Sunday, June 6, 2010

stolen from Facebook.

These are some music reviews of albums I've gotten this year so far, that I've been posting on my facebook. I stole it to put here for people I'm not friends with on facebook. voilĂ .

The Dead Weather "Sea Of Cowards" Third Man/Warner, 2010.

Much like they did on their 2009 debut "Horehound", The Dead Weather dive right into a miry, mucky, fuzzy avant-blues-punk set, leaving you once again in a dizzy trance, wondering when one song ended and the other began, and just who it was singing that last part, Allison Mosshart or Jack White.

Deviating little from their first album, "Sea of Cowards" is full of White's, well, dark side, a breath of fresh air for anyone who thought The White Stripes were getting too polished on the last few albums. While White is obviously stepping out from behind the drums on a few songs to play some signature howls and screeches on the guitar, the album also features fellow guitarist and Detroit native Dean Fertita playing more organ and keyboard (his main duties in his other band, Queens of the Stone Age) to flesh out the sound.

While "Horehound" gave us our first impression of TDW, "Sea of Cowards" is a denser, more complicated look at what these four musicians are capable. Here's hoping they dish out more.

4 out of 5 stars.

The Gaslight Anthem "American Slang" Side One Dummy Records, 2010

For the last few years, New Jersey's The Gaslight Anthem has been both praised and criticized for their emulation and mimicry of greats like Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty, but their reputation as one of the best rock bands was set in stone with the release of 2008's of "The '59 Sound", which boasted a pitch-perfect blend of punk and arena rock that took America by storm.

That being said, their new album, "American Slang" is one of the most anticipated records of the year, but don't hold your breath if you're expecting the same record all over again. This time around, Brian Fallon and Co. delve into new territories of soul, blues, and gospel, especially on back to back stand-out tracks "The Diamond Church Street Choir" and "The Queen of Lower Chelsea".

Although it might not be the feel-good album of the year that "The '59 Sound" was, the maturity on this record proves that they are worthy successors, not copycats, of their heroes.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Uncle Tupelo "March 16-20, 1992" Rockville Records, 1992

As the title suggests, this acoustic-only album was recorded in just a few days, under the supervision of R.E.M.'s Peter Buck, who decided to produce their album after seeing them play the 40 Watt in Athens, Georgia. Although tension between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar had begun, their chemistry works so well on this album, it's hard to tell why more people don't herald this as their best.

Standout tracks are the traditional song "Coalminers" and a reimagined roots version of The Stooges classic "I Wanna Be Your Dog".

4 out of 5 stars.

Band Of Skulls "baby darling doll face honey" Shangri-La Music, 2009

These guys were the supporting act for Black Rebel Motorcycle Club when I saw them recently, and didn't quite know what to expect. Live, they effortlessly switched between swampier garage-stomp blues, and beautiful, harmony driven haunts.

Lead vocals are shared by Russell Marsden, guitar, and Emma Richardson, bass, but they also share songwriting duties with drummer Matt Hayward, and they compliment each other well, like a set of siblings each taking turns to showcase their talents.

4 out of 5 stars.

River City Rebels "Keepsake Of Luck" Silver Sprocket, 2007

I can't find anything negative to say about this album. Catchy punk inspired rock and roll with soul for miles. I caught a set from these guys a year ago, and they put on a fantastic show. I picked up their newest album, "In Love/Loveless", which is also great, but this one is the cream of the crop.

For some ungodly reason, the Rebels didn't get the label support they should have had for what I would consider the peak of their creativity and perfection. This belongs in every punk and rock and roll fan's collection.

Absolutely 5 out of 5 stars.

Titus Andronicus "The Moniter" XL Recordings, 2010

A brilliant second effort by Glen Rock, New Jersey's most engaging pessimists. Style-wise, you'll have a hard time pigeonholing them, but if I had to take a stab at it, I'd call it "post-shoegaze indie fuzz folk punk".

Somewhere in between The Arcade Fire, This Bike Is A Pipe Bomb, and The Replacements, this band's sound is drowned in punk rock noise, fury and abandon, and resurrected in catchy melodies and passion. A concept album based on the Civil War, "The Moniter" curses the futility and hopelessness of the youth of America, and the prospect of growing up, but offers solace in musical freedom, which they don't take lightly. The fuzzy guitar solos, violins, keys, and shout-along choruses make these guys one of the funnest and most heartfelt punk bands these days.

It's not hard to find yourself chanting along with haunting refrains like "You will always be a loser", "The enemy is everywhere" and of course, "Tramps like us, Baby, we were born to die".

Angst never sounded so good.
4 out of 5 stars.

