Last Days of April
This release is simply fabulous, fabulous, fabulous! I can't say enough about Last Days of April's Angel Youth. Equal parts pop-rock and orchestral arrangement, listeners will pick up on something new and unique each time through its complex and multiple layers. Taken as a whole, this album is like a symphony, with each movement flowing into the next with a seamless grace that's breathtaking. The music and lyrics make the perfect companion soundtrack to a break-up, as each song details a chapter in a broken relationship and a broken heart; I wish I'd had it when my last boyfriend dumped me! Vocalist Karl Larsson sings with such pleading sweetness and desperate melancholy that you feel less alone just knowing someone else out there has been to that same dark place.
Angel Youth makes use of strings, harpsichord, glockenspiel, rhodes, organ, drums, bass, guitar, and more to create some of the most original and awe-inspiring tracks I've heard in a long time. "Make Friends with Time" is notable for its beautiful, haunting melody (featuring a harpsichord) and lyrics that reveal the terrible pain following a significant and devastating loss. It just kills me! Then there are catchy, poppy tunes like, "Will the violins be playing?," where vocals and guitar interact playfully and show the smiling sun behind the clouds. If you're into pop-rock in any way, I highly recommend you give this CD a listen. Last Days of April have managed to extend this genre a step further with a delightfully unique style, a production that is flawless, and a deep emotionality that will leave you breathless. (NL)
(Deep Elm Records -- P.O. Box 36939, Charlotte, NC 28236; email@example.com; http://www.deepelm.com/; Last Days of April -- http://www.lastdaysofapril.com/)
The Lies are a Bay Area group consisting of members of several now-defunct indie rock groups, including Heavens to Betsy. Resigned is their second album, and is something of a concept album, in that vocalist/lyricist Dale Shaw wrote each of its ten songs about a woman in his life. I had trouble getting into this album very much -- for one thing, the songs tend to sound a bit too similar to one another. Each has a similarly plodding mid-tempo feel, and vocals are just too monotone and frankly, annoying. Guitars and '80s-style keyboards sustain, and vocals drone on gloomily, creating dirge after dirge, with no space to breathe. The piano parts are a nice touch, though. This album, however, could really do with more (or any) dynamics and tempo changes. It really needs something, that's for sure. Better luck next time. (CP)
(Kill Rock Stars -- 120 NE State Ave. #418, Olympia, WA. 98501; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.killrockstars.com/)
Linda & the Big King Jive Daddies
Linda & the Big King Jive Daddies
Slimstyle, they of the best record logo going, advertise Linda, et.al., as a "jump-swing"-era band. The CD starts with "Route 66" -- now, I've heard this tune all my life, by diverse talents from Mel Torme to Asleep at the Wheel, and I don't think I ever considered it "jump-swing." How about "Caledonia" ("what make your big head so hard"), "Shout" (the Animal House fave), "Johnny Jingo," or "Come on-a my house"? Has anyone ever considered these jump-jive? I must be way out of the loop if that's so. So, am I quibbling? Yes. Minor point, really. And in Tokyo, many club patrons may not know or care about the differences between jump and remade R&B, early rock, novelty and other forms of music, so why should I? Well, because I'm supposed to "review" this stuff, that's why. I could just say that I smiled all the way through this disc. (I did.) That I listened intently to the arrangements and singing. (I did.) That the experience was immensely entertaining. (It was.)
But I fear that my pleasure was perverse. Linda, she of the thick accent, is either singing by rote or has a very loose command of the English language. Her syla-la-a-bles roll all over the place, and her singing emphasis is frequently on the wrong section, note, beat, etc. Imagine what it might sound like if you sang a song in an unfamiliar language -- say, Cantonese -- by simply listening to another recording of the song and copying it. People that use that language regularly would be very entertained by your efforts, and likewise with Linda. I like to listen to Shonen Knife for the same reasons -- the pronunciations are entertaining, and it really makes one rethink the timing and natural beat of one's native language to hear others speak it. Educational and entertaining.
