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 #318 reviews
June 2010
  • Child Bite The Living Breathing Organ Summer (Joyful Noise/Forge Again Records)
  • Funeral intheMirror Old Wolf Thoughts (Human Inhuman)
  • The Honored Guests Into Nostalgia (self-released)
  • Italian Japanese The Lush, Romantic Weirdness (Vampire Media Group)
  • Junkyard Empire Rebellion Politik (Media Roots Music)
  • The Kissing Party The Hate Album (self-released)
  • Museum Mouth Tears in My Beer (self-released)
  • Schleusolz The Weinheim Experiment (self-released)
  • Son of the Sun The Happy Loss (self-released)
  • The Sunset Curse Artificial Heart (self-released)
  • Kate Tucker White Horses (Red Valise)
  • Untied States Instant Everything, Constant Nothing (self-released)
  • Also recommended: The best of the rest


    Child Bite
    The Living Breathing Organ Summer
    (Joyful Noise/Forge Again Records)

    Fusing many of the unconventional alternative sounds of the upper midwest (no wave, Chicago-style post rock, a penchant for using keyboards as rhythm instruments, Naked Raygun-esque gang harmonies, etc.), Child Bite sounds like the bastard offspring of my college days. And yet, it sounds like the music of tomorrow as well.

    Many of these trends were so forward-thinking in their times that they, too, still sound futuristic. But a fair amount of credit must be given to Child Bite, which picks and chooses the finest morsels of its inspirations and then runs the entire mess through a finely-honed music grinder.

    It's fair to say that no other band sounds remotely like these guys. And few are as good. The energy level is astounding, which simply ramps up the creative ferment to a boil. Child Bite seems to want to lay waste to the concept of modern music. Know something? It has.

    These folks have been doing this for a while, and this album is the latest (and finest) example of what happens when talented people get into a groove. Discord and harmony, sax and synth...Child Bite tries out about every combination imaginable, and everything is exceedingly palatable. Thrilling.

    Contact:
    Joyful Noise
    P.O. Box 20109
    Indianapolis, IN 46220
    www: http://www.joyfulnoiserecordings.com


    Funeral intheMirror
    Old Wolf Thoughts
    (Human Inhuman)

    Joe DeRosa and James Pinkstone know how to rock. In almost every way imaginable. There's a bit of laptop, some greasy JAMC and some eccentric pop a la TMBG. Most interesting to me, though, is that the guys don't try to combine their influences.

    Which does leave Funeral intheMirror without much of a real sound of its own. These songs are finely crafted and assembled, and they have that tight "band" sound. The ideas are so diffuse, though, that I can't think of even one that epitomizes Funeral in the Mirror.

    That's not a problem, musicwise. And these songs are amazing. The sound simply pops out of the speakers, and the melodies and hooks are instantly gratifying. I'm really impressed.

    And maybe it isn't important that there be a Funeral intheMirror sound. Maybe DeRosa and Pinkstone can simply crank out awesome song after awesome song and all will be well. I won't complain, that's for sure.

    Contact:
    Human Inhuman
    www: http://www.humaninhumanrecords.com


    The Honored Guests
    Into Nostalgia EP
    (self-released)

    Dreamy, well-crafted songs that tend to float more than rock. The Honored Guests aren't so much trippy as simply ethereal. But boy, do they know how to put some songs together.

    I suppose this falls somewhere in the pop universe, but the boys have a bit of the rootsy twang to their acoustic guitars. And the chords are straight rock and roll, even if they are generally strummed. It's just so damned pretty that sometimes I wonder if I can stand to keep listening.

    I'm being facetious, of course. Pretty music that has an underlying depth is always an aphrodisiac for me. The Honored Guests are supposedly working on a new album. I'll be waiting. If you want a taste, go to the band's web site and they'll hook you up with a free copy of this most excellent EP.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.thehonoredguests.com


    Italian Japanese
    The Lush, Romantic Weirdness
    (Vampire Media Group)

    Um, the title is astoundingly appropriate. The three guys in Italian Japanese play soft-spoken pop that is lush, romantic (depending on your definition) and definitely a bit weird.

