With distinctive, lazy vocals and beautifully arranged harmonies, this Portland, OR quartet creates a wholly likeable sound. Piano, organ, keyboards, horns, violin, bowed bass, and melodica provide the sugarcoated songs with lush arrangements; there isn’t anything minimal about the band’s approach.
A few songs are a bit too silly (“Apartments”) or just plain boring (“UFO”) to warrant repeated listening, but the majority of Foreign Words tantalizes the ears. “Through the Walls” and “Plastic Bags” are two of the album’s finest songs. Both accentuate the group’s skill of creating diverse types of music, from upbeat and catchy to serene and brooding.
Boycrazy might be the cutest damn band in the world. You’d have to be a dark, pissed off person not to like this album.
You Are Here
You Are Here is a mix of alternative rock and soft pop which infuses slow guitar riffs and rhythms. Many of the songs have light melodies and rhythms like “Ex #1 Fan” and “Headstrong”. While songs such as “Disposable” and “Cars” are catchy, soothing and could be hits on the radio. Many of these songs deal with the typical subject of relationships, but no new concept is added to them. Much of this album has a sound that many current rock groups have. Kim Henry, the only female singer of this group, can deliver a tune with much emotion, but You Are Here has nothing to really grab your attention.
Since the rise of French electronica, there has been a surge of those trying to replicate the genre’s vibe by simply overusing vocal processing effects. When first hearing Daft Punk’s first single from Discovery, “One More Time,” I was disappointed because I couldn’t believe they continued to use this former “novelty” ingredient when it is now so passe (heck, even K-Ci and Jo Jo are using it). However, I think that’s the point of Daft’s second album: instead of walking away from the mess they are partly responsible for creating, they decided to revel in it. In fact, most of Discovery is just one cheesy, catchy disco number after another, which may be a tad off-putting for those who loved their earlier and slightly more ethereal work; the indulgence is enjoyable, though.
We’ll Have A Time
Dear Nora is a fresh-faced indie rock trio from Portland, OR. At the helm of the band is lead singer/guitarist Katy Davidson, whose potent pop sensibilities and tight overdubbed harmonies were first featured on the group’s two fabulous singles on Magic Marker.
The band’s debut album packs 12 songs into 26 minutes, which is a favorable thing for those no-frills kind of music fans. But We’ll Have a Time could have worked better if certain songs had been developed and the less stellar songs (“When the Wind Blows,” “Everyone’s the Same”) remained rarities.
Nevertheless, the album’s finest moments – the punk-by-default “‘Round and ‘Round,” the lush instrumental “Number Twelve,” the epic “From My Bedroom Window” – reveal something truly great in the works. Let’s hope album number two is the clincher.
999 Levels of Undo
If you recognize the name Steve Fisk, it’s probably because of his inventive production work for Northwestern greats like Nirvana, Beat Happening and the Screaming Trees. But on his new Sub Pop release, 999 Levels of Undo, Fisk manages to do what a lot of artists who work in electronica don’t – keep it from getting boring.
Some of the techniques Fisk uses are reminiscent of Edgard Varese’s “Poeme Electronique,” and had Varese lived to see the technology available today, he probably would have recorded an album like this.
999 Levels is a free-flowing mix of samples, synths and insanity – it’s like there’s a party in your ears and everyone’s invited.
It’s unlikely you’ll hear a song from 999 Levels on the radio, but if you get your hands on a copy (and you should), it will become a staple in your listening cycle.
King Britt/Sylk 130
Philly-grown King Britt presents the long awaited Sylk 130 Re-Members Only. Similar to its predecessor, 98s When the Funk Hits the Fan, the record is a funky and soulful tribute to the disco of the 70s and early 80s, fully equipped with vocals from numerous talented artists.
The record begins with “Funky Fresh,” a slow intro of two intertwining loops, which leads into piano keys reminiscent of Tori Amos’ more melodic work in “Skipping Stones,” featuring Alison Moyet of Yaz.