Johnny Cash "American VI: Ain't No Grave" American Recordings, 2010

Johnny's last set of recordings with Rick Rubin begins with the death rattle of a chain dropping the ground, bells tolling, and a frail Cash singing "There ain't no grave can hold my body down". His version of the spiritual takes a personal tone as the song was recorded the week he died. The title track sets the mood for the whole album, which features themes of death, redemption, and his heavenly soon-to-be home. Though you can hear the mortality in Cash's voice, Rubin has a way of casting his songs in immortal gold.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Vivian Girls "Everything Goes Wrong" In The Red Records, 2009

For their second album, Brooklyn's Vivian Girls dish out more girl-group-meets-lofi-punk and prove that they're not going away. Brash, catchy, sad, spacey and sassy. Somewhere in between the Shangri Las and The Coathangers.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Randy "Randy The Band" Burning Heart/Fat Wreck, 2006

Catchy-as-hell Ramones style punk rock from Sweden. I first came across this album as a college radio DJ a few years ago and have been wanting to get my hands on it ever since. It seems to me like most rock and roll bands from Sweden have their act down (The Hives, Turbonegro, Sahara Hotnights, The Sounds, The Hellacopters) and put out nothing but perfect records and Randy is no exception.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Against Me! "White Crosses" Sire, 2010

Working again with famed producer Butch Vig (Nirvana, Green Day, Garbage), Against Me! cranks out another slick sonic assault in the vein of their 2007 major-label debut "New Wave", and boasts the same flailing dissonant guitars, rapid-fire vocals and catchy sing-alongs.

Along with the jump from an indie label to a major came accusations of selling out, a loss of innocence, and a deep look inside that seemingly prompted a lyrical and musical change. Thus was born "New Wave" which focused on highly emotional themes of integrity, lust, and apathy. Though these themes are still prevalent on "White Crosses", the album takes us on a more intimate, personal journey that shows us that Tom Gabel is still true to himself.

Be it for better or worse, we can't be who we once were, and although Gabel may have veered off the political course he set out on when he first started his band, his passion and songwriting still stand head and shoulders above any political statement he ever made. From "Baby, I'm An Anarchist" to "I Was A Teenage Anarchist", Against Me! is still a band that makes you think twice before you think you know it all.

Gabel sums it up on the Sex Pistols-esque "Rapid Decompression", one of the standout tracks on the album:

"Before you point your finger,
Before you cast your stones,
Take a look at yourself.
How can you expect from someone what you won't do yourself?"

4 out of 5 stars.

Flatfoot 56 "Black Thorn" Old Shoe Records, 2010

Chicago's celtic punk rock road warriors return with their much anticipated Black Thorn, produced by Street Dogs bassist Johnny Rioux.

As I expected, the themes of the working class struggle, bagpipes, and gang vocals are as abundant as their previous records, but there is a sense of maturity and growth in the lyrics as well as the diversity of sound. There are full-on hardcore songs and more folk sounding songs that you won't hear coming from just any punk band.

To top it off, the songs are more personal, and give you the idea of what it takes to be on the road for 9 months of the year, and how it feels to be in the same band for 10 years and still be going strong.

4 and a half out of 5 stars.

Recommended songs: Black Thorn, Courage, Smoke Blower, Shiny Eyes, We Grow Stronger

She And Him "Vol. 2" Merge Records, 2010

I have to admit, I anticipated this record a lot, and at first, it kind of disappointed me. It's not that it's a bad record at all, but I had high expectations based on "Vol. 1" being one of my favorite albums of the last few years that led to my disappointment.

That being said, there are some high points. One, M. Ward adds more of his lush, atmospheric vocals to the mix, which weighs the delicate balance in his more folk-driven direction to compliment Zooey Deschanel's swoony 60's girl-group style vocals.

Two, most of the songs are longer, which is nice, because as wonderful as "Vol. 1" is, it feels like a quick kiss that you wanted to last longer. This seems to be a sign of maturity for Zooey's songwriting, as most of the songs from the first album were written over several years, whereas she threw herself into writing the songs from this album, despite her busy acting schedule for "Yes Man" and "(500) Days of Summer".

Highlights include the first two tracks, "Thieves" and "In The Sun", the NRBQ cover "Ridin' In My Car", and the emotional closer "If You Can't Sleep".

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

Fucked Up "Couple Tracks" Matador, 2010

A nice collection of F'd Up's singles and B-sides. This is one of my favorite punk bands of recent times, and steeped in the tradition of lo-fi punk rock, they've put out over 35 7"s in the last 5 years. Highlights include "Dangerous Fumes", "Ban Violins", "I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You" and "Teenage Problems".
4 out of 5 stars.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club "Beat The Devil's Tattoo" Abstract Dragon/Vagrant, 2010

After BRMC had already perfected a blend of garage, shoegaze, and psychedelic rock with their first two albums, the band blew everyone's minds with the beatnik inspired folk rock album, "Howl".

With "Beat The Devil's Tattoo", the boys (and girl) return to that form, with another perfect album. This one mixes the sonic garage boom of "Baby 81" and the hypnotic pysch-folk of "Howl" for another classic in the BRMC canon.

5 out of 5 stars.

The White Stripes "Under Great White Northern Lights" Third Man/Warner, 2010

I bought the vinyl companion to the "Under Great White Northern Lights" DVD, which followed the Stripes on their Canadian tour supporting "Icky Thump" back in 2007.

The songs on the audio version are compiled from several shows on the tour, and the live album offers several classics like "Seven Nation Army" and "We're Going To Be Friends" and also has the crowd favorite "Jolene" (Dolly Parton), and songs dating back to their early Detroit days, such as "When I Hear My Name" and "Let's Shake Hands".

Though the album is by no means a glossy, produced account, it proves that they are still spontaneous, explosive and raw as hell.

3 out of 5 stars.

Jay Reatard "Blood Visions" In The Red Records, 2006

From the infamous cover that puts even Andrew WK to shame, to his early death, this is a punk document at it's best. A modern classic.

3 and a half out of 5 stars.

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