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 #280 reviews
Nominally hip-hop, I guess, but the emphasis here is on sonic construction. Thavius Beck populates his aggressively electronic sounds with all sorts of organic debris. The result can be intoxicating.
First, though, you've got to be willing to give this album a chance. Beck veers from experimental structures to fairly straightforward jazz construction. It's not easy to find purchase with the ideas presented. But just let your mind wander and see what strikes your fancy.
Very much a Mush album in that way. Simplicity has no home here. There's simply a raftload of ideas (almost all of them expressed musically) spinning around on a skeleton of throbbing beatwork.
It's safe to say this is precisely the sort of challenging album that dorky critics like me adore. It's not Top 40 (or even Top 4000, necessarily), but damn, is it good. Don't think too much, and you might agree.
Mirrors for Eyes
See what I wrote above? Double for Caural. The beats are much dirtier, the songs are somewhat flightier, and the need for patience is identical. Caural has a bit more of a track record, but that doesn't make this stuff any more mainstream.
Still, I can hear a bit more "crossover" potential in this stuff. By not being so overtly aggressive, Zachary Mastoon (a.k.a Caural) leaves the door open a crack further. Plus, he adheres closer to pop song construction--within his interpretation of such, anyway.
The grungy sound here really completes the package for me. Most of the fuzz comes in the lowest beats, but it's really effective. Something to luxuriate in, for sure.
As are the songs here. Despite their lofty ambitions, these songs are best enjoyed with a relatively blank mind. Just let the wonderment drift past your ears and you, too, will be enlightened. And if you're not, well, you'd better start looking for your prefrontal lobes.
Best known for adventurous music that often ventures into unknown territory, Cheer-Accident occasionally ventures into traditional forms, if not exactly traditional songs. One or two an album, on average. Seems to me the guys simply like to do as many things as possible.
The Why Album came out 12 years ago, and it was the band's first set of meticulously-crafted (sort-of) pop songs. Still weird as hell, mind you, but pop nonetheless. And now we get What Sequel?, which is also chock full of seriously off-kilter songs wedged into the pop form.
Not exactly like the Red Krayola...well, sometimes it is. Sometimes it sounds more like Yes. Yes playing Sly and the Family Stone. And those are the more accessible songs. Fans need not worry; the major labels will not be knocking down any doors. But then, they never have been.
Which is my backhanded way of saying that this stuff is, of course, amazing. The boys never compromise, no matter what kind of stuff they play. This album may be somewhat more coherent and contain slightly more melody than the average Cheer-Accident effort, but rest assured, the rigorous ideas are as plentiful as ever.
Guest shots on major label albums are often exercises in self-promotion. Guest shots on self-released efforts tend to say something or other about the artist in question. So, that said, Jarboe drops by on one track here.
Yes, indeed, we're talking about elaborate songs--almost art pop, really--and an affected singing style. Not the sort of thing that usually pricks up my ears. Except that Envie does this stuff so, so well.
That's my usual excuse in these circumstances, and I can't find any fault with it. These songs contain all sorts of dramatic flourishes and intense arrangements, but they also flit around simple cores. So, if you like, it's pretty easy to break these songs down to their (exceptional) bare bones.
One of those albums that surprised me. It's rare for an album to grow on me as fast as this one has, but then, that's why I'm talking about it here. Immensely enjoyable.
Circle, Spiral, Line
The sort of girl-with-a-guitar album that could become tedious in no time. And Kennedy's voice is a most uncertain instrument. She uses it with undeserved confidence. And it is that unsteady voice that makes this album so appealing.
Kennedy's guitar work is wonderful, clean and most expressive. And yet, truth be told, nothing spectacular. Her voice informs the songs here, and takes them somewhere the words and notes couldn't. Her voice makes these well-crafted pieces exuberantly human.
The untrained voice can be a grating, horrific thing. Kennedy's voice is generally just slightly off, kind of a blue note effect. But I'm sure she's not a wee bit flat (normally, anyway) on purpose. The more she pushes, the flatter she gets...but always on the side of good music.
Rock and roll (or folk, or whatever) isn't about perfection. It's about expression. And Kate Kennedy does quite well in that department. Most engaging.