    And when you're going to whip out soaring hooks and mid-tempo beats, you'd better have something unconventional going on. Largely, the "weirdness" is in the construction, which owes as much to jazz as rock. Imagine New Order playing Steely Dan songs, and you'd be on the right path.

    The sound is very rounded and full, and it tends to emphasize the unusual construction of many of these songs. Everything gets resolved by the time the chorus wanders by, but there's a lot to consider before that happens.

    That's cool. This is a meditative album that has some truly transcendent moments. Just sit back and see where the journey takes you. You'll be most comfortable, I assure you.

    Contact:
    www: www.italianjapanese.com


    Junkyard Empire
    Rebellion Politik
    (Media Roots Music)

    Fitting in much better with the political hip-hop of twenty years ago, Junkyard Empire brings old school attitude and style up to date on this blistering set.

    And, yes, this is a band. The music isn't just a backing track. It's its own animal, with ideas at least as complex as the rhymes. Yes, yes, I'm always more about the music. On this album, that's only appropriate.

    This album sounds great. The mix between the rhymes and the music is almost perfect, weaving both together most wonderfully. Rather than subjugating one or another, the production here enhances all aspects of the songs.

    The rhymes are perceptive, clever and delivered with exceptional grace. Nothing sounds forced. This is an album of uncommon poetry. Mindblowing fare.

    Contact:
    Media Roots Music
    3455 Ocean Park Blvd. #107-248
    Santa Monica, CA 90405
    www: http://www.mediarootsmusic.com


    The Kissing Party
    The Hate Album
    (self-released)

    Reminds me a lot of the Primitives, though much more stripped down and more dedicated to what might best be called "pure" pop music. The Kissing Party doesn't mess around with anything extraneous: verse-chorus all the way, with hooks that kill.

    There are a few studio tricks which occasionally lend a gauzy feel, but this stuff is simple, simple, simple. No need for anything complicated when your songs click like these.

    A decidedly lo-fi effort, and I think the songs are served better that way. The melodies dress these songs up in brilliant finery. Nothing else is needed.

    A generous helping (fourteen songs), too. Albums this sweet can often leave an upset stomach, but the Kissing Party has enough protein to keep everything down. Very nice.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/thekissingparty


    Museum Mouth
    Tears in My Beer
    (self-released)

    Frantic, raucous songs that barely make sense musically or lyrically. Despite all that, I fell in love almost instantly. Maybe it was more "because of" than "despite," to tell the truth.

    Rock and roll is a simple enterprise. Three chords, tight rhythms and the occasional melody. Museum Mouth might be even less than occasional on the melody part (these songs are sort of talk-shouted, if that makes any sense), but the chords fit together well and the rhythm section is pure bliss.

    Indeed, that is what kicks this into my happy zone. I suppose there's a bit of the Sleater-Kinney minimalist thing going on, but there's at least as much of a no wave sensibility, though these songs aren't deconstructive at all. On the contrary, they're almost perfectly-constructed pieces.

    Just performed in a way that might be a bit off putting to those who like their music handed over on a platter. Museum Mouth insists on its own sound, and I like that sound. These songs churn by all too fast. Quite a glorious squall.

    Contact:
    www: http://museummouth.tumblr.com


    Schleusolz
    The Weinheim Experiment
    (self-released)

    A couple guys from Frankfurt who use the entire palette of electronic music to create songs that are absolutely impossible to turn off.

    Really. These pieces are impossibly bright, impossibly catchy and impossibly virtuosic. I loved the first album, and this is one of two that will be released this summer. The eighteen tracks meander over all sorts of territory, from old school Krautrock techno to stuff that sounds like a campy Kurt Weill. With plenty of jazzy, lounge and booty-shakin' beats in between.

    Yes. All that is true. This might be the most accessible art music you've ever heard. There's a lot of experimentation, but it is cached within some of the tastiest hooks and slinkiest grooves around.

