PopMatters home | short takes home | archives

PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases

e-mail print comment

23 June 2006


Nicky Click, You're Already a Member (Crunks Not Dead)
Four words: Nicky Click is awesome. Here's the deal: We've got a riot-grrl wannabe talk-rapping over grime-ish, overly simplistic beats about things that mostly amount to how self-confident she is and why she r0xx0rs. And somehow, it's infectious. There's one song on You're Already a Member that references Dead or Alive, one that covers Soft Cell ("Entertain Me"), and one that pseudo-covers Positive K's "I Gotta Man", except that Nicky switches it to "I Gotta Gal", turning it into something of a lesbian anthem. Sexuality is dealt with frankly and humorously, sometimes a backdrop to a discussion on feelings, sometimes used as a tool to prove how idiotic people can be, as on the hilarious "Two Femme Girls", which features great lines like "Sorry if this fucks with your rigid gay boxes / But I just really like hot femme foxes". The whole thing sounds musically naďve and earnest, while the vocals (particularly when collaborating with other artists) are confident and, well, kinda badass. Nicky's voice might get on your nerves after 20 minutes, but this just might be the most good-natured and straight-up spunky thing you'll hear this summer. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
"Don't Call Me Baby": [M4A]
"Contact Comfort": [M4A]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Pop  

The Go! Team, Audio Assault Course: The College Radio Sessions (Columbia)
The Go! Team's debut full-length Thunder, Lightning, Strike had its share of smart composition and unique arrangements and all that good stuff, but mostly it was just fun, primarily because of the band's energy. You'd expect turning that into live performances (even if in radio stations) would result in a chaotic, excting mix of songs. It doesn't. The music's still more or less there, but instead of turning into something rawer, it just becomes less precise. Maybe the joy of the originals (US or UK) have worn off by now, but even so, it takes a special kind of blah to make a track called "We Just Won't Be Defeated" turn into a flat number. A release like this EP obviously lends itself more toward hardcore fans than toward the average audience, but little besides completism would make this a necessary addition, as the new performances offer little that sheds insight or even that differs in a positive way. The Go! Team still have the songs, the skills, and, presumably, the energy, but those qualities don't comes out on this disc. [Insound]
      — Justin Cober-Lake
multiple songs: [player]
Rock  


The Go! Team - Ladyflash

Leigh Nash, Blue on Blue (Nettwerk)
This former singer from Sixpence None the Richer was at a loss after the band she was in for over half her life was no more. But Leigh Nash hasn't lost that voice that made the band what it was. A little older and wiser, Nash saunters through this album with simple but impressive adult contemporary pop songs such as "Along the Wall" with its soothing, Sarah McLachlan-esque feeling and the poppier "Nervous in the Light of Dawn" that she shines on, bringing to mind 10,000 Maniacs. And she really gets the ball rolling with the mid-tempo but pretty "My Idea of Heaven". Nash can also bring some tension to the table, especially with "Ocean Size Love" that seems to resemble Keane in some respects. And perhaps the greatest thing is how the songs are not overly polished or produced, sounding quite organic and natural, especially with "Never Finish". A couple of songs seem ordinary, including the languid "Angel Tonight" but "Blue" gets back to a rather upbeat blueprint. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Pop  

Roger Davidson, Pensando En Ti (Soundbrush)
Pensando En Ti is an album of rumbas and boleros. It's entirely instrumental, although Armando Manzenero's "Esta Tarde Vi Llover" and "Somos Novios" might remind English-speaking listeners of crooning male voices -- years ago, the two tunes were reworked as Tony Bennet's "Yesterday I Saw The Rain" and Perry Como's "It's Impossible", respectively. Most of the other pieces were composed by Davidson, a pianist who has worked with Latin music before. There's some danzon here, and sometimes a strong hint of tango. The piano swells dramatically in "Mi Sueno"; the trumpet honks and squawks in "Rumba Feliz" and coils cattishly around "La Extrano"; the flute haunts its way through "Mi Amor"; and the percussion is strong in everything. The group swings along with an easy, jazzy flow. This CD is mellow enough for background music, strong enough to be used for ballroom dancing, and intelligent enough to reward closer attention. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
multiple songs: [player]
World / Latin  

