Week of October 15, 2001

[create meaning]
The Ants / The Ants Create Meaning / Self-Released

For the most part, the songs are based on an acoustic guitar, and vocalist The Trout’s nasal, southern white boy voice, but he uses new combinations of instruments and strange song structures to keep each song totally unique. The album opens with the folky "The Guatemalan", which constructs a bizarre storyline in which the singer receives snappy bits of advice from various people. The Guatemalan himself, snorting lines with the singer, tells him, "Take your time, don’t let the time take you"...more»

The Dismemberment Plan / Change / DeSoto

There’s nothing here as utterly spastic as !’s "Soon to be Ex-Quaker", as demonically grooving as Emergency & I’s "A Life of Possibilities" or as steadfastly rocking as Terrified’s "Do the Standing Still" -- which is a shame, really. While the nervous energy that has always been a key ingredient of the group’s sound (on record and otherwise) remains firmly intact, a newfound sense of responsibility and road-worn weariness occasionally rears its head, putting a bit of a damper on this otherwise upbeat record...more»

[for the birds]
The Frames / For The Birds / Overcoat

Hopefully this time the combination of a sympathetic indie label, decent distribution, a fantastic new album and some US tour dates will push The Frames over the top. I mean, seriously, if bands like Travis and Coldplay can make names for themselves on this side of the pond, there's no reason in the world why The Frames, who play with twice the passion and sincerity of either of those underwhelming combos, can't do so as well...more»

[gunpowder, treason and plot]
Red Monkey / Gunpowder, Treason and Plot / Troubleman Unlimited

There’s not a whole lot that swings or grooves on Gundpowder, Treason and Plot. All in all, the songs are very crunchy and abrupt. Coupled with Rachel’s sing-song vocal style, it’s all kind of awkward. The kind of awkward that grabs, and commands, your attention. And that’s when you start to notice little things like the hand-claps and honking, Nation of Ulysses-style trumpet on "Bloody Mary". "Not Certain" actually reminds me of Fugazi’s "Waiting Room"...more»

Bows / Cassidy / Too Pure

After five years and Tricky's last few pathetic releases, I've come to accept that Bristol might just have been a blip on the underground radar. But as I listened this week to Bows' strikingly modern (and also strikingly trip-hop) album, I couldn't help but feel a tinge of nostalgic hope flutter in my now tried and true indie-pop heart. This disc is good. Really good. I was first seduced by the enchanting bass on the disc's second track, "Cuban Welterweight Rumbles Hidden Hitmen"...more»

[the new stroboscopic]
Collette Carter / The New Stroboscopic / TBTMO

Collette Carter has raided Stephin Merritt's wardrobe and she's painting the town. The couple formerly known as Stereo Symphonic are reveling in their innate ability to invent interesting pop soundscapes at will. Sharing Merritt's acumen for eclectic synth-sounds and drum-machines, Rod, aka Pacifica, uses his keyboard expertise to create an interactive mélange of sounds and beats. With its emphasis on old Emersonian Moogs and Rushian sounds, the record is a handy primer for anyone who wants to know what ever became of New Wave...more»

Celesteville / Kohoutek / Tape Mountain

Celesteville is basically the handiwork of a guy named Jake Anderson. Jake likes to experiment. The random feedback, distorted vocals and zillion sound effects, including one that sounds like an in-use pogo stick being recorded in a well (see "Avoid"), give a clear picture of a guy trapped in obscurity and dying to get out. You should hope that he does. One of the disc's strangest pieces -- and believe me, there are many to choose from -- is a cover of Godley & Creme's semi-obscure eighties hit, "Cry"...more»

[long sleeve story]
Devon / Long Sleeve Story / Three Word Recordings

I hate to say it, but Devon's songs do, to a degree, remind me of Ani DiFranco. They seem to share a showiness -- particularly in "Sleep Satisfied", which features car crash-instigation -- though this is by no means a bad thing. The similarity is there, but Devon's voice seems different enough to avoid any copycat labeling. Sometimes, though, there seems to be a little bit too much poutiness in the vocals; conversational lyrics seem to come across a bit better when this is nixed...more»

[serenity by the sea]
Ron Granger / Serenity By The Sea / Self-Released

Ron Granger is a "music-therapist". He isn't making pop music, but his situation is analogous; his melodies are so warm and pristine that the music itself, and the ambient images to which the listener is subjected, are simply too ideal to be found in the real world. Try closing your eyes and listening to the opener, "Acceptance". Okay, admittedly, you have to abandon your presumptions about the cheesiness of new age music or the clichéed sound of smooth jazz...more»

[here i go again]
Frankie Lee / Here I Go Again / Blues Express

There is nothing innovative about these twelve tunes -- and God bless Frankie Lee for that. At a time when musicians like R. L. Burnside are pushing the blues into exciting new territories, Lee reminds us just how satisfying a traditional presentation can be. On his first new recording in seven years, Lee turns himself and his crew of crack musicians loose on both originals and standards. While his band is rock solid -- especially the red-hot guitar work of Bobby Murray -- this is clearly Lee's affair...more»

