Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.5
Dakota Suite - "This River Only Brings Poison" Had I not read the press sheet for this I would never have guessed this guy was english and not american. Perhaps the sound comes from the fact that Chris Hooson (aka Dakota Suite) was on holiday in the US and decided to start recording this here. MOJO called this "3 am moods for a desolate and fractured heart". To me that description translates into "I've got the rope, is there something sturdy enough to throw it over?". To be fair this is done well, but it is so incredibly slow, moody and ponderous that in all seriousness it is the type of thing that could ONLY be listened to in a state of mind expressly made for it. In other words a fit of extreme torpor. The reason I like music is it makes me happy. I cannot imagine how this could make anyone happy. Now, you don't always wish music to make you happy, as it is a welcome friend when it can compliment your mood. But may heaven help the person in a mood so bereft of joy that they seek this album out for solace. It should be handed out to undertakers to play at viewings, as there wouldn't be a dry eye in the room. In single song doses it isn't too bad, but I was never able to get thru this in one shot. (It took 4) The minimalism and pace are often so sparse and slow as to be painful, and at 18 tracks and 72 minutes it's a slow, slow death. Never were the words "This guy needs to get laid" more true. I truly wish him happiness in the future, as he makes Tim look like a gay caballero. Purchase at your own risk.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 18 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.7
Darcy - "Bon" Another disc from another Swedish band, this time however we are from the guitar jangle or techno disco one might usually expect. This band reminds me of a cross between the Cranberries and Cowboy Junkies and it's really not as bizarre as that sounds. Female vocalist Saga Eserstam has a lovely voice which reminds me more of some irish female vocalists than anything. The songs too really do remind me of the Cranberries tinged with a texas vibe, but I would not say Alt country. It's far better than that genre. The songs are mostly uptempo which is not unusual owing that they are swedes, as that seems at least one common thread that's hard for them to break. (thank god) The songs are emotive, and are the sort that make them sound like old friends right away. The slight flaw to that is an overall sense of a wash as it gets a bit similar, but that is minor as the quality is really there, and they occasionally even get grungy. The oddest, and perhaps most charming song here is the last one, This Is I. Without a doubt, it sounds exactly like what you'd hear if the Cranberries found themselves in a two-step bar and were forced to play a song that pleased everyone or get pummeled. (like the blues brothers when they sang rawhide) The song is just beautiful and actually very adorable and it's currently my "it" song this week. (the one I keep wanting to hear the most from any CD) Just a lovely record I think will grow on me more with each listen. Highly recommended.
Label ~ A West Side Fabrication, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Daybehavior - ":Adored" This is another Swede thing I'm late on, (VERY late) and yes, the colon is apparently supposed to be part of the CD's name. This time it was late due to not being able to get it. Parasol is supposed to be distributing this but they never have it and I got sick of looking for it forever so I wrote to the band directly and again, for the swap of a hip Spinzone T shirt got my very own signed copy from band member Carl Hammar. (Hey, don't think that route isn't open to you. Bands are usually very happy to put their stuff in your hands if they can these days, and you must have something someone else wants)(ie. money :) A large part of the problem may be that the label this is on, North of North South, went belly up not long ago. That may account for the difficulty in getting it. Anyway, the song Hello! from this LP has been on some comps I believe and may be known to you. It reminds me a bit of the English band Dubstar and is quite good. While this album pays homage to it's techno roots, it is a decidedly more adult affair, less obviously dancy and at times even showing some dark noir. The three members are all half Swedish, half something else, with lead singer Paulinda Crescentini being half Italian, and indeed, some of the songs are sung in that language. It's also recorded well, and I find a lot of the subtlety of this disc is lost when I heard it in the car. It is much better at home on good gear. (isn't everything?) Well, no. Some stuff actually is better on bad stuff. That is an odd truth. This is one thing that benefits from good gear though. It's chic and ethereal, and sometimes dark and deep, yet it doesn't seem to take itself seriously. That makes it an odd bird and it does stand apart from most of the other Swedish stuff and it's a shame it hasn't gotten a wider audience. Carl said they're working on new stuff, so it will be more likely you'll be able to get that. Still, if you come across this in your travels you should certainly get it. Keep that third eye peeled.... It is also available on a japanese label with extra tracks, including their great cover of Depeche Modes See You.
Label ~ NONS, 12 Tracks, 1996
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.9
Deardarkhead - "Unlock the Valves of Feeling" I got this on the strength of hearing their song Never Coming Down on the Popular World compilation. The minute that song starts the word Cure pops into your head as that song has that driftingly eerie early Cure guitar style about it. That song is on this disc, but not much else here really sounds like that, with most of this cd reminding me alot of another old band called Moev. In all honestly, I kind of like the sound here, but it gets a little samey, and what's worse is almost every song is an "anthem" clocking in at 4+ minutes, 4 of them reaching 7+ minutes! I believe like Morrissey that the perfect pop "capsule" needs to be between 2-3 minutes. Rarely can you take songs longer without them become a chore to get thru, and that's kind of what I'm suffering with this, especially as it's kind of a wash of sound. Therefore getting thru 7 minutes of it certainly becomes work, not entertainment. If you dig this kind of sound and song length doesn't trouble you this will probably please, as it is recorded fairly well. Otherwise it might be a tough one.
