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Archive for July, 2010

CD Review – Broken Bells (Danger Mouse Y’All!)

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

Broken Bells

Columbia Records

Everything that Danger Mouse does turns to gold. First, it was the brilliant The Grey Album which combined Jay-Z’s The Black Album and The Beatles’ The White Album. Then it was the (supposed to be one-off) collaboration with Cee-Lo, maybe you’ve heard of them, Gnarls Barkley. They only made one of the greatest songs of all time, “Crazy.” Now he is collaborating with singer/songwriter James Mercer to form the funky-yet-acoustic Broken Bells. Their self-titled debut is has the Danger Mouse patent, but James Mercer (of The Shins) doesn’t get shoved into the background. “The Ghost Inside” has a beat that I could see in a club or a roller skating rink. Complete with hand claps, the duo combine Burton’s beats with Mercer’s mellow vocals to make a track that is an instant favorite of mine. They follow that up with “Sailing to Nowhere,” where Burton (Mouse?) take melancholy beats and cymbals and underscore Mercer’s somber vocals. “Trap Doors” is the song that sounds the most like The Shins, but actually leans more toward a Guster sound.

Broken Bells wants to be known as a legit band and not a one-off side project. Well, Gnarls Barkley was supposed to be one-off and now they are famous world-wide. Broken Bells will continue to go on because the music is that good and it will resonate with the indie snobs, but there is nothing here that is like “Crazy.” Because of that, Broken Bells will never be as wildly popular as Gnarls Barkley.

CD Review – Milagres (Music for mountain climbing?)

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Seven Summits


The debut album from the artist formerly known as The Secret Life of Sofia is not only really well-done indie-rock, but the concept itself should bring listeners in. Each of the 11 tracks is a mountain climbing story that lead singer Kyle Wilson picked up from guides, history books and other climbers. The opener, “Fifty Fourteeners” sounds a lot like Blitzen Trapper while they do their best Death Cab for Cutie on “Government Lakes.” “Nepal, 1905 is about Aleister Crowley, who pulls a gun on the climbing expedition’s leader, forcing him to stay in the tent and he watches as his entire party is killed in an avalanche farther up the mountain. “Weathering” is another take on Jon Krakauer’s book “Into Thin Air,” but from the point-of-view of a deceased expedition member.

The most heart-wrenching story is that of Wili Unsoeld, who named his daughter “Nanda Devi” after a Himalayan peak and subsequently watched her fall to her death while climbing that exact peak as an adult.

A perfect combination of indie, history and historical fiction, Milagres is that one group you can drop on your friends and they will thank you for it.

CD Review – James Blackshaw

Monday, July 12th, 2010

All is Falling

Young God Records

James Blackshaw is truly unique. His new, largely instrumental album is like watching the color swirls when you are looking at the Windows Media Player on your computer. Pop this in and all of the swirls of instrumentation, cresendos and decresendos and occasional vocal activity will come to life visually. It’s the only way to see the beautiful and meditative music that Blackshaw creates. It takes some patience to listen to because the songs are not really songs at all (especially in the radio friendly sense). Each track is called “Part 1,” “Part 2,” etc. all the way to “Part 8.” The album climaxes at the nearly 12-minute, cinematic and orchestral “Part 7.” Blackshaw won’t get any radio play with this album, but anybody who truly understands music will love this album.

CD Review – Peter Wolf Crier

Friday, July 9th, 2010


Jagjaguwar Records

Like a more rugged They Might Be Giants, the duo of Peter Wolf Crier have penned a warm, yet rustic debut. Former member of Wars of 1812 (and current private school teacher) Peter Pisano hooked up with drummer/programmer (and former member of Laarks and Amatuer Love) Brian Moen after a flood of creativity one summer night brought out the rough drafts of almost every one of the 11 songs on this album. ” You’re So High” is a quirky pop track that channels Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper, while “Untitled 101” is the most polished track on the album, it still manages to keep the fuzzy rustic feel that encompasses the album. The entire album sounds as if it was recorded with an old 4-track recorder, but that somehow authenticates their sound. While non of this is groundbreaking material, Peter Wolf Crier does fill that need for backwoods indie folk-pop. At least my need for that anyway.

CD Review – Toy Soldiers

Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Whisper Down the Lane

Mad Dragon Records

When you listen to the opening track of the debut from Toy Soldiers, you get the sense that they really love playing music. Combining classic rock, blues and gospel, “Throw Me Down” is like a party in right around three minutes. “Hard Times” is like an outtake from the latest album by Zach Lupetin and the Dustbowl Revival. Vocalist/Guitarist Ron Gallo is the mastermind behind the Toy Soldiers, but he’s not the Alpha and Omega of the group. Everybody gets involved. The rootsy “Be Right Here” has background vocalist Kate Foust commanding the lead and proving that Gallo isn’t the only one in this group with serious talent, while the saloon-waltz of “Loaded on Sunday” showcases Daniel King’s blues-rich vocals. Toy Soldiers is a group that is certainly having fun and can mold several genres into one fantastic album. If you are looking for something that is fun and original, you’ve come to the right place.

CD Review – Shark Speed

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

Education EP


Instantly stuck in your head, Shark Speed’s follow-up to their debut album is perfect pop. “King of the World” opens up the EP with the singable chorus “Cause I’ve gone as far as I go/ Giving it all my soul/ I found peace you’ll be happy to know/ All my love for you is starting to show.” The Minus the Bear-ish “Killing Kind” starts out with the contemplative line, “Are my devils the same as other men’s/ I’m trading in my needle for a poet’s pen/ It’s so easy for the sinless virgins to pretend/ That their spotless, righteous souls don’t need a mend.” The other two tracks, “Ill-Fate Incarnate” and “Pretend,” are just as instantly catchy and close out the 15-and-a-half minutes of pop heaven. Shark Speed may have a strange name, but they are a group that any indie-pop fan needs to hear. You will not be disappointed.