.: posted by Editor 6:48 AM


22 June 2006


Dert, Sometimes I Rhyme Slow (Isolated Music)
The proliferation of mash-ups (the illegal, much-derided bastard tracks created when two or more pre-existing songs are combined into one) is old news by now, and for good reason: after the novelty faded (Destiny's Child and Fugazi? Gwen Stefani and the Clash? peanut butter in my chocolate?), people started to realize that, nine times out of ten, these songs were entirely horrible Frankenstein pastiches of slightly-off tempos, conflicting keys, and painful, glitchy noise. Now that mash-ups are an art form like any other, apparently requiring skill,, horror of all horrors, it's the rare mash-up that actually survives Sturgeon's Revelation with any modicum of success. Dert succeeds with his latest disc, cleverly termed a "remixtape", sheerly through skill. The concept is interesting but nothing truly inspired: Dert cuts guitar work from José González's latest album Veneer into unconventional acoustic hip-hop beats, then matches them to rap a cappellas of Dert's choice, which means a lot of Kanye West, some Common and Talib, and single tracks from the likes of MF DOOM, Game, Aceyalone, and Nas. The nine tracks here are, without exception, exceptional, taking their distinctively "hip-hop" counterparts and replacing the bustle and bounce of their original production with gorgeous guitar loops. Not only are Dert's González-sampling beats simply beautiful, but they handle percussion in an interestingly subdued style for hip-hop and highlight the spare power of the vocals, exposing and drawing attention to the rappers' voices -- word has it that González himself was impressed with Dert's remixing. Kanye's ubiquitous "2 Words" undergoes a startling transformation, the socially-conscious lyrics coming across angrier and rawer over the cleaner guitar loop and the slowly-paced gospel choir sounding entirely different; Nas's classic "One Love" is sped up into a quickly-paced, nimble new animal of a song. José González's light, soft vocals are used for the chorus here, completely altering the feel, and when Q-Tip does cut in with "one love, one love", it sounds surreal, disembodied: a floating echo in a foreign landscape of quiet. In a fair world, this disc would be entirely legal, and Dert would be fully recognized for his accomplishments: namely, through the oft-belittled art of the mash-up, changing the way that hip-hop can sound. [Insound]
      — Michael Frauenhofer
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Hip-hop  

women in docs, Under a Different Sky (Baria)
Like k.d. lang and bell hooks, women in docs eschew capitalization in their name. But a much closer reference point is the Indigo Girls, with whom this Australian folk duo shares a propensity for lovely vocal harmonizing over subtle melodies. Sometimes the melodies are bit too subtle, however, drifting into blandness, and these women also share with the Girls a tendency for lyrical triteness. At times this can prove useful; the sweetly uncynical "Supermarket" contemplates "falling for someone who'd like my mum and dad" and even "drink my soy milk with me." The earnest cuteness can only go so far, though; the world was just fine without a song about The Ricky Lake Show, thanks. The album actually picks up as it goes, with most of the best songs on the second half: the radio-ready "Fade Away", the upbeat new-wavery of "Noise Pollution", and closer "The Lovey Song", which pulls off the unlikely feat of retaining listener attention for seven minutes with dreamy "la da de da da da" vocals warmly sung by a choir. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
song samples": [CD Baby]
Country / folk  

Eden's Fall, Harmony of Lies (Nothingheart)
These days, it seems the American metal bands who attract the most attention are the extreme-oriented innovators, the sludgy doom bands, and the scores of metalcore sound-alikes, while more unfashionable acts are left to pursue their careers below the radar of the trend-hoppers. Old school thrash and power metal couldn't be more uncool these days (just ask Nevermore, who never get their due), but they carry on, including Chicago's Eden's Fall, whose new album is a fine amalgam of the late '80s melodic thrash of Metal Church and Testament, and the more aggressive modern sound of Nevermore and Arch Enemy. Guitars alternate between crushing, crunching riffs and more dexterous, melodic movements, while vocalist John Barr shows he can bark like Phil Anselmo and deliver melodies like Warrell Dane. Produced by Swedish producer extraordinaire Dan Swanö, it's the kind of melodic aggression that goes over huge in Scandinavia, best exemplified by the first-rate, politically fueled "Blur the Lines" and "Bleed", a taut exercise in modern power metal dynamics. [Insound]
      — Adrien Begrand
"Blur the Lines": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Metal / Thrash  

