Monthly Archives: February 2009

Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You

January 01, 1970



Since her dub-laden,
bounce-along debut, Lily Allen has traded barbs with just about everyone, feuding
her way into tabloid stardom. So it was only a matter of time before she
delivered the self-reflective, morning after album, sorting through the
controversy and substance abuse that made it all so hazy. It’s just a shame
that that album had to come so soon, because it may have sucked the
inventiveness out of her. That and producer Greg Kurstin’s lifeless production.
Gimme Mark Ronson’s beefed up drums and thumping bass any day over the crystallized
pop-techno Kurstin peddles here-much the same as with his equally lackluster
Bird and The Bee.


The template for success as
envisioned by Kurstin and Allen is repeated back to back on openers “Everyone’s
At It” and “The Fear”.  Step 1. Take a
look at yourself in the mirror and cleverly dish on all the things you would
proudly change or adamantly defend; Step 2. Imagine what Madonna’s producer
would do, thus cheekily subverting the glossed out pop perfection with
anti-pop/ironically pro-pop messages. And that makes for a catchy damn song… once
or twice. Somehow it unravels because while Allen would maintain her mission
for popularity, it’s clear she’s aware of the marionette strings and looks down
on it all. In the end, it’s just not fun enough to make it worth wrapping your
head around.


Standout Tracks: “The
Fear,” “Everyone’s At It” ZACHARY BLOOM



Bibio – Vignetting the Compost

January 01, 1970


Bibio’s music seems to always be compared to that of Boards of Canada, and for
good reason. Besides being discovered by Boards, both render electronic music
eerily warm and organic, keeping the sharper edges warm and fuzzy with a cool
veneer of spaced-out psychedelia. Bibio’s world of sound, though, leaves the
beats behind, opting instead for a lo-fi world of AM radio ’70s folk filtered
through ProTools and a distinctly 21st century sensibility.



Vignetting the Compost,
his latest for the experimental-leaning Mush Records, is a pleasing listen,
even if it’s not quite as attention grabbing as his previous albums.
“Dopplerton” is a warped-record folk song, a picked guitar line that warbles
along under flurries of flutes. It’s hard to tell where Bibio’s world of field
recordings and original production ends, but that’s the beauty of it. “Odd
Paws” starts out like an alternate universe “Dueling Banjos” but ends up
sounding more like a soundtrack for outer space than inbred Appalachia.
And the crackling “Under the Pier” captures memories you’ve never had with its
nostalgic loops and hidden melodies.



Bibio’s music isn’t dance, it’s not entirely electronic, and
it’s only sort of folk. But the absence of a clear tag is exactly what makes it



Standout Tracks: “Dopplerton,”


Azita – How Will You?

January 01, 1970

(Drag City)



previous outings have been both fascinating and challenging listens. Her
overwrought vocals clashed perfectly with the seemingly non-linear quality to
her music, with any “standard” structure coming across to only those brave
enough to return for multiple examinations. In other words, you’re either with
her for the long haul or she’s out the door immediately.



So album
opener “I’m Happy” comes as quite a surprise. Sentiment aside, the song is
built on a yearning piano riff, with a chorus of backing harmonies added to
keep the mood sweet. Her mushy enunciation still holds from the past, with
syllables getting wrung for dear life. The lyric sheet is a necessity to prove
that Azita is actually singing lines like, “Some days fall all null in the
logic of vast/ it’s still my love more of a ringing in tune.”



relatively sweet mood continues through most of the album. Bassist Matt Lux
(Isotope 217) and drummer John Herndon (Tortoise) play it straight and swing it
up as needed, bolstered by melancholy pedal steel and guitar on a few tracks.
Azita’s only mistake comes on the closer, “Scylla and Charybdis.” The rest of
the band sits it out, leaving her alone to bang on an acoustic guitar and whine
like every bad freak folkie out there. She, and How Will You?, are much better
than that.



Standout Tracks: “Things
Go Wrong,” “I’m Happy” MIKE SHANLEY


Sally Crewe & the Sudden Moves – Your Nearest Exit May Be Behind You

January 01, 1970

Mind Records)


Crewe left her native U.K.
several year back and landed in Austin Texas. After a strong debut, (2003’s
awesomely named Drive It Like You Stole It) she came back strong with a
fuller sound (including keyboards) on her 2005 sophomore effort, Shortly
After Take Off
.  On record number three she goes for a more stripped
down sound and with a terrific, obedient rhythm section (including Dumptruck’s
George Duron on drums and Matt Babb on bass) who seem to be able to do whatever
it is she asks (“Ummm, can you guys play “No Dancing” backwards
in 3-4 time?” , “Why, of course Sally”) they pump out a baker’s
dozen of winners on here.  Crewe has that
sort of spunk and charisma.


