Former lead singer of Talking Heads David Byrne has focused the majority of his recent material on world music and has strayed from the funk and psuedo-bubblegum of his former band. On his latest effort, however, he retains the style of the Heads’ heyday while still evoking their later, more arts-y material. Most of the songs on Look into the Eyeball are very catchy. This hides the dark, cynical undertones of his lyrics, a good example being “Like Humans Do.” All in all, Eyeball is a fun 40-minute journey through the eccentric mind of Byrne, for those who sit and watch their Stop Making Sense DVD in awe.
When first listening to this compilation of singles, it is fascinating to hear how well the Clientele captures the music and sound quality of ’60s British folk-rock. There are some gems on here, especially “I Had to Say This” and “More Than Ever.” After a while, however, the whole thing gets a bit tedious. The songs are heavy on the trippy, psychedelic lyrics, but there’s only so many songs one can stand about frolicking and getting high in a park somewhere and it doesn’t help that singer Alasdair Maclean’s voice sounds like a young David Bowie suffering from a cold. While groups such as the Clientele are rare in their particular style, they come across more like a novelty than a band to take seriously. Just stick with buying a single or two from them.
Instrumental acts take heed: with no singer, your music better be pretty tight, or it won’t stand up on its own.
Don Caballero’s latest offering, American Don, spends the better part of nine tracks playing songs that just scream for vocal accompaniment. Their choppy, repetitious guitar-bass-drum patterns would have been tolerable with vocals to keep a sense of flow. But without them, songs like “Haven’t Lived Afro Pop” noodle into bland monotony. Don Cab gets points for coming up with some of the most amusing song titles ever, i.e. “Let’s Face It Pal, You Didn’t Need That Eye Surgery.”
Germany’s Couch, on the other hand, shows how instrumental music should be done. Profane flows through eight solid tracks, with soothingly mellow guitar and cornet (“Meine Marke”), reverie-breaking clanging riffs and fast beats (“Kurzer Punkt”), and hints of drum n’ bass (“Plan”). Couch is not an electronic band, but they rock with the furor and intensity of a trip-hop or jungle act.
While it still has rough edges, Profane maintains a tight grip on the listener. American Don just goads the listener into the kitchen to grab another beer.
Spain’s Le Mans have come a long way since Elefant Records, a suave pop institution, released their first self-titled album in 1993.
Whereas that album featured short bursts of tight three-chord pop songs mixed with sparse rumba influences, their last album, Aqui Vivia Yo, is a more experimental musical adventure.
“Cancion de todo va mal” opens the album. Beginning with a nearly-8 minute song is a brave move, but thankfully, the tune is borderline revelatory.
The rest of the album ranges from sparse, acoustic ballads like “La princesita” to bossanova-for-the-21st century tunes like “No vino, estaba enferma o de vacaciones.” The songs are diverse – some even incorporate hip-hop beats – and rarely tread boring waters.
With lyrics sung completely in Spanish, Le Mans might not be for everyone, but fans of Sergio Mendes, Julie London and Felt will devour the lush sounds of Le Mans.
The fourth proper album by the Lucksmiths (excluding The First Tape on CD and Happy Secret, both masterpieces) is a compelling pop album worth its weight in puns.
Each member contributed songs. The best, as usual, are by guitarist Marty Donald, proving that he is the group’s Johnny Marr and Morrissey (musical genius and poet). Personal favorites include “Broken Bones” and “The Year of Drinking Languorously,” but all of his songs contain bursts of genius.
Tali White, the lead singer/drummer chimes in with the stellar “Self-Perfection,” which sums up all the best aspects of the Lucksmiths: upbeat drums, jangly guitars, punchy bass and clever lyrics. The song is one of many to feature supplemental instrumentation from trumpet, banjo, flügelhorn, violin and cello which marks the growth of the band.
Mark Monnone’s magnificent bass playing is still intact and the band jokester turns in a great slow tune in “Harmonicas and Trams.”
When all is said and done, Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me is a fun and intelligent album.
If you’re not familiar with Angie Martinez, she’s been one of New York’s brightest radio personalities during most of the ’90s to the present day.
Her debut album, Up Close and Personal allows listeners to do just that: get to know Martinez from a musical perspective. There are some engaging tracks. “New York, New York,” gives you a good inclination of her New York pride. “Live at Jimmy’s” and “Coast 2 Coast” illustrates how proud she is of her Latino heritage.
Angie yearns for just wanting to date a regular cat instead of a baller in “No Playaz,” and feels the pain from a cheating boyfriend on “Go Mutha****a!” “Every Little Girl” is her autobiography in a nutshell.
But with too many guest appearances (Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Prodigy, Jay-Z, Wyclef, Mary J. Blige Jadakiss, -whew! just to name a few) and average lyricism, the album falls short. If Martinez wants to gain respect in an industry dominated by males, she’s going to have to minimize the amount of guest appearances and upgrade her lyrics on the next go round.
To aging indie rockers and 4AD fanatics, Red House Painters are gods. The religion of these people is introspective slow-to-medium-core music equally in debt to classic rock bands like AC/DC and folk outfits like Simon and Garfunkel.
Old Ramon was completed in the spring of 1998, but label bullshit left the band tied up in red tape. To stay active lead singer Mark Kozelek released two fine solo albums on San Francisco’s Badman Recording Co.
As great as those albums were – in all of their stripped down glory – nothing beats a proper Red House Painters album. From the acoustic-based anthem “Byrd Joel” to the stellar rock song “Between Days,” the innocence of early RHP may be gone, but there is a new wisdom to Kozelek’s recent material.
Red House Painters are great. Who the hell else can spread ten songs over 72 minutes?
In the minds of many East Coast hip-hop fans, the majority of southern hip-hop capitalizes on simplicity and trends. Atlanta natives OutKast are seen as the primary contradiction to this theory, and Slimm Calhoun, the first release on their Aquemini label, appears to be following in their footsteps.
Calhoun´s first single, “It’s OK” is a laid-back track, dedicated to the art of pimping. His flow on this track differs from other songs, such as “Well,” a high-energy track that the two emcees verbally murder.
Other joints, such as the street anthem “All Da Hustlers,” with its Latin-flavored beat and the somber Lil´ Buddy (Til Death Do Us Part) further exhibit Slimm´s versatility. Another highlight includes “How Much Can I” (featuring Sleepy Brown), a melodious ode to smoking weed.
While The Skinny is certainly an excellent debut, it is obvious that the best of Slimm Calhoun is yet to come. The variety found on the record is extremely refreshing, but not surprising, seeing the company he keeps.
When the opening track “You were my Fiji” starts off, you get the impression that John Vanderslice is a moron. Musically, the song is quite good, with interesting and original arrangements. But then you hear the lyrics. Vanderslice’s lyrics are seemingly idiotic. Just when you’re ready to give up, he pulls a switcheroo on you; you begin to realize that Vanderslice isn’t so much an idiot as he is an honest guy. He’s not as pre-occupied with the form and structure of the lyrics as he is with the story he’s telling. Vanderslice has a knack for writing catch pop hooks, as well. It is quite refreshing to hear a pop song that isn’t sung by a “boy band” or pre-teen pop star.
This won’t be the best CD you’ve ever heard, but it’s still quite far from the worst.