The Pains of Being Pure At Heart The Pains of Being Pure at Heart (Slumberland) Pick a band, any band from Disc 1 of Rhino Records The Brit Box, their four cd set chronicling UK indie, shoegaze, and Brit pop, and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart will pretty much sound like that band. The Smiths, The Shop Assistants, Jesus and Mary Chain, The Sundays, and The Primitives all make valid reference points. Maybe not so much The Happy Mondays, Primal Scream, or The Charlatans, but…you get the point. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart sound so much like their UK idols of the past, you’d swear they came directly from the late Eighties, early Nineites, pre-Oasis era in British music. Yet, they’re neither British, nor is this disc a relic rescued from the cut-out bin. No, they’re very much from modern times and they’re from Brooklyn. Does this fact even matter in this day and age when underground music strains to come up with new ideas? (7 out of 10 on The Rockometer)
Here We Go Magic Here We Go Magic (Western Vinyl) Like a Canadian indie-pop collective minus ten or twelve members, Here We Go Magic (Luke Temple with Baptiste Ibar and Peter Hale) make deceptively simple, yet elegantly grand statements constructed out of light, yet seemingly complex beats, and layers of electronic and acoustic sounds. As Temple’s light falsetto blends into the slight, ghostly movements which surround him, his voice practically dissipates, blurring the lines between singer and song, man and the instruments which man has made. (7/10)
Lower Heaven Ashes Lower Heaven’s debut album, Ashes, works within the same sluggish, haze as a band like Dead Meadow, but without the swampy guitars. It also bears more than a passing resemblance to the post-punk of Echo and the Bunnymen, Film School, and any number of neo-shoegazers who worship at the altar of Kevin Shields and the Reid Brothers, but, again, there’s something missing: The piercing feedback. Skillfully, this LA quartet borrow from two distinct periods of psychedelic music without firmly establishing themselves in either camp. When they’re on, Ashes is a deep, brooding, and strangely comfortable affair. And, when they lax into the post Joy Division sounds, like those which dominated the first half of this decade (Think Interpol and all their followers), I’m hitting the next button. (6/10)
The Black Lips Two Hundred Million Thousand (Vice) There’s an inherent contradiction in Two Hundred Million Thousand, the latest album by Atlanta, Georgia’s favorite ne’er do wells, the Black Lips. While it just may be the band’s most diverse set of songs to date, showcasing some real, musical talent (A word you don’t hear too often with this garage rock band notorious for their monkeyshines as much as their music), it’s also an album whose sound hearkens back to their pre-Vice Records days with Bomp! then In The Red Records. It’s the type of record that would sound the same whether the source is mp3, CD, or LP. That is, there’s a certain grit and thinness to it, like you’re listening to a recording of a record and not the record itself. It’s an aesthetic which serves them quite well, as the Lips take you on a drunken romp along the radio dial through Fifties bad boy Rock ‘N’ Roll (“Drugs”), British Invasion (“Starting Over” and “I’ll be With You,”) early psychedelic rock (“Trapped in a Basement,”) and howling, garage rock (“Again and Again” and “Body Combat.”) (7/10)
Wavves Wavvves (Fat Possum) With acts like Times New Viking, Psychedelic Horseshit, No Age, and Jay Reatard gaining popularity, and in the process, making lo-fi and in the red recordings, the new hi-fi, an album like Wavvves, by the one man San Diego band, Wavves was inevitable. At their best, intentionally gritty recording techniques can lend mystique, intimacy, and humanism to what has become a digital recording world, a place where uniqueness and personality are sacrificed for precision and perfection. Conversely, there’s a seedier side to lo-fi, one where twisting the knobs to blurry levels obfuscates otherwise ordinary recordings. Unfortunately, more times than not, the lo-fi nature of Wavvves, hides ordinary songs, rather than mystifying the pop song (see Times New Viking and No Age), adding dirt and drive into the mix (Jay Reatard), or blurring the lines between madness and genius (Psychedelic Horseshit). The promise of a one man, lo-fi, Southern California beach boy, is fulfilled on songs like “No Hope Kids,” “So Bored,” and “To the Dregs,” and too little else. (5/10)
MP3: Wavves – So Bored
Various Artists Dark Was the Night (4AD/Beggars US) Let’s look past for a moment, that in this day and age, the concept of a compilation record is tenuous at best. With Dark Was the Night available for digital download at your favorite e-tailer, one could, conceivably, pick and choose your way through its 31 tracks, to a much more manageable collection. However, once you get to ten tracks and ten dollars, which with an all-star indie cast including Spoon, The Decemberists, Sufjan Stevens, The National, Cat Power, Feist, etc, etc, you’ll quickly get to that ten dollar/ten track mark, you’d be better off downloading the whole thing anyway. Plus, all proceeds go to charity.
Let’s also look past the fact that on a two disc compilation there’s bound to be more than one track you’d rather skip. Sufjan Stevens’ “You Are the Blood,” will either be your favorite, or least favorite track. There is no in between. A friend of mine described it as Stevens being fixated on Portishead and early Nineties trip-hop. I think of it as Paranoid Sufjan Android. On “Mimizan,” Beirut mails in a stale, Eastern-European take on They Might Be Giants, one without the energy, or the wit, and one which is ultimately flat and uninteresting.
Yet, in spite of the inevitable misstep or two, Dark Was the Night, is still one of the better compilations to come across my desk in some time. Dave Sitek of TV on the Radio transforms The Troggs’ “With a Girl Like You,” into a brooding, Jesus and Mary Chain style jam. While Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew, does as he is apt to do, making his ambient and atmospheric, masturbatory fantasy, “Love vs Porn,” into a quaint, endearing love letter. Other highlights include Spoon’s cut up, bass driven rocker, “Well Alright,” Cat Power’s sinfully, powerful take on “Amazing Grace,” Yeasayer’s airy and rhythmic “Tightrope,” and The National’s almost upbeat, piano ballad “Around the Bend.” There’s more than enough to make you forget you had to sit through six minutes of The Decemberists and eight plus minutes of Sufjan. Plus, it’s for charity. (7/10)