Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I've Got a Lot of Time on My Hands, Apparently

Unemployment, meet blog activity.

Here's an update before I jump into the reviews: on first listen, I'm pretty impressed with the new albums from M83 (Saturdays = Youth), Millencolin (Machine 15), R.E.M. (Accelerate), The Roots (Rising Down), and Thalia Zedek Band (Liars and Prayers). I'll have more detailed impressions later. The obvious conclusion is that bands alphabetized from A-L are just mailing it in this year.
  • Ken Andrews – Secrets of the Lost Satellite (2007). This took a number of listens to get into, primarily because it’s well produced, but there's no tension. For the frontman for Year of the Rabbit, On, and Failure, this is a disappointment simply because it’s not great like everything else he’s ever done. But it’s still very good. I’ll keep it, although it’s just not quite as good as his other stuff.
    Verdict: Recommended, but get familiar with Failure first. CD Rack.
  • Armalite – Armalite (2006). The first track (“Entitled”) is fast, punky, and musically excellent. The rest of the album is more of the same, not quite as good but there is a lot here to like – nice hooks and lots of potential from the kids. Think Sum 41 if they had paid more attention to Sleater-Kinney. Of course, a song like “Husker Dave” (which starts with a riff from “Celebrated Summer” by Hüsker Dü) doesn’t hurt either. Their lyrics are both ironic and intelligent… there’s even a little Dead Milkmen here. I like these guys better and better the more I listen to them.
    Verict: Highly recommended. This is my 5th or 6th listen: I originally penciled this in as “Sell-back Pile 1” when I started this review… upon further listens this has moved up to Portable CD Case and may even have an outside shot of hitting the Car CD Changer.
  • Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – Baby 81 (2007). Black Rebel Motorcycle Club returns with a very typical BRMC album, and “Weapon of Choice” is a classic BMRC single. I love the guitar and vocal sound; they’re just not treading any new ground here. This is fine for long-time fans but I’d start earlier in their catalog first.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD Rack.
  • CSS – Cansei de ser Sexy (2006). The album opens with a simple lyric: “C… S… S… sucks.” This continues for the entire first minute of the album. Any group who can be that self-effacing will always have a place in my heart. This is definitely driving material – they’re a better vocabularied, electronicized, mid-tempo dancepop version of The Donnas. Not every song is great, and the album is not monumental, but it's a lot of fun. Want to hear them? You probably already have – they did that commercial with the lyrics “Music is my boyfriend,” which is on this album. Thanks for the recommendation, Andrew!
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Idlewild – Make Another World (2007). Another "first line truism": any album that starts with “In competition for the worst first line I could use” is already three steps ahead of the game. This album is a little grungy, a little heavy, a little poppy, and definitely enjoyable. “In Competition for Worst Time” is a great start; the second song (“Everything (As It Moves)”) did not strike me until I had a dream where it was the soundtrack, where I was James Bond or something silly like that. (Note to reader: my maturity has not reached that of a teenager yet.) And of course “No Emotion” is just an all-time great – worth the price of admission all by itself. Great album.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Car CD Changer.
  • Nada Surf – North 6th Street (1999). This is a collection of demos and alternate takes, which I’m normally not keen on – but these are excellent. If you’re like me and own everything Nada Surf has ever recorded, this is a must-have. If you don’t, this holds up even as a bizarro greatest hits album, truth be told. I was really surprised at how much I liked this album and how good the alternate/demo takes actually are. And yes, it’s got “Popular.”
    Verdict: Highly recommended. Portable CD Case.
  • Street Dogs – Fading American Dream (2006). Local Boston products with a lot of rage – a more slightly melodic Dropkick Murphy’s combined with a less lyrically interesting Against Me! “Fatty” is a great song of high school angst. And you have to respect them attempting a Billy Bragg cover (“There Is Power in a Union”). I want to like them more, but I just don’t.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back Pile 1.
  • Team Robespierre – Everything's Perfect (2008). The group has the manic energy of The Go! Team wrapped into a dual synthesizer attack. Not as musically diverse but you really cannot deny the force of these guys. More mid-tempo than 10 songs in 18 minutes would suggest. A guilty pleasure for sure, but I love it! “88th Precinct” is a great single – if you like that, you’ll like the album as all the songs sound the same. In a good way.
    Recommended. I keep flipping back and forth on whether it belongs in the Car Cd Changer or the Portable CD Case… who am I kidding, Car CD Changer.
  • Wire – Read and Burn 03 (2007). Following their return with the brilliant Read and Burn 01 and 02 (consolidated into the album Send in 2003), we get the latest offering from Elastica’s favorite musical inspiration, Wire. This is a four-song EP that is very solid overall. The EP may not be the best initial entry point to get into Wire, but if you're a fan and/or liked Send/Read and Burn as much as I did, you should definitely pick this up. These guys are just great.
    Recommended. Portable CD Case.
- Snilch

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