Amalea Tshilds, Painted Tiles (Fall Fan)
Amalea Tshilds has a very haunting, precious vocal that seems to mix the best of Grey DeLisle and Emmylou Harris on the slow, gorgeous, dirge-ish opener "Distant Town". From there, the album takes a slightly different, upbeat tone with the jangle-y and somewhat trippy "Parachute", but "To the Ground" is another slow, old-school country tune that is quite pleasing and soothing, sounding a bit like Caitlin Cary in some respects. "Your Arms" however veers into a lush, lullaby area best suited for Juliana Hatfield as does the tender "Same Still Things" with its subtle guitar licks accenting the tune. The album throws a curve ball initially, making one think it is alt.country, but it's far more pop influenced judging by a light, airy jazz-tinted ditty like "Blue". Then she throws another gem entitled "Flood" that recalls the likes of Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner or The Handsome Family. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Singer-Songwriter / Folk  

.: posted by Editor 8:27 AM


21 June 2006


No-Man, All The Blue Changes - An Anthology 1988-2003 (Hidden Art)
This British group has made five albums and has rolled with the various music industry punches that have come their way. Led primarily by Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson, No-Man has created a lovely, reflective anthology of music beginning with the pretty and precious "Pink Moon" with Bowness laying down some great if minimal vocals. And musically they are running the gamut, with the trip-hop-meets-violin feel of "Colours" shining through effortlessly while "Days in the Trees" sounds like a hipper version of Robbie Williams' "Angels" that grows and grows. The backbeat is at the core of most of these tunes, including the groovy and yet gritty "Walker" and the Depeche Mode-ish "Road". And Disc One is highlighted by a 10-minute "Heaven Taste" that brings to mind something Enigma might attempt. Just as stellar is the atmospheric, electro-rock of "Simple" and the bittersweet "Things Change". As for Disc Two, the group nails the opening "Pretty Genius" that could have come off the Dead Presidents soundtrack and the soothing "Photographs in Black and White" and gorgeous "My Revenge on Seattle" are equally pleasing. Other highlights include "Carolina Skeletons" and "Returning Jesus" but "Only Rain" might be the only clunker here. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
"Back to the Burning Shed": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock / Prog-Rock  

Crooked Roads, Heartbreak Sampler (self-released)
On Heartbreak Sampler, Crooked Roads dishes out a 10-course pu pu plattering of heartache, loneliness, and general world-weariness. Chris Dingman, the singer-song writer behind Crooked Roads, keeps from completely giving in to the despair through humor and an oddly hopeful introspection. On "Too Long" with the lines "I look at the wall where her picture used to go/I think about putting it back and that's when I really know/that it's been too long since someone's known what I mean" you know he has recovered and is ready for that next heartbreak. "Long White Robe" is a fiddled square dance around references to fucking creepy angels while touting his own religious revival. The plaintive plainspoken lyrics and out of kilter vocals run counter to the commanding instrumental arrangements. The opener "Tell Me Again" starts with a lone guitar, but interweaves fiddles and harmonicas stacked on top of pedal steels and wurlitzers. Dingman rhetorically summarizes his music with "What if Hank Williams listened to the Beatles?" Those are lofty comparisons, but Heartbreak Sampler does manage to satisfyingly apply a pop sensibility to admirably honest writing that, on its own, could be the end of you. [Insound]
      — Alexa Lim
multiple songs: [MP3]
Country  