    Pick a track, any track. If you're not hooked, then it's more than possible that you're not human. This music creates something of an automatic response in everyone I've exposed to it. Folks get giddy, if not downright turned on. Good times are had by all.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/schleusolz


    Son of the Sun
    The Happy Loss
    (self-released)

    If the Brian Jonestown Massacre trafficked a bit more in americana, it might have sounded somewhat like this. These are 60s-ish anthems drenched in organ, reverb and the odd tendency toward rootsy jangle.

    It's not an unwelcome notion, as it also recalls the Jayhawks' Sound of Lies, which remains one of my favorite albums. This album, too, is largely stoked by dark thoughts and darker lyrics. It's never grim, but bliss isn't a word I'd associate with these songs, either.

    I do like the sound, which notches a fine balance between the minimalism of the songwriting and the lushness of the arrangements. The final result is something of a "let it wash over you" feel. Certainly, standing up to the assault is not recommended.

    Just plain good, really. Solid workmanship and stellar execution. This one started well and just got better. Take a dip and you'll go in for the plunge.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.sonofthesun.com


    The Sunset Curse
    Artificial Heart
    (self-released)

    A largely electronic trio that sounds kinda like the offspring of the Shins and Casiotone for the Painfully Alone. The Sunset Curse gets trippier and alternately more electronic and more guitar-driven than your average laptop act, but the reference mostly works.

    What really works is the way these three guys use just about every musical implement at their disposal to create these songs. There is a definite "assembled" feel, but that's mostly from the experimental side of the songwriting.

    To be sure, there's probably not a huge market for this sort of ambitious and decidedly off-kilter pop. The Sunset Curse at times approaches a true pop sensibility, but then it veers back into its more avant garde comfort zone. That's more than cool with me.

    I simply liked letting this one unwind. There are far too many ideas to process in a listen or two, so I'll leave that to future sessions. And trust me: There will be plenty.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/sunsetcurse


    Kate Tucker
    White Horses
    (Red Valise)

    Few people have the raw material for fame that Kate Tucker appears to have. For starters, she's gorgeous. Not pretty or good-looking. Traffic stopping. Then there's her voice, which has just a hint of gravel within her sparkling projection. No swallowing her vocals.

    Oh, and the songs? Merely some of the best I've heard in years. Her style reminds me quite a bit of Tift Merritt, though a bit more on the rock side. The quality, though, it right up there. There seem to be a million singer-songwriters in the naked city, and I can't stand almost all of them. Then I hear someone like Tucker, and I fall in love all over again.

    The production is just muscular enough to provide a nice pop to the sound coming out of the speakers. Tucker's voice provides most the power, and it always seems to be sitting at just the right spot in the mix. The studio job is solid and brings out the best in these songs.

    And yes, the songs are the star. There are a few people who can write songs with this much range and grace, but not many. Tucker is a true find. I don't like to predict stardom, but unless the music business is completely broken, Tucker ought to be everywhere in a year or two. Damned impressive.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.redvaliserecords.com


    Untied States
    Instant Everything, Constant Nothing
    (self-released)

    I've loved this band since the first time I heard it, and this album does not disappoint. The usual discord and rhyme, with a bit more melody and rhythmic coherence thrown in with the dissonance.

    Which is to say that the songs sound a bit more like songs. At a certain point, that had to be expected. What I do like is that the band hasn't changed its take-no-prisoners approach to songwriting. The more ideas, the better. And, as often happens when bands mature, the ideas are incorporated into the whole just a bit better.

    Thus the seeming new emphasis on assimilation. But not to fear. These folks are as cheerfully on the edge as ever. Songs start with one thought and then trip through four or five others. The resolution, as always, is impeccable.

    I know, it's just me and a couple thousand of my friends who dig this sort of musical odyssey. I do feel a bit guilty encouraging folks who (I believe) will never make a living making music. But I love the music. And I think Untied States does as well. If the ends are good music, then I suppose I must endorse the means.

