THE ACADEMY IS…
Fast Times at Barrington High (Decaydance)
So sue me, I love the Academy Is… And believe me, I don’t go for this crap. I don’t DO teenager music. But seriously, if you’re a 13 year old girl, or the parent of a 13 year old girl, you have my (esteemed, ahem) seal of approval on this album. William Beckett and crew are top choice as far as the teen-pop genre is concerned with this reviewer, so… listen on. It beats what I listened to when I was 13 (and I say that as a youngin’ whose 13 year old listening pleasures were around the Hanson/Spice Girls era—though, don’t fear, I entered high school with classic rock in tow… wait…).
“Born to be Your Man” from From the Mountain to the Sea (Fader)
Though the new album from Birdmonster has yet to arrive on the ol’ review desk, if the new track “Born to be Your Man” is any indication, the band is about to delight us all over again. The San Franciscans are a mainstay in the Spokane scene thanks to some lucky marketing and early support from local music scribe Som Jordan, and the adoration is well-founded. Birdmonster serves up melodic, soulful pop that touches on the best trends of recent years, with a carefully-executed and confident angle. This disc will no doubt find its joyful way to Spokane ears (even if the band’s upcoming U.S. tour sadly doesn’t…).
BOY EATS DRUM MACHINE
Booomboxxx (Tender Loving Empire)
Boy Eats Drum Machine is this one guy from Portland named Jon Ragel who samples drum loops and creates songs around them with a battery of different instruments and his own damn voice. He even did the album artwork hisself, this Renaissance man. He drew a boombox with teeth on it for the cover. It’s cute, you know? In between tasty tenor sax licks and well-placed samples, Ragel has some interesting songwriting going on. I’m trying to place his singing style right now… and it reminds me of a happy-go-lucky Trent Reznor. Methinks he’s trying to convey some kind of positive message for the kids. Admirable.
Class Wars: K-12 (Aviation)
One of the crew behind Kaylee Cole’s imminent rise to superstardom has this band called Das Llamas. His name is Kerry Zettel and his band is really good. They also just broke up. But while together, ooh baby. This disc, their sophomore full-length, is the culmination of several years as a band, and its strength shows (rather sadly) just what value the band could have continued to have. Their break-up nearly a month in the past, this fabulous disc now gets to live as a “what if,” and lucky for them its strength will make it the stuff of local Northwest legend. (Watch for the rise of Zettel’s other band, See Me River… review coming soon.)
Congratulations, Spokane. You’ve made it a long way. Having one of the coolest bands in the land, the Faint, grace the stage of your new Knitting Factory (let’s just call it new and ignore the past) was a real accomplishment and you deserve a collective pat on the back for it (and so too does the Knitting Factory itself). The Faint is one of the top five best live bands I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen ‘em more than I see most bands. Todd Baechle is one of the most enigmatic frontmen in current music hands down, and he makes the Faint an unstoppable FORCE in the live arena. The talented quintet, once of Conor Oberst’s Omaha label Saddle Creek, has struck out on their own, releasing this album independently… and what an album it is. Never to be outdone, the Faint consistently show why they are at the top of the synth-pop game, and their latest disc is no exception.
ALBERT HAMMOND, JR.
¿Como Te Llama? (Black Seal)
The Strokes’ rhythm guitarist serves up his second solid solo album following his band’s last LP. Using the same full-band format (which includes once-Strokes tour manager Matt Romano on drums), ¿Como Te Llama? follows in the footsteps of 2006’s Yours to Keep by providing the sort of jangly, guitar-driven indie pop and drawling, detached vocals that may cause one to assume erroneously that Hammond is the Strokes’ principle songwriter. Not that he sets out to copy his own band’s sound per se; he tends toward a more upbeat, bouncy take on the same general style, even while conveying an earnestness missing from Julian Casablancas’ delivery.
Take Me to the Sea (Matador)
A longtime fan of both the Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves, I’ve kept a careful distance from Jaguar Love. Sure, it may appear to have the best of both worlds (Johnny Whitney and Cody Votolato of BB and J. Clark of PGMG), but how could it REALLY replace the hole left in my musical soul by the dissolution of the trio’s previous projects? BUT, as it turns out, I’m not as difficult to please as I gave myself credit for. Turns out all I REALLY need to make me happy is Johnny Whitney’s nasally wail and some dance-y beats. And Jaguar Love, she’s got that. I still miss me some Andrea Zollo, but before my dream PGMG reunion show (and BB, for that matter), this’ll do just fine.
It would seem totally possible that you could stick the first disc of this two disc set into the player and have one heck of a workout routine on your hands. See, if it weren’t already made abundantly clear through his rocky past, George Michael… he’s a sexual guy. That’s why this pair of greatest hits discs is divided between disc one, “For Living,” and disc two, “For Loving.” George is just helpin’ you out. But here’s the thing about that aforementioned workout routine–it doesn’t work. Whether intentional or not (fake-knowing George, it’s intentional), that “Living” disc hits some serious slow points that, well, let’s just say, belong on the other disc. That’s not to say Mr. Michael isn’t a musical stud—because he is. This just seems a poor format to display what could be an awesome collection of greatest hits. (Also, George, why not bag four of these songs and have the combo be 25 songs to go with the “25 Live Tour” you were just on to celebrate your 25 years of music—too easy?)
Take This and Go (Clickpop)
Jenni Potts is a nice young singer-songwriter from Bellingham who’s in the habit of thanking her deceased cat in her liner notes and singing emotive orch pop in a slightly more comprehensible manner than Sigur Ros but a tad more off-kilter than, say, The Left Banke. She has a very mature and assured voice and her songwriting shows promise, especially on the strong opener, “Pro LC.” The string arrangements that accompany each track are tastefully done and the backing band compliments the songs well. The end result is all very pleasant indeed, yes, and is certainly an indication that there is better to come, one should think.