Quarterly Report

CD reviews for the first quarter of 2011

We’re headed towards the end of the first quarter of 2011. If there’s an early, detectable trend in the world of indie music, it’s a subtle move away from “static-y, vibe bands” (as one local genius put it) like Animal Collective and Sleigh Bells to more-classic songwriting. Music auteurs will confuse this shift with retro or rehash, and in some cases they're dead right, but the healing has to start somewhere. Poor But Sexy, Let's Move In Together (self-released) — Self-proclaimed re-inventors of “Yacht Rock” (their first misstep), this combo of D.C. post-punk veterans (including members of Dismemberment Plan) do their darnedest to translate Steely Dan to these Modern Times, but wind up sounding more like Pablo Cruise or Leo Sayer or Gino Vannelli, which ain’t necessarily a bad thing if you’re into that sort of white-guy disco funk (attention, Satchel Grande fans). It has its moments, like the roller skate handclap groover “You're Hotter than a Poptart,” which sums up the lyrical deftness of the entire collection. Imagine what they could have done with a horn section. Destroyer, Kaputt (Merge) — The band hasn't remade its sound (you heard this coming on Trouble in Dreams) as much as given into its influences. “Savage Night at the Opera” is the best clear-cut homage to New Order you'll ever find, right down to the “Bizarre Love Triangle” guitar cues. Other, more disco-y moments will make you think you picked up a Pet Shop Boys album, while the dreamy stuff is pure Roxy Music. The differentiator is the gorgeous trumpet and saxophone that slides in and out at the best moments, like the title track, where frontman Dan Bejar croons “Wasting your days, chasing some girls all right / Chasing cocaine to the back rooms of the world all night” over a warm, twilight LA summer disco melody he calls his “song for America” (circa 1988). MEN, Talk About Body (IAMSOUND) — Fronted by Le Tigre's SD Samson and Johanna Fateman, this thump-thump-thump electronic dance collection with a feminist edge would have benefited from a tad more (or a lot more) variety, but who's looking for variety on the dance floor (other than Peaches, who did this better with I Feel Cream)? Chikita Violenta, Tre3s (Arts & Crafts) — From Mexico City by way of Canada’s Dave Newfeld (Broken Social Scene, Los Campesinos!) you won’t find a hint of south-of-the-border flavor. Instead, they sound like another member of the Arts & Crafts clan, hashed out and shimmering, complete with strutting vocalists that Feist and Stars’ Torquil Campbell ain't got nothing on. Hot center track “ATPG” feels like revved up Yo La Tengo, while opener “Roni"” is revved up Jesus and Mary Chain. Kick those influences to the curb and you have something that could be glorious. The Decemberists, The King Is Dead (Rough Trade) — They can no longer be marginalized as just another twangy indie band, now that they’ve broken through with a collection that defines modern-day, above-ground Americana. The rural stomp-rock of “Down By the Water,” with its soaring harmonica and squeeze-box solo, is better than anything John Mellencamp has produced since Pink Houses; while the fiddles, banjo and honky-tonk piano on “All Arise!” could get any boots scootin’ at your local two-step parlor. They’d be radio stars if radio hadn't died a decade ago. I'll take them over Mumford and Sons any day (but that’s not saying much). Yuck, self-titled (Fat Possum) — That the album opens with a song that could be mistaken for classic Dinosaur Jr. is no mistake at all, as these British lads are channeling the best of the ‘80s/’90s college rock scene almost note for note. Is that Pavement I hear? Yes, son, it is. How about Teenage Fanclub? Right you are. Is it a sin to emulate your heroes? Take a listen and decide for yourself. Radiohead, The King of Limbs (XL) — As Thom Yorke’s music became more and more dehumanized and faux-modern (opening tracks “Bloom” and “Morning Mr. Magpie” are prime examples), I assumed this would be just another soulless escape into sterile, forced beats and drone-tones. But Yorke pulls it off with his brilliant voice, which he layers upon the layers upon the layers, and thankfully leaves clean without electronic effects (for the most part). When he tries to make it swing (“Little by Little,” “Lotus Flower”) I wonder if he simply forgot how to rock. He still struggles to find melodies; or maybe he just isn’t looking for them any more. He comes closest when he slows it down at the end. Tracks “Codex” and “Give Up the Ghost” are the closest thing to what we loved about OK Computer (and redeem the entire collection). It’s not as good as that landmark album, but nothing he produces from now on ever will be. Toro Y Moi, Underneath the Pine (Carpark) — They're calling one-man band Chaz Bundick's style “chillwave,” which I guess means that it’s music to chill to, and I can see that. Both synth-y and beat-heavy, the shimmer is dreamy, the vocals breathy and echoing, the melodies intentionally loungy (a la Stereolab); it's all very pretty and easy to listen to, and even easier to ignore. The Dirtbombs, Party Store (In the Red) — Don’t know anything about the Detroit techno scene that this album supposedly honors? Doesn’t matter. I didn’t, either, and I still don’t. Take the record for what it is — a dirty, filthy, garage-punk dance album that recreates the beats and action of electronic acid house with guitars, bass, drums and Mick Collins' brazen yowl. As for the 21:22 rehash of “Bug in the Bassbin” that stops the album dead in its tracks at the halfway point, well, that's what the delete key is for (but only after you've endured it a couple times). Coolest album so far this year. Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, lazy-i.com, or email him at lazy-i@thereader.com.

posted at 09:55 pm
on Thursday, March 03rd, 2011

COMMENTS

(We're testing Disqus commenting (finally!); please let us know if you have trouble.)

comments powered by Disqus

 

« Previous Page


Remembering Dave

It began in November 1992. I was a few years out of college at UNO, already working full time at Union Pacific, but still writing about underground music, something that I’d begun doing as the...

more »


Totally Crushing on Millions of Boys

Omaha power-pop punk band Millions of Boys’ new 10-inch record, Competing for Your Love, is a 180-gram slab of vinyl complete with digital download key, and even comes with a photo of Omaha booze...

more »


Future Tense: 2012 Music Predictions, Pt. 2

And now, the conclusion of my annual music predictions columns, where I gaze into the glossy black finish of a Fender Squier and see visions of what will occur in the coming days / months / years....

more »


Future Tense: 2012 Music Predictions (Pt. 1)

And so, as we enter into the year 2012 (the last year of our existence, according to another great seer), it is once again time for me to gaze through the fabric of time to reveal how all of our...

more »


<p>  It's True, 4/1/11.</p> Stage Dive: The Best Live Shows of 2011

In years past I made it to at least a hundred shows in a calendar year. This year the number was around 60, but looking over the following list, 2011 was as good as any year that I can remember:

...

more »







Advanced Search