electronic / Experimental Techno  

Dead Man, Dead Man (Crusher)
This Swedish four piece have taken all that was unholy about bands from the 1970s such as early Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and Jethro Tull and simply copied it wholesale. Even the artwork on this album looks nearly 40 years old. And after one listen to this album I felt considerably older. There are seven tracks on this 42-minute album. None of them are particularly memorable; in fact I would rather forget all 42 minutes. Especially the 14 minutes that I spent listening to "Deep Forest Green". I'm never going to get those minutes back guys; I may sue. [Insound]
      — Marc A. Price
"Ship Ahoy!": [MP3]
Rock / Prog  

.: posted by Editor 7:57 AM


22 May 2006


Mike Nicolai, God Fatigue in the Post Atom Age (Eclectone)
Mike Nicolai is one of those artists who is impossible to hate. He's just too damn good. His stripped-down arrangements suit his superior lyrical wordplay, and yet somehow commercial success has eluded him (for now). God Fatigue just might change all that. Opening with "Tarot's Road", you're drawn into the idea of a singer-songwriter record... only to have the rock stomp of "Post Atom Age" blow your hair to the back of the auditorium. Though he might be advised to abandon his falsetto ("The Depths of Love" almost induces cringes like that), he's otherwise on the right track. "The Pope died today / I don't guess I care / He was just a man / Full of shit, blood and water / and an appointed leader / of a sham institution / that frowns on a lot of my friends" is a line full of bite. It may strike controversy, but if gets more people listening to him -- mission accomplished. [Insound]
      — Evan Sawdey
"Lifesucker Waltz": [MP3]
"Thunderstorms": [MP3]
"I'm Into You": [MP3]
Singer-songwriter  

Automatic Head Detonator, Fuck U All (Lo-Fi)
Automatic Head Detonator has an innovative approach to gigging: it rents a flatbed truck and sets up outside venues as shows by artists from Sonic Youth to Queens of the Stone Age let out. I've seen their guerrilla gigs rolling through east Hollywood a few times (unless some other band stole the idea), and it's a brilliant underground tactic. Musically... eh, not so much. Fuck U All is essentially one half-hour barrage of eclectic samples, over which AHD frontman Zeke Wray adds guitar and vocals. We get everything from Daft Punk to Noam Chomsky to Schooly D, but what we don't get is developed songwriting. Sometimes the elements coalesce: the requisite L.A. diss "Los Angeleaze" has a fun moronic stomp, while "Piano Song (Fuck U All)" begins with an amusingly ridiculous plunked-out version of the theme from Star Wars. "Kill Whitey" builds up some righteous steam, but most of the album relies too heavily on industrial trappings over hip-hop beats, making it great for jogging but relatively unrewarding on close listening. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
"Los Angeleaze": [MP3]
"Piano Song (Fuck U All)": [MP3]
Alternative / Punk / Industrial  

Aldo Romano, Chante (Dreyfus)
Romano's a duly celebrated drummer, whose talents for singing and Sprechgesang have come to the fore. The voice is gentle, slightly hoarse, he sings quietly. The singing he began to do very occasionally in public now gets a whole CD, with an interesting set of songs. Accompaniment varies from sundry small jazz ensembles, André Ceccarelli on drums, comparably classy performers, sometimes Nelson Riddle-ish string sounds. Most songs are in French, the few outings in English include "The End of a Love Affair", one of the best performances. On "Sans Un Mot" the piano is atmospheric, likewise the strings, which sigh and match the passionate quiet tenor solo. Solo bass opens "La Valse Des Lilas", guitar performs accompanying duties until the swell of strings announce the arranger's notion that a turning-point has been reached. "Les Papillons De Nuit" uses clarinet, guitar, and the string entry is nice. "Estate" sounds a little like quiet Jobim with guitar, the piano solo's harmonically bold (even touching on Tristano-Bauer atonal duets of a long gone avant-garde! but gently). "Rue De Douai" starts with more like a Jazz Messengers ensemble and Romano talking. Speech becomes song, not that exciting, or redeemed by the instrumental passage of piano, trumpet, tenor and rhythm. A few items miss the high level of "Sans un Mot" or the duet with a pretty lady. [Insound]
      — Robert R. Calder
jazz  

The Insult That Made a Man Out of Mac, II (Varasto72)
The Insult That Made A Man Out Of Mac (just wanted to write that out in full), veteran Finnish industrial outfit, strip back the machines and discover their inner -– Rammstein. The similarity is uncanny: from the industrial guitars to the screaming, disgusted male voice. It's all so predictable: on "Panic" when the singer, in the quiet section, chants "it's getting harder to breathe", bet that soon there will be an explosion of noise, a screamed exclamation. Subtle differences begin to emerge as the disc progresses but they aren't enough to truly differentiate the band -- songs bounce with shreds of originality, usually in the introduction (as in "Sorry") or the percussion (as with the garbage can drums on "Crawling I Follow"), but always come back to their comfortable home –- melodic industrial rock. At least the band's not afraid of melody, and these songs are tight if not revelatory. The songs were recorded live, and it's a testament to the band's commitment to their art that bones were apparently broken in the process. Maybe not the most original, but still the real deal. [Insound]
      — Dan Raper
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Industrial / Rock / Punk  

.: posted by Editor 8:02 AM