Welcome to A&A. There are 12 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 #266 reviews
I can't wait to hear the jibes. Yes, Annie is just another Eurotrash girl (Finnish, actually) glomming onto Madonna's vapor trails. In fact, her one big hit up to this point (1999's "The Greatest Hit," which is included on this album) rips a loop from "Everybody." But if it works, it works.
Take the lead single for this album, "Heartbeat." It sounds like a Pet Shop Boys tune that never was, though strangely enough it doesn't really resemble Tennant and Lowe's own "Heartbeat." Annie's voice isn't particularly strong, and when she tries to hit the higher registers it almost fuzzes out completely. And I happen to think that sounds almost unbearably cute.
Annie's future will be tied inextricably to her ability to find producers who are able to create slick yet interesting songs. I wouldn't want to bet the farm on her future. But she is a DJ, so it's more than possible that she'll be able to replicate the sophisticated music on this astoundingly fun--if ephemeral--album.
C'mon. It's summer. It's time to screw around and listen to cheesy pop music. I'm all for that--I might even plunk myself down in the grass when Earth, Wind and Fire and Chicago come to town. Annie makes cheesy pop music that sounds good to my ears, and that's all I require. Laugh all you want...I'll still be smiling.
Dirtnap bands are usually fuzzy, raucous beasts. Black Sunday fits right in there. But the sheer sonic inventiveness of Alicja (who, for all intents and purposes, is Black Sunday) is astounding. There's psychedelia, new wave, pop punk and experimental electronic punk as well--and often enough, more than one of those styles in a given song.
Focus, focus, focus. Black Sunday does not have it. These songs and the music within them are all over the map. I applaud the desire, and my intellect is most gratified by the unwillingness to pander to pop dorks like my decidedly dull emotional side.
When the energy stays solid (which is most of the time), the visceral thrill of power is able to carry the day. Black Sunday needs to figure out how to keep that wire live all the way through.
If it does, I'd have to predict (sadly) that Dirtnap will not be big enough for its future. Black Sunday has more potential (a good portion of it almost realized) than anyone I've heard in some time. This album is rough, ragged and often inexcusably messy. A fine wallow, if you ask me. A bit more attention to detail, and the world will not be big enough for Alicja and Black Sunday.
Frank Carillo and the Bandoleros
Bad Out There
If you've been listening to recent Bob Dylan, you know the man has been steeping his sound in the blues, even while retaining his own remarkable feel for American music. Frank Carillo does much the same thing here. He's a bit more Tom Petty than Dylan, perhaps, but he sure knows how to rock out the blues.
And not in that dreadful, ponderous white-boy blues style that is just far too tiresome. Most folks would probably through Carillo in Americana, that alt.alt.country catchall category. And while I wouldn't argue--these songs use rock and roots rather than blue conventions--I still say Carillo's heart is in the blues.
Much like Americana icon Whiskeytown (when there was such a thing, of course), Carillo infuses his songs with so much feeling and blue atmosphere that it's hard to imagine these songs existing without the likes of Muddy Waters and Leadbelly.
Simply lovely. In a kinda depressing, are-you-sure-it'll-be-alright? kinda way. Carillo makes good music. Call it what you want; I'll be listening to this puppy many more times.
The Odds of Winning
Grabbing as many cool pop ideas as they can, the Churchills have the stylings and feel of a globetrotting band. There's a little Kiwipop, a chunk of emo, a bit of the Britpop and just enough raggedy roots to dust up the final product.
All that probably has something to do with how these guys got their songs placed in places like the TV show "Scrubs"--and their t-shirt on "The Sopranos." The songs are awfully perky (a nice confluence of the Brit and Kiwi, I'd say) without getting saccharine. Many times, the boys dance right up the precipice before gracefully gliding back into coolsville.
Which isn't to say these guys plan to be indie heroes for very long. This ambitious album is a calling card, one that ought to be well-received in many major label A&R departments--if it hasn't been already. The Churchills won't have to change their sound at all. This stuff is ready for the major leagues right now.
And it's still good. Exciting, in fact. There are a couple spots where I think I can hear echoes of excised, more experimental, ideas. But editing isn't a crime if the music turns out fine. And it sure does here.
Farewell to the Fainthearted
So can you call it Americana if the band is Australian? Why not? Seven guys in the outfit, and enough pedal steel and dobro to take me down the road apiece. Indeed, I can name a couple dozen bands around my little corner of North Carolina who would love to make music this good.
The songs are impressive, but I think I like the collective feel of the album the best. When you've got seven members (and a lengthy list of guests), a genial, collaborative sound often results. These ideas have been bounced off any number of folks, and they came back improved.
When I go to the beach later this summer, I'll be packing this disc, a bottle of the finest bourbon and as little else as possible. Keep it easy, and make sure the ice cube bin stays full.