Under Review: Dum Dum Girls – Only In Dreams

•September 27, 2011 • 1 Comment

You can hear a multitude of emotions in the voice of Kristen “Dee Dee” Gundred on the Dum Dum Girls’ new album, Only In Dreams. That’s worth noting since Dee Dee’s delivery on her band’s full-length debut, last year’s I Will Be, was deadpan, detached and distorted. A more dynamic vocal style is not the only change this time around, as the full-band sound of the He Gets Me High EP is carried through the new set. As purveyors of sassy garage pop, Dum Dum Girls haven’t forgotten their roots in tape-based, two-minute rock n’ roll. Only In Dreams, despite its richer production, offers plenty of punchy moments to satisfy fans of the Girls’ early output.

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Under Review: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Hysterical

•September 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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I for one cannot blame Clap Your Hands Say Yeah for wanting to take the last few years off. With the release of their 2007 sophomore album, Some Loud Thunder, the Philadelphia/Brooklyn group found themselves in the uncanny situation of being ripped apart by the very internet-based writers who heaped praise upon the guys’ self-titled debut just a few years before. As you can well imagine, Some Loud Thunder wasn’t a particularly bad album, but anything that wasn’t a direct sequel to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah just wasn’t going to do it for those fickle bloggers. In the ensuing years, singer Alec Ounsworth released a solo album and a disc with a new group, Flashy Python, drummer Sean Greenhalgh worked on movie soundtracks, guitarist Lee Sargent and his bassist brother Tyler have formed several bands, as has keyboardist Robbie Guertin. While the guys remained busy on their own, they never officially declared an end to CYHSY, leaving future endeavors an ongoing possibility. Following the release of a demo track called “Statues,” Clap Your Hands Say Yeah has officially returned with a third album, Hysterical.

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Under Review: Ladytron – Gravity The Seducer

•September 16, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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For a band to release a career retrospective without disbanding is an intriguing move. Ladytron, the co-ed British electronic group, celebrated the tenth anniversary of their debut, 604, with an album collecting their finest moments of the past decade. After spending some time looking back, the band now looks ahead with a new album, Gravity The Seducer. Never content to settle into one style, Ladytron’s sound has drifted around romantically menacing themes for the past few albums. Gravity The Seducer is no different, though it doesn’t pack as much of an immediate wallop as other recent efforts. Ladytron’s last album, Velocifero, boasted a thunderous, industrial sound courtesy of ex-Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Alessandro Cortini. The strong rhythms complimented and contrasted Helen Marnie’s plaintive, melodic vocals very well, making Velocifero an impressive effort. The band’s focus on Gravity The Seducer has shifted away from throbbing beats and more toward melody, although the songs take a few passes to truly sink in.

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Under Review: St. Vincent – Strange Mercy

•September 15, 2011 • Leave a Comment

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When most guitarists launch into their solos, they’ll generally end up with fingers skittering around the highest notes on the neck. While that technique has become a nearly ubiquitous style, there are a select few musicians who prefer exploring the lower-numbered frets. Annie Clark, the main creative force behind St. Vincent, is one such guitarist. Her shredding derives its unnerving lopes from low-octave growls and microtonal sways, giving her songs a constant underpinning of dread and unease. On Strange Mercy, Clark’s third album, she compliments her distinctive instrumental style with some of her most personal lyrics to date, not to mention a few of her strongest melodic ideas.

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Under Review: Wild Flag – Wild Flag

•September 12, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There are textbook supergroups (and believe me, there are plenty of them), and then there are groups that are downright super. Having each played in so many overlapping bands that a meticulous flow chart/Venn diagram demonstration might be in order, the quartet known as Wild Flag comes with several decades’ worth of experience. Co-led by guitarists Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and Mary Timony of Helium, Wild Flag is rounded out by ex-Minders keyboardist Rebecca Cole and Sleater-Kinney drummer Janet Weiss, who has also played with Bright Eyes and Quasi, to name a scant few. Together, the ladies of Wild Flag unleash a gritty, catchy and technically virtuosic batch of tunes on their self-titled debut. As the members’ collective résumé delayed the group’s launch (you try coordinating a tour a full six months before your album comes out), the release is nothing short of bombastic. Bursting open with the searing “Romance,” Wild Flag grabs hold early and never lets go. The track features a classic verse-chorus-verse structure; a refreshing throwback in an era when suite-like arrangements are considered the new norm. Wild Flag could be considered revivalists in that the music they make shirks modern trends in favor of out and out sharp songwriting.

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Under Review: The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love

•September 7, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Time moves both quickly and slowly in today’s information-cluttered world. For a band to take a five year break between albums is too often grounds to commence referring to that band in the past tense.  After making a major label move with the slick but satisfying Pieces Of The People We Love, New York dance punkers The Rapture retreated from the public eye for nearly two years. A hip-hop influenced stopgap single, “No Sex For Ben,” was featured on the soundtrack to a Grand Theft Auto video game, unfortunately relegating one of the band’s finest moments to underscore killing hookers and stealing cop cars. In the following years, bassist Matt Safer left the group, bringing the band down to a trio. With a renewed vision, leader Luke Jenner piles on the experimentation on In The Grace Of Your Love, The Rapture’s third full-length. The music found on the new album doesn’t always adhere to the dance-punk style that The Rapture themselves helped define. Jittery guitars and agogo bells have given way to disco strings (“Come Back To Me”) and house pianos (“How Deep Is Your Love”). Though it’s easily recognizable as being a Rapture album, In The Grace Of Your Love is surprising and diverse.

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Under Review: CSS – La Liberación

•September 2, 2011 • Leave a Comment

There’s a certain amount of growing up that even the most unwilling band experiences when they’re three albums deep into their career. Though CSS, the flashy electro-rock band from São Paulo, already displayed a broader stylistic range on their 2008 album, Donkey, their newest work finds them at a frustrating crossroad. La Liberación is mostly comprised of sassy, brassy come-ons and put-downs that the band should’ve outgrown years ago. Their musical prowess is still entertaining enough, but their stilted lyrics and gratuitous use of profanity for its own sake detracts from what could have been an exceptional set of DayGlo pop. Bookended by “I Love You,” which conjures thoughts of “love and shit,” and “Fuck Everything,” which speaks for itself, CSS still tries to squeeze into the bratty pants of a younger, more inexperienced band. That wouldn’t be such a big problem if the album didn’t contain a couple of standout tracks that showed that CSS can do much, much better.

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