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Archive for May, 2011

The Hobbit movies have official release dates, bringing out the inner Frodo in all of us

Tuesday, May 31st, 2011

Fellow Hobbits! Lend me your ears (and abnormally large and hairy feet)! Director Peter Jackson has released the official dates for not one, but two Hobbit movies. I know my Christmas present to my family for the next two years: Midnight showings complete with unnecessarily large tubs of soda and popcorn swimming in artery-clogging saturated fat (read: butter).

I am a little concerned that there will be too much hype. How do you top the Lord of the Rings trilogy? Especially with a prequel that is decidedly not as exciting? It helps that almost everybody from the trilogy is back (with Sean Astin as the only notable exception, not returning as Sam.) It also helps that Jackson made the best movies of all-time from adapted screenplays. We’ll see if he can recreate that magic. I hope so.

CD Review – Avril Lavigne

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Goodbye Lullaby

RCA Records

I have never been a fan of Avril Lavigne. I’ve never liked her snarky “skater punk” schtick. She always came off as disingenuous. Her latest album has Avril in a little limbo, but still just as fake.

She came out as a 16-year-old anti-diva. She was nothing like Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson. So when she sings, “All my life I’ve been good/ But now, I’m thinking ‘What the Hell?'” it comes off as, well, flat-out lying. She’s always been the one to bend the rules. In fact the very next song, “Push,” she proves that her songwriting hasn’t grown up with lines like “How I could spend my life/ But I’m capable of taking care of myself/ So if you f**k this up then go take a hike.” “Wish You Were Here” is another light-pop number that will probably make the rounds on radio, but is pretty forgettable.

In fact, the majority of the album is forgettable. Lavigne tries to show that she’s grown up with generic songs like “Everybody Hurts,” “Not Enough” and “Darlin,” but they all come up flat. Then, to say that she’s “always been good,” while the next three songs have lyrics that need to be censored is rather insulting. Don’t pull the wool over on us, Ms. Lavigne.

Every artist has a transition album at some point and maybe this is it for Lavigne. But up to now, it’s obvious that her looks are what have brought her to this point. I think that she can write something with substance (she proved it with “Nobody’s Home”), but whether it’s her or the label, it’s becoming increasingly unlikely.

http://www.avrillavigne.com

CD Review – The Felice Brothers

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Celebration, Florida

Fat Possum Records

Like a less-screaming version of The Avett Brothers, The Felice Brothers bring everything to the table on their sometimes-raucous, sometimes-solemn, new record. Beginning with one of the best tracks of the year (certainly the best opening track of the year) “Fire at the Pageant” is a foot-stomper with the chorus that is not only sung by lead singer Ian Felice, but by a quartet of children. That makes the line “Everybody calm down/ Please stop shouting/ Go on, run, call 911/ Calm down, calm down, calm down” even creepier. The chaos continues with a brief tempo shift right in the middle of second verse. To this day, I still think the CD is skipping.

The rest of the album is like an audio blender of music with strange stories attached. The carnival-like atmosphere on “Honda Civic” encapsulates a tale of a bunch of degenerates who become enthralled with a Honda Civic. The moody piano-ballad “Container Ship” tells of a woman looking to find paradise, while “Ponzi” is set to a mid-tempo bass-driven lounge beat, which somehow evolves into a killer industrial rocker. “River Jordan” closes the disc with so many genres and instruments thrown in that I don’t have enough room to write them all.

Needless to say, The Felice Brothers are worth the listen, especially if you love the cacophony of early Avett Brothers.

http://www.thefelicebrothers.com

CD Review – The Phoenix Foundation

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Buffalo

Memphis Industries

New Zealand has done a great job of keeping this indie-pop sextet under wraps, but on their US debut, The Phoenix Foundation prove that they are not only ready to take on the world, but take it over.