record starts off strong with cool, jittery energy of the title track and while
the next couple of tunes were decent -to-good it’s on song number 4,
“Sleepyhead” where Crewe and company
reel off a clutch of superb tunes. That song could/should be the single while
the next cut “How Can People Wear That Stuff”, has an opening guitar
riff worthy of anything off Vs. and “Looks Fast For a Reason”,
arguably the record’s best song, has some to-die-for hooks and shows Sally
stretching her vocals chords to full effect. The second half of the record is
just as durable and with the strength of the songs and Crewe’s
confidence it’s no wonder bands like Mission of Burma, The Wedding Present and
Spoon have chosen her as an opener on their tours. The car door is open and the
keys are in it, what are you waiting for? Just take off man! Late breaking
news: pop maestro Tommy Keene will be playing bass for the Sudden Moves on the
upcoming U.K.


: “Sleepyhead”, “Looks Fast For a Reason”,



Bran Flakes – I Have Hands

January 01, 1970




latest by The Bran Flakes (after a six year absence) rolls by like a lifetime
of Saturday morning television chopped, channeled, slivered, and twisted into a
sonic wonderland that evokes memory and dreams while mixing in gentle elements
of provocation. The duo of Otis Fodder and Mildred Pitt sample fearlessly from
songs popular, foreign, or just headscratchingly obscure, braiding them  into their keyboard-based compositions. There
are passages from advertisements, child development, novelty, self help
records, and much more that can’t be pinpointed.


what makes it all work is that knowing sources doesn’t matter. This is a fun
house ride, with thirty tracks scooting by in less than an hour. Like a less
strident Negativland or less theoretical Plunderphonics, Bran Flakes are what
might result if Jean-Jacques Perrey and Christian Marclay car pooled with the
Banana Splits.



Stand-Out Tracks: “Don Knotts,” “Rodeo Butterfly”  DAVID GREENBERGER



Quiero Club – Nueva América

January 01, 1970




Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico,
techno-based rockers Quiero Club (“I Want Club” in Spanish) is very reminiscent
of fellow hometown heroes Kinky. Both bands have a fine knack for mixing dance
beats with catchy hooks. Billed as an “experimental pop indie band,” they
manage to create a very sophisticated, lounge-oriented vibe.



The brainchild of
singer/guitarist Gustavo Mauricio and singer/guitarist/keyboardist Pris
Gonzalez, Quiero Club originally began as your basic rock band, guitars, drums
and vocals before adding dance elements to its music. Nueva America (New America)
is the band’s second full-length release and it’s evident the band has really
come into its own. At the end of ’08 Quiero Club played MotoRokr
festival in Mexico City
alongside venerable American acts like Paramore, the Kooks, the Flaming Lips,
and Nine Inch Nails.



Singing in English and Spanish,
unlike most of the established bands from Mexico who stick to their native
tongue, Quiero Club come off as the Mexican Go! Team, with a touch of Flaming
Lips, along with the obvious influence from Kinky. Heck “Darwin Mustard” even
sounds a little like Madonna singing on some cool, indie dance beats. But they
definitely make their music all their own, creating a fun, dancey record apt
for the Spanish-impaired.



Standout Tracks: “It’s
All About Dun Dun,” “Fin de Semana Sin Fin,” “The Flow” JOSE MARTINEZ


Tom Rush – What I Know

January 01, 1970

(Appleseed Recordings)


When you were once recognized as one of music’s
quintessential folk laureates and accorded kudos for introducing the world to
emerging artists like James Taylor, Joni Mitchell and Jackson Browne when they
were all but unknowns, and, uh, you haven’t released a new studio album in
something like 35 years, well, planning a comeback could become a daunting
proposition.  So what do you do?  Well, you start by connecting with a top
notch producer like Jim Rooney, head to Nashville,
find the best players in town and cull the best tunes available, both from your
own pen and that of others.


Credit Tom Rush for doing all the above, and while, yes,
that auspicious absence weighs heavily on his return to the studio spotlight,
the results validate the fact that they’re well worth the wait… or pretty close
anyway, since a gap of three and half decades might test the patience of even
the most diehard devotee.  But given its
easy, affable sway and songs that recall the mellow, good-natured bliss of his
blueprint balladry, What I Know emerges as a set of songs that more than lives up to its seer-like
labeling.  True to his template, Rush
shares composing credits with lesser-known songwriters that reside below the
radar – Jack Tempchin, Richard Dean, and Steven Bruton, among them… as well as
Eliza Gilkyson, a like-minded folkie who’s earned her acclaim.  However even in such good company, his own
songs still make a most immediate impression – with “Hot Tonight,” a carefree
duet with Bonnie Bramlett, the sweetly assured “River Song,” and the jaunty,
jocular title track, being among them.


