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20 July 2006


Black Moth Super Rainbow, Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods (Graveface)
The opening of Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods rises out of the silence with the sticky intensity of a hot summer thunderstorm. It gathers itself together, as thunderstorms do, thickens, and then lets loose with crashing sheets of rain. Turn up the volume and you're engulfed. The album is short but it pushes a lot of action and heat into 25 minutes. It's a psychedelic mixture of gong, flute, drum, and analog synthesiser, recorded onto tape and then pieced together on computers. Every piece of the minimal singing has been fed through vocoders, dragged out, and made to echo, bleed, and vibrate until it sounds barely human. (The distortion is so pronounced that it took me a while to realise that the lyrics to the first song are, "Lost, picking flowers in the woods", repeated four or five times.) Despite the absence of acoustic sound the album seems organic. The way it was put together has left it stippled with analog fur, and the headstrong energy of its progress gives it the charge of a natural force. Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods is a strong piece of work. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
"Lost, Picking Flowers in the Woods": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Pop / psychedelic  

Bill Madden, Gone (Madmuse)
With some help from musicians like Billy Mohler from the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex (and Mr. Chamberlin himself), Bill Madden moulds a rich string of warm, roots-y, singer-songwriter pop. This is indicative on the shining opener "Weight of His Words" that is a mid-tempo, adult contemporary gem. Madden outdoes himself with the adorable, cuddly "Path of the Heart" or the winding, ambling and trippy "What in the World" that brings to mind Tom Petty circa Wildflowers. Even the starker "Might Have Been" has a dreary tone with Madden at times speaking the lines more than singing them. There's an earnestness or honesty in the singer's voice that makes "Friend" glide along almost too nicely. Think of Dylan at an earlier time and you would get the gist of this nugget. "Gone" has him channeling Lenny Kravitz though and "Art of Being" is a quirky, spacey bit of pop rock that misses the mark. But the folksy, haunting "Awful Good" atones for those less-than-great moments. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [stream]
Singer-songwriter  

Rauhan Orkesteri, Sylissäin Oot (Ache)
Wild... two saxophones alternating flute or ocarina, double bass, and percussion even mightier behind a roaring siren of reed unison, this Finnish set of free music has its quieter moments: the wind players drop out during performances, and three performances are by a bass and percussion duo. The atmosphere's often rustic, with strange bells and other peculiar percussion items or uses of percussion items. Occasional vocalisations sometimes use wind instruments, some not, often suggesting creatures of folktale and fairytale. Electronica is sterile, dull by comparison. Sometimes a there's a notion of a few dozen piping pixies, with an exiled bass virtuoso gigging at one of their weekend dances. Delightful innocent engrossment, and the occasional squabble, so that after a squawky rejoinder the listener produces a "you don't say!" "Woo-hoo!" one participant exclaims just as it's clear some curious clicks are being made on a saxophone reed. Is this a Pygmy war-dance I hear? Scenes from the Kalevala, Finno-Ugrian saxophony with churning cymbals and drums as if the little folk were going to stream forth from their mounds and take over some hostelry. And carry on arguing among the beer-taps. There are certainly examples of building momentum, and a lot of sounds I've not heard before. If these comments don't warn you off you might regard them as a recommendation. The band name translates as Peace Orchestra. Lively. [Insound]
      — Robert R. Calder
Jazz / Free jazz  

Ashley MacIsaac, Pride (Koch)
Nova Scotia native Ashley MacIsaac made a name for himself as an energetic fiddle player who combined traditional music with a punk sensibility to create energetic and infectious folk roots music. He achieved international success as a relatively young man. His 1992 debut album sold hundreds of thousands of copies, and he headlined folk festivals around the world. Since then, MacIsaac has made a handful of albums in a host of styles from electronic ambient to heavy metal. He's also behaved a bit weirdly in concert and in the press, most famously for lifting his kilt (with nothing on underneath) while performing on Conan O'Brian's TV program and telling a magazine interviewer about his sexual fascination with urination while MacIsaac was running for public office in Canada. MacIsaac's latest album is a rockin' affair and aims to shock, with couplets like "I wanna kill you/because I love you," "You took the gun/from my head" and "You're a bitch/so I want you". The problem is, MacIsaac's not very clever and while he aims for Ramones-like stoopid, he frequently comes across as just dumb. The music is meant to be grating, but it irritates more than buzzes. MacIsaac offers some crunchy moments, such as on his tribute to Patti Smith, "Sick of Rock and Roll," but not enough of them. [Insound]
      — Steven Horowitz
multiple songs: [streaming]
World / Celtic  

