Drake is back in a big way this week with a whole slew of back to school releases. -ed.
Doesn’t seem that long ago that you’d expect releases to stay away from ‘the day,’ but here we are six years later, and it’s positively a bonanza of releases for September 11. Releases from Animal Collective, Joe Henry and Kanye West will probably make a lot of end of year lists, as well as new ones from The Go! Team, Pinback and Black Lips. As Kanye West says “people gonna remember this date for the rest of their life.”
Playlist: New Releases 09.11.07
With every new release, this Brooklyn-by-way-of-Baltimore foursome find new ways to build on their unclassifiable brand of sound, and with Strawberry Jam, they’ve done it again, with magical success. The fact that less then six months ago member Panda Bear (Noah Lennox) released one of the best albums of the year (Person Pitch) makes this even more impressive. His Brian Wilson-inspired presence is still strong here, with vocal highlights “Chores” and the closing ballad “Derek,” but the real meat seems to belong to the alienation-themed Avey Tare (David Portner)-voiced tracks. Avey Tare also released a solo album (the forgettable Pullhair Rubeye with wife Kria Brekkan,) but certainly saved his best for the Strawberry Jam. Here his usually effects-laden voice is laid bare (save for the effects-laden “#1”) and he even finds it in him to let loose some serious screams. Take “For Reverend Green,” the album’s highlight, when Avey Tare tears his larynx singing “A lucky child don’t know how lucky she is.” That is followed by the equally grand “Fireworks,” making the best 1-2 AC song combo they’ve had yet. Folks nonplussed by the bands turn with 2005’s Feels are likely to continue to call foul, as Jam takes the band further closer to conventional songwriting. There’s no long 10-minute plus drone/soundscape/freakout (the song “Safer” fits this, but was instead used as a b-side to the first single Peacebone.) In fact, every song is under 7 minutes, but no one can call really accuse them of selling out. Strawberry Jam is still a frightening proposition for even the not-so-average consumer. It’s an album that requires repeat listens to penetrate it’s off-kilter and sometimes frightening layers to find the beauty inside.*
*Inside seems to be a recurring theme in the album. The opener “Peacebone” contains the line “it’s not my words you should follow it’s your inside;” “Winter Wonder Land” assures us “but inside I’m okay;” while the closer “Derek” ends with “see inside of the eye.”
For their sophomore release (and their first on Sub Pop,) the six-piece group from Brighton keeps things true to the original formula. Cheerleader-like chants and raps over marching band rhythms with plenty feel good music samples. This time, however, a live band was used to record much of the tracks, for a more organic sound that the samples are subtley woven into. The schoolyard chants are still there, thankfully, and the sound is still pure pop bliss to the ears. There’s also plenty of celebrity guest stars, including one Chuck D (making his first return to indie rock since “Kool Thing,”) on the song “Flashlight Fight.” Solex steps in for guest vocals on the ballad “I Never Needed It Now So Much,” while Marina from Bonde Do Role handles the reigns for “Titanic Vandalism” and “Universal Speech.” Meanwhile, “Grip Like a Vice” samples raps from early hip-hop lady pioneers Lisa Lee of Cosmic Force and Sha Rock from Funky Four Plus One (“That’s the Joint,”) but it’s the song “Doing it Right” that sounds like the hit, and sounds the most like it could’ve been on amazing debut (Thunder, Lightning, Strike.)
Album: Joe Henry – Civilians
Joe Henry is more famous for making other people sound good. His production deserves a lot of credit for reviving the careers of soul musicians Solomon Burke (the grammy winning Don’t Give Up On Me,) Bettye LaVette (I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise) and Allen Toussaint (The River in Reverse w/ Elvis Costello, and I Believe To My Soul.) With these, and his other recent work for Aimee Mann, Kristin Hersh, and Loudon Wainwright III, Henry’s production has fairly bare bones, which is a contrast to a lot of his solo work up to this point, like 2003’s Tiny Voices, which was quite lush with arrangments. With Civilians, however, Henry’s production is similar to his best work (finally.) It probably helps that he’s got Bill Frisell, Patrick Warren, David Piltch, Greg Leisz and Jay Bellerose backing him, basically the same band he helped put together for Loudon Wainwright’s Strange Weirdos/Knocked Up soundtrack (Wainwright sings back-up here.) It’s a confident release that deserves all the accolades it’s bound to garner.
Album: Pinback – Autumn of the Seraphs
Album: Rob Crow – Up
Once upon a time, San Diego’s Rob Crow used to be the busiest man in indie rock, what with his solo career and the multitude of projects (Thingy, Goblin Cock, Optiganally Yours, Alpha Males, Physics, Snotnose and Pinback.) But it seems he’s slowing down finally and enjoying the ride. A few years ago, Pinback became the primary vehicle for both he and Three Mile Pilot’s Zach Smith, and when their album Summer in Abaddon got a slot on The O.C.., it looked like Pinback was poised for something big. But instead of capitalizing on their buzz and churning out more songs like their semi-hit “Fortress,” they they took their time and pretty much ignored the call. Here it is three years later, and Autumn of the Seraphs definitely isn’t the sound of a band about to break. It’s just another quality release from the band, containing all the hooks and intricate guitar/bass interplay that we might soon take for granted. Of all the compliments I can give the band, the most apt is they make difficult sound pretty, and there’s much to be said for that. And while Crow is no longer spread as thin as we was, he’s releasing a solo EP today as well, just to remind you of his old moniker, ‘the hardest working indie rocker.’
Atlanta’s lo-fi garage rockers Black Lips don’t exactly go hi-fi with this release, but they do take a couple steps outside the garage. The sun appears to be shining on their mustachio’d mugs as their hodge-podge of punk/garage/rock sounds like a water balloon fight between The Sonics and The Fall. Only Black Lips could parlay the Katrina disaster into a song about a jilted lover from New Orleans named Katrina (“O Katrina!”) or write a country song about telling a child their teacher died (“How Do You Tell a Child that Someone Died”… well, come to think of it Ween certainly could – I guess you can add Dean and Gene to the water balloon fight as well.) The drum-loop on “Veni Vidi Vici” suggests they could (and probably will) expand their sound even more.
Not in Rhapsody, but worth rhapsodizing about:
Black Francis – Blue Finger
More going (or already in) the Sansa
Shout Out Louds – Our Ill Wills (Free album stream from AOL)
Film School – Hideout
Grand National – A Drink And A Quick Decision
Axe Riverboy – Tutu To Tango
Grayskul – Bloody Radio
Hot Hot Heat – Happiness LTD.
Mirah and Spectratone International – Share This Place: Stories And Observations
Henry Rollins – A Rollins In The Wry
Wiley – Playtime is Over
The Good Life – Help Wanted Nights
Simian Mobile Disco – Attack Sustain Decay Release
Ani DiFranco – Canon (Free album stream from AOL)
Oakley Hall – I’ll Follow You (Free album stream from AOL)
Emma Pollock – Watch The Fireworks