Welcome to A&A. There are 13 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 #273 reviews
Back in the day, goth meant slightly off-kilter music sung with something akin to a falsetto. Cities has that mid-80s, ringing goth feel, but it adds a math-y consistency to the rhythm section and just enough other tics to take this sound to someplace completely new.
Kinda like Trailer Bride. Southern gothic americana makes perfect sense now, but all those years ago no one could believe it. The same applies here. Rock and roll has been due for this sort of makeover, but I can't say I've heard anyone do it quite like this.
The sound really helps. The songs sound like they were recorded 20 years ago, except that the sound is so much more precise. And those beveled edges help to highlight the interesting things Cities does with its songs.
The best analogy I can come up with is an Alan Parsons Project cover band made up of 20 year olds--and that doesn't play APP tunes. Really pretty and often spooky. Quite the disc.
One Station Away
Laptop roots stuff, kinda like a stripped-down version of what Greg Garing did years ago. The songs roll along, sometimes with acoustic guitar and sometimes with electric. Doobinin doesn't much like to stick to the same sound, though he doesn't wander far from the up-and-down drum machine that backs just about every song here.
The contrasts are quite interesting. At their core, these are simple folk or pop songs. And they're not particularly gussied up. It's just that the presentation is often decidedly unusual. That's what I like best, I think.
And the studio tricks help, as Doobinin is merely a good songwriter. His melodies don't soar and his lyrics can get bogged down in the mundane. Nonetheless, he manages to make every song here worth hearing. Not many folks can say as much.
A fun diversion from the everyday, even if the underpinnings are exactly that. Just trip along the easy beats and let the tunes wash over you. No better way to get in the mood.
The Foundry Field Recordings
Always good to hear something new from Columbia, Mo., where I spent five fun years back in the late 80s and early 90s. Strangely, back then I knew a couple of bands that sounded vaguely like the Foundry Field Recordings, seeing as the whole psychedelic, over-produced rock thing was kinda breaking out at the time.
These folks do have a modern sense of restraint (which can be a good thing--back when I was in school, the Flaming Lips set off more fireworks in small theaters than Great White), and more importantly, every note seems to be preordained. Not predictable, mind you, just played as if there was no other place to be.
The other, more important distinction is that this album is well-produced, which could not be said about any Columbia outfit from back in the day. Modern technology can be stultifying, but it seems to be quite helpful for creative people doing creative things. This album sounds so, so pretty.
Doesn't so much take me back to my college days as it does remind me of how nice life is after college. You grow up. You drink better beer. More good music comes along. You drink more better beer. Yes, indeed, life is good. And the Foundry Field Recordings are too.
At times loopy, at times sneeringly pretentious, Human Host is one big ball of attitude. And ain't that rock and roll?
Basically, these songs wander all over the noise/no wave/elektro bop spectrum. The main connecting factor is a devotion to finding the most grating way to make a point. I'm not criticizing, mind you--I'm complimenting. Human Host has no apparent desire to please, and that's not just refreshing. It's brilliant.
There are no points of reference and very little continuity between songs. About the only thing that holds this album together is the obvious desire of the band to fuck with as many heads as possible.
Again, I'm complimenting here. These folks have a real handle on something special. Not the sort of thing average people care to deal with, but then, who needs average people? Take the world by the balls and squeeze.
Having recently watched Junebug, I must admit to a greater appreciation of the staggeringly crude artwork that graces the liners for this disc. The music, likewise, is best described as one hack's attempt to whack his way through roots music--music with roots in the 19th century, that is.
I'm not sure how much Lockwood actually reveres old (old) music, as he seems most happy when blazing out massive blues chords on his electric. But he does keep his playing and singing (if not his writing) on the, well, primitive side of things. And that's endearing.
The production is anything but rough. Lockwood knows what he wants this album to sound like, and so this sounds like a modern recording. Modern renditions of ancient tales, I suppose, but clean and efficient nonetheless.
Even if he is somewhat less than sincere in his approach, the effect is stunning nonetheless. Lockwood has performed a most difficult trick: Updating music without making it sound like it belongs in a museum. A most solid effort.