By The Numbers…

I know- you’re wondering where all the full length reviews are, right?

Why write 1,500 words on one album when I can spread 2,000 words out on 10 at once? Since we’re in an economic downturn, I’m trying to save words like I’m trying to squeeze every penny. And since eMusic changed their rates by adding 200,000 new tracks and getting all “major label” on us; inking a deal to bring on artists from Sony and their subsidiaries Columbia, Epic, RCA and Arista; which now means Springsteen, Miles Davis, Wu-Tang, The Clash, OutKast, et. al.

Now we’ll only be getting 50 downloads a month at $19.99 instead of the 100 for $24.99, effectively raising the 25 cents a song fee to 40 cents per. It’s nice to know someone’s still making a killing when the rest of us are losing our jobs and re-mortgaging our homes and all that awesome stuff you thought wouldn’t happen before something did last September 15th…

…oh, yeah. Music reviews!

Peter Bjorn & John – Living Thing (Almost Gold, 3/31)peter_bjorn-john

Man, that Young Folks song was pretty awesome, huh? It was everywhere back in ’06-’07, I swear you couldn’t swing a cat without hitting that song in the face. Even Kanye sampled it. So did it really take almost three years to make this record? Because I gotta say, Peter, Bjorn and John, that you guys really half-assed it. You Swedes write hooks like Ikea sells strange-sounding cheap mode furniture, and there’s only half an album’s worth of hooks here. This record literally hurt my feelings; where Writer’s Block was an overflowing bag of hooks of delicious Scandanavian pop goodness that we as a public didn’t deserve, this record offers me nothing when I feel we deserve more. It’s like PB&J drew a line right down the middle of this record, saying: “songs 1-6 will have spare melodies, we musn’t bother too much with infectious hooks because that’s what everyone expects from us- so that’s our big ‘fuck you’ to everyone”. Then songs 6 through 12, we’ll basically take a shit into the microphone so people really know that we mean “fuck you”. If you bought this record, the jokes on you. 3/10

Telekinesis – Telekinesis! (Merge; 4/7)telekinesis

I remember a time when Death Cab For Cutie didn’t suck so bad- I’m thinking back to pre-Transatlanticism days now, so what’s that, like 2003? So yeah- that’s what my first impression of Telekinesis does for me; bedroom indie-pop that’s both suffocatingly self-aware and completely hummable (which doesn’t always translate to “good”). And here’s the rub- Chris Walla (of Death Cab) produced this record, so that’s where it goes horribly wrong. Besides for the two Decemberists‘ records he’s done (Picaresque and The Crane Wife) and the four decent records his own band has done, Walla‘s production is perfectly suited for Michael Benjamin Lerner‘s Gibbard-cloning sound; right down to the echo and reverb vocals heard on Company Calls Epilogue (from 2000’s We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes, my fave DCFC record), that faux 4-track tape hiss- I mean, really; were you trying to make another Something About Airplanes or The Photo Album? I recently read this guy passed up a major label deal with Columbia to sign with independent stalwarts Merge, but I think that’s only so he can gain some of that oh so hard to get “indie cred”. Anyway, Death Cab For Cutie comparisons aside, Telekinesis! is better than their last record, but only by a little bit. 4/10

Easy Star All-Stars – Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band (Easy Star, 4/14)easy-stars

When this band released Dub Side Of The Moon, I was firmly entrenched in my dub phase and went ape shit for that record. Likewise Radiodread, it was important in that reggae was a vital third world music. I think reggae’s been surpassed as the most urgent voice of the struggle now that there’s so much wonderful music coming out of Africa, and I’ve been having a hard time taking reggae serious as of late. Reason being; how is it possible to take something serious that on one hand deplores Babylon and its commercialism yet relies on it for income? If you want to “bite the hand that feeds you”, release an 80-minute album of straight noise (like Lou Reed‘s Metal Machine Music.) That being said, why this band would cover The Beatlesfifth best album is completely beyond me; plus- why they’d include a corny Hasidic rapper-toaster (Matisyahu) with legends like Luciano, The Mighty Diamonds, Max Romeo, Sugar Minott, U-Roy and Steel Pulse renders this project moot and destroys its credibility. Reggae’s been dead for a long time now; it’s merely a reproduction of itself in its glory days that seemingly will carry on ad infinitum as long as this brand of campy, sentimental “cover” album-project shit exists. 1/10

Prefuse 73 – Everything She Touched Turned Ampexian (Warp; 4/14)prefuse

Who’s more prolific? Guillermo Scott Herren or Omar Rodriguez-Lopez? It doesn’t matter anyway, by the time you’ve finished reading this both artists will have put out at least three more records under whatever moniker they’re using right now. You’re also probably wondering why the hell I’d drag Omar into a review of a Prefuse 73 album; because I was trying to think who P-73‘s contemporaries would be- he’s too progressive to be thrown in with J Dilla, Peanut Butter Wolf or DJ Shadow; uses the craziest and obscure samples so I can’t compare him to Girl Talk; so I went the other way and lumped him in with that crazy guy from The Mars Volta who never sleeps and puts out like 12 albums a year. I imagine P-73 doesn’t sleep; and this record sounds like a disturbed electro-phonic nightmare. I heard that if you take Ambien but force yourself to stay awake you have crazy patterns of behavior which you won’t remember in the morning. I think that’s what Herren did here. I’m going to call this album Everything She Touched While On Ambien. Pretty all-over the place, in a good way; or at least in a way that you won’t remember in the morning. Why is there a fucking lawn chair on my roof? 7/10