Throughout the electro vibe of “Rising,” Kathy Sledge provides empowering, free-style, vocals, which raise the listener’s enjoyment to higher levels. While “Happiness” features the soulful Alma Horton, who is well known for her spectacular performance in When the Funk Hits’ “Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.”
Re-Members Only is artfully executed, pleasing to the ear and ready for the platforms and polyester comeback.
Lupine Howl, a spin-off from the UK’s larger-than-life Spiritualized, was formed by three lesser-known members in order to break away from their former group’s “minimal sound.” In the beginning, things seemed to be heading away from the overly lush, meticulous sounds of Spiritualized. Their first single (and second track on this EP), “Vaporizer,” is a funky and catchy song. But aside from that and the title track, 125 comes off like a poor man’s Verve, which was basically what Lupine’s former incarnation was anyhow, which leads one to wonder what the point was in wanting to start a new band in the first place.
Saul Freeman and Nicola Hitchcock are the recent import from the UK. What do you get when you mix a wailing diva, a synthesizer and violin music? Imagine orchestras of the future. This is the sound of Mandalay, who mirror The Cocteau Twins – the lyrics are a mystery, but vocalist Nicola’s ethereal pitch keeps you listening. “Deep Love”, a haunting track has the melody of Tricky’s “Piano” but breaks into a gush of Cocteau wailing again; it’s an ear-catcher. And on “Flowers in Bloom” don’t get alarmed, it’s not Madonna, even though it sounds too much like the Material Girl. “Flowers” is one of Mandalay’s more upbeat tracks, with a hint of drum ‘n bass and trippy synthesizing. Don’t mislabel Mandalay under techno. They’re a rainy-day-inside sort of group.
The Dave Matthews Band
Charlottesville, VA’s finest, The Dave Matthews Band, sacrifices distinctiveness for a mainstream album. Everyday, their fourth studio album, lacks many elements and highlights two significant changes. One is Dave Matthews’ switch from acoustic guitar to electric. The second is the absence of solos from violinist Boyd Tinsley and saxophonist Leroi Moore. Carlos Santana makes a guest appearance in the song “Mother Father,” which unfortunately is the album’s only major solo. Everyday, although entertaining with tracks such as “The Space Between,” “Angel,” and “When the World Ends,” seems awkwardly restrained in comparison to their three previous studio albums. Matthews is the only one who expresses musical creativity, while the remaining band members are unable to showcase their musical talent. The result is a mediocre album that is basically a misrepresentation of DMB’s true potential.
Matt Pond PA
I Thought You Were Sleeping
Credit Matt Pond for the audacity of I Thought You Were Sleeping’s opener “Other Countries.” Bold swatches of colorful string arrangements wash over Pond’s jangly guitar lines. Held together by the confident, intricate drum work of Mike Kennedy, the sweeping baroque tones of “Countries” set a precedent that the rest of the 5 song EP works hard to keep up with.
“Put Your Hair Down” follows suit as best it can, with a poppier arrangement of some spaced out late 60’s keyboards and a simple but strong guitar hook. “St. Andrews,” however, strays a bit too much from the chamber pop mission, losing its sheen in an amped out cocktail of muted vocals and distortion.
Throughout, Pond’s vocals convey just enough indie ache, falling somewhere between Robert and Elliot Smith. The strongest, and most plaintive vocals come paired with the delicate acoustic layering of the EP’s closer, “Measure 5,” which proves that Pond’s songwriting can be just as graceful and expressive without all the orchestration.
Matt Pond PA’s release show takes place at Khyber (56 S. 2nd St.) on Saturday, March 24th, with Beachwood Sparks.
The Minus 5 vs. The Young Fresh Fellows
Let The War Against Music Begin/Because We Hate You
Grade (both): B
For a package so wrought fighting words (“vs.,” “War Against Music,” “We Hate You”), this dual release – two new sets from both of Scott McCaughey’s bands –
doesn’t offer much in the way of confrontational music.
