CD reviews

This week: > …And you will know us by the Trail of Dead > Ashanti > Declaime > Louise Goffin > Days Away > Super Furry Animals > Gay Dad > Knife in the Water

This week:
> …And you will know us by the Trail of Dead
> Ashanti
> Declaime
> Louise Goffin
> Days Away
> Super Furry Animals
> Gay Dad
> Knife in the Water
> Five Pointe O

…And you will know us by the Trail of Dead
Source Tags & Codes
On the surface, it’s quite simple: band loves to make noise and break shit. Secretly band wants to make great music like the Stooges and Fugazi. Meanwhile, major label loves to sell lots of records, but deep down it wants to release great music like, well, Nirvana. Ladies and gentleman, the Trail of Dead.

Things get complex when trying to decipher what distinguishes this band from so many others. Best advice? Stop thinking and listen.

Supposedly consisting of four former choirboys (who trusts press releases these days?) from Texas, the Trail of Dead has been causing quite a stir down south and overseas. With fans like Butthole Surfers’ King Coffey and the hipsters at Merge Records, the Trail of Dead has made an album with few sacrifices for commercial advancement.

From the ’70s rocker “Baudelaire” to the post-emo “How Near, How Far,” these songs are buried behind tattered instruments and murky vocals. Nevertheless, the songs are here and so is the rock ‘n’ roll.

Usually when one calls an album an “experience,” you can preface it with “bad.” Source Tags & Codes is anything but.
—Neal Ramirez

Murder, Inc. icon Ashanti enters the R&B scene with her debut self-titled album. Having already showcased her talent on several collaborations with the likes of Ja Rule, Fat Joe and other hip-hop favorites, Ashanti is determined to show the music world that she can hold her own.

The first track, aptly titled “Intro,” briefly takes the listener through Ashanti’s previous musical appearances. As each single gracefully intertwines with the next we are reminded of Ashanti’s ability to make a song a success.

Several tracks on the album are entertaining with catchy hooks and smooth beats, while others are mediocre and undistinguished. “Foolish” and “Unfoolish” sample Notorious B.I.G’s “One More Chance.” This hip-hop classic combined with Ashanti’s talented voice results in two undeniable hits. Other songs, such as “Thank You” and “Dreams,” seem too programmed and plain, no different than most R&B songs.

The album is decent, but lacks the energy and ingenuity of her previous work. Overall, Ashanti proves her worth as an artist and gives us a glimpse of what she can offer the R&B world.
—Carmen Dukes

Declaime’s voice sounds like he’s choking on blunt smoke; every rhyme echoes the last, until he turns blue and passes out. Of course this makes for a hot record. Hailing from Oxnard, Calif., Declaime’s latest has been blessed by some of the illest that the West Coast has to offer on both lyrics and production (Rasco, Lootpack, Kazi). Unlike his last LP, Illmindmuzik, Declaime strays from blunted battling and extends his topics to females, the industry, and the whimsical occurrences in his psyche: “Come take a walk through the mind of Declaime / Come take a walk through my mind.” Some of his lyrics are redundant; you’ll hear many of the same lines over and over again.

The production of Madlib and Kankick truly shines, subtly enhancing Declaime’s throaty West Coast drawl. Utilizing quick snaps of instruments with precisely cut samples, Andsoitsaid is described in one Declaime-esque word “coolassfreshsmokeshit.” It’s chill music, just quirky enough to make you chuckle; “Blind at birth / even though we had sight / deep in my heart / I just know / shit ain’t right.” Thankfully Declaime and the rest of these West Coast visionaries make shit that bumps juuuust right.
—Bobby Sumner

Louise Goffin
sometimes a circle
Proof that this semester has left me brain dead: I, useless musical information database, did not catch onto exactly who Louise Goffin was until I listened to her CD. You might know her from the Gap commercials where she and her mom (that would be Carole King) sing “So Far Away.” But as with Rufus Wainwright, those ads are just the tip of the iceberg. Goffin has been around since the 1970s; in fact she even has a song on the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack. Comparisons to her famous parents and her shyness, however, kept her from achieving much on her own until now. After taking a nearly 10 year break, she is back with an album that sounds as fresh as any debut would. Even though every song seems to deal with the difficulties of romance and how insecure being a gal can be, Goffin’s downright pretty voice and melodic compositions should win you over. Highlights are “Only Water” (written with Bangle Debbi Peterson), and “Just Bone and Breath.” Yes, it’s unfair to compare her to the Goffin/King legacy. But it’s clear that she has inherited their knack for penning some great songs.
—Maureen Walsh

Days Away
The Feel Of It
(We the People)
The Feel Of It, Days Away’s debut EP, is all in all not a bad showing from these young lads from Bucks County.

