Wednesday, October 22, 2008

New Music, 2007-2008 - Part 2

Part Two of our look at new music. Onward:
  • The Black Watch - Icing the Snow Queen (2008). One of my all-time favorite groups -- it's just too bad that no one has ever heard of them. They have an amazing story, which will have to wait until their next album, but here's a quick synopsis: The Black Watch (essentially John Andrew Fredrick and J'Anna Jacoby) had ten releases over a 14-year period, before Jacoby left to tour with Rod Stewart (!), leaving Fredrick on his own to release four albums and one EP since 2003. It has felt like a bad breakup; of the four post-Jacoby albums, this is closest to the classic Black Watch sound. Think The Cure meets My Bloody Valentine with pop sensibilities. I may enjoy Tattermedallion a little more this one in the post-Jacoby era, but this album is really nice -- if you like your music a little folkier, this is a great place to start with your first Black Watch album. And if this were a breakup, I think Fredick has finally been able to push past it.
    Verdict: Highly recommended. This album, Amphetamines, The King of Good Intentions, Lime Green Girl, Tattermedallion... I just named five of my favorite albums. Get one of them if you can find them (although Lime Green Girl is probably the best place to start). Portable CD Case "with privileges."

  • The B-52's - Funplex (2007). Hard to believe, but this is only their seventh album, and the first since 1992's Good Stuff. As usual,The B-52's bring incredible harmonies to the table to contrast with Fred Schneider's delivery (his best line: "I am a fully eroticized being!"). This does not feel like an album that they've been creating for 16 years, more like picking up where they left off with Cosmic Thing: danceable, poppy, quirky fun. No huge hits here, but enjoyable.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD Rack.

  • CSS - Donkey (2008). Album #2 from everyone's favorite Brazilian dance troupe finds the band adding a little more musical oomph to their sound, with mixed results. My favorite song is "How I Became Paranoid," which properly marries indie rock sensibilities, pop harmonies, and a dance beat (I give it an 89, Dick!) into a great pop song. That's a really tough thing to create. If they continue on this trajectory, I would not be surprised if their next album was landmark in quality. Still, this album is very very good and quite a fun listen. Hop on while they're still incubating.
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Nerf Herder - IV (2008). Most famous for writing the title theme for the TV show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," the nerd indie rock boys are back. They've always struck me as being on the cusp of something really great, but that promise has never translated into a great album. That's the case here once again -- bits and bobs are decent, but the songs themselves are just lacking. I think they want to be this generation's Devo; they need to be smarter both musically and lyrically to get there.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Pile of death.

  • R.E.M. - Accelerate (2008). Let me start by stating that I am not an R.E.M. fan. I associate old R.E.M. (i.e.,1983-87, the I.R.S. records) with visiting my brother at Kenyon College in the early 90's -- that was the vibe of the campus and it seemed like we heard them everywhere we went. I associate Green (e.g., "Orange Crush," "Stand," "Pop Song '89") with my freshman year in college; when I hear anything from Out of Time (e.g., "Losing My Religion," "Shiny Happy People"), I think of my senior year in college. And when I hear anything else (1992-2007), I think of a band that lost its way (i.e., crap). This album makes me think of Kenyon. It's not quite as jangly as that era but it has that vibe. No real "hits" here, but I like this better than anything since Out of Time. Minus the regrettable last song, I think they've done what U2 has failed to do: recapture their magic from the 80's. (IMHO, of course!)
    Verdict: Recommended. Portable CD Case.

  • Sloan - Parallel Play (2008). Sloan was on a bit of a run: the career compilation A-Sides Win was fantastic, the follow-up Never Hear the End of It (reviewed here) was absolutely great -- the best, most consistent album they've ever done -- and the show that followed it was a great mix of their new and old material. Their show on this tour (reviewed here) was a step back; Parallel Play (reviewed... well, I guess right here) is a further drop-off. I would not be surprised if these were castoffs from the aforementioned NHTEOI sessions... two excellent songs, the rest completely pedestrian and sadly disappointing.
    Verdict: Not recommended. Sell-back pile 1.

  • TV on the Radio - Dear Science (2008). When Scott and I saw these guys at the Boston Music Awards a few years ago, we were blown away by the first couple of songs, then not so much by the rest. And their Return to Cookie Mountain album (although it was universally praised) just didn't move me. But I heard something in their music that I liked, so when Chris Dahlen's review for Pitchfork said this was catchier than their previous albums, I felt I needed to take the plunge. And this is very good. It's like Bad Brains decided to mellow out and try to mimic Prince; at other times that have moments that recall Morphine, Hybrasil, or The Michael Stanley Band. (Okay, the latter is quite a stretch, but I couldn't resist the reference.) This may not be exactly up my alley, but it is really good. Headphones or big stereo listen for this one for sure.
    Verdict: Recommended. CD Rack.
- Snilch

1 comment:

Yves said...

You turned me on to The Black Watch, sir, and Amphetamines has become one of my favorite albums. I'll definitely check out the new one.