Welcome to A&A. There are 20 full reviews in this issue. Click on an artist to jump to the review, or simply scroll through the list. If you want information on any particular release, check out the Label info page. All reviews are written by Jon Worley unless otherwise noted.|
If you have any problems, criticisms or suggestions, drop me a line.
A&A #262 reviews
The Arts and Sciences
Paul Melancon is the leader of the Arts and Sciences. He writes the lyrics, and the band does the music. I must admit that I never quite got into Melancon's solo work--though I could hear a solid devotion to craft and lots of other things I liked. Maybe he just needed some collaborators. Maybe I needed to mature. Take your pick.
In any case, this album is exceptional. The songs are generally slow to mid-tempo, and the lyrics often have an introspective bent...even when they're supposedly about someone else. I like that sort of twist, myself.
The overall sound is "basic rock quartet." Oh, Melancon drops in a little Wurlitzer organ every now and again, but in the main the sound here is rather unadorned. That focuses the ear upon the songs. And the songs shine.
I'm sure there are people who will hear this album and immediately go nuts. It had to grow on me. But that growth makes all the difference. You love an album only when you've spent a lot of time with it. Infatuation passes; this affection is much more lasting.
Despite the general marketing use of Carol van Dyk, Bettie Serveert is a band. I don't know any Dutch, but perhaps the name means something more in the band's native tongue. In Amurrcun, of course, Bettie Serveert means "breathy pop music."
Which is A-OK with me. Minty Fresh is something of a home to fading major label pop icons (Veruca Salt, the Cardigans and the Waterboys have all passed through), but I think a more appropriate description would be shelter for prog pop orphans--like, say, the Aluminum Group (also on the roster).
In any case, this is probably the most confident and beguiling Bettie Serveert album I've heard. The songs are complex and playful, and van Dyk plays up the sex kitten in her voice to full effect. If you're not into getting entranced, find another album.
Fun is the order of the day, in the final analysis. And I'm not going to argue with that. There's plenty here to keep me hooked for some time--but in the meantime, I'm simply bouncing.
The Capitol Years
Let Them Drink
(Burn and Shiver)
Yes, these boys do have a bit of the garage basher in them, but what we have here is more finely-crafted pop, replete with sculpted harmonies and tight, yet wandering, hooks. Something like the Beatles meets the Who, with some distortion on the side.
No, this album isn't that good. I've never heard the band that could live up to that description. I was just trying to give an idea of feel. And the Capitol Years truly do evoke the melancholy spirit of the late 60s. I somehow doubt that this ennui is pharmaceutical in nature, but it's there nonetheless.
And damn, does it sound good. There are moments right out of Sgt. Peppers or Abbey Road, especially when a lead guitar line echoes out across an electric piano chord. The Capitol Years have been working this material for some time. Despite their occasional whipsaw approach to songwriting (entire songs within songs at times), the transitions are flawless.
This is the sort of album that would give my dad a serious case of deja vu. You can decide if that's a good thing or not. Me, I like it. Quite an accomplishment in sound.
Clouds Forming Crowns
Clouds Forming Crowns
Last month, Tobin Sprout. This month, Clouds Forming Crowns (featuring Tim and Todd Tobias). Let the GBV diapsora bloom in full force!
But, really, can't we take all these folks on their own merits? I think so. Sprout has an exceptional ear for truly gorgeous pop music. The Tobias boys seem a lot more interested in noodling between the lines of hooks. Which makes these songs just that much more difficult to glom on to...at least, at first.
There are plenty of points of purchase here. The songs often are quite pretty, even if a tangent or two within tends to undercut the surface beauty. Those scars, however, seem to enhance the overall. Pop music is more than skin deep, in other words.
Now I'm making a fool of myself. But that's alright. Good music has been known to do that to me. Clouds Forming Crowns may be a truly silly name for a band, but the music within is most worthy of its pedigree.
Three Maxwells and a Hawkins from Austin, Cruiserweight plays buzzsaw pop music with a wonderfully aggressive edge. The songs themselves pack a monster punch, especially when the band takes the time to build them up.
The primary feeling for me is breathless. I simply cannot catch up to the energy of this album. Even the occasional mid-tempo moments are hyper-intense. Cruiserweight has infused this music with the sort of electric jolt that most other folks can't even imagine.
The sound is edgy, even metallic at times. I wasn't sure how good an idea that was when I began listening, but once I adjusted I have to admit that it does right by the songs. That's the test, isn't it?
One of those albums that comes out of nowhere to land a knockout blow. I know, enough of the boxing metaphors. I'd have to agree if I didn't feel like I just went ten rounds (in a very good way).