The five-song set seems to be a sort of concept album, with each cut highlighting a different phase in a relationship. Each track is solid, but it’s difficult to tell how they pulled it off. The band ably employs the intermittent guitar hooks and offbeat melodies that have become a staple of indie rock, but there is little that sets them apart from the pack of up-and-comers, and lyrically their themes are repetitive and unconvincing.

Even so, there is some undistinguishable intrigue that Days Away is able to sell with each song, demanding that the listener backtrack for another listen. This can probably be attributed to singer Keith Goodwin’s strong vocal timing and dynamic, which takes unexpected turns in each song.

It’s difficult to see what this band is really capable of by listening to a 14-minute EP, so a follow-up should confirm their abilities. In the meantime, Days Away has landed a spot on a few Warped Tour dates this summer, which should significantly add to their fan base.
—John Alexander

Super Furry Animals
Rings Around The World
The Super Furry Animals are a band interested in taking their time to make a point. Most of the songs on Ring Around The World are a slow burn, simmering to a sonic boil that effortlessly draws the listener in. All of the tracks are detailed examinations of how a rock band should use a studio to create a song. Mixing varied sounds, harmonies and tempos, the SFAs create an epic sci-fi/cartoon/political/musical landscape with a stylistic trip as eclectic as the title implies.

Listening to Rings is like being let in on an inside joke your friends kept from you for years. The only difference is that it is as good as you hoped it would be. Everything on the album sounds as fresh and punctual as popular music can (and should) be.

Attribute this to the band’s infectious sense of humor. Who cares if the final refrain on “Receptacle For The Respectable” is just about the goofiest attempt at macho grandstanding this side of a Linkin Park record? Rings Around The World has enough sentience within the songs to insure that the SFAs are laughing along with the listener.
—Robert James Algeo

Super Furry Animals will play at the TLA tonight.

Gay Dad
Oh those crazy kids that are Gay Dad. Sure, people thought they were all that three years ago, sure their song “Joy” was a catchy, energetic ditty and sure, NME loved them. Thing is, NME loves every artist at least once during their career. That’s all in the past. Gay Dad is a bit of a Britpop joke nowadays, like Kula Shaker, or Reef, or better yet, Babylon Zoo. It’s not that Transmission is necessarily a bad album; the title track, for example, is a highlight. However, it is not a great album and that’s what counts in their genre. Their faux glam rock comes across as too campy for comfort; it is only when they relax a little, like in the song “All My Life,” that they prove they could be contenders. Also, they try too hard to make grand statements in their music. Compared to others that have made history like the Verve, Blur, and heck, even Robbie Williams, they prove to be quite ordinary.
—Maureen Walsh

Knife in the Water
Crosspross Bells
(Peek-a-boo Records)
I’m usually not big on goth country. It always seems to be too dark and dirgy for my liking (which would make sense being goth music and all); also just too many steel-peddle guitars. The third release from quintet Knife in the Water, however, is a five-song EP that puts a little more spunk in the genre. The first track, “From the Catbird Seat,” is a Pavement-esque indie rock delight that is not exactly representative of their sound as a whole but is great all the same. The sound throughout the rest of Crosspross may be slower and yeah, there are steel-peddles aplenty, but somehow Knife makes the dark-ish experience a pleasant one. This is due to a pop sensibility and lead singer Aaron Blount’s voice, which sounds like Gorky’s singer Euros Childs with a slight Southern drawl. The last track, “When Trouble Goes to Seed,” cements this similarity. I don’t know if I personally would venture out and buy a full-length of Knife’s, but this EP seems to encompass the good things the band has to offer.
—Maureen Walsh

Five Pointe O
The young and knowledgeable six-piece that is Five Pointe O have a taste for aggressive instrumentation and a belly for deep heavy metal that can only be called one thing: orchestrated anger. On their debut album, Untitled, the group attacks your eardrums from the very first cut, “Double X Minus.” The song kicks in with drumming so powerful that one has to wonder how long it will take the band’s drummer, Tony Starcevich, to wheel Pantera’s Vinnie Paul into the old folks home and steal his torch as heavy metal’s top drummer.

Other highlights amongst the 11-tracks of anger include “King of the Hill,” a solid, visceral cut; “The Infinity,” a tense chunk of hard rock; and “Freedom?”, which aggressively questions the nature of society.
—Chris Powell


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