Various Artists, Punk Goes '90s (Fearless)
Want one objective reason why the '90s were superior to this decade? When Nirvana released Nevermind in 1991, the United States was not afraid of a baby's penis. In these post-Nipplegate Bush years, we apparently can't handle such a sight. Either that or Fearless Records is too cowardly to risk evangelical wrath, because the Mohawked baby on the cover of this miserable covers album has a convenient title covering his genitalia. The music itself is wretched, and it's hard to say which is worse: the unimaginative song selection, or the abysmal performances. Plain White T's play Blur's "Song #2" as if covers are supposed to carbon-copy the originals, but at least their bland approach hits the right chords; Gym Class Heroes can't even begin to handle the complexities of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge". These have all been done before: 1000 Mona Lisas punked up "You Outta [sic] Know" a decade before the Killing Moon, and they even spelled it right; Scary Kids Scaring Kids give "Losing My Religion" a feeble screamo makeover that would run hiding from Tesco Vee's Hate Police's much-earlier version. A few tracks actually show some life, but even then the originals are mediated by an extremely limited pop-punk framework and scraped bare of their emotional resonance: So They Say reinvent Nirvana's "In Bloom" as a chant for all the young dude brahs, and Hit the Lights pare the Gin Blossoms' great "Hey Jealousy" down into a peppy anthem. Only Bleeding Through's heavy take on Hum's "Stars" and Eighteen Visions' punishing run through Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People" save this turkey from a big round zero. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
Cartel, "Wonderwall": [MP3]
Mae, "March of the Pigs": [MP3]
Punk  

Various Artists, Supa Dups and Power 96 Present: Dancehall Nice Again 2006 (Sequence)
It should be fairly obvious right from the start that nobody is going to go home, turn this album on, and actively listen. Analyzing the lyrics, absorbing the music, taking something away from it emotionally. Dancehall as a musical form is built around, well, dancing, and with the recent compilation Dancehall Nice Again 2006 popular dancehall artist Supa Dups mixes together 19 bouncy tracks from 26 artists in total, creating a shiny and glossily danceable disc that won't disappoint those looking for new, catchy vibes to move along to. Not unexpectedly given the involvement of radio station Power 96, most of the biggest names in dancehall make appearances, from Sean Paul, Beenie Man, and Shaggy to Bounty Killer, Sizzla, and Jah Cure, and they perform up to usual standards over their synthy backing riddims. This is targeted directly at a relatively specific audience -- dancehall fans who want their favorite new hits on one shiny disc -- and it accomplishes its goals well without really doing anything beyond them. It's competently catchy, flashy, and in the end sort of empty -- like most dance music. The cover photo model stares out blankly, her bikini glistening gold-gaudy and her skin airbrushed shiny but her face remaining almost entirely emotionless. [Insound]
      — Michael Frauenhofer
Dancehall  

.: posted by Editor 7:55 AM


20 June 2006


Paik, Monster of the Absolute (Strange Attractors)
Detroit's transcendent psyche threesome -- Rob Smith, Ali Clegg and Ryan Pritts -- hammer repeated patterns into distorted mandalas, in this fifth full-length's obliteratingly loud, murkily beautiful soundscapes. "Phantoms" slips in and out of rock conventions, its wickedly spiked guitar line running in clockwork-precise away from the drums and bass, then ducking precipitously earthward in a two-note nose-dive. Drums push to the foreground late in the cut, every beat making space for ponderous fills and ritual crashes. Dense, wall-to-wall textures billow through "Snakeface" where eighth-note shifting guitar patterns emerge from a resonant MBV-ish dirge. This disc, which will appeal to fans of Bright, Kinski, Bardo Pond, Yume Bitsu and other deafening but beauty-enraptured psychedelicists, peaks with the title cut. This nearly 10-minute meditation pits the transparently gorgeous guitar notes against the murky howl of feed-back. It is indeed a monster, and indeed a statement of absolutes. [Insound]
      — Jennifer Kelly
"Phantoms": [MP3]
Rock / Space Rock  