[lilac 6]
The Lilac Time / Lilac 6 / spinART

With Lilac 6, Stephen Duffy and his cohorts (Nick Duffy and Claire Worrall) have taken a decisive leap onto the world of contemporary pop; imagine a less sardonic John Wesley Harding, prone to occasional bouts of husky, Peter Gabriel-style vocal sincerity, and you'll have the basic idea. Rather than leave nostalgia behind altogether, Duffy has moved his favorite wild card -- pedal steel, perhaps the most sentimental-sounding instrument ever invented -- to the foreground. It affects the music in an odd but interesting fashion...more»

LU / Self-Titled / pulCec

The band consists of former members of various DC bands, including Lorelei and the Lilys, all of whom have been brought together by a post-punk, pre-New Wave sound. Their press material refers to the band's sound as "hit(ting) sonically between Neu! and New Order", which is a pretty fair evaluation. It seems that these folks weren't comfortable putting down the guitars when they decided to pick up vintage keyboards and drum machines...more»

[never mind the context]
Moth Wranglers / Never Mind the Context / Magnetic

Led by ex-King Missile Chris Xefos and Flare member LD Beghtol, the Moth Wranglers are spatial organizers. Unlike most of the rock camps out there today, the Wranglers consciously separate one chord from another, creating a consistent downbeat that in turn spawns a depressively peaceful mood. The result is a marvelous use of silence and plodding beats, deconstructing the band's musical ideas into simple but ultimately powerful tracks...more»

[let's degenerate]
Red Planet / Let's Degenerate / Gearhead

Red Planet are choreographed for stardom. The CD artwork shows young, endearingly scruffy guys flaunting beers, Van Halen and Donnas albums and other party records -- and none of the songs on Let's Degenerate suggest that their wild looks and lust for rock are anything but genuine. Whereas the Ramones created something new by pitting their passion for Phil Spector against pills, B-movies and a streetwise recklessness, Red Planet turns mostly to eighties groups...more»

[chemistry is what we are]
Simian / Chemistry is What We Are / Astralwerks

Admittedly, not every moment of Simian's first full-length hangs together; the opening minute of lo-fi oompah evokes a skeptical glance that's quickly surpassed, and some of the later tracks ambient themselves so far into the sonic wallpaper that you'll hardly be aware you're listening to them. When this Manchester four-piece (the very proper lads Simon Lord, James Ford, Jas Shaw, and Alex MacNaghten) distinguish themselves from the decor, however, they practically reinvent the room...more»

[the tired sounds of]
Stars of the Lid / The Tired Sounds Of... / Kranky

I almost hope that the gentlemen behind Stars of the Lid -- Adam Wiltzie and Brian McBride -- never see this review, as I'm about to describe their record in a way that they might not immediately appreciate. You see, The Tired Sounds of Stars of the Lid is basically a musical yawn. Before you assume anything, bear in mind that I'm not saying that the record is boring. Nor am I indulging in the time-honored critical sport of turning a group's suggestive album title against them...more»

[love from the sun]
Various Artists / Love From The Sun / Ubiquity

If you weren't lucky enough to cut your teeth on '70s and '80s soul and R&B, here's your chance to meet it on present day-terms. Your uncle Mac's record collection may be cool, but Love From the Sun is danceable in a different, and no doubt to you (I'm speaking to the general Splendid demographic here) more familiar way. As One's "Undefeated" synth and drum machine percolates smoothly through a heavy London soul/acid jazz mixture, with club-friendly results...more»

[a short trip with the pirates]
Andrew Vincent and the Pirates / A Short Trip with the Pirates / Kelp

There's nothing special about the Canadian stealth technology used on A Short Trip with the Pirates; this is straight-ahead alterna-rock -- the kind with mellow, jangly guitars, simple bass lines, functional drums and a slightly twangy boy speak/singer. Some of the melodies are pretty catchy, particularly the chorus of "Gary Haché", but not earspinningly so. On first listen, this is pretty standard stuff. So what's so good about this disc? It's the lyrics...more»

[of joy and sorrow]
Denison Witmer / Of Joy and Sorrow / Burnt Toast Vinyl

This is a sonically gorgeous collection of folk pop. It's produced in the style of California singer-songwriter records from the seventies, with tasteful instrumentation and spare but always distinct melodies. Listening to the songs inspires a certain peace within you, as if they're massaging your ears. It makes you feel good in a genuine, therapeutic sense. Witmer's voice, which sounds a little like Jackson Browne's, is beautiful...more»

[at a glance]
And this week in At A Glance:
The Strokes, Arc, The Robin Cox Ensemble, Variious, signing einstein, John Adams, Die Form, Heavenly, Alien Canopy, Lanterna, The Potomac Accord, The Timeout Drawer, Oddibe, Mad For the Racket, Joe Morris, Spokane, Tara Jane O'Neil, Automatic Head Detonator, Will Haven, Red Level Eleven, Ken Stringfellow, Coal, The Convocation Of..., Andy White, Robert Nanna/Elizabeth Elmore, Love Selector, Jeff Kelley, Mad Daddys, Therecordtime, Deedrah, Weights and Measures, Scott Sandvik, Make Way For No Karma, Jackie-O Motherfucker, Mark McKay, Halo Effect, The Embryo Compilation: 03 - Adventures In Homemade Music, The Wooldridge Brothers
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