Aspera is the best band in Philadelphia. Local music fans might remember them as Aspera Ad Astra, but Aspera is a new moniker for a band finally at ease with their sound.
“Great Leaps” opens this epic sophomore album in a Rollerskate Skinny-meets-OK Computer fashion. The intense rhythm section of bassist Matt Werth and drummer AJ Edmiston lay solid groundwork for the experimental noodling of guitarist Justin Tripp. Drew Mills’ drugged-out vocals fly over it all as if suspended on a magic carpet. His voice might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but he gets mad props for creating a one of a kind style.
From the shoegaze-heavy “Pearl + Brine” to the mystical “Twenty Minutes of the Day,” Sugar and Feathered is a voyage through the mind of a band on the verge.
Known as the silent partner in the group Reflection Eternal, Cincinnati-based producer Hi-Tek, is quickly gaining a reputation as one of the best behind the boards. His solo venture, Hi-Teknology starts out well, with the creative intro, “Scratch Rappin” and the mellow lead single “The Sun God,” with Common and R&B singer Vinia Mojica on the hook. The two Reflection Eternal reunions on the album, “Get Back-Part 2” and “Theme From Hi-Tek,” exhibit more of the pair’s chemistry and “All I Need Is You,” a surprising collabo with the usually grimy Cormega also stand out. Hi-Tek also has some straight R&B tracks, like “Git To Steppin,” with Mos Def and Vinia Mojica again and “Round and Round,” with Cincinnati newcomer Jonell. Hi-Tek pays tribute to his Cincinnati roots with the head-nodder “Breakin Bread” and the disappointing “Suddenly,” which both feature Mood, his former crew. This album shows that Hi-Tek’s production can vary from his previous work, which according to one’s taste, can be either good or bad.
Quiet is the New Loud isn’t only the name of the new album by Norway’s Kings of Convenience. It is also the duo’s battle cry against the Limp-core drivel brainwashing America’s youth.
Sounding like Nick Drake and Belle and Sebastian worshippers, Kings of Convenience make very pretty music that will appeal to folkies and light pop fans alike. But late night drivers and decaf drinkers, be warned. Their one-dimensional sound might just put you to sleep.
The lyrics on Quiet are very bizarre. Some seem overperceptive and make little sense while others – like “Little Kids” – attempt a simpler poetic form that capture aspects of life so trivial most you don’t even realize them happening. Sort of like Kings of Convenience themselves.
Kings of Convenience need to learn how to be sensitive without being boring. But it’s finals week, and I’m tired so Quiet is the New Loud will do. Repeat.
They might come off as a groove heavy trip-hop act, but make no mistake: Laika is an actual band. The London-based four piece does incorporate electronics on Good Looking Blues, but a decent amount of the mix is funky guitar, Moog keyboards, organ, bass, and live drumming. The sampling and instrumentation work with instead of against each other, resulting in a practically seamless set of taut, utterly danceable cuts.
The spooky “Black Cat Bone” and the melancholy “Uneasy” are particularly bootylicious, and the album has relatively few short-falling moments. The title track’s skittery drum and bass can be a bit trying depending on what kind of mood you’re in, but the band’s sense of humor exhibited in “Badtimes” makes up for it. The spoken track is based around a chain letter warning of a “the most dangerous e-mail virus yet”, and comes off as a twisted PSA.
Hearing vocalist Margret Fielder recite in a deadpan voice “Badtimes will make you fall in love with a penguin/It will give you nightmares about circus midgets/It will seduce your grandmother/It does not matter if she is dead” is hysterically priceless.
Bless the Shins for attempting to create a unique sound. With a stripped-down line up of guitar, bass, keyboard, drums and vocals, the band celebrates rock ‘n’ roll’s roots, drawing from ’60s psychedelia, ’70s glam, ’80s new wave and ’90s indie slacker rock.
By just looking at their influences, the Shins could be the best band ever. But in the struggle between style and substance, the Albuquerque, NM quartet fall short. Their songwriting skills need more work to break any real ground.
The Shins really rock when they want to. Know Your Onion! is the best song the Jam never wrote, complete with a reverb-laden recording that screams mod revivalism.
The other style they works best is the acoustic indie sound of “New Slang” and “The Past and Pending” which builds a respectable middle ground between masters like Neil Young and whiners like Bright Eyes.
Points to the Shins for their willingness to create ambiences as varying as open plains, fast cars and slow days.
“Don’t say a word.” This is the line that starts out Spoon’s new album Girls Can Tell. This is exactly what Spoon does not do on this album. The Austin trio has made 11 songs that are filled with a blend of rock, pop and punk. The smooth, but intense voice of singer/guitarist Britt Daniel echoes with enough to make a young girl swoon, especially with songs like “Anything You Want.” “Take the Fifth” is more upbeat compared to the previous song, incorporating handclaps side by side in accompaniment with the snare.
Their titles stem on the odd side. Take “Me and the Bean,” for example, a serious sounding song with a beautiful keyboard part. The lyrics are witty and amusing. This pared with their amazing musicianship lends for an album that one can listen to beginning to end without becoming bored and skipping through songs.
Okay, the semester’s nearly over. You are probably more in the mood to hear happy, palatable pop, hip-hop, dance, etc. than a collection of tunes by an acoustic duo such as Turin Brakes. I myself have been feeling a bit on the brain-dead side as of late so I wasn’t exactly looking forward to listening to The Optimist LP with the intentions of critiquing it. That was until I heard the first song, “Feeling Oblivion” – then, I was hooked. The lead singer sounds so much like Jeff Buckley it’s nearly spooky and the music on this CD is in a word, gorgeous. I implore you to purchase this CD regardless of your present state of mind because The Optimist LP is indeed a nice respite from the chaotic world of research papers and final exams.
Are you bored by today’s rap? Are you an old school fanatic who yearns for yesteryear? If so, listen to none other than Wild Pitch Classics.
The compilation kicks off with the legendary Gang Starr’s virgin single, “Words I Manifest.” Other classics follow. If you’re a Main Source fan (a la lead vocalist and producer Large Professor) it’s best to grab this disc because four of their tracks are present. “Looking At The Front Door,” “Live At The Barbeque” (with an appearance by a young Nas), “Fakin’ The Funk” and “How My Man Went Down In The Game” takes it back to the days of simple lyrics and jazz-inspired production. The UMC’s “One To Grow On” and “Blue Cheese” are reminiscent of a time when hip-hop was a fun loving, non-commercial and original affair.
In addition, Wild Pitch Classics delivers classics from two of hip-hop’s underrated lyricists: Lord Finesse and O.C.’s, “Funky Technician” and “Time’s Up” respectively. Kickback and enjoy this disc. You may catch an “old-fashioned” lyric or two.