The Povertyneck Hillbillies, The Povertyneck Hillbillies (Rust Nashville)
I'd been hoping for something a little more rugged from this Pittsburg-based seven-piece. Something a little unshaven and mildly hungover, perhaps. Something just a little pissed off at the world. Instead, the Povertyneck Hillbillies are all mainstream pop country keen to suck corporate dick on Nashville's Music Row. Here a little Terri Clark, there are a little Mark Willis, everywhere a whole heap of Dierks Bentley. Hamfisted anthem, "The Hillbilly Way" leans towards Montgomery Gentry, and falls over. "Kinda Cool, Ain't It?" recalls Chris Cagle. And so on and so forth. There's nothing here to say the Povertyneck Hillbillies won't eventually come up with something as likeable and successful as their sources. But there's nothing here yet that cuts that mainstream mustard. [Insound]
      — Roger Holland
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Country  

.: posted by Editor 7:14 AM


19 July 2006

Sodom, Sodom (SPV)
Germany's Sodom was never the most innovative band of the '80s thrash metal era, but when they were in peak form, as on 1987's excellent Persecution Mania, they were every bit as deserving of the same amount of attention their countrymen in Kreator and Destruction were receiving at the time. For the majority of their career, though, the band tended to coast along, recording decent, formulaic thrash well after the fad had run its course. Yet still, here they are more than 20 years later, churning out one of the year's most pleasant metal surprises. As per usual, there's nothing new at all going on here, but unlike the music of a bunch of young hacks, bassist/vocalist Tom Angelripper and his mates show the kind of charisma on the record that only a bunch of cagey veterans can do. "Blood on Your Lips" and "Buried in the Justice Ground" confidently toss in melodic riffs that get stuck in your head, while "Wanted Dead" and "Lords of Depravity" drip with the kind of rage we heard on Slayer's God Hates Us All five years ago. Top (Deutsch) marks for the mid-album triumvirate of "City of God", "Bibles and Guns", and "Axis of Evil" during which our man Angelripper launches an unflinching assault on Bush's America. Like Motorhead, Sodom hasn't, and never will change, and while it all may get a bit redundant from time to time, all it takes is an impassioned album like this one to remind us how good they can be. [Insound]
      — Adrien Begrand
"Buried in the Justice Ground": [stream]
Metal  


Sodom - Nuclear Winter

Beth Thornley, My Glass Eye (Stiff Hips)
Singer-songwriter Thornley has an undeniable capacity for big hooks and clever wordplay ("Why fall for the bull if you could get the matador," she asks at one point). But too much of My Glass Eye begs to play in the background as some naïve adolescent learns the hard facts of love on a WB series -- for that matter, Thornley's songs have already been licensed for several such instances, including Dawson's Creek. It's commendable that she strives for sonic breadth, trying everything from the synth-scuzz Garbageisms of "Mr. Lovely" to the bland piano ballad "You're Right Where" to the bluesy detour "Birmingham." In her willingness to purge her songs of the sharp idiosyncrasies that would make her a better songwriter but probably a poorer one, though, Thornley embraces a sterile lyrical landscape a bit too often. A gratuitous Beatles cover ("Eleanor Rigby") doesn't help, though Joe Jackson's "Got the Time" is a decent choice. Still, Thornley's cynical, anti-romantic outlook meshes with a memorable chorus often enough (as on the sharp "Once") to make My Glass Eye somewhat rewarding in itself, and certainly reflective of greater promise. [Insound]
      — Whitney Strub
full album: [stream]
Singer-songwriter  

Thee More Shallows, Monkey Vs Shark (Turn)
I had it in my head that Thee More Shallows were some kind of garage rock band -- I think due to their dignified band name, but tisn't the case. Even their cheeky album art, with its depiction of a monkey bitchslapping a shark, corroborated that false impression. But, as evidenced by this new EP, the Shallows belong more to the sullen computer science class with Grandaddy and the Flaming Lips. Dubbed as something like "an appendix" to their 2005 full length More Deep Cuts, this release seems geared to notify the uninitiated that Thee More Shallows are a band to pay attention to. Despite garnering breathless praise from Time Out London and others, Thee More Shallows aren't quite the household name that More Deep Cuts warranted. As far as Monkey Vs Shark goes, its seven gristly songs pulse and throb with both kinetic energy and leaden moroseness. This is night music, stuff that sounds better in dark places for dark moods. The title track is the standout of the bunch, twitching seductively like a bedroom elegy. Quirky and haunting, Thee More Shallows make good to keep things unpredictable in spite of their limited sonic palette. They even include an Al Green cover, which suffice to say, doesn't sound a whole lot like Al Green. Whether or not More Deep Cuts enjoys a delayed rise from obscurity like the Notwist's Neon Golden, this postscript definitely points to more good things coming from San Francisco's Thee More Shallows. [Insound]
      — Liam Colle
"I Can't Get Next to You": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock  