Two Fingers – Two Fingers (Paper Bag; 4/14)twofingers

Some call it drum and bass, some call it jungle- I can remember (barely) going to some “jungle” parties back in Philly, mid-to-late ’90s. I remember taking a ton of ecstasy and dancing all night. I remember saying to the person who took me, “Man, this deejay has been playing for a long time”, to which he replied, “Dude, there’s been like ten different deejays since we got here.” Yeah, I thought it all sounded the same- I couldn’t tell LTJ Bukem from Reprazent (I think they were the two headliners). So fast forward to present day- Two Fingers uses that classic cut and paste d&b sound as the context for a hip-hop project; producers Amon Tobin and Joe “Doubleclick” Chapman fashion an interesting mix of underground genres (more well-known in the UK as grime/dubstep) with the excellent Sway rapping over six tracks, as well as dancehall legend Ce’Cile and former Missy Elliott protege Ms. Jade on the remaining songs. The two instrumentals on here take on Turkish violins (Keman Rhythm) and glitchy click-core rhythms (Moth Rhythm). Definitely worth checking out. 8/10

The Horrors – Primary Colours (XL Recordings; 4/21)the-horrors-primary-colours

This album is dark- as dark as the production team of Portishead‘s Geoff Barrow, author Craig Silvey and video director-turned-producer Chris Cunningham (the guy who did those creepy Aphex Twin videos) could get. It’s got creepy churning synths underneath everything, drony basswork and the too-low-in-the-mix vocals of Faris Badwan sound amazingly like the Psychedelic FursRichard Butler. So in effect this sounds like shoegazer zombie music- as if The Cramps grew up listening to bands like Ride and The Jesus & Mary Chain and were produced by an undead Martin Hannett. It’s so undeniably British as well, and as most hyped Brit-rock bands lately totally suck (Doves, Elbow, Frightened Rabbit, Muse, etc.) this doesn’t suck at all, not even a little. 8/10

Isis – Wavering Radiant (Ipecac; 4/21)isis

Whenever I get jaded out by wuss-rock, it’s good to know there are bands out there like Mastodon, Red Sparowes, Russian Circles, Pelican and Isis. Just to remind me that huge walls of jagged guitar riffage are there to rip my fucking face off if need be, then settle me down in passages of serene eloquence before crushing my fucking skull once again. Isis makes heavy (but listenable) post-metal (although the “post” thing has been done to death, they really do push the envelope past what conventional metal allows) with nods to post-rock’s slow-building towers of grandiose moodiness, all the while planting one foot firmly in prog metal by concocting epic mountains of technical excess (each song ranges from seven to eleven minutes, unless of course the “passage” title track at just under two minutes). One of the better metal albums of the year, but I’m only saying that because I don’t listen to metal. 8/10

Conor Oberst & The Mystic Valley Band – Outer South (Merge; 5/5)conoroberst

Conor Oberst is the type of artist that needs to suffer in order to make great art; there’s something about the urgent immediacy of 2002’s Lifted… or the follow up to that, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning– both trenchant and revealing albums, a snapshot of a tortured soul struggling through early adulthood. Now that he’s almost thirty, and somewhat “sober”, his art has suffered as he’s escaped relatively unharmed- his stories aren’t as fascinating as the womanizing, drug-taking young artist lost in New York City. In fact, this new record is just boring- middle of the road alt-country that borrows from Wilco, The Eagles and ironically, himself (in another lifetime). Underwhelming and mediocre. 5/10

White Rabbits – It’s Frightening (TBD Records; 5/19)white-rabbits

I wish that I could just review a record without having to find out who produced it; when a record sounds as fully-realized as It’s Frightening does, I have to take a peek as the press packet to see who was twiddling the knobs on the other side of the glass. Spoon‘s Britt Daniel is (in my opinion) the best producer in music today- just listen to any of his band’s albums from 1998’s A Series Of Sneaks up to now; he’s best at getting the songs to sound exactly what they’re supposed to sound like- this snare goes here, this guitar there, etc. Basically: perfect records. So White Rabbits entrusted Mr. Daniel to take their sound and do as he sees fit- the result is a heavily percussive affair (Percussion Gun) with piano lines doubling as bass lines (Midnight And I), layers of rhythm (Right Where They Left), textured bits of ambient passages (Lionesse)- White Rabbits are poised to make a surprise run at the top of some year-end lists. 9/10

Black Moth Super Rainbow – Eating Us (Graveface; 5/26)eatingus

A friend told me about these guys like a month ago; sorry, I got to the party late on this band. But 2007’s Dandelion Gum would’ve been one of my albums of that year, in case I was going to do any last minute revisions to a list that’s been done for about seventeen months now. Oh well. Anyway, what does Black Moth Super Rainbow sound like? Imagine that one good Air album (Moon Safari) run through crazy analog synths and vocoders, recorded somewhere in the woods near Pittsburgh on what I would consider copious amounts of mind-altering chemicals. Eating Us is stylistically a continuation of their previous record; they’ve added a live human drummer and overall it takes less risks but is still infinitely interesting in that all these sounds are made from vintage, pre-digital equipment like mellotrons, Echoplex delay looping and Arp Odyssey mini-Moog synthesizers. It’s old school made futuristic, and all I can say is when they eventually start filming porn in outer space, this is the band that’ll be playing the soundtrack. Like an orgasm in orbit, y’all. 8/10