Just to clarify, I don’t recommend the U2 CD — it rates a “no.” All of the others get a firm “yes.” A few others worth checking out that didn’t make it into the column: A.E. Newman, Get Guilty; Alela Diane, To Be Still; Beep Beep, Enchanted Islands; Bonnie Prince Billy, Beware; Elvis Perkins in Dearland, self titled; Heartless Bastards, The Mountain; Little Brazil, Son; M. Ward, Hold Time; Maria Taylor, Ladyluck; Micachu & The Shapes, Jewellery; Mogwai, The Hawk Is Howling; Neko Case, Middle Cyclone; Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, My Name Is What Is Your Name; Sebastien Tellier, Kilometer; The Show Is the Rainbow, Wet Fist; The Thermals, Now We Can See; Thin Lizzy, Still Dangerous – Live 1977.
Column 219: 13 for Summer
Capsule reviews of recent releases.
Here’s another one of those what-have-you-been-listening-to-lately columns to stave off readers dying for music suggestions as we head toward summer. I realized after rereading these that they’re written in a sort-of short-hand — you have to know something about these bands or this style of music or else these caplettes will read like someone with tourettes barking out an iPod playlist. You’ll figure it out.
Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career (4AD) — As if channeling Phil Spector or the Ronnettes or something that your folks’ folks grew up listening to, but jazzed up like modern swing without a hint of nostalgic irony, thanks to Tracyanne Campbell’s shiny-lipstick voice. Leave it to some Glasgowians to show us how to reinvent classic American pop.
O+S, self-titled (Saddle Creek) — The sell-point is Scalpelist (a.k.a. Cedric LeMoyne) adding his thick, throbbing, exotic rhythms to Orenda Fink’s downcast, typically passive love/lost songs. In the end, it’s a Fink solo album, as moody and down-tempo as everything she’s done before. And “The Fox” is the prettiest, saddest, slightest song of her career.
U2, No Line on the Horizon (Interscope) — It’s not so much that it sounds uninspired as much as it sounds like they were trying to capture an earnest buzz not heard since The Joshua Tree. The result is a hodge-podge of shadowy guitar reflections heard on better albums. In the end, it made me like their older material that much more, and made me wonder if they’ll ever come up with anything groundbreaking again.
Belle & Sebastian, The BBC Sessions (Matador) — Back when they were young and sinister, the album collects some of their most obscure — and most essential (at least to fans) — recordings, including a handful you’ve never heard before unless you tuned to John Peel. The stripped-down, breathy production reveals a whole ‘nuther, twee-ish view of their intricate, heartfelt songwriting.
Glasvegas, self-titled (Columbia) — Like a Scottish version of Interpol laced with equal parts of The Cure and Simple Minds, they take songs “Geraldine” and “It’s My Own Cheating Heart that Makes Me Cry,” to gigantic, anthem-sized proportions. Throughout, the brogue is unabashed — on the shimmering do-wopper “Daddy’s Song,” crooner James Allen sings “Forget your da, he’s gone.” Not dad, da. One of the most hyped bands going, and worth all of it.
Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe (EMI) — When I say it sounds like 1988, I mean the 1988 seen in a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel — rich kids driving in shiny convertibles on their way to a late-night El Lay party, blurred on coke, looking for a backyard swimming pool to pass out next to. No one makes mid-tempo electronic music like this anymore, though that hasn’t stopped bands from trying. Their best album since ’93’s Songs of Faith and Devotion.
Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications (Rough Trade) — Nevermind that Steve Albini recorded it (What’d you expect? A Big Black album?), it still has the same strut and swagger one wants and expects from a Jarvis Cocker/Pulp record, with something a little harder (“Homewrecker,” “Pilchard,” the title track) tossed in to shake things up.
Lloyd Cole, Cleaning Out the Ashtrays (Tapete) — Included because I’m his biggest (and only) fan in Omaha, here’s a 59-track, 4 CD box set of b-sides and rarities that span from 1989 to 2006 and includes extensive notes that explain where the recordings came from and why they never saw the light of day. I still say he’s our best living literary pop-song writer.
Los Campesinos!, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (Arts & Crafts) — This band of Cardiff, Wales, rebels is getting by on the idea that if you shout loud enough — together and in a group — you can make any miserable situation go away. Maybe they’re right. On the same label as Broken Social Scene (though punkier than any of their label mates).
Morrissey, Years of Refusal (Lost Highway) — Is it me or are all of Moz’s albums beginning to sound the same, like since Vauxhall and I? Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but the songs are starting to grow as gray as his sideburns. Still, it’s worth it for standouts like the booming “Black Cloud,” and the chiming, soaring “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” which, yes, we’ve heard before, but never seem to grow tired of (at least I don’t).
Peaches, I Feel Cream (XL) — Boom-box bass, electro-clash synth, simple 1-2-3-4 kick drum, and a woman with a filthy mouth who “don’t give a f__k if you fall for me.” This dance-floor Wendy O. Williams is at her best when she’s sassin’ ya with her sex jive and bragging that she’ll “f__k you like a billionaire,” vs. when she’s trying to channel Heart-of-Glass-era Blondie. But as infectious as the beats are, she can only “keep it up” for so long.
The Strange Boys, The Strange Boys And Girls Club (In the Red) — Garage rock by way of dawn-of-time Rolling Stones, Them, The Count Five, The Blue Magoos, all the usual suspects. The up-jump jangle belies songs with titles like “They’re Building the Death Camps,” “Should Have Shot Paul,” and “Death and All the Rest.” Don’t worry, it’s all in good fun, and good fun it is.
Dark Was the Night, various artists, (4AD) — A can’t-lose double-CD (or triple-vinyl) album that compiles previously unreleased songs from current-day indie royalty, from Andrew Bird to Yo La Tengo and 30 artists in between, including Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket and Spoon, with proceeds going to the Red Hot Organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. The most satisfying indie music comp I’ve heard in years.
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Tonight is the Benefit Music Show for Erin and Ariann Anderson at The Waiting Room. The Andersons’ parents, Karla and Robert Anderson, were the couple who died March 30 in their Dundee home — the alleged victims of a murder-suicide. Performing at the show are Song Remains the Same, Grand Theft Girlfriend, Goodbye Sunday, and Awake and Dreaming. The show starts at 8, and the minimum donation is $10.
Also tonight, Ha Ha Tonka plays at Slowdown Jr. with Tie These Hands and Ben Weaver. $8, 9 p.m. Me, I’ll be at Neil Young at the Qwest Center. Opening is Neil Young protégés Everest and the Neville Brothers. Show starts at 7:30 — I’ll get there around 9. Tix are still available.
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