Chop Chop, Chop Chop (Archenemy)
Chop Chop is Catherine Cavanagh and Christy Chang (enough c's for ya?), electro-pop nerds of the highest order. Their debut, self-titled album is melodic, quirky and highly likeable. Over an accompaniment of a wide variety of electronic effects, Cavanagh's voice spouts venom with the petite inflexion of a smoother PJ Harvey. The lyrics, which are violent or lovelorn in a cartoonish way, occasionally give the same thrill of the swear in Amiel's "Lovesong": "I think you used to love me / But not since you killed my boy" on "Blood Bath", or "I ate him for breakfast / But he was kinda gamey" on "Motherfucker Been Pissing Me Off". Occarionally, loops of guitar noise recall the Avalanches' recent remix of Wolfmother, but there's really no malicious intent in any of these songs, just sweetness. Other experimentations, such as the wobbly "My Excuses, My Emily", don't work so well, as Cavanagh's pretty voice is covered in a voice-altering effect making her sound like a choir of goblins. [Insound]
      — Dan Raper
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Pop  

DJ Drama & Yo Gotti, I Told You So [mixtape] (self-released)
Sometimes I wonder why CDs like this ever even get sent to PopMatters for review. I Told U So, the latest mixtape (and "a Gangsta Grillz extra" -- prestigious indeed) from rapper Yo Gotti with DJ Drama, has a few very specific goals which it sets out to achieve. And by those standards, it is most undeniably a success. Does it help to build Yo Gotti's rep and keep his name out there for his new album? Yes, it does. In fact, if you believe everything he says, this mixtape cements Yo Gotti's status as the "New King of Memphis". Musically, though, does it achieve its goals? Yet again, unequivocally, yes. Yo Gotti comes across as menacing, threatening, and intimidating, and he mutters various gangsta-isms involving cash, drug sales, and heavy use of the word "nigga" just as well as most other aspiring kingpins putting out mixtapes. Gotti's fanbase will move to these "street"-tough bangers, thrill to his Three 6 Mafia disses, and admire his killer ice on the album cover, but the problem for the rest of us nevertheless remains: artistically, I Told U So is entirely unexceptional. Some of the tracks are somewhat memorable: "25 Years to Life" has some nice sped-up sampling, and the beat on "Industry Niggas" is a wonderfully ominous, chaotic rush of dystopian-future confusion. Even so, they're few and far between on this sprawling 80-minute 23-tracker. Then again, I doubt Yo Gotti will care: he'll get his money, he'll buy his jewelry, and he'll put out another disc. That's all that matters, right? [Insound]
      — Michael Frauenhofer
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Hip-hop  

Quietdrive, When All That's Left Is You (Epic)
Cited as one of the up and comers for 2006, Quietdrive seem to have some things going for it with "Rise from the Ashes", but it's a criminally slick and massively produced song that manages to work thanks to the urgency found within. The guitar work of Matt Kirby and Justin Bonhiver are fine and it's a great start. "Get Up" though is a winding, mid-tempo ditty that sounds like a paltry Jimmy Eat World or Blink 182. It's the simple, melodic power pop of "Take a Drink With Me" that could be a late summer gem with a rather mammoth chorus. The lone drawback is how it leaves you wanting more. Fortunately "Let Me Go In" shines, even if it more of the mellow, mid-tempo Hoobastank-ish fodder. "Rush Together" is a power pop-by-numbers tune that takes forever to get going. The album's second half is a hit and miss string of mediocrity though, with "I Lie Awake" being quite sappy and blasé. The lone highlight of "Side B" is "The Seasons" which packs some nice punch and pizzazz. The lowlight? Without question a cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time". It's not meant to be power pop, my good men! [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock / Alternative Pop  

