Music Reviews: August 2006

The Front
You can separate this Seattle band from the current trash-heap of country-fied rock bands by virtue of some nice songwriting and a tremendous lead vocalist by the name of Darren Golden. Golden sounds like some sort of alt-country Eddie Vedder leading a band that draws equal inspiration from Lucinda Williams and American Music Club. Catch them outside for free this month at Mizuna.

Breath of Fire
While I can certainly appreciate the study of “multiphonic vocals” as a means to expanding oneself as a musician, I can’t say I’m 100% behind them overtaking my stereo. De Dionyso’s racked up cred with Old Time Relijun, so he’s undoubtedly got enough of a following, that one less won’t hurt. While I shut this off, let’s soldier on…

Two Thousand
The shakeups have been a-shakin’ with New Yorkers French Kicks, but if anything they’ve just gotten better. We won’t say it’s directly because of Matt Stinchcomb’s departure, but maaaan is this a good record. It’s got all of the usual sway and strut that we’ve come to know of that cool “New York sound,” but it’s also much more pop, much fuller, and much more chorus-oriented than anything the band has offered up before. It’s a new direction, but the risk easily proves worth it.

How About That?
(China Shop Music)
“The Icelandic Beck,” as some critics have termed this Iceland-born, Norway-based musician, may be a little bit of a stretch, but the lyrics are fun and the music is quirky. Ready for something a little different? Take note.

Shout the Rafters Down!
(Drowned in Sound)
I just gotta say it. This is the best thing I’ve heard in sooooooooooooooo long. While it becomes increasingly difficult with the barrage of crap that lands in my lap every day to find music that means anything to me at all, I’m still constantly on the prowl. I have to be. Then, Adam Gnade, who we’ll just refer to from here on out as “my hero,” sends a few tracks he’s just finished and they totally blow my mind. It’s not easy to blow this mind. Gnade’s full length last fall managed it, but the new track “We Live Nowhere and No One” is just beyond… everything… ever. Best thing I’ve heard in more time than I’d care to reflect on. Order it, get it, however you can.

Jacket Full of Danger
(Rough Trade)
I don’t get Adam Green. I don’t think I could ever spend enough time on trying to figure him out. I love it. I was once referred to by a high school teacher as an “enigma,” and I think the title is well-suited for Mr. Green too. His lyrics don’t make sense to anyone but him, he acts and dances a bit of a fool, but dammit if he isn’t totally likeable. Green’s history is in his duo with Kimya Dawson, the Moldy Peaches, but he’s made a hell of a name for himself on his own. He’s been on the cover of Rolling Stone…in Germany, and his lounge singer/ultimate hipster act is an absolute gem. Be prepared for a few filthy words and content, and then enjoy.

Lights From the Wheelhouse
Simplistic and breathtaking, the music of the Late Cord is supplied by the unlikely pair of John-Mark Lapham, of the Earlies, and Micah P. Hinson. It comes together with sad-tuned instruments of nearly every variety, minimal lyrical and vocal contributions, and it’s an absolute stunner. This is another solid release from 4AD (who also houses Mojave 3 and Mountain Goats), and it’s just an EP. Now begins the wait with baited breath for the full-length from this new powerhouse duo.

Putting the Days to Bed
The songs, the personality, the man: John Roderick, Seattle’s hidden treasure. Is he hidden anymore? Not sure. But he’s a treasure, no doubt. A diamond in the rough, even. Roderick’s managed to do things his way, on his terms, and he’s racked up plenty of fans along the way. This is the first full-length release from the Winters in three years, and though the Ultimatum EP held us over, it’s a damn good thing Roderick delivers here. Songs like “Pushover,” “Fire Island, AK” and “Ultimatum” (now faster and a bit punchier) are just so good. Singing about singers can be a little stomach turning (“Honest”), but it works with Roderick. And it’s in good company. Worth the wait, oh so worth the wait.

Pretty Flowers
We’ve desensitized the word “punk” so much in the past few years, allowing things (yes, “things”) like Sum 41 and Simple Plan to wrongfully borrow the label. The truth is that punk can still be really exciting. Bands like Pretty Flowers are here to remind us all of this. Stripped down like the Ramones and toting the bio info. that each of the members comes for the Island of Misfit Toys (what?), this band is punk as punk can be. Now, if only we could charter a flight to their native New York to catch what would undeniably be a frickin’ great show. Consolation prize? This three song EP: Short, but great.

Los Angeles phenoms, Silversun Pickups, have managed to capture the perfection that is their live show on a disc. The EP, Pikul, was strong (and garnered heavy attention), but it’s on their debut full length that the band comes out as what they really are-moody, atmospheric, sonic beauty. The locals (in their locale) are undeniably tired of them by now, but luckily the name is just getting out nationally. Have a listen while it’s still hip.

The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living
I’m technically not allowed to like the Streets. I am incapable of enjoying hip-hop, and I am, in general, also quite incapable of supporting solo acts that use names befitting a group (i.e. “The Russian Futurists,” “The Streets,” “Everclear”-ignore the jab). Little pet peeves, I can’t help them. With all the hype, though, it was finally time to encounter this one-man “band” of Brit, Mike Skinner. What was found? Planned or unplanned, Skinner looks a bit of an ass in every promotional photo of him. But I like it. I like the schtick (I hope that’s what it is). I can’t like rap, it’s true, but the fellow’s work and words have value beyond the beats.

Entire sub-genres of music have drawn their inspiration from a single Black Sabbath song. In this case Wolfmother’s debut album is like a doctoral thesis on the audio possibilities contained in Sabbath’s 1971 rave-up “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots.” But despite the fuzzy guitars and the dinosaur-rock vocals the record is not retro: it’s 100% balls out, contemporary rawk n’ roll, with more hooks than Justin Timberlake. Wolfmother is a chord-crunching triumph unencumbered by art-school B.S. For those about to Wolf, I salute you.

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