Music Reviews: April 2006

Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not
360,000 Britons can’t be wrong, can they? Arctic Monkeys have shattered UK sales records with their debut album and ride a wave of hype into America’s consciousness. Their songs are crisp and tightly-wound, moving rapidly through a gambit of musical ideas (albeit none terribly original). Arctic Monkeys find their unique voice through their detail-obsessed lyrics referencing drunken text messages, Smirnoff ices, overpriced cabs and surly bouncers. This sharp focus is refreshing, and lends these Monkeys an authenticity which inspires one to view their irritating aspects more benevolently.

Please Come Back EP
(Secretly Canadian)
“We’re Catfish Haven and this is what we do,” shouts an obnoxious and loutish voice. Fortunately, what they do gets much better after that, and involves rough-edged rock with some throaty vocals. Catfish Haven’s sound is powered by George Hunter’s vocals, replete with desperation and scratchy pathos. Other than that, they’re fairly ordinary: workmanlike drumming, unostentatious strumming and retro-fitted songs. However, I am of the persuasion that convincing vocals can cover a multitude of sins, and Hunter’s throaty exuberant pining consistently wins me over.

(Paper Bag)
There are bands that are masquerading in the dance realm, and there are bands that are the dance realm. The Killers, The Bravery, these are your imitators. !!!, LCD Soundsystem, VHS or Beta, these are the ones that know what’s up. Toronto’s Controller.Controller belongs to the second list.

Destroyer’s Rubies
This is the sixth album from Vancouver’s own Dan Bejar, last heard at the helm of multiple tracks on the New Pornographers’ Twin Cinema. Here, Bejar offers a particularly virtuosic melange of multi-instrumented psychedelia, noise and folky shuffle. He also spits out a copious stream of erudite yet inscrutable lyrics in a vocal styling that demand Bowie comparisons. If that sounds appealing, then jump on it. But I find Bejar’s incessant and impenetrable barrage to be grating, obscuring the superlative complexity and nuance of his music.

(The Control Group)
When someone claims a new group similar to their favorite band in the land, it means they must really take stock in the comparison. Well, here goes: Something about Figurines reminds me of The Strokes. It’s definitely not the lead singer’s voice-though it does remind me exactly of someone else’s that I absolutely cannot remember. Rather, this comparison lies in the rest of the lot-the way the guitar and drums interplay, the dynamic of the vocals. That said, there’s more here to draw from too. It’s also a little bit Pavement and a little bit Modest Mouse. These types of bands may seem a dime a dozen lately, but when a good one comes along it does always seem abundantly clear-and, yep, this is a good one.

Her Accent Was Excellent
Nothing on this album is worth listening to, or discussing. Some of the song titles are sort of fun to repeat, though: “Misinformation Rules” (more fun with a “!” at the end, I think), “On Fire with a Dolphin,” “Dude, You’re Drunk” (oh, that one’s stupid), “” (oh, shoot, they’re getting worse). Uh, don’t bother with any of it.

Future Women (Polyvinyl)
This Chicago band likes their fuzz-boxes on, their bells chiming, and their harmonies tripartite. Don’t mistake their sonic squalor for garage rock, though-it’s carefully balanced, almost mellifluous (think the gossamer surge of early Smashing Pumpkins), and often coupled with strings or the aforementioned bells. There is something retro or classic in their sound, perhaps in the well-worn chord progressions that underscore their songs. Maybe it’s in the careless confidence of their music. Whatever it is, it’s awfully easy to like.

In a way, this album title is curiously apropos, as the Mogwai menace seems strangely domesticated on their latest offering. It’s not that the Beast has turned into a lamb, he’s just settled into a stately townhouse and kept his primordial rages and epic moodswings under control. Mogwai trade in some multi-guitar assault for tactful drum patter and stately keyboard lines. That said, all bets are off on “We’re No Here,” the album’s thunderous closer which makes everything you’ve heard about volcanoes, monsters and the apocalypse seem like the chirping of so many chickadees.

P.O.S. Audition
I’ve mentioned it before, but here I go again: this album artwork freaks me out. Really freaks me out. Nevertheless, when he’s not posing for mock-strangulation shots, Minnesota’s P.O.S. is busy adding worthy beats to the already burgeoning collection of goods at Rhymesayers. The man behind the music grew up in punk rock, and it must show in his work because, well, somehow non-rap fans can stand it-perhaps he’s taking a page from fellow Minneapolis fella’ Atmosphere’s book.

Various Artists
San Diego’s Three.One.G is just about the coolest label ever. So, when a group of their finest bands gets together to work on anything, it’s undoubtedly cause for celebration. Who’s included in the mix this time around? Some Girls, Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Daughters, Year Future, Chinese Stars, Get Hustle, and more. It’s a thrill at each track, and something to check out as a fantastic introduction to all that the label has to offer, if you’re not already aware.

Various ArtistsRAWK is a great Spokane organization that puts on shows that make the kids go wild (okay, and me, when they welcomed The Academy Is last September). Every year the buzz about the RAWK Final Four is crazy throughout the city’s high schools, and this year is surely no exception. Watch for Big Wang Theory, Tekoa~Sun and Foreign DNA on this disc, but, really, congrats to all involved in this fantastic project.

Dying To Say This To You
(New Line)
There are likely not words enough to express just how cool Sounds frontwoman Maja Ivarsson is. Her bleach blonde locks, her heavily-lined eyes, her onstage swagger just incredible. The Sounds’ 2001 debut, Living in America, was about the catchiest thing to come about that year, and while Dying to Say This To You differs slightly, it’s still an absolute gem. “Ego,” “Queen of Apology” and “Painted by Numbers” are fantastic, and they’ll be even better when accompanied by Ivarsson’s blood, sweat and tears on their upcoming spring tour dates.

Show Your Bones
A quick word from a non-Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan: The new album is frickin’ AWESOME. The first time I listened to it I was at work, and everyone was convinced that the first two tracks were straight from the mouths of Tegan & Sara. Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re alright, but don’t be discouraged by this disc because of any dislike of the aforementioned twins. Comparisons to whatever aside, the YYYs disc is wonderful. “Maps” was a good song lost in a fog of shite, but everything on Bones is stellar. Look no further than the first single, “Gold Lion,” for proof, and then turn to the rest of the album when you can’t get enough of it.

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