Thee More Shallows - I Can't Get Next to You

Bazza, Freezer; a Folk Opera Based on the Book "Freezer Burn" (Bobbin Shop)
Bazza has had a career of his own invention, releasing songs at a rate usually only seen in manic depressives -- three thousand at last count. Now here's my dilemma. I respect the hell out of him in principle, but I absolutely struggled to get through Freezer. It's two discs long, and its primary musical unit is the strum. Not a fancy strum, not an energetic strum, just a plain up-and-down strum-strum-strum-strum of the kind you might play if you were still learning the guitar. Each song describes an incident from Joe R. Lansdale's book and some of them need pruning. (There was no need to spend two songs and two growly spoken-word excerpts on the advent of a whirligig, the question of who will paint the whirligig, and the accident that occurs while the whirligig is being painted. One would have been fine.) There's an outsider vibe here but Bazza is too sane to be fully Outside -- he's more like half-outside, one leg caught in the window. If lit-folk is what you're after then you'd be better off with The Handsome Family. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
"Like a Giant James Dean": [MP3]
"Whirligig": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MP3]
Rock  

Bump, Incredible Consequences (self-released)
Bump, from Detroit, flits from style to style on this polished debut, with bouncy mid-tempo rockers, extravagant jazz fusion solos and earnest ballads sitting in close proximity. Guitar work is particularly skilled -- see the Satriani-checking meltdown midway through the multi-parted "Concrete Lullaby -- and production is smooth. Best cuts include the jittery "Last Chance" and the treble-synthed "The More I See", where inventive instrumental tracks get equal weight with the run-of-the-mill singing. The foursome's love of 1970s and 1980s FM radio staples, comes through elsewhere in cheesy top 40 vocals. "Oblique" is particularly painful; no one but Lou Rawls could ever pull off that spoken word over soul orchestra trick. [Insound]
      — Jennifer Kelly
multiple songs: [official site]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / rock  


Bump - Sunrise

.: posted by Editor 5:30 AM


18 July 2006


Edu K, Illegal (Man Recordings)
Due to the fact that Edu K's Illegal is a mashup album with White Stripes and Michael Jackson (and others, we'll get there), I'm thinking the title may well be an accurate representation of the legality of this EP, but like those original As Heard on Radio Soulwax mixes let's overlook that little aspect for the fun. So forget the really limited appeal of mashups, their novelty and simplicity -- I've a feeling Edu K knows this full well. He's just out to have some fun. Now for "K", fun = sex, so we have "Sex-O-Matic" (Edu K's tenor-chanting Portugese rap over "Zombie Nation"), "Sexxx-O-U" ('80s hit "I.O.U" by Freeez with the same sing-song rap/spoken word style). The "Blue Orchid" mashup -- well, it's all about the riff, of course, and the vocal style's the same every song, but K's baile funk adds a genuine party flavour. Either way, here's a suggestion: if you're throwing a party, stick "Bundalele Baile Jean" in the middle of the playlist and just see what happens. [Insound]
      — Dan Raper
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Hip-hop  

Middle Distance Runner, Plane in Flames (Middle Distance Runner)
If careers were built on youthful charm, the members of Middle Distance Runner would already be stars in their own right. There's a distinctly young vivacity to the songs on their debut, Plane in Flames. From the handclaps that kick things off on opener "Naturally" to the chiming, pining "Up in a Tree", there's a sense of wide-eyed fun running throughout the disc. Not that everything here is sunshine and roses -- "Switch It Up" and "The Madness" infuse the disc with some darkness, and "Out of Here" injects a little Radiohead-lite desperation into the mix. Moreover, Middle Distance Runner goes out of its way to flex its muscles and display some diversity, with "Man of the People" tossing in some Hives-like garage rock, "Shoot the Shit" cribs a little Soundtrack of Our Lives, "Hooks" comes over as a blippy-to-anthemic Postal Service nod, while "That's a Lie" ends things on a Jesus and Mary Chain wall of guitars. But one of the most impressive aspects of this disc is that it's a self-produced affair. Erik Dean does a surprisingly good job of mixing this disc to highlight the songs' various strengths, and the whole affair is surprisingly confident and well-structured for a personally realized project. Ultimately, Plane in Flames is a strong debut from a band that proves it has the chops, if not quite yet the distinctive identity, to be a great indie rock band. [Insound]
      — Patrick Schabe
multiple songs: [MySpace]
multiple songs: [streaming]
Indie / rock  