    Contact:
    www: http://www.untiedstates.us


    Also recommended:

    Liz Allbee/Luz Alibi Theseus vs. the Ship of Fools (Resipicent)
    A collaboration that whipsaws between scrawly noises and intriguing sonic thoughts. I'm assuming that this four-year effort is a combination of the talents involved, but I couldn't say what is what. What I can say is that the stuff here is entirely involving. Quite the burble.

    Animal Names Oh Yes You Better Do EP (self-released)
    Some Vancouverites who play things much straighter than yer average western Canadians. There is still that trend toward grandiosity, of course, but much more of a commitment to pure pop as well. A jaunty respite.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/animalnames

    Balance and Composure/Tigers Jaw split EP (No Sleep)
    Balance and Composure throws out four fine emo bashers, and Tigers Jaw does the same, with just the slightest bit of restraint. I suppose there's nothing exceptional or new here, but both bands know how to thrash out songs with authority.

    Beyond-O-Matic Time to Get Up (Trail)
    I haven't heard from these folks in years, and this album is yet another new direction. I like that. Beyond-O-Matic has always been adventurous, and this proggy, trippy effort adds a technical dimension to the band's sound that I haven't heard before. A cool descent.

    Birch Book A Hand Full of Days (LSR)
    Largely the work of a certain B'ee, who wrote and sings these songs. I like the technical, introspective aspect to the songs. There's always something else to hear. For those who like their roots music to have a solid musical underpinning.

    The Blood of Heroes The Blood of Heroes (Ohm Resistance)
    Justin Broadrick, Bill Laswell, Submerged, Enduser and such pals as KJ Sawka and Dr. Israel recorded their contributions separately. Joel Hamilton and Submerged fused everything together into something of a postmodern industrial attack. Is it revolutionary? Not perhaps as much as the lineage might suggest. Nonetheless, it kicks some serious ass.

    Arthur Cantrill Chromatic Mysteries: Soundtracks 1963-2009 (Shame File)
    More of the Australian avant garde. More awesome Australian avant garde, in truth. Cantrill has been making experimental films with his wife for almost 50 years, and these are some of the songs associated with those works. The sounds here are more than enough to make me want to see the films. Wonderful food for the brain.

    Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Manuel Mota, Gino Robair, Ernesto Rodrigues Our Faceless Empire (Pax Recordings)
    When someone is listed as playing "voltage made audible," there's very little doubt as to the sounds on the album. Diaz-Infante and friends manipulate twiddles and squarks into lively conversations. Maybe not the sorts of things you say when tossing down a brew or two, but certainly something worth comprehending. Or attempting to comprehend, anyway.

    Goonies Never Say Die Paul/Sink Jacinto? 7" (Deep Elm)
    A couple of tracks from this Blackpool (UK) act. Kinda post-rocky in a Chicago way, with a bit of the ol' math thrown in for good measure. Long songs, too. I like having to wait a bit for my dinner.

    Greene Reveal (re)shape (self-released)
    Mars Volta, the short form. Greene Reveal trafficks in the same sort of finely-tuned prog noodling, albeit with just the slightest hint of an emo influence. It's kind of an unsettling feel, but I have to admit that it grew on me.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/greenereveal

    Trey Gunn/Marco Minnemann Modulator (7d Media)
    Marco Minnemann played a 51- minute drum solo, and Trey Gunn decided to compose songs on top of it. While not the weirdest idea in the world, the final execution makes even less sense if you know how this album was accomplished. Gunn is as inventive as ever, and Minnemann's playing is certainly inspired. A little crazy, but good crazy.

    Icarus Himself Mexico EP (Science of Sound)
    Taking a laptop approach to a fairly wide-ranging array of indie rock, folk, soul and world music sounds, Icarus Himself has carved out a unique feel. The songs here are generally minimalist in execution, but ripe with ideas. Plenty to ponder.

    Late Night Condition Give & Take (Deep Elm)
    A blustery mix of rock attitude and pop melody, Late Night Condition is simply another fine rock and roll band. I love the energy, and the craftsmanship behind these songs is also impressive. Turn it up to eleven and let your ears bleed.

