THE ACADEMY IS…
“We’ve Got a Big Mess on our Hands”
(Fueled by Ramen)

I’m so embarrassed this is the lead off review that if I weren’t tirelessly anal about all things properly alphabetical, I’d toss it to the “T”s. But here we are. Truth is, I love The Academy Is… (and things just got more embarrassing), and their new track only serves to underscore how excited I am for the new album. Ha!

AQUEDUCT
Or Give Me Death
(Barsuk)

Never did I think that Aqueduct (aka the adorably irresistible David Terry) could outdo “Growing up with GnR” and the way Terry comes out with that line “Baby you are lookin’ foxy tonight.” That line has marked pop perfection for me since release. On Or Give Me Death, Terry is able to match his previous efforts with ease. He aces on album opener “Lying in the Bed I’ve Made” and never loses momentum. Characteristic charm is intact too, with the line “People never change, bitch, don’t even try” on the perfect, “Keep it Together.”

THE ARCADE FIRE
Neon Bible
(Merge)

If you weren’t into the Arcade Fire when their debut, Funeral, was released a few years ago, you were, well, LAME. This=me. Who wants to be cool anyway? After listening to Neon Bible, I wish I’d been cool. Now I’m just a dweeb that’s come onto something three years too late. That=LAMER.

WENDY ATKINSON
Pink Noise
(Smarten Up! & Get to the Point)

I love having all-instrumental records to listen to while I’m reading or writing, and this all bass (acoustic & electric) solo CD by Atkinson is my new favorite for this purpose. The album begins with an industrial drone, becomes more ambient, and by the end has some melodic tracks that have you re-thinking how pretty the bass guitar can sound all by its lonesome. Fans of Tortoise and Pell Mell will dig this.

LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM
Under the Skin (Reprise)

I have this thing where I can only be so interested in some music because my sister is such a superfan of it. In no other case is this more evident than with the Buckingham/Nicks/Fleetwood Mac family of music. Truthfully, I’ve always enjoyed overhearing it, though I’d never EVER say it. I swiped Lindsey (I’m on a first name basis by association to my sister, “Stevie and Lindsey”) from work the other day because, now that I live a pretty good space from my sister, I figure I could get away with listening to it. Buckingham solo, at least currently, is more like other stuff I heard growing up-from my mom’s stereo-stuff like Kenny Loggins. It’s great (especially all of the guitar, just, goodness!), but really it just inspired me to finally open that copy of FMac’s The Dance that my sister got me for my birthday way back in December.

Danava
Danava
(Kemado Records)

The burgeoning realm of hipster metal is separated in half by a very slight chasm of plagiarized mush and studied accomplishment. Danava is balancing the chasm like a well-oiled circus freak. Part metal, part whine. If you’re unable to find a used copy of the august, super-recording, Stained Glass, by Judas Priest, or you’re too shy to peer in to the dark recesses of the Metal vault, Danava might be up your alley. Hailing from the hipster hamlet that is Portland, Oregon, and being on the uber-hip Kemado Records, Danava still have a tough row to hoe. Even their accomplished studies of Slade, Diamond Head, Sweet, and Savatage ain’t enough to get them over the derivative hump.

GRIZZLY BEAR
Yellow House
(Warp)

I have a friend who has been all over Grizzly Bear for so long. She’s always saying how ahead of the game she was and how great it is that they are finally being recognized. And I’m always like, “Oh, yeah, they are great, and it’s great when great bands get great attention.” I’d never heard them, I was just trying to be cool. And it bit me. For months I’ve been pseudo-supporting something I’m not too wild about. It’s good, I see the value, but it’s also one of those impossibly mellow bands that I’ve never quite been able to wrap my head around. In fact, while I was listening I kept trying to imagine what a Grizzly Bear show would be like, and at which point in the set I would fall asleep (that is, of course, if the setlist were the same as the tracklisting). Regardless, lesson learned, Grizzly Bear disc forgotten.

SAMMY HAGAR & THE WABOS
Livin’ it Up!
(Cabo Wabo Music)

I’m a Redhead. Not a redhead, a Redhead. We can all agree the “head” label gets thrown out too much in music-Deadheads, Parrotheads, et. al-but I’ve always rather enjoyed the Redhead tag, so I use it, I own it. We’re a smaller crew than the other aforementioned heads, but we’re proud. Most outside of our crew would argue that the apple of our Red eyes is a wee bit old for his game, a little past his prime. You know what we say? Forget ’em. In honor of Van Halen’s induction into the RnR Hall of Fame, I present you with the man behind that crew that has proven himself the only (I said it! The ONLY) member still, at 59 years old I’ll add, worthy of your time. Here’s proof.

HOT IQS
Dangling Modifier EP
(Yawact!on Records)

It bodes well for this Denver band that I’m so over stellastarr*, because just 30 seconds into their EP, a follow up to their 2004 debut, I can’t believe how much they sound like the stuffy New York four piece I’ve grown to despise so much via tiring live performances, repeatedly tiring songs, and, well, tiring arrogance. In fact, I told myself I’d never give stellastarr* editorial space anywhere ever again, and here I am. Since I’m already this far into it, I’ll take it further and give Hot IQs my full blessing (the ultimate stella middle finger). Afterall, they sound good, they look friendly and there isn’t a damn asterisk at the end of their name (nor any extra letters!).

THE PIERCES
Thirteen Tales of Love and Revenge
(Label)

If AP can name 100 bands “you need to know” in ’07, with 90% of the bands being completely devoid of talent (and/or being sooooo 2006-hello Silversun Pickups?), I can at least name one without seeming too pretentious, right? Watch out for the Pierces. Their producer-overpowered sophomore disc was released awhile back on a major label that, after it tanked, dumped their butts. Fate stepped in, put the Pierces on the track they were meant for, and out came this third disc in their catalog, their best to date. This is the real Pierces-those two heart-stoppingly gorgeous sisters from New York-via-Alabama. They are quirkier, funnier, and just better. This is stuff you really need to know.

JESSE SYKES & THE SWEET HEREAFTER
Like, Love, Lust & The Open Halls of The Soul
(Barsuk)

I’ve been ignoring Barsuk lately (somebody dropped the ball and forgot to send me disc action-no, no, it’s my fault for moving). The amazing catalog the label’s released in the past year is just overwhelming: Mates of State, The Long Winters, Rocky Votolato, Viva Voce. Best of the Northwest, I say. Jesse Sykes is someone I took a long while to come onto. I saw her open for Bright Eyes I don’t know how long ago, and was so underwhelmed I could hardly stand it. Luckily, I can admit fault. Sykes’ latest release is a great representation of the subtle, gorgeous talent contained within her. It’s heartfelt, honest, and, as a result, stunning.