Label ~ Fertile Crescent, 14 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Death Cab For Cutie - "Transatlanticism" I have had this for some time, but owing to "submit-ees" always yelling for their reviews and the fact that everyone was going to buy this anyway, it was an obvious choice for postponement. I will say that prior to the Postal Service LP I was not fond of this band, but I did not own anything by them, I'd just head a few songs. I did then buy their first LP after I loved the Postal Service album, however I still didn't like this band. So I didn't rush into buying this, but I heard The Sound Of Settling which is of course a great song, and certainly far more reminiscent of the Postal Service than earlier Death Cab. And really, that should be the crux of the matter. They hit the nail on the head with the Postal Service, and his energies should probably be directed in that vein as they actually almost managed to break thru. As for this, there are some nice songs, especially toward the beginning, but it does get a bit oppressive and shall I say boring near the end. It's the best Death Cab album of any I've heard and that may be due to the fact that it's the one least like the others. I think it's worth getting and if you own no Death Cab albums then by all means start here.
Label ~ Barsuk, 11 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Den Baron - "The Soundtrack of My Life" T-Baby feels I need to point out that I chose not to feature the "real" cover of this LP. (I wish he'd get off his ass and tell you that himself) You see, it has one of those booklets that opens up to every page being an alternate cover. I chose to use one with a turntable on it, as it was the hippest. He thinks people will get confused looking for that one. I said, I want to know where the SOB lives that can actually go to a local shop and buy stuff like this in person, cause I'm moving to his town. Since you will most certainly buy this online if you get it, the cover is of little import in my mind. (I do put them on the site though because I feel one can get a real vibe about any LP by judging it's cover art) Anyway, the "real" one has 2 clocks on it, so the confusion is now dispelled. As to the actual music, it wavers somehere around light indie Britpop not overly heavy on guitars as keyboards rule the day as much as anything. At times it toys with that 70's Bacharach sound but mostly it reminds me of dare I say the C86 sound even if it's not guitar heavy.
Postscript: I have come to like this much more over time, not so much to move it into great status, but it is a nice little record.
Label ~ Apricot, 14 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Desert Wolves - "Pontification" This is another lifes work lost to the backwater of late 80's poor distribution and consumer apathy. This LP was resurrected by the folks at Firestation and bless em for it. Much like the Siddeleys, one can only wonder why the greatness of this record didn't make more people get off their arses and do something about it at the time. This thing's a real gem and by the time track two Love Scattered Lives starts the one thing that became very clear is that lead singer Martin King sounds an awful lot like Edwyn Collins and what's more, this track sounds a lot like Orange Juice to me as well. (so does alot of this record) That is certainly welcome news, and a comparison I'd take any day. Knowing the period of the late 80's that this originally came out in, I can say matter of factly it would have ruled the day had anyone bothered to take notice. It is so heads above any other act doing business at that time it isn't funny. The guitars are cutting, poppy, bright, playful and the melodies stick in your head like they were driven in with a sledge. This thing is so good one feels the urge to stick some four letter adjectives afront of it just to get the point home. It is one of the best records of the entire 80's, it really is. Funktastically brilliant as it were. It also contains a video clip but I cannot get it to play. If I find out the program which plays it I'll post it here. Until then, get moving and get this before it goes out of print again, or you will truly be sorry. They don't make em like this no more, that's for sure.
Label ~ Firestation Tower, 9 Tracks + video, 1988/1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.5
Desoto Reds - "Hanglide Thru Yer Window" I generally don't take a shine to anything with the word "yer" in the title, and that's even before I hear it, but there was far more about this to pique my curiosity. I had heard rumours of this act (strange, bizarre etc...) so I was very curious to slap it in the tray. The opener, Allowed Loud starts with toy noises, ringing telephones with Death Cabs Ben Gibbard singing. (a fair comparison as lead singer Alex Sterling and Ben sound a bit alike) The song is ridiculous but it has an incredible charm to it, without question. What seems to be the third song, A japanese styled instrumental, is actually the final "movement" of the song before called My Affair With Julia Roberts. It's followed by College Love which has a violin intro but then digresses into a russian step dancing beat. By this point I was blown away. That encapsulates this disc as a whole. Certainly it's one of the most varied and unique discs I have heard in a long time. Reminds me of the Simpsons episode when homer wants to go out with the hippies and freak out the squares. The biggest problem a disc of this nature encounters however is that no matter how original the serendipity, that sort of thing tends to wear thin quickly with most people. It's my experience at least the human brain likes methodical and mathematically precise sounds. Also, it tends to be difficult to make all that originality interesting, and when it's not, it tends to be not so good. This is mostly good however, but it's eclectic nature does hurt it in the long run. For me at least that is, as I found it hard to listen to all the way thru. Still, there are certainly some fairly brilliant moments and if you are a fan of somewhat avant garde musical stylings then you will indeed find yourself a full plate here, served up better than anyone else has done in a while I'd say as well. Release is early June, 2004.
