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 #323 reviews
The Asteroid No. 4
Hail to the Clear Figurines
(The Committee to Keep Music Evil)
If you're gonna hang out on the Brian Jonestown Massacre's current label, you might as well dig 60s psychedelia. But as the Asteroid No. 4 has shown for more than a decade, it's even more important to find new ideas within the sound.
For starters, these boys are a lot more into Love and the Zombies than BJM. But they also embrace modern production methods and burnish a bit of sheen on the surface. No need to tie yourself to the technological anchors of the past.
The songs generally ring out through echoland until they find a harmonious core. Then a transformation from within transforms that vaguely empty sound into a chamber of wonders.
Yeah, that's pretty cool. Though, of course, if you aren't that into modestly psychedelic trips through pop music, this will not be your cup of tea. Your loss. There's plenty here for those of us who truly believe.
Josephine Foster & the Victor Herrero Band
Back in 1931 Federico Garcia Lorca recorded a set of Spanish folk songs and released them as Las Canciones Populares Espanolas. Not surprisingly, Franco banned it. A few years later (ahem), Foster and Herrero decided to make live recordings of the songs. This is the result.
Those unfamiliar with Foster might be put off by her affected singing style, which sounds a bit like a frustrated opera singer trying her hand at popular song. Foster did study opera, and she might be a bit too studied in her style, but that whiff of high culture colors these songs nicely.
Herrero's arrangements are simple and arresting. I love the settings of these songs. They immediately capture what I imagine would be the time and place of the original recordings, and they are impressive standing by themselves. Well-paced and quite assured.
For those unable to parse Spanish, the liners provide adequate translations. But I'm not fluent by any means and I still managed to pick up the emotions in the songs. It's hard not to get swept away. Beautiful.
Nearer the Earth
Solid rockin' americana stuff, close to the rock than the roots. That's cool by me. That makes everything roll down the road that much smoother.
Reminds me a bit of the Meadows, what with the ringing harmonies and lush arrangements. There's a bit more instrumentation with HoneyChild, but maybe that's just the mix. I've done some comparing, and I'm just not sure.
Either way, I like the way this moves. There's more to these songs than appears on the surface, but that smooth running feel is hard to beat. Smooth running like Gram Parsons, not the Eagles. Just so we're clear about that.
And yes, there are a few rough edges. Some deftly-placed feedback, a bit of the ol' raggedy vocal and such. Just enough to keep these songs in check. Good by me.
These Times Old Times
So, you know, some thirty years ago the Meat Puppets crawled out of the Arizona desert and sounded like...crap. Well, the music was interesting, but the singing was awful. Lonnie Walker (which is a band with no member by that name) sounds like a mutant cross of ancient MP and very early Uncle Tupelo, with a fair dose of "Slack Motherfucker"-era Superchunk thrown in for good measure.
Right. So what to make of this glorious mess? I dunno. It sure as hell is a lot of fun, especially when the chaos overwhelms just about everything else. I'm a fan of noise, even when it is just for noise's sake--although I think Lonnie Walker is a fair bit more sophisticated than that.
The varying sounds and ideas wandering through these songs are evidence of that, as is the solid production. There's nothing normal here, and I like that.
Yep, just good ol' rock and roll with plenty of oats and hay rolled into the mix. Play it loud. Play it proud. And don't worry about the crashing about. It's all good.
Balance & Pull
By-the-book americana. Plenty of jangly guitar, banjo, mandolin, organ and time-worn vocals. Could be dull. But Masi knows how to write songs. Even better, he knows how to perform them.
There's more than a touch of soul (think Mike Younger, especially the references to the Band), and everything is delivered with style. Masi doesn't oversell anything, leaving these songs with just enough of a laid-back feel to pull everything together.
A cast of thousands contributes, and the plethora of sounds frames these songs well. There isn't a hint of strain anywhere, which is impressive and unusual.
Basic, perhaps. Basically good. Masi doesn't do anything revolutionary with the sound. He just cranks out good song after good song. And that's more than enough for the likes of me.
Mikey Jukebox would be Mikey James, a Rochester, N.Y., musician who rips his way through more pop sounds than the last ten years of Brit pop.
There are plenty of overdubs, but this sounds more like some sort of complex pop act than the usual idiosyncratic one-man effort. And despite a large number of performers, this is most definitely the work of one Mikey James.
You do have to like jaunty, snotty pop music. More Joe Jackson than New Pornographers (though it's not hard to hear both--often in the same song). If he had a band, I figure James might eventually trend along Elvis Costello lines. Or maybe not. He's got a pure pop heart. And those are hard to find.
Brilliant. A bit brittle, perhaps, but brilliant nonetheless. If this doesn't get you off your ass, call an ambulance.
Deliberate laptop-style rock. The beats are synthetic, for the most part, but everything else trends toward the organic. The songs themselves are plotted down in detail, with nothing left to chance. The only way to make this work is to somehow infuse a sense of spontaneity.
The Modern Skirts succeed. Mostly. After a while, there can be some beatbox fatigue. But the lyrics and melodies are quite clever, and the band takes care not to repeat itself.
I'm not sure this is the best setting for these songs. I imagine the band is pretty wild live, and some of that energy would help color these songs. Cleverness takes you only so far--although it goes a long, long ways here.
I'm honestly surprised how much I like this. There are so many red flags, and yet Modern Skirts burns through them effortlessly. That's gotta count for a lot. I guess I'd better get on the bandwagon.
Have You Met My Friend? EP
Having a few roots in the Land of Enchantment, I'm a little chagrined that a trio from San Diego has claimed the name. Of course, Nantucket was from North Carolina, so there's some precedent for this sort of theft.
Enough silliness. These boys uphold the San Diego garage scene tradition well. There isn't the craziness of the early 90s, but then, this is a new millennium. These guys play fast, tight and occasionally loud. Mostly, they play off of each other in interesting ways. Not quite math-y, but you can hear it from here.
Indie rock for the new decade. Or something like that. I dunno. It's just music that goes down well at any time of the evening. Do be sure to play it loud. You can thank me later.