The title track has a repetitive math-rock guitar riff and ends with a pounding drum beat that sounds a lot like the band Doves. “Eventually” takes an atmospheric backdrop and adds a very subtle surf-guitar that adds another dimension to an already great opening track. Add in the chill-out groove of “Pot” and the epic “Flock of Hearts” and you have a greeting card for the world. And this is one the world should keep. Call this album atmospheric, epic, whatever you want, this indie-pop album is worth it.

http://www.iamthebuffalo.com

CD Review – Delay Trees (For fans of Death Cab and Sigur Ros)

Monday, May 9th, 2011

Delay Trees

Friendly Fire Recordings

When I first popped in this album by Finnish dream pop quartet Delay Trees, the first thing I thought was, “This could be the new Death Cab for Cutie album.” The entire album is a combination of etherial (especially on the opener “Gold” and “About Brothers”) pop (“Cassette 2012” and “Quarantine”) and epic (“Tarantula/Holding On”) which would annoy those with short attention spans. But for fans of Death Cab, atmospheric masterminds Sigur Ros and fellow Scandinavians Mew, Delay Trees’ self-titled debut will not only be a nice addition to your indie catalogue, but it will quickly make it toward the top of your best of 2011 list. This album is that good.

http://www.friendlyfirerecordings.com

CD Review – Diana Jones

Thursday, May 5th, 2011

High Atmosphere

Proper Records

Diana Jones knows how to transport a listener. The album opens with the opening track and instantly I’m sitting in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains around a campfire with Jones singing about the high atmosphere. “I Told the Man” is a sobering tale of a miner who is just doing his job and, as Jones cryptically sings, “I told the man/ Blue shirt, blue eyes/ That’s how you will know him/ When you find him.” Jones hits the bluegrass button on “Sister” and I find myself transported again to the open country of the Sandhills in the middle of Nebraska.

For the most part, though, Jones is a contemporary folkie who vocally channels some of the greats like Loretta Lynn and writes with a dark slant like Johnny Cash at his best. Diana Jones can transport you to tranquility, but her lyrics will leave you pondering the world long after the CD has finished.

http://www.dianajonesmusic.com

CD Review – Tab Benoit (The blues professor)

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Medicine

Telarc International

There are blues artists who play with so much emotion, you’d swear that their lives have sucked from birth to the present day. Many sound weathered, like they were ridden hard and put away wet. Tab Benoit is the opposite. Oh, he sounds like he’s been through the ringer, but he sings and plays likes he’s teaching the listener a lesson.

The title track opens the album with the gritty blues that he has been known for, but his voice doesn’t have the rasp that others have. It’s like you’re the student, learning how to play the blues from that one odd teacher that can tell you stories for hours and always has a pipe (or in Benoit’s case, a guitar)in his hand.

Benoit also brings some big names with him on his seventh album. Aaron Neville’s son Ivan plays keyboards throughout and Grammy-winning songwriter Anders Osborne, who co-wrote two songs on Keb’ Mo’s 1999 Grammy-winning album Slow Down and wrote Tim McGraw’s #1 country smash “Watch the Wind Blow By,” co-wrote seven of the 11 tracks. The amazing thing about Osborne’s contribution is that he used B.B. King’s famous guitar “Lucille” on the album. I don’t know exactly what it would take to get King to part with “Lucille” for even a day, but he did it.

Benoit learned the blues from some of the greats like Tabby Thomas and Henry Gray, so he has the knowledge of legends, plus he’s a phenomenal guitar player. Think a next generation Albert King. Benoit is only 41 and he’s already released seven albums. At this rate, he will be one of the most prolific blues musicians of all-time. The blues genre would be better for it.

http://www.concordmusicgroup.com

CD Review – tUnE-yArDs

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

w h o k i l l

4AD Records

When I first played this album, the first minute blew me away. It was like a chaotic dancefloor version of “My Country Tis of Thee” done by the 90s rap group Arrested Development. I instantly took notice and was floored from start to finish.

“Es-so” has a jazzy feel with hip-hop undertones. It’s like India.Arie fronting A Tribe Called Quest and running that through a Radiohead and “Stomp” filter. Lead singer Merrill Garbus commands your attention and then holds it along with the rest of her band (which include two saxophones!) until you pay attention and realize that they are amazing. They take almost every conceivable genre and ball it up in a cacophonous mess that is as melodic as anything you’ll hear this year.

This entire album is truly original and I found myself nodding my head, smiling to myself and darn near cheering after every song. The tUnE-yArDs may be easy to find on Google, but they are honestly unclassifiable. This album must be heard by anyone who wants to hear the early favorite for Album of the Year.

http://www.tune-yards.com