That said, such is the wealth of prime material that even
with fifteen tracks, nearly every song holds its own.  Consider the bittersweet “Too Many Memories”
(featuring the sublime backing vocals of Emmylou Harris), a fresh,
stripped-down take on Dobie Gray’s well-worn standard “Drift Away,” and the
quiet lilt of “Lonely” among the contenders. 
This is Rush’s welcome return, a shining example of a master that still
in command of his craft.


“What I Know,” “River Song,” “Too Many Memories” LEE


Freddy Cannon – Boom Boom Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Best of Freddy Cannon [reissue]

January 01, 1970

(Shout Factory)


Here’s the most amazing music-trivia factoid in a long time,
courtesy of the liner notes to Boom Boom 24-song greatest-hits
collection: Mick Jagger acknowledges he based “Brown Sugar’s” melody on Freddy
Cannon’s 1959 hit, “Tallahassee Lassie.” Gentleman, start your mash-ups


Actually, you can see why Jagger might have liked Cannon, an
ebullient and exuberant Italian-American kid from Boston still active on the oldies circuit
today. Cannon didn’t so much sing as shout and yelp his lyrics with a voice
like fireworks; there’s a rawness and street authenticity to such songs about
the teen experience as “Transistor Sister,” “Action,” “The Dedication Song” and
his classic “Palisades Park,” a New Jersey anthem written by “Gong Show’s”
Chuck Barris. They have a goosey, ejaculatory quality about them.


But for too much of his career, Cannon was stuck on the Swan
label out of Philadelphia, which surrounded him with the same kind of corny,
brassy, “swingin'” arrangements – and similarly fussy material, like “Jump
Over” and “Teen Queen of the Week” – that Philadelphia teen idol Bobby Rydell
had such success with on Cameo Records. But Rydell was a lounge-ish stylist;
Cannon was a rocker who needed records that could let him do his stuff. Things
got better when he moved to Warner Bros. for 1964’s spunky, sexy hit “Abigail
Beecher,” but by then he was fighting the British Invasion.


It’d be great to see someone give him a first-class
production treatment now, perhaps “Palisades
Park” aficionado Bruce
Springsteen? (He once did that for Gary U.S. Bonds.) Freddy Cannon and the E
Street Band, anyone?


Standout Tracks: “Palisades Park,” “The Dedication Song” STEVEN


Here We Go Magic – Here We Go Magic

January 01, 1970

(Western Vinyl)



Luke Temple’s
falsetto vocals float and glide over the genteel music he has created for his
third full length release. This self titled release is his first album under
the new moniker Here We Go Magic. And with a dose of folk and acoustica Temple
also throws in a dash of electronica and ambience creating a genre bending,
melting pot of mellow harmonies.


In this short
nine track release, three songs are lyrics-less, insipid ventures that conjure,
alternately, horror movies (“Babyohbabyijustcantstanditanymore”) radio static (“Ghost
List”) and floating in space (“Nat’s Alien”). Yet the strongest numbers are
those where Temple
lends his voice, as with “Everything’s Big,” and “I Just Want to See You
Underwater.” Both are quite reminiscent to Le Loup and Department of Eagles as
they dance across the aforementioned genre lines.


Opener “Only
Pieces” stands out with its Afro-Pop influence, while the uptempo “Fangala” and
“Tunnelvision” are immediately catchy, each song a multilayered success of
vocals, guitars, drums and beat loops. Perhaps a sign of trends to come in
2009, Temple
adds to the list of musicians creating new soundscapes while blurring genres.
With Here We Go Magic, Temple
has fashioned an “uncategorizable” album of unique reverberations.


Standout tracks: “Fangala,” “Tunnelvision” APRIL S. ENGRAM



Jayme Stone & Mansa Sissoko – Africa to Appalachia

January 01, 1970




considered an Appalachian instrument, the banjo is actually of West African
origin. Saluting that heritage, Canadian banjoist Jayme Stone allied with Mansa
Sissoko, a Senegalese kora (21-string harp/lute) player who now lives in Quebec. The resulting
album, Africa to Appalachia doesn’t
quite achieve a synthesis, but it is a fine showcase for Sissoko’s playing and


supporting musicians, who are mostly Western, add guitar, bass, fiddle and
trumpet to Stone’s banjo and Sissoko’s rippling kora. Yet the album’s dominant
mode is Senegalese. Sissoko sings traditional praise songs, extolling hunters
on “Bibi,” traders on “Djula” and former African kings in
“Bamaneyake.” Love and death are recurring themes, notably in the
solemnly lovely “Sila,” an adaptation of a griot tune performed at
ceremonies marking both birth and death.


also evokes Africa with his “Dakar,”
a jazzy instrumental. But when he turns to such Celtic-American tunes as
“June Apple” and “Chinquapin Hunting,” the African quality
is mostly inaudible. The banjoist hasn’t quite found the combination he sought,
but Sissoko is a significant discovery.


Standout Tracks: “Djula,” “Sila” MARK JENKINS