Alright, a few of these brief CD reviews appeared in the blog earlier this year or in the Reviews Matrix. I compiled them, along with a many more, for the following column. I’d like to do a reviews run-down every few months or so.
Column 71: No Stars, No Letters
Recent releases, for your consideration…Those who read the Lazy-i website already are aware of my pejorative CD rating system — a simple “yes” or “no.” No stars, no letter grades. Look, listeners simply want to know if a recording is worth dropping their hard-earned rubles for. I’ve been told my system is too draconian by those who would prefer a “you’d like this if you listen to that” system, which, of course, is spineless. That said, all of the CDs mentioned below rate a “Yes” unless otherwise noted. Pay attention, they’re short (and in iPod alpha order, for your convenience).
The Ark, State of the Ark (EMI) — They rip off every ’70s act from The Knack to Sweet, but remind you why you liked those bands in the first place. Inspired line: “Try some manners, f***face.”Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Matador) — Their retro upbeat dance record heavy on Bowie and T. Rex, I hated it at first. It’s grown on me (like a fungus).Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador) — The first album that Chan Marshall has made that I’ve enjoyed from beginning to end, she’s sounding even more like Mazzy Star with her sleepy, slurred vocals and warm, mid-tempo dream-melodies.Centro-matic, Fort Recovery (Misra) — The most unheralded geniuses in indie since The Grifters (or Silkworm, but that’s another story). It’s about time they get discovered by the masses.
Chad VanGaalen, Infiniheart (SubPop) — Simple one-man band production is dark, haunting, cool shit. A singer-songwriter creep show.The Cops, Get Good or Stay Bad (Mt. Fuji) — Mike Jaworski’s bands have always been derivative, but they’ve never been this good. This time he combines The Clash, Rocket from the Crypt and a black-leather New York garage punk band. Heartfelt.David Dondero, South of the South (Team Love) — Hear once and for all where Conor Oberst got his bray. Smart songwriting.Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat (Reprise) — I don’t want to hear how “uncool” it is to like Fagen and Steely Dan. Few people write smarter, snarkier lyrics, and even fewer can make them bounce with such infectious ease.The Eighteenth Day of May, self-titled (Hannibal) — British acoustic folk in the style of Richard and Linda Thompson/Fairport Convention; the kind of music we all need more of in our lives.Elf Power, Back to the Web (Rykodisc) — From Athens, they have the same sheen of early acoustic R.E.M., though Andy Rieger is no Michael Stipe, but maybe that’s a good thing.The Fall, Hex Enduction Hour (reissue) (Castle Music) — Indie’s last wave was all about rediscovering the desolate funk of Gang of Four; the next will be about rediscovering the arrogance of The Fall.Hayley Taylor, Waking (self-release) — Like Jenny Lewis (whose music her music resembles) she’s another TV veteran (Sabrina, ER) turned musician. Produced by A.J. Mogis.The Headlights, The Enemies EP (Polyvinyl) — Another Death Cab-influenced band. This one’s better than most. At O’Leavers 4/10.Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) — Easily the best thing Lewis has produced since The Execution of All Things back in ’02.Kyle Harvey, Truth Is the Color of Teeth (self-release) — Stark, almost grim heartbreak tone-poems infused with electronics. Bleak.
Mad Happy, Renegade Geeks (Mutiny Zoo) — Mike iLL and Rivka are hip-hop’s Pat and Barbara K. McDonald. They have the same subversive vibe as Timbuk 3, though their music is more electronic than organic, and slightly more in your face (but only slightly).Minmae, Le Grand Essor de la Maison du Monstre (Greyday) — What you’d get if Bill Callahan (the one from Smog, not the Huskers) fronted Pavement.Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (American) — Again, I don’t want to hear it. This gets added points from the Rick Rubin production, the only guy that can convince these dinosaurs that all they need is their guitar.Neil Young, Heart of Gold (Reprise) — With apologies to our cadre of movie critics, this is a flick review (though you can buy the soundtrack). Not as good as Rust Never Sleeps, but few concert movies are. Worth seeing if only for Neil’s VH-1-style “songwriters” confessions and “Old Man,” again.The Plastic Constellations, Crusades (French Kiss) — Frenetic, proggy, spazzy rock, strange and danceable, exactly what you’d expect from a band on this label (Les Savy Fav, Rahim, etc.).Rahim, Ideal Lives (French Kiss) — Frenetic, proggy, spazzy rock, strange and danceable, exactly what you’d expect from a band on this label (Les Savy Fav, The Plastic Constellations, etc.).Simon Joyner, Beautiful Losers (Jagjaguwar) — This B-sides and singles collection is an excellent introduction to Joyner’s early work (though nothing beats his masterpiece, The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll, which remains out of print).Stereolab, Fab Four Suture (Too Pure) — I admit to never being a fan, but I can see why some might dig this French/Euro/Retro pop. I’m not one of them. Rating: No.Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (reissue) (Rhino) — Part of a massive reissuing of early Heads material, Rhino wouldn’t send me the whole thing. Each DualDisc includes the album in 5.1 Surround Sound with a couple videos included. If you don’t own this, now’s the time.The Twilight Singers, Powder Burns (One Little Indian) — Greg Dulli (ex-Afghan Whigs) knows how to put his soul on the slab for anyone to poke at. He’s done it again, albeit less subtly than on Blackberry Belle.Two Gallants, What the Toll Tells (Saddle Creek) — While a little of these hippy, ship-galley sea-shanty balladeers goes a long way, I’m beginning to see why they appealed to the sexy young execs at Saddle Creek.
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