Welcome to A&A. There are 14 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 #309 reviews
The Black Drumset
The Black Drumset
Brian Willey and Carlos Orozco are the men behind the Black Drumset, but they have many friends. And a whole bunch of them dropped something or another onto this disc.
The band name gives you the core of the sound, which is throbbing analog percussion filtered through any number of effects. Kinda like dub, and kinda like Neil Young. Then the guys add on synthesizers, guitars, and the occasional bit of vocal noise.
Not necessarily lyrics, per se, but more often vocals used as instruments. The Black Drumset simply refuses to be cornered into any category. I suppose "experimental" would pretty much cover everything here, except that these pieces are quite accessible. Think the Fucking Am after extended frontal lobe exercises.
Pretty cool. I've never heard anything quite like this, which is about the highest compliment I can give. Utterly original and exceptionally compelling.
Yer usual poppy, electronically-enhanced rootsy americana stuff. Or something like that. The songs tend to shamble along, kinda like Owen Wilson's hair when it's being really expressive. You don't know why, but you kinda like it. Come to think of it, you like it a lot.
Right. These boys are off-kilter in a most enticing way. The songwriting is curious, though most of the time the songs adhere to some sort of traditional form. The performances, however, range from tight and precise to something resembling last call at a college bar. Someone's gonna get laid, and it might as well be you.
I'm using the second person a lot, and I think that's because these songs have that sort of personal connection to them. Coffinberry isn't actually speaking to me, of course, but I relate so closely to the disheveled sounds that I feel a real connection.
Throwing a bunch of stuff on a CD and hoping it works is generally a recipe for disaster. Coffinberry sounds disorganized and a bit hairy, but there's a plan at work here. These songs come together beautifully, and so does the album. You've just got to lie down and let the music whisper to your heart.
The Color Turning
Good Hands Bad Blood
Patience is a virtue when listening to the Color Turning. These guys play big, bad rock and roll--in the vein of U2, Radiohead and the like. The ambition is staggering.
Which is why the subtlety of this album is so impressive. There's a scary amount of synthesized orchestration, the sort of sound that just screams "pretentious crap ahead!" But the Color Turning undercuts that posture with songs that don't become anthems.
There's more than a hint of Air in the sound, which might drive less forgiving listeners away. The Color Turning doesn't go for the easy punch. Rather, it worms its way through its songs, always ending up someplace I wasn't quite expecting.
Perhaps I'm thinking too much about this. Or perhaps that's what the band wants me to do. Hard to say. But there's a rich vein of solid material here, stuff that actually does live up to the ambition expressed at the start.
Dark Room Notes
We Love You Dark Matter
Take the patented New Order electronic sound and apply it to a more traditional indie rock construction. Dark Room Notes uses guitars, keyboards, a bounding bass and drum machines about as well as anyone, and the songs are bright and buoyant.
The key to this type of songwriting is to keep things simple. Don't get tricky; simply focus on the groove and let everything flow from that. Dark Room Notes does wander into a bit of electronic experimentation from time to time, but by and large it keeps its collective ear on the prize.
The sound is nothing new, and in truth, I wish the band had worked a bit harder to find its own niche. This sounds just like New Order, even if the songwriting is in a different style. There are a myriad of ways to make small changes and create a more unique sound. Perhaps Dark Room Notes will do that in the future.
Of course, this is a tried-and-tested sound, and the band does it well. The songs are well-crafted, and the album romps by almost effortlessly. Solid and fun.
It's Not Our Responsibility EP
Speaking of a band on the fringes of electronic music that has created its own sound...Eat Sugar gloms a bit of distortion and throbbing rhythm from the digital hardcore scene and drops it into a more poppy construction.
Which does make these songs catchy and occasionally maddening as well. Eat Sugar isn't interested in making happy songs for pleasant foot tapping. This is intense music for those who want to discover the depths of sound. It's not all crashing and burning, but there's a whole lot going on here nonetheless.
Quite the melange. The EP doesn't quite pull itself together--and neither do a couple of the songs. But I like the way these guys are pushing the envelope. I have a feeling they just might find a northwest passage through their influences one of these days.
The Ginger Envelope
(One Percent Press)
Songs for a slightly breezy summer afternoon. The Ginger Envelope wafts its tunes over a bit of pedal steel and acoustic guitar. There's no rush at all.
I imagine the live shows might be a bit tedious. These aren't dirges (like, say, the Cowboy Junkies), but the songs never break out of middle tempo and there's very little dynamic range. Steady-state americana, if you will.
What saves it for me is the melodic work. These are incredibly pretty songs, and despite the band's mellow tendencies, the folks never lose focus. Oh, and there's a fair amount of cussing. I like that sort of incongruity.
The Ginger Envelope won't take you anywhere, but it will put you in a good place. And that's just fine with me.
Fan the Flames
(The Sleepy West)
Golden Bloom (the project of one Shawn Fogel) has that classic indie pop feel. And then every once in a while these 70s guitar riffs blow by. Now, that's something I can get behind!
Oh, the hooks are fantabulous. Blood-pumping little anthems that tumble one after another. There's not a lot of surprise in the song construction, but the execution is so good that I didn't worry too much about that.
The sound is a bit more full and lush than the recent trends in indie power pop. More of a Dear 23 Posies feel, to be specific. It certainly suits these songs quite well.
One of those albums that sounds great the first time through and then gets better with successive listens. Golden Bloom (er, Fogel) sure knows how to impress. Turn it up and bliss out.
Sunshine Committee EP
Hipster americana with more than a bit of the ol' Nick Cavey doom rolling around. For all that, these songs are awfully damned bright.
A study in contrasts, to be sure. There's plenty of jaunty guitar (both electric and acoustic) and singer Adam Levy does a fairly credible David Lowry imitation. Indeed, I wish that wasn't so pronounced. But the Honeydogs are a different beast than Cracker (or CVB, of course), and the music follows its own beat.
I need to hear more. I think there's a lot here to like, but I wonder if the Honeydogs can sustain an entire album. I guess the future will tell.