Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Brendan Benson :: The Alternative To Love

Brendan Benson's long awaited third full length release and follow up to 2002's "Lapulco" delivers exactly what fans have come to expect from his records. From start to finish it is an entertaining and catchy offering of contemporary pop/rock songs. Benson is one of those songwriters who is quite bankable in his consistency of high quality, incredibly listenable and enjoyable output. His failing, (if it could be called that), like so many of his peers, is his inability to get the right push from the right label in a steady and sensible way. For if that piece of the puzzle fell into place, he could easily find his name in the same breath as those who speak of Ryan Adams, Josh Rouse, Mathew Sweet, & the Shins.
Yes Bredan Benson is one of those sorely overlooked and underrated songwriters that you've probably never heard - in spite of bouncing from on major to the next over the last decade. "The Alternative To Love" is a joy to experience. Benson's heartfelt and smart lyrics wed his infectious and addictive melodies in a style that is not too polished or overly produced. This record asks you to take no leaps of faith. There are no hurdles to get over. His voice is instantly assimilated and does not stand in the way of his message and melody, like so many of his contemporaries. Fans of his debut release "One Mississippi", (arguably the dustiest pop masterpiece in the virgin records warehouse of tax write-offs), will not be disappointed. "The Alternative To Love" may not raise the bar he set on that record, but it certainly duplicates the feat with a sugary and delightful smoothness and power.

The Alternative to Love

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Doves :: Some Cities

Manchester, UK trio Doves have recently released their third full length record, "Some Cities". It is magnificent in it's simple elegance. Smooth and suave vocals lay down together with excellent production and good taste to create a memorable and fantastic pop record. At times grand, at times fragile and vulnerable, Doves make concise and constructive use of the listener's precious time by generally getting right to the point. Calling on a rich pallet of pop nuance and wonderful Brittish rock and pop idioms to create a smooth riding vehicle for their collective agenda, Doves latest collection of songs bring to mind comparisons to innumerable pop bands, both past and present. The tones and colours are safe and recognizable in the best possible way, but the end result is something unique and invariable additive to the pop's visible spectrum. "Some Cities" offers perhaps, just another alternate version of a wonderfully familiar story.
Give it a listen.

Some Cities

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Chris Church :: Let the Echo Decide

Hidden in the foothills of Western North Carolina is a true treasure. Chris Church is a veteran singer/songwriter who has been releasing great pop records for the last 15 years. The problem is that nobody has ever heard them. "Let the Echo Decide" is a record of great craft, thought, and pop mastery...but in a real North Carolinian way. It's not over produced, which is charming but marks this release to the casual listener as somewhat less polished than those of his contemporaries. Church could easily stand side by side with your Matthew Sweets, Alex Chiltons, or Andy Partridges if he could get his records recorded and produced with a little more pro sounding panache.

That said. The songwriting on "Let the Echo Decide" is excellent. The vocals are strong, seasoned and very compelling. The control that Church has over his material is apparent. This guy is the real thing and though his window is probably closed, this is what America should be looking to idolize. These strengths are worth nurturing not just as an individual, but as a culture. People who really create something, and then have the nuts to put it out and must be forced to have an echo decide their fate are indicative of the tragically plastic music biz of today.

Therefore, "Let the Echo Decide" may be a somewhat negative self-fulfilling prophesy for someone like Chris Church. Certainly, more exposure and a lucky break would ensure way more response than the empty, hollow echo so many of our greatest artists, musicians, craftsmen and thinkers are forced to face in the absense of big tits or a trust fund.

Morally and socially recommended.
buy it NOW from iTunes:

Let the Echo Decide

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dungen :: Ta Det Lugnt

Sweeds! They are taking over Rock! Well, they might as well be. With the groundbreaking strides The Soundtrack of Our Lives has been making in the States of late, the desperate laser beam of Evil propelled by the music industry must certainly turn it's fare-weather gaze towards the fertile grounds of their mother country. But what's there waiting for them is a riddle that must be solved to be enjoyed; a sword that can only be wielded by the righteous. The sword of Dungen
Theatrics aside, "Ta Det Lugnt" is so absolutely great and exciting and fresh and totally Rock & Roll that it sounds like an anachronism. "Could this really be a new record?"