Pink Skull, Blast Yr Akk (Tone Arm)
The members of Pink Skull call themselves postpunkpsychedelicdiscohouse pioneers. Besides the fact that such a label is bound to muck with line wraps everywhere, it sounds to me like they're a band in search of an identity. Blast Yr Akk is the debut full-length CD from the band (at least, they're calling it a full length, even though it doesn't even quite hit the half-hour mark), and it goes in the house direction at first, but then it jaunts into ambient, and yes, the post-punk influence shines through, and oh, why not finish it with a Roxy Music cover? That last is a surprisingly faithful cover of the excellent "In Every Dream Home a Heartache" (here without the "a Heartache"), and the Pink Skull treatment is one of sparse drum work and distorted synths, and the album's sole appearance of sung vocals, which sound oddly like Leonard Cohen. Along with "In Every Dream Home", the disc's other highlight also doubles as the best song title I've seen this year: "If You Know Can, Then I Guess You Really Know Music". A solid beat and a building wall of synths actually manages to recall some of Can's more experimental moments, making this reviewer a happy man. There are ambient bits ("Grand Viziers After Party"), and there are dance-y bits (opener "In Touch"), but nothing sticks around long enough to make an impression. Pink Skull is confusing. Perhaps its members intended it that way, but the result is an album that floats by without ever leaving a distinct impression. Well, except for that one title. [Insound]
      — Mike Schiller
"If You Know Can, Then I Guess You Really Know Music": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Electronic / House  

Amy Speace, Songs for Bright Street (Wildflower)
Joan Collins is a folkie at heart, so it's not a huge surprise that she can spot talent. One of her label's finds is Amy Speace. And Speace makes the most of the opportunity thanks to some great songwriting and a talented, seasoned supporting cast that includes Gary Louris of The Jayhawks and Golden Smog as well as Soozie Tyrell, known for her work recently with a certain Mr. Springsteen. "Step Out Of The Shade" sets things off on the right foot as she mixes some pop with some folk and a touch of alt.country. She also touches on some adult contemporary ground with "Water Landing" that is rather reflective but "Not The Heartless Kind" sounds like a light version of Lucinda Williams as does the sultry slow dance of "Shed This Skin". A much better effort is the simpler, acoustic folk entitled "Two" that is easily comparable to British folk singer Kate Rusby. The rowdy and raunchy "The Real Thing" is the real honky-tonk barroom kind of thing. But the first real highlight is the slow, Celtic-tinged waltz-y "Make Me Lonely Again" that is primarily guitar and sweet vocal. A surprise is a solid, old-school country revamping of Blondie's "Dreaming" which is sure to get your attention. Other pleasers are the slow but very pretty country folk of "Row Row Row" and the toe-tapping "Double Wide Trailer". [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
"Step Out of the Shade": [M3U]
"Not the Heartless Kind": [M3U]
Singer-songwriter  

Various Artists, Imaginational Anthem Volume 2 (Tompkins Square)
The first Imaginational Anthem volume was a striking acoustic guitar collection that pulled together legendary performers with nearly forgotten should-be legends and the younger guitarists following in their footsteps. Just as engaging, Volume 2 follows that same pattern, but with an almost completely different cast of characters. The emphasis is on rare and new tracks, and there's some fantastic ones. And while the finger-picking style associated in the general consciousness with John Fahey is still the dominant way of playing here, the collection ultimately showcases quite a diverse array of approaches, including the aggressive yet gentle style of Fred Gerlach, Micheal Chapman's bluesy melancholy, and the dark open atmospheres created by Christina Carter (of Charalambides). Overall it's an impressive showcase of guitar talent, present and past. [Insound]
      — Dave Heaton
Eclectic  