.: posted by Editor 8:40 AM


19 June 2006


The Reavers, Terror Firma (Backwoodz Studioz)
The Reavers are a true hip-hop supergroup, and as a quick glance at the album art confirms, they aren't here to joke around. The cover depicts them armed with guns, grenades and bombs as flames burn near oil towers and planes crash into buildings in the background, while the inside artwork features such things as a color-coded diagram of the colonization and liberation of Africa. They're equally serious when they get down to lyricism, and the eleven-man collective (consisting of such MCs as Vordul Mega, Akir, and two Monsta Island Czars) is every bit as impressive as expected. Theirs is not the mission of Public Enemy, wide-eyed sirens and urgency and action now now now; rather, the Reavers see the world's mess of problems with a more modern twist. Theirs is the voice of the age of uncertainty, where terrorists kill helpless innocents and the governments fighting the terrorists can often be just as unsympathetic. Over stellar beats like the jaunty bounce of "Slums" and the passionately keening strings of "Shadows", in between striking vocal samples from speeches and even Langston Hughes -- "I, too, sing America / I am the darker brother" -- the Reavers flow tightly and desperately their difficult questions with impossible (invisible) answers. There's no clear solution in sight, but they at least muster the courage to confront the brutality of life unblinkingly. "Life is so goddamn hard," they repeat on "Scoundrels", voices cracking with emotion and effort. We can believe them. [Insound]
      — Michael Frauenhofer
"America": [MP3]
"Dusted": [MP3]
"Slums": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Hip-hop  

Cheb I Sabbah, La Ghriba: La Kahena Remixed (Six Degrees)
La Kahena, Cheb I Sabbah's 2005 album, whose tracks are used as the starting point for La Ghriba's 11 remixes, was built around North African chants and women's voices singing long Arabic notes. Parts of it were quick, but, overall, it was a serene, sweet-natured piece of work. La Ghriba is faster, deeper, clubbier, grabbier, more varied. It starts with DJ Sandeep Kumar's bhangra remix of "Toura Toura", laced with the vigourous dot-and-doip of the tabla and jazzed along by the usual bhangra shout: "Hey! Hey! Hey!" Hands in the air. Bounce, everybody! The Moroccan group Fnaďre turn "Sadats" into a chugging piece of gnawa, heavy and grainy, with added rapping. The original gentle trance of "Alker Illa Doffor" disappears under Bassnectar's rapid handclaps and wet, fat squelches. In a lot of these remixes the vocal tracks from the first album are buried or chopped into blurts, but Bill Laswell, one of Sabbah's old associates, makes Cheba Zahouania's voice the pivot around which "Esh 'Dani, Alash Mshit" spins. La Ghriba seems stronger when you have La Kahena to compare it to, but even on its own it's a solid piece of work. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Electronic  

Freegas, Serious Music For Serious People (self-released)
Whenever an album has the word "serious" in its title, you really don't know what to expect. But there is not a lot of seriousness here, with Freegas sounding like a Southern roots version of Cake or Beck for "Arrested". It's funky but not memorable despite the handclaps and good-times feel. They try to head down a whispery, old-school, slow-dance road that sounds like a cross between The Beach Boys and Ricky Nelson for "When I'm Bad". A much better effort is "Starve The Beast" with a sweet, pop style that sounds like The Aislers Set while "Fight!" is ordinary at best, a song that seems like an offshoot of "Smoke On The Water". Musically it's all over the map with the honky tonkin' "Love My Baby" and rockabilly "Rootin' Tootin'" being the polar opposite of some songs here. The biggest knock though is that perhaps all but one or two of these songs might be worth hearing again, with "Nantucket" nothing but a waste of time. Only "Spring Jacket" and the powerful "Santiago" have some redeeming quality to it on the second half. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Pop / Rock  

Cobalt Party Revolution, OK Consumer (Medea)
Cobalt Party Revolution starts its album like a band ready to tear it up, but after that, at least two-thirds of their name doesn't apply. The album title seems like a political or artistic challenge, but the group does nothing exciting on either front (and "Lights Camera Satisfaction: Or How I Learned Hollywood Was a Bad Thing" just doesn't have the ring of "Burn Hollywood Burn"). Mixing guitar rock and hip-hop, CPR avoids the obvious potential pitfalls, but they don't push anything. The group bottoms out with "Keep Your Receipt", a car commercial jingle in another world that Sublime would have had the sense to keep off a b-side collection. [Insound]
      — Justin Cober-Lake
"Slave to the Groove": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Hip-hop  

.: posted by Editor 8:20 AM