“Is Belle and Sebastian playing country now?”
After spinning The Court and Spark’s latest effort the first time, that thought consumed me. There is something very mysterious about this record. The band seems to be an anomaly of sorts. Bless You’s tracks are country, to be sure, but are hidden behind the clang of drums and horns that at times overshadow beautiful string-work. On four of the albums 10 tracks, two drum kits are used.
The band tries to disguise itself as an indie rock band, at least at the outset of the record. But like a kid on Halloween night, The Court and Spark appear utterly amused by the fast one pulled on the listener, and reverts back into its alt-country character with foot-stomping ballads like “A.M. Radio” and “Pearly Gates.”
The San Francisco quartet (M.C. Taylor, Scott Hirsch, James Kim, Joe Rogers) gets help on the album from Wendy Allen, whose harmonies are equal-part Emmylou Harris and Cherielynn Westrich (The Rentals). Gene Parsons, former Byrd and Flying Burrito Brother, also contributes, playing mandolin on the album’s best track “National Lights.”
While listening to Cousteau, you will think you’ve heard it before. Not because they are drab or derivative. No, rather, you will find yourself wondering why songs as suave as these 11 selections haven’t been written already.
Smooth. Sophisticated. Seedy. All these qualities and more are found within Cousteau’s self-titled debut. From the foreboding croons in “Your Day Will Come” to the adulterous riff-heavy saunter of “Wish You Were Her,” the band weaves their way through the sweetest sounding tales of lust and heartbreak you may ever hear.
The only thing lacking is some raw energy. The musicianship is flawless, but a little too laid back for its own good. Cousteau is smoldering, not ablaze.
Have no fear, however! What is lacking in the power department is more than made up with that voice. Frontman Liam McKahey has a hell of a set of pipes. Cousteau needs to let the music catch up to the passion underlying throughout the lyrics and vocals. But with such a subtle and seductive sound, you will want them to take their time while finishing the job.
Robert James Algeo
A spiritual crusade that captures everything from their previous efforts and takes it to another level, Days Of The New’s self-titled album (aka The Red Album) is a must for those who seek something you can listen to all day and not tire of.
Frontman Travis Meeks’ deep lyrics and captivating voice draw you in for a truly visionary musical experience. “Hang on to This,” the passionate first single, sets the tone for an album built on heaviness and life lessons.
The standout “Die Born” boasts euphoric spiritual pride and self-assurance. “Never Drown,” “Dirty Road” and “Words” provide a beautifully uplifting breath of fresh melodic air over a bed of acoustic guitars.
“Giving In” #151; a dark but motivational song about believing in yourself #151; showcases the musical talents of Meeks, who composed and performs all the instruments in the song.
The Red Album is laced with heaviness and diverse instrumentation that far surpasses what most bands are capable of these days. And through its meticulously crafted guitar riffs and orchestral interludes, it suggests that Days of The New could possibly be this generation’s Led Zeppelin.
The Photo Album is the perfect title for this Bellingham, Wash. quartet’s third album. Focusing primarily on the vivid songwriting of Ben Gibbard, Death Cab for Cutie construct complex songs that are as startling as black and white photography.
With a sound that suggests Built to Spill’s innocent three-minute pop songs, The Photo Album confirms that this vibrant group is a shining star in the bleak solar system of indie rock.
With many indie forefathers still unloading their amps on stages, Death Cab for Cutie brings a much-needed sense of youthfulness to fans of rip-roaring melancholy. While some of the “portraits” on The Photo Album are a bit blurry, such as “Information Travels Faster,” the majority of tunes are crystal clear in their honesty and immediacy.
“Syrofoam Plates” shows Gibbard as an eerily convincing lyricist with stanzas like: “It’s no stretch to say you were not quite a father / but the donor of seeds to a poor single mother / that would raise us alone / we never saw the money / that went down your throat to the hole in your belly.”
Following months spent looking for a drummer to complete a rhythm section led by Temple alum and local heartthrob Dan Gross, None More Black (with the help of Spaceboy Records) has finally put out its first in what promises to be a long line of releases. The band, featuring the voice of Jason Shevchuk, known for his circle pit-inducing work with Kid Dynamite, delivers three melodic, driving rock songs full of head bobbing hooks and jangly instrumental interludes.
While the music on this record may lack the speed and anger of the singer/guitarist’s former band, None More Black does at least as good a job at turning out upbeat tunes with just enough grit and distorted guitar too keep things from getting too poppy. Those unfamiliar with the band’s name should pay closer attention to This is Spinal Tap or at least look at their friends’ new t-shirts in the months to come.
The full-length follow-up to the Blue Trees EP, Gorky’s How I Long to Feel That Summer in My Heart shows a slight attempt to have a more “accessible” feel. Basically, they have taken the bits of their music that makes them most memorable and put them together #151; a Gorky’s For Dummies, if you will. As always with Gorky’s work, they’re hard to get into at first. But their albums are “growers” as the phrase in the book “High Fidelity” went.
While How I Long lacks the spark of their previous works, the aura of the band’s eccentric Welsh folksiness still permeates it. Highlights include the lush “Where Does Yer Go Now” and the latest in obligatory happy, jumpy Gorky’s tunes, “Her Hair Hangs Long.” In all honesty, it does not exactly hang as a complete, coherent work but there is enough here to satisfy the fan base and then some.
Do you think Flock of Seagulls is God’s gift to recorded sound? Do you have a super ’80s haircut that everyone makes fun of yet “so defines you” and there’s no way you’ll ever chop it off? If so, you need this CD.
The Prima Donnas are three charismatic men from Austin, Texas, who sound like they’re straight out of England, 1988 #151; a time when synthpop consumption ranked up there with leg warmers and jelly bracelets. The Prima Donnas torpedoed the mid-’90s with a vision of old-school MTV and faux British accents.
Releasing only limited 7″s and LPs, the group were destined for obscurity. Lead singer Otto Matik later embarked on a solo career of house parties as Gene Defcon (the 47 song Come Party With Me 2000 on K Records is the most Defcon you’ll ever need).
Discotheques offers 14 b-sides and outtakes. It may not be the ideal introduction to this fun-loving trio, but with timeless tracks like “Headful of Pills” and “Love You, Schizo Sickie” there is enough primo synth-action to have you “(Dancin’ in the) Freaky Zone.”
From the title of the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up’s new album It’s Winter Here we know that no one has informed these five boys that “suicide rock” is sooo 1992. Enough with the psuedo-depressed bands! It’s Winter Here is another record of white males whining about their pathetic lives. Have we not learned that only Thom Yorke can get away with such behavior (and it’s even getting old with him)?
The album lacks any kind of musicality, creating songs that are melodramatic at best. After the third guitar “fade in, fade out” trick a song should be over, period. Singing should start at most one minute into a song, not three, a mistake found on “Peter Von Pinnon Final Draft.” After listening to It’s Winter Here, I cried for a half-hour, hoping no one else would waste 45 minutes and 23 seconds like I did.