This huge band of nine pieces must just blow like hell on the stage; I bet the crowds just love it, and I would, too, if I were to see them. This recording is more of a souvenir of the stage show, or a gig-getter; now, I know folks who eat this type of recording up. It's a momento of the gig, and conjures recollections of the night's fun, a lot like live recordings do. If Linda & co. tour the U.S., you must see them, have a blast and score a copy of this CD. You won't care if it's really jump-swing or not, 'cause it's played in an infectious jump style, and you'll be dancing your little feet off. (BW)
(Slimstyle Records -- 3400 E. Speedway, Suite 118-272, Tucson, AZ. 85716; email@example.com; http://www.slimstyle.com/)
We Lilys fans are a yearning bunch. Past albums like In the Presence of Nothing, oft referred to as the album My Bloody Valentine never recorded, and Eccsame the Photon Band, a potent album whose ideas, to my mind, have never really been subsequently explored and expanded upon, were filled to the gills with pure swirlie pop gems that had the power to transport and absolve. Recently, however, the Lilys (Kurt Heasley and whatever pals he has along at the time) have been purveying a tasty but nowhere near as swirly brand of 1960s pop rock, influenced by the Kinks and others. So when I saw their recent EP, Selected, in the store, purporting to contain early unreleased Lilys songs, I jumped for joy and immediately bought a copy. Only later did I remember that I had agreed to review it for this very zine and that my own copy was already in the mail! From what I understand, these are old songs, but newly recorded. You get five songs, clocking in at 17:12; three have vocals and are reminiscent of the dreamy but warped pop on the A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns EP, while the other two are Reichian instrumental guitar workouts. However, what's important here is that each will pleasantly infect your brain in that way with which we've all grown familiar. I need not add that owning this is therefore essential to the state of mental health of Lilys fans everywhere, and the rest of you would be wise to join our numbers in addicted bliss. (CP)
(File 13 Records -- P.O. Box 2302, Philadelphia, PA. 19103-0302; http://www.file-13.com/)
Texas/California songstress Annie Lin's six-song live CD Math Pope is a horrible tease -- intriguing songwriting, intense vocals, acoustic guitars and pianos...and a microphone that sounds like it's been wrapped in a sweatsock.
Math Pope was recorded live at SRO Sports Bar & Café in Houston in August 2000, and the six songs feature Lin and her guitar channeling her inner Alanis Morrisette -- very frank and a little bitter. The songs are stripped-down, bare-bones compositions. Lin only has accompaniment on one song on the album, the album-closing "Speak," but the simplicity seems appropriate. This isn't really pop, after all.
I am not a huge fan of live albums. Live albums seem to fall victim to being, well, live, and Math Pope is no exception. The album suffers from a serious lack of recording quality. The first track on the CD, "City Limit," is full of hiss and muffled; Lin gets breathy from time to time, and her lower register disappears. However, that isn't the case for every song. For example, "This Year," track two, and "Odysseus," track five, are of much higher quality and turn out quite nicely with only minor flaws. The aforementioned "Speak" causes some really delightful noises to come out of my speakers as the volume brushes the upper limits of the recording equipment.
It would be easy to call this album a rough draft. Math Pope leaves you with the desire for Lin to get into a studio and polish these diamonds in the rough into something truly precious. (CH)
(Ariadne Records -- 6320 South Main Street, Suite 512, Houston, TX. 77005; http://www.ariadnerecords.com/; Annie Lin -- http://www.annielin.com/)
Demarnia Lloyd's three songs (solo and with Cloudboy and Mink) on 1997's entrancing Arc: Music of Dunedin compilation were mightily intriguing, warm ripples of slow motion underneath her somnambulent contralto. Trace is nothing like those cuts, but instead of shoehorning her gifts into commercialized product, the New Zealander runs like hell in the other direction. The home recordings that make up her debut EP are perplexingly oblique, little more than wheezy (literally, as some of the instruments sound as though they're on their last legs) baroque flourishes on a seemingly endless loop. On top of this is Lloyd's voice, multi-tracked (in nothing resembling traditional harmony) and murmuring cryptic poetry in a breathy timbre that sounds like Björk taking a short lunch with Cat Power and Hope Sandoval. It's captivating for a while, as Lloyd sounds as though she's drunk on the sheer delight of experimenting with the possibilities of her voice; she sings in what I'd swear are microtones in spots during "Anything," and the swoops in "Flying" are reminiscent of that dog. at their most vocally playful. Unfortunately, the instrumental backdrops don't show nearly as much invention (beyond the nontraditional arrangements and production), and the songs demonstrate nothing resembling movement. Even "Resonance," which is like Belly taking on the organ outro to Led Zeppelin's "Thank You," barely meets the requirements to be called a song, even as it stands, when taken as pure sound, as one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard. Like the rest of Trace, its beauty lies in stasis. (MH)
(Arclife Records -- 135 High St., Dunedin, NEW ZEALAND; http://coffee.co.nz/arclife/)
Low and The Dirty Three
In The Fishtank #7
Recorded in a studio over a couple days, only vaguely collaboratively, one would have every reason to think this would be half-baked. But not only is it not that, it busts out into territory beyond each band's comfort zone (as well as providing some nice intermingling of their styles on other tracks -- "i hear...goodnight" is almost exactly what you would expect a fusion between the two to sound like, which is not a bad thing at all). I'm thinking particularly of the gospel bluegrass of "lordy," which is a total curveball and thrilling all at once. Then there's the cover of Neil Young's "Down By The River," which just oozes sadness. I was nervous, but damn, it's a fine record. If you've ever liked anything either band's done, I say pick it up. (DD)
(Konkurrent Records -- De Wittenstraat 100, Amsterdam, BA. 1052, THE NETHERLANDS; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.konkurrent.nl/; Touch and Go Records -- P.O. Box 25520, Chicago, IL. 60625; http://www.southern.com/southern/label/TCH/index.html; Low -- http://www.chairkickers.com/; The Dirty Three -- http://www.dirtythree.com/)