Both of them – his 80’s new wave combo The Young Fresh Fellows and his 90’s rotating-lineup side project The Minus 5 – simply bubble over with gooshy, Pet Sounds-esque pop. “Ghost Tarts Of Stockholm” from The Minus 5’s War Against Music is simple, jangley, and catchy, and much of The Young Fresh Fellows’ Because We Hate You echoes the same vibe.
Because We Hate You takes a slightly heavier approach with the fast palm muted riffs of “Barky’s Spiritual Store” and the punk-rock-with-bubble-gum-vocals touch of “She’s A Book” and “Your Truth, Our Lies.”
The Minus 5, on the other hand, are a bit quirkier. “The Amazing Dolphin Boy” is out-and-out bizarre, and the two-part “Your Day Will Come” shifts from to a 60’s psych-pop sound to a surreal spoken word piece.
But ultimately, the battle ends up a draw. Slight differences between the two aside, they’re both Scott McCaughey, they’re both poppy and fun, and essentially, they both sound just like each other.
The music scene continues to evolve bringing new styles, hyphenated names and courses in anger management to the table. Statement the major label debut from the south Florida quartet, Nonpoint, is no exception to the evolution.
The 12-track Statement has a relentless attack of Latin beats and aggressive metal and kicks off with a brutal declaration of the band’s hardcore intentions on “Mindtrip.” The ride isn’t over after taking a “Mindtrip,” it’s only the beginning. A savage full-throttle guitar and hip-hop lyrics dominates “Victim,” while the band’s single, “What A Day,” chronicles one of life’s shitty days.
“Hive” showcases their solid melodic foundation, while a twin rap battle between Grimm [of Darwin’s Waiting Room] and vocalist Elias Soriano closes the record on “Tribute.” In only their freshman debut, Nonpoint easily tops established popular Puerto Rican rock band Puya and has proved that the ballistic Latin metal movement is not over. Check out the chaotic sound of Nonpoint this summer on the second stage of Ozzfest.
Parts Of Speech
The Rhyme Scheme
(Zandy Pissed On the Chair)
In the musical genre known as hip-hop, many artists have strayed from the art of battle rhyming in favor of more mainstream (read: profitable) techniques. The trio of Baltimore-bred Verbal Tec and Pittsburgh natives Ambush and Dos-Noun, better known as Parts Of Speech, however, embraces battling. Their debut LP, The Rhyme Scheme, is a 20-track album that can be seen as either refreshing or monotonous, depending on your point of view.
With gritty beats from Philadelphia producer Snuff, the three Temple students are at times a cohesive unit. On other tracks, Verbal Tec’s ruggedness, Ambush’s use of metaphors and Dos-Noun’s creativity shine on their own. Highlights of the album include “Brilliance,” “Heavy Artillery” and Dos-Noun’s solo song, “Irony”. Several of the songs feature emcees Cience and Mic Language, who are in the Deadly Scribes crew with members of Parts Of Speech. Although the content of The Rhyme Scheme is a bit repetitive, the solid production, lyrical versatility and above all, originality make this album a promising first effort.
Sick of It All
(Fat Wreck Chords)
Sick of It All is one of the few anti-establishment bands left in the punk rock community. With the advent of Blink-182, Green Day, and other pop rock bands that cater to the needs of thirteen year old girls, there are few bands left with the same anti-corporate attitude that started the entire genre.
Sick of It All mixes punk rock ideals with the ever growing world of hardcore music to form an album for all your musical tastes, except of course if your musical tastes lie only on MTV.
Every song on the album challenges the listener to stop being so apathetic and do something to change the world for the better and not for the worse. Sick of It All understands that when you are dealing with people who live on the fringes of society anything can happen and so they encourage their fans to concentrate on changing the world for good and not bad.
Sick of It All shows an improvement and maturity in their music with this album. The same attitude as previous albums does prevail, but with some sense and sensebility mixed in.