.: posted by Editor 8:47 AM


17 July 2006


Señor Coconut and His Orchestra, Behind The Mask Remixes 01 / 02 (Essay)
Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Behind the Mask" has been covered at least twice -- once by Eric Clapton, and again, more recently, by Uwe Schmidt, the DJ who calls himself Señor Coconut. Coconut's version is cheesily samba-riffic, and the four remixes on the second of these two 12" records are lighthearted partygoing fun, bubbling with 'eighties technopop overtones. The "Yellow Miami Magic Sound Orchestra Machine" remix from Original Hamster sounds as if its creator has been listening to Kool And The Gang's "Celebration" and taking notes. "Peter Rap Remix" brings in arcade game sound effects and a chorus that follows the singer around like a pack of dippy budgerigars. As for the other 12", Remixes 01, it's mostly taken up by Ricardo Villalobos who keeps the song going for fifteen and a half minutes by pulling the instrumental sections apart and pinning them down with deep, spitty beats, then reintroducing the voice and gradually letting the song reassert itself, shellshocked but refreshed after its dissection. Al Usher fills the flip side with blits and bleeps. Remixes 02 is the kind of disc you can put on and enjoy without thinking while 01 demands more attention, but both are good. [Insound]
      — Deanne Sole
song samples: [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Latin / Electro / Electronica  


Señor Coconut and His Orchestra - Tour de France

Plain White T's, Hey There Delilah (Fearless)
This EP contains a half dozen songs and some videos to boot. And Plain White T's don't take the typical punk rock or power pop approach on this EP beginning with the string-laced, lush title track that brings to mind something Macca might do at some point. It's much better than the live version that has hundreds if not thousands teens singing along. That's quickly put aside though for their bread and butter style with "Easy Way Out" and the frantic, rowdier and mighty fine "Down The Road" that is perfect Warped Tour material. But the highlight of the six comes with "Losing Myself" that builds and builds, bringing to mind the likes of The Odds and Gin Blossoms. While the videos here are okay, the songs on the disc are generally better, with "If I Told You" another power pop nugget. [Insound]
      — Jason MacNeil
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Rock  


Plain White T's - Hey There Delilah

Mike Downey, Adventure, Bless, and Don't Be Sorry (Recordhead/Mr. Whiggs)
As the title indicates, Mike Downey's latest album has an overall theme of exploring the new, of setting aside the past and moving forward into something unexpected and unplanned-for. Lyrically the album looks introspectively towards both past history and the surprises of the present -- songs like "Oh Randomness" and "Event Camera" memorably describe a new relationship and new circumstances through small details. Appropriately echoing this is the way Downey has taken the troubadour-style pop-rock of the two albums he recorded as The National Splits and given it a 2006 upgrade, recording on computer and incorporating loops and beats into his songs. He manages to broaden not just the musical palette but the emotional scope of his songs; they feel deeper and even more resonant, while retaining his knack at a raw, immediate sort of pop melody. With the closing song "I'm an Engineer (And Things Get Weird)" he revisits, and reinvents, a line from a song by his first band Wolfie, bringing his musical story full circle while looking firmly towards tomorrow. [Insound]
      — Dave Heaton
"Oh, Randomness": [MP3]
"Rats Were Comrades": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / pop  

Run Run Run, Endless Winter (Song & Dance)
The group Run Run Run hearkens back to the shoegazer age, which was a short-lived musical era. In fact, the shoegazer description describes the bored musicians that played it, rather than tell you anything about the sound itself. If you sorely miss that shoegazing vibe, the track "Song and Dance", with its slow beat and jangle-y guitar, is this CD's shoegazerist moment of all. But if you want to hear Run Run Run run, if you will, far from such easy categorization, skip straight to "Try". This one chugs along nicely to a Franz Ferdinand power-pop groove. However, if you're looking for something a little quieter, the partially acoustic "2 A.M.", with its hushed keyboards, has your name all over it. Run Run Run is a one group that provides very specialized nostalgia, indeed. [Insound]
      — Dan MacIntosh
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / rock  


Run Run Run - Wait Up For You

Roommate, Celebs EP (Fresh Produce)
A reissue of Brooklynite Kent Lambert's 2002 EP, Celebs was originally made on a dare. And it sounds it. "Hindsight is 20/20" is noteworthy for its attempt to do for Mark David Chapman (John Lennon's assassin) what Sufjan Stevens would later do for John Wayne Gacy. But Lambert is missing the crucial element of empathy that makes Stevens's portrait so haunting. What's left is stream-of-consciousness piano balladry about River Phoenix on "RP" ("I wonder what you would've thought / Of your brother Joaquin in Gladiator"). And the electronic touches sound like, well, someone making music on a dare. [Insound]
      — John Bergstrom
"RP": [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / pop  

.: posted by Editor 8:03 AM