"Ta Det Lugnt" is a complex and beautiful progressive, hard-rock record. At times it resembles even the most blistering of Hendrix freak outs. At times it could easily be mistaken for an early Yes album. And then there is a freshness at play in this music. In the track "Festival", the huge majestic chorus echos a style and feel found in many contemporary indie rock records such as you might see in a release by Arcade Fire, or even Broken Social Scene. Many many different sounds and feels, all captured in a warm timeless fuzzy rock bottle and set to drift into the sea of rock sewage. And yet, as is perhaps the secret to any classic record - it remains at once completly undefinable and instantly understandable in part, but much greater and unforgettable when experienced as a whole. The record is compelling, catchy and epic in it's scope...and I don't understand a word of it. Sung entirely in the native Swedish tongue, it successfully grabs the listener in a place where it just no longer matters what the lyrics are, it just fucking rocks so hard.

On a personal note, I've been living with this record for about 5 months and EVERY SINGLE fan of rock I've shown it to has totally been sucked in. Get this record into your life.
If we rated records, this one would be like 93 thumbs up out of a possible 2.
Available here.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Radar Bros :: The Fallen Leaf Pages

I like to write reviews first thing in the morning typically. This morning it's Monday. I'm a little foggy from a weekend of intense method drinking. Before arriving to work, I managed to have my neighbor's dog jump on me and put two big muddy paw prints on my clean white shirt. Then, as I disembarked for a gainful day, I managed to slam my van into my fiance's honda. This is definitely Monday.
Arriving to work, I stared at my list of records to review and wondered if there was anything there that could possibly help my dismal morning. Ladies and Gentlemen...I give you Radar Bros. This Los Angeles based trio, led by Jim Putnam explore the softer, pinker side of the bloated belly of indie rock. This music is unassuming, charming, warm, and very pleasant. Understated, spot on vocals, creeping tempos, lilting theremin-like keyboard chirps and wails, and tasteful guitars work together in concert with smart, extremely well crafted songwriting to make the kind of record that you could put on just after a car was my case, and feel like it was all gonna be allright.
Much like 2002's "And the Surrounding Mountains", "The Fallen Leaf Pages" blends tones and moods in very much the same way you might find on albums by Sparklehorse, Pink Floyd (Atom Heart Mother through Dark Side of the Moon), The For Carnation, Pernice Brothers, Alan Parson's Project, Grandaddy or even at times like the later work of the Flaming Lips or Mercury Rev. The difference that makes the Radar Bros. shine is there wonderful consistency. Every song, though different from the last, has the same attention to detail. Every song is orchestrated to perfection. Every song stands on it's own. There is no filler or "lo-fi" experimentation. "The Fallen Leaf Pages" is a thinking person's record, made by some thinking people. Definitely a great listen.
Purchase now from iTunes Music store:

Radar Brothers

Friday, April 08, 2005

Animal Collective :: Sung Tongs

Hmmmmmmmmmm. What the fuck? It's like someone creeped into my head and wrote a sound track to a fitfull night's sleep. This record is perplexing and unpredictable. It's moody, mysterious and kinda spooky. Intense vocal orchestration in many of the tracks makes this record instantly unique and at times unsettling. Although Animal Collective have an unwavering melodic pervasiveness that keeps their music from completely derailing, they are given to flights of creative fancy that tend to make the record feel less succinct, less immediate or inspired - but no less effective.

That said, there is something really really different going on here. Something kinda special. Really "left of center" stuff. If you are the least bit adventurous, this record is most certainly worth a dedicated listen. If you are a fan of Brian Wilson's more adventurous stuff, Carl Stalling-esque dramatics, Gastr del Sol's quiet building of sonic landscapes and Simon and Garfunkeled acoustic tones...I'd say "Dude, you might really like Animal Collective.". And I think I'd be right. But fuckin'A - I wouldn't put it on the stereo at a party at the Tri-Delta house during homecoming. That'd be suicide - by god.

Cass McCombs :: Prefection

Burgeoning indie superstar, Cass McCombs has released his latest record "Prefection". Like it's predessessor "A", it is full of charming, moody songs that create and uphold the big lonely world of characters that inhabit them. McCombs's smooth reverberated crooning is in top form on this release. Think My Morning Jacket, but with seemingly more thought put into composition and artistry. Think Lush or The Smiths without the self-consciousnessness and over-production. McCombs is a storyteller. His characters live in a place where the details aren't nearly as important as the sum of their parts.

