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 #285 reviews
Boy in Static
Minimalist electronic pop by Alexander Chen. Well, electronic with plenty of guitar and such. Chen isn't so much married to his sound as he is to the idea of the song.
That is, he's not at all abstract when it comes to how his songs work. They pretty much hew to the pop construction ideal, if you allow for the odd bit of stretching here and there.
And while I'd classify a lot of the background noise as experimental, Chen makes some really pretty music. These are songs for savoring, not necessarily pondering. I like it when someone can challenge convention even while sticking to it.
I guess some would call that rocking the boat while you're still in it (or some other cliche), but I dunno. I just like the way this stuff sounds. It's almost achingly beautiful. And then your heart breaks. Just like it should.
The Chris and Joylene Show
A Family Portrait split CD
Two Baltimore bands sharing one drummer (who doesn't normally play with either, if I read the liners right). And it's kinda hard to call Pupa's Window a "band," since Michael Nestor pretty much does everything (except, you know, the drums).
The Chris and Joylene Show play pleasantly involved music, fine pop songs that tend to spin around a particular theme. Not quite so complex as, say, Floating Opera (an obscure reference, but what the hell), but good enough. Light tunes with just enough kick to satisfy my wandering mind.
I love Pupa's Window. It is precisely my sort of geeky laptop pop. Too clever by half and melodic to the point of being cloying, there's just something addictive about these songs. Very cool.
A good split. These bands contrast well with each other, and the combined contributions make for a fun album. Quite nice now that the winter is finally threatening to make itself scarce.
The Hero Cycle
Lakes and Ponds EP
Five songs from some nice Vermont folk. Fine, softly bashing tunes. I suppose this is more "rock" than "pop," but I'll let you decide. I'm not that particular, myself.
The key for me is quality, and the songs here are simply showered with the stuff. It took me about fifteen seconds to glom on to what these folks are doing, and my enthusiasm never wavered. I guess that immediate infatuation makes this more "pop" after all. But it's hardly ephemeral.
I'd be curious to see if the band's energy could hold up through an entire album. Probably. There's more than enough craft and elan here to carry the Hero Cycle through just about any travail.
When You're Finally Through Being Responsible
Speaking of minimalist electronic fare that doesn't strictly adhere to pop song construction...okay, that's a cheap opening, but Lopside kinda asks for it.
Because there are songs here. Sometimes they're hidden within some sort of protective noise layer, but they're there nonetheless. The noise isn't white; we're talking more samples and found sound. But it tends to obscure rather than enlighten.
I think that's cool. This is music for pondering--at great length, with a couple top shelf gin and tonics, I'd say--and not for enchanting a prospective bedmate. Well, unless your paramour happens to really dig abstract sound. Then this might send you two into paroxysms of ecstasy.
Which reminds me of the time a radio DJ friend of mine dedicated some Einsturzende Neubauten to "my honeybunch," but I fear I'm way off the track here. Then again, the only thing to do with Lopside is get off the track. And don't worry about when you get back on.
The New Rags
Take Jennie to Brooklyn EP
Tom Merrigan on Rhodes and vocals and Andy Pierce on drums. The rock duo can often be a maddening trip through the limitations of sound. Or it can something of a liberating experience. You might reference the White Stripes; I'm more of a Flat Duo Jets kinda guy.
Either way, the key is to play as energetically as possible. As long as the songs stay in motion, it's a lot harder to notice that there's only a drum kit and an electric piano. The New Rags know this and fill each of the six songs here with raggedy hooks and plenty of vavoom. The slowest song is a peppy midtempo, and most of the pieces here simply race by.
Which makes for a fine (if short) set. The New Rags have a fine handle on the whole duo thing, and these 60s garagey songs are the perfect antidote to a cloudy day. This disc is guaranteed to raise your spirits.