Column 33 and the beginning of a new feature; Chariots AN/Sadaharu tonight

Category: Blog — @ 12:33 pm July 14, 2005

This week’s column is reviews of four summer Saddle Creek Records releases and other various and sundry discussions. More importantly, it’ll mark the beginning of my “one-a-day” CD review policy, where I publish right here and either in the Reviews or Reviews Matrix section of the site at least one CD review per day every day that a new blog update appears (note that I have been known to take weekends off when there are no shows worth reviewing). Some reviews will be long and detailed. Others will only be a sentence. All will have a rating (all four Creek releases received “Yes” ratings, btw). How long can I keep it up? Well, with something like 500 CDs received per year for review, this pace should help keep me at least only slightly below the waves with submissions, though I have a long, long way to go to ever catch up.

Summer at Saddle Creek
A first look at the label’s summer releases.

Coming off last year, a few of us know-it-alls laughed in our best Muttley wheezes at the prospects of poor Saddle Creek Records. “They blew their load in ’04,” we said, pointing at the CDs released by most of their best-selling artists, including two of their (current) Big Three. Sure, there were those duo Bright Eyes releases in January, but other than that, what was there to look forward to in ’05? A few of us (actually, just me) hypothesized that the label had expected its Slowdown project to go down this year, and purposely kept the release load light. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

With summer burning hot on our backs and August just around the corner, Creek again finds itself with a plethora of releases from new artists and second-tier statesmen that could draw as much revenue as the ’04 contingent. Here’s an early look at what’s headed down the road.

Orenda FinkInvisible Ones (Release: Aug. 23) — The other half of Azure Ray takes her shot at a solo project with better results. While both Fink’s and co-hort Maria Taylor’s CDs are more upbeat and interesting than anything they put out together, Invisible Ones raises the bar even further. “Bloodline” is hot ambient rock, like a laid-back Faint track, maybe because Mr. Fink (the former Mr. Baechle) plays guitar and keyboards on it. “Les Invisibles,” with its mock choir, jazz flute and Fink’s droning melody, sports the same dreaded undertone as Tricky’s “Christiansands” with Fink playing the Bjork role. “Animal” is downright tribal, while the “Dirty South” is downright filthy. They aren’t all departures. The mewing “Miracle Wonder” and “Easter Island” could have come off the last Azure Ray CD along with “Blind Asylum,” in spite of its cello-plucking accompaniment. So which is the better of the two? I’m not saying.

MaydayBushido Karaoke (Released: June 21) — Is it me or is this the most upbeat thing Ted Stevens has recorded under the Mayday moniker? Damn right it is. I wouldn’t call it rock, as much as honky-tonk or blue-grass or just plain fun. “Continental Grift” is as funky as these white guys get. “Old World New World” is a banjo-pluckin’ skipper, while “Father Time” recalls a dusty Ennio Morricone soundtrack sung by rednecks. It’s probably no coincidence that Stevens’ voice resembles David Byrne’s since his songs do as well (albeit with a twang). Yee-haw.

Broken SpindlesInside/Absent (Release: Aug. 23) — Mr. Lexus commercial himself starts his new one sounding like that same Lexus commercial — all noodling-keyboard-spider-web-tinkling spook — before floating into the thump-thump-thump electronic pulse of “This Is an Introduction” — a track that proves Joel Petersen’s atonal vocals are no longer mere novelty. In fact, they’re a necessity, adding Depeche-Mode drama to dance-floor poser “Please Don’t Remember This” and Faint-outcasts “The Distance is Nearsighted” and “Painted Boy Face.” For contrast, Petersen returns to the creepy Lexus-tinkling a few times too many, but not enough to bring down the disc. Too laid-back for the runway, Inside/Absent confirms that Broken Spindles is more than a Faint side project.

CriteriaWhen We Break (Release: Aug. 23) — Easily the most commercial-flavored CD Creek has ever released, When We Break is pure FM-ready back-break indie rock in the vein of such scorchers as, say, The Jealous Sound, Jimmy Eat Word or (dare I say it) Cursive. The diff is in Stephen Pedersen’s soaring bird-call melodies and the stutter-step, boot-on-your-neck, five-beat rhythms that have all the subtlety of a drunken waltz on meth. A.J. Mogis has emerged as Pedersen’s Michael Anthony harmony-wise (though he more closely resembles a shaggy Walter Becker). Because the hooks are easier to find and less dissonant than Cursive’s, more modern-sounding than The Faint’s and more radio-ready than Conor’s, this one could turn Creek’s Big Three into The Big Four.
What’s missing? Cursive’s The Difference Between Houses And Homes (Lost Songs and Loose Ends 1995-2001), slated for release Aug. 9. Why? Because I haven’t heard it yet. The 12-song collection includes two previously unreleased tracks and 10 from out-of-print 7″s. Consider it a prelude to what lies ahead, as Cursive brushes the dust from its shoulders and reenters the fray in 2006.

Tonight it’s Chariots AN and Sadaharu at O’Leaver’s (who, by the way, recently updated their online schedule — hooray! I can promise Sean and the gentlemen that run that esteemed volleyball/music club that their show-draw will be exponentially higher if they just keep that calendar up-to-date). Chariots AN have played with Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower and record on Troubleman Unlimited (I think), while Sadaharu, whose new album is called The Politics of Dancing (sound familiar?), made AP‘s “100 bands you need to know in 2005” list.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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