"Prefection" is a bigger sounding record than his last offering. Songs like "Tourist Woman" come on strong and rougher than many of his past offerings, but leave the listener with the same good feelings. The first single "Sacred Heart" moves McCombs into a new league of sound. It shows a growth in songwriting and composition skills and I'd swear it was the best song The Smiths never wrote. For those of you already in love with Cass, fear not. There is plenty of everything you liked about "A" and the EP "Not the Way". The first track "Equinox" could have been included gracefully on either release. What makes "Prefection" great is that McCombs is very obviously exploring his potential as a great songwriter, while staying very true to what he does best. This is a BEAUTIFUL record from a TALENTED guy. There just aren't enough of those in the world to overlook them when they come along. Recommended.

Purchase now from iTunes and receive the exclusive bonus track: Twins for FREE!


Thursday, April 07, 2005

Arcade Fire :: Funeral

This is The Baron. I don't pipe up often. Only when it is absolutely neccessary (AKA Important).

Just a general plea to all to hop on the overflowing bandwagon. The bandwagon is buckling, leaking at the seams...and for once, we're all on it for the right reason...we chose to...because we believe...the cause is true...the rumors are fact. The Arcade Fire's debut album Funeral is the most important record to come out in recent times.

Not because it sounds like the dream of past greats, not because it blossoms with extended play, not because it is about real feelings captured in real performances, not because the vocal takes smoke, not because it sounds like The Talking Heads and The Rock*a*Teens finest moments (of which there were many), not because it is currently kicking your record's and my record's ass and not because the melodies are classic (because as you might have guessed it embodies all of these things)...

This record is important because it is on fire with the ROCK. This is a rare and sacred piece. I believe in the ROCK. I live for the pure source. Here it is.

I'm not one for details, those are for you to discover. Do not miss this. The Baron has spoken.
Purchase now from:
Black Mountain

A Fir-Ju Well :: Absolutely

A Fir-Ju Well's lastest full length is a stunning and stellar collection of songs. Pulling liberally from an arsenal of classic rock influence, the band reaches past the obvious homages to it's predecessors like The Kinks, The Doors, The Zombies, or The Band into new territory. A Fir-Ju Well seem to be trying to resuscitate rock and roll with their own passion for playing, writing, and rocking. Every song on the record takes you to another wonderful sonic neighborhood. Some full of piss and vinegar, some sugar and spice, but all very real and viceral. There are a few awkward moments, though far less than can be found on their previous records. All in all, a great record with some room for improvement that leaves you feeling like the next one is going to be amazing.
Purchase now from:
Black Mountain

Black Mountain :: s/t

Black Mountain's self titled CD begins with a soulful cacauphonous celebration of slackness called "Modern Music". It's endearing and falls somewhere between a Springsteen anthem and a Pavement experiment. The record really draws the listener in and keeps him guessing. It's heavy, droning, riffs and psychedelic changes of feel and mood really work to it's advantage throughout the entire CD. Both a male and female voice are featured throughout the songs. Overall, the record is heavy, soulful, and very interesting. The songs are long, and probably what most would dub, "Stoner Rock"...but there is a little more at work here. There is a craftsmanship to the songs that may perhaps portend a greater depth than your average riff spitting, bong bubbling drone hounds. Like track 6 boasts, there are "No Hits" on this record, but that is not the surprise. The surprise comes when you realize this record totally rocks precisely because of that fact. Highly recommended.
Purchase Now From:
Black Mountain

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Anna Kramer :: s/t

Anna Kramer's CD begins with a bit of meditative flute...seriously, it does, and then it really starts. Beware, this is pretty much a Country record. It's not Country like the Dixie Chicks are Country. It's Country in the way that my grandmother is, simple, warm, humble, and real. Nevertheless...if you are looking for a slick fix, go elsewhere. It's full of honest and simple reflection posed in the most classic, straightforward, 'no frills' way. It's not a towering monument to craft. It's not the least bit polished, it's not too thought out or belabored. It just kinda is what it is...which is fantastic and raw and at times very beautiful. Recommended

Cadiz :: Breakers

I'm re-listening to a record sent to us here by Cadiz, called "Breakers". If you like Sparklehorse, Green Mind era Dinosaur Jr., Calexico or Mercury Rev then you may find many moments to enjoy on this record. It's lazy, spooky pop. It's the Glands but smoother. It's the Pernice Brothers but rougher. It's very good.
Music and Singing by Robert Lee, formerly of the band King Lear Jet. Lee's sincere, yet ultra relaxed delivery is at once both earnest and coy. Produced by Adam Lasus, the record sounds great. Not too hi-fi, not too lo-fi.
totally worth a listen or two or three.