Welcome to A&A. There are 17 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.|
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A&A #263 reviews
Special Care CD5
Three songs from this British foursome. While the sound isn't exactly trademark Britpop, the wide range of sounds and general whimsical nature of the pieces certainly gives a few hints.
The tunesmithing is impeccable, which leaves the band plenty of leash to play with. Even when the folks completely cut loose (large portions of "Pamela Anne," for example), there is enough structure to keep the song moving along nicely.
This is the sort of short introduction that leaves me wanting to hear much more. Can Animal Planet sustain this level of quality and whimsy over an entire album? Will the songs continue to surprise, or will they begin to sound the same? Only the future knows.
(Happy Happy Birthday to Me)
Trippy, rocking pop music. You know, like the Aluminum Group on Prozac. And damn if that needs much explanation.
AqPop blips through a wide array of keyboard- (or piano or organ or whatever) driven songs. When the organ takes the lead, there's a wonderful late 60s vibe. When the piano is more prevalent, the feel is more 70s. When the more synth-style keyboard sound drops in, the sound whips around from new wave to laptop and then back again.
Which is to say these people play a lot of different styles, and they make them all sound good. The songs are mannered, but not at all stilted. Rather, the energy of the band ensures a vibrant feel to the album. No flagging during this one.
It's never too early to get a summer album. This one is perfect for putting the top down (or ripping off the top with a cutting torch) and hitting the back roads. Don't forget to smile.
Not too long ago, Mike Comfort was in a band called Thirst. It disbanded without recording, and so Comfort took his songs and recorded this disc. That was a very good idea.
I will warn regular readers that Comfort is definitely a commercial artist. He does the stuff so damned well, though, that I simply don't care. This is fine AAA stuff--just enough guitar to sound rockin', anthemic choruses and a soft buff on the production. I know, normally I use discs like this for skeet practice. But this guy is good.
Truth be told, if major labels would sign people with this much talent and then allow them to record albums with this much intensity, no one would be talking about a drop in sales. The reason people don't buy so many CDs is because there are so many crappy CDs being released. Mike Comfort is someone who could reverse that trend.
Not everyone wants to be the next important artist. Some folks simply write and play solid music. That's what Mike Comfort does. He's so good, even my cynical ear melts, if just for a moment.
There's something about Minnesota that seems to inspire kids to play uptempo, off-kilter music. Think about it; even the most famous musical denizens of the Twin Cities are considered weird, if not demented. And hell, anyone who would call an album "Magnesium Fireflies" can't be all well.
That's cool with me. Dallas Orbiter does depart a bit from the formula I described above. While the songs here are decidedly off-kilter--trending somewhere between straight up psychedelia and simple dementia--the boys aren't afraid to be contemplative when necessary. Always, though, with an attendant boot to the head.
These boys aren't weird for the sake of being weird, though. There's a method to the lunacy. The songs make more sense than the sounds that make them up, if that makes any sense at all. Sometimes it helps to be able to assemble a song after it has passed, but hey, isn't that exactly the sort of band music critics love?
Of course. Dallas Orbiter doesn't make things easy for its listeners. But it does reward the adventurous with a journey that is well worth the fare, one that improves in value every time you take it. Get lost. And don't come back until your head has been rearranged.
Split the Country, Split the Streets
Understated songs that sound kinda slight at first listen. Then you start to pick up on the slyly subversive ideas that Kevin Devine is kicking about. He's got a slightly cracked viewpiece on the world, and that's what makes this album really sing.
The music is very basic, sometimes just Devine and his guitar--though he's more than willing to overdub his own vocals and employ all sorts of sneaky studio tricks to add just the slightest bit of sonic definition. Indeed, there's always more texture than I anticipated.
Even when Devine rocks out, he holds back a bit. He never screams or shouts. He keeps his voice on an even keel and lets his lyrics do the talking. This wouldn't work if the music weren't so wonderfully arranged. There's always that little bit extra that helps the songs pop out.
It might take a while, but this album will sneak up and bite you in the ass. There's a lot more here than you might catch on first listen. Keep working it and you'll find treasure.