    Lille Tall Shoulders EP (Whale Heart)
    Grace Bellury has a thing for the ukelele, and it loves her right back. She sings songs of heartache and longing--pretty good ones for a teenager, too. Maybe she got lucky on these five songs, but I don't think so. There's too much that's too good.

    The Literary Greats Ocean, Meet the Valley (self-released)
    Basic, easy-going roots rock songs that are further mellowed by organ (Rhodes or Hammond, depending on the desired feel). The next big thing? Probably not. But it sure sounds good with a bourbon chaser.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/theliterarygreats

    Microtia Spacemaker (self-released)
    Yet another of the mod prog bands that seem to be popping up everywhere. Microtia does a pretty good job of tempering its technical impulses with some emotion. I do wish the vocal lines varied a bit more from song to song, but nonetheless I really like the energy of this album.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/microtia

    MRENC/Sunbears! split 7" (New Granada)
    MRENC is a one-man outfit, and Sunbears! is a duo. Otherwise, they both play loopy, minimalist indie rock kinda stuff. MRENC is a bit more funk, and Sunbears! is much more spacey in a decidedly Flaming Lips way. But the four songs here dovetail quite nicely. Cool stuff.

    The Quick & Easy Boys Red Light Rabbit (Per Capita)
    White boy pop-funk that occasionally slips into an americana groove. Sounds pretty natural to me, especially the way these boys do it. Not exactly my cup of tea, but for those so inclined, I think this album ought to do nicely.

    Royal Forest Royal Forest EP (self-released)
    Kicky fuzz-pop rock that exceeds the Surgeon General's warning about excessive reverb. I believe that this is the current incarnation of the band Loxsly (the mySpace link is just the first hint), but in any case I do like the four songs here. If you want to give them a test drive, a free download is available on the band's site.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.myspace.com/loxsly

    The Running Kind The Girl for All the World (self-released)
    The Running Kind put three covers on this album, and while they're great (George Jones, Gram Parsons and Neil Young), it's obvious that this band's strength is performing its own material. Leslie Ann Bosson has a classic female country voice, and Matt Bosson provides a fine counterpoint. The team effort here, though, is what makes these songs swing and sway so nicely. Old school, and oh-so-good.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.therunningkind.net

    Senryu Inkling (El Deth)
    Incredibly dramatic music played at an almost manic pace. The sounds can be minimalist or lush depending on the band's mood, and often a single song whipsaws between extremes. If your mind can take it, there's loads here that's ready to please.

    Stripmall Architecture Feathersongs for Factory Girls (self-released)
    Intensely intricate songs that exist in a gauzy electronic parallel universe. There's something slightly off-kilter about the way these pieces bound and blip out of my speakers. I rather enjoyed trying to put it all together, even if I didn't quite succeed in the end.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.stripmallarchitecture.com

    The True Jacqueline Nice Bird (self-released)
    Understated indie pop that never gets too ambitious. The True Jacqueline doesn't have the pure pop sensibility that really kicks this sound into overdrive, but I like the lo-fi charm nonetheless. Don't ask too much and this one will provide plenty of smiles.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.truejacqueline.com

    The White Ravens Gargoyles and Weather Vanes (self-released)
    Ann Arbor teenage siblings who have managed to score some serious connections (Liberty DeVitto plays drums on this album). The jaunty pop songs are quite engaging, but Amy Bennett's vocals are what kicks this over the top. If the Bennetts can retain their sharp craftsmanship and find a way to crank up the exuberance just a notch, the results would be incendiary. Right now, this stuff is simply great.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.whiteravenmusic.com

    Wild Moccasins Skin Collision Past (self-released)
    Sometimes it's possible to throw too much into a pop song. Wild Moccasins throw in all sorts of influences, and I can't help but think these songs would benefit from a bit of a pruning. I like the ambition, though, so I don't want to be discouraging. There's a lot of good stuff going on here.
    Contact:
    www: http://www.wildmoccasins.com


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