Label ~ Floating Man, 14 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 3
Devics - "If You Forget Me" When putting in an order one day I felt one more item was needed to "fill" it out properly, so I checked Twee Kittens top sellers. The item at the top of that heap was this, and from reading the description I got the impression it would be like Danny Wilson or something, which I like, so that plus it was the #1 seller made me think I couldn't go wrong so I ordered it. Ahhh.... misguided reason! Well, it's not like Danny Wilson, that's for sure. At times it acts like it wants to be, but the sound here often gets too "rock" charged for the piano subtlety it's trying to exude. Alot of this album reminds me of the kind of stuff Madonna sang in the Dick Tracy movie, kind of a smoky gangster bar soundtrack, (which in that movie I did like) only this is not nearly as good as that. I also find myself not liking lead singer Sara Lov's voice, especially when she tries to take it places I really wish she wouldn't. This is one of those things that has turned out to be something I cannot even listen to, I dislike it that much. Why or more importantly HOW it was at number one is a mystery to me, I'm sure not getting it. You shouldn't either.
Label ~ Splinter, 14 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 3
Diane Linkletter Experience - "Too Hard To Disguise" This was a T-Baby purchase, so I can't exactly say what prompted it. All I can say is this band has what I used to describe as a very American sound. I define that as a guy who can't sing teamed up with melodies that are just awful coupled to songs with NO rythm which are at the same time corrupted by that CCR american "rock" influence. In other words, please get this damned thing out of my player thank you very much...... T-Baby thinks it is God-awful as well, but I don't question why he buys this kind of stuff anymore. Hell, we all make mistakes. (see above)
Label ~ Vital Cog, 14 Tracks, 2000
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Dawn Dineen - "The Ghostly Apple Tree" This is an artist submitted disc, and poor Dawn probably told me to go #@%* myself some time ago when the review never showed. I don't remember when I got it, but it's been a while. (at least it's still 2007) What makes this worse is I have listened to this quite a bit as it is most excellent. Dawn is a solo chanteuse who played the guitars, bass, drums and keyboards (as well as sung of course) and had friends help out on the tracks. That often leads to variety which is the case here, as the songs while held to the same cloth by dawns most excellent voice have a degree of uniqueness to them. As to her voice and music, she at times reminds me of early Sarah McLaughlin as on Big Emotion with it's great melody line but hard raw edge. Otherwise I'd say she's pretty much her own woman and she has the chops of a star, that's for sure. Expressive, powerful and emotive without all the hand waving diva crap we're subjected to by "stars". They should take a lesson from this woman, because on tracks like Ladybug the magnitude of her talent is laid out plainly to see, and it's quite something. This is not her first album, and that one apparently came out 6 years ago. If she's been honing her self since then all I can say is the razor is sharp. My one exception is she calls it a "lo-fi" affair on the liner notes. It is not, and everyone uses this term wrong. "Fi" is short for fidelity which means "The degree to which an electronic device accurately reproduces sound". This is single miked, which means it's recorded very well, and certainly not lo-fi. My Bloody Valentine is lo-fi. The Radio Department are lo-fi. This is just done about as well as it could be.
Label ~ Yarner, 12 Tracks, 2007
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Dive - "Unfortunately Dead EP" I get sent all sorts of requests to review things, and they vary from the adequate to the amateurish, with the odd one being an eye opener. Heretofore, heretofore mind you, I have yet to receive one that not only rocked my world, but that I felt was an epiphinal moment, like seeing some band called the Beatles in a grimy basement, or answering your door to find a young Johnny Marr saying he wants to make music with you. That was, until I was contacted by this band and received this, their second EP for review. It is a matter of record that I was not much impressed by the Interpol debut, and even less agreeable to the idea that they sound like Joy Division as everyone says. Everyone is wrong, and it's not the first time. They do not capture any of the magic of that band at all. Joy Division was and IS Ian Curtis, and without the hint of his jerky, pained and disjointed vocal every comparison fades. Even New Order could no longer be them after he was gone, and the album Movement is proof of that. So it has been, until this band crossed my sill. They are the "dark hearts" of Helsiniki and their music is SO right, so infectious and spot on that it manages to carve it's own sound from that era that it plumbs so greedily. It manages this I believe because of the lilting, haunting and simply wonderful vocals of lead singer Lauri Koski who I swear sounds like the ghost of Ian Curtis singing thru the possessed body of Johnny Rotten, and he really even looks the part. Yeah, it's that good. What's more, he has a penchant for using incorrect words and mispronouncing them too. Is it part of the difficulty of a different language or a gimmick? I don't know, but I do know nobody has sung like this before that I can recall. What's more they are not hard to catch errors, they are in your face errors, ("salavation" from above...) which makes them and his voice all the more cherished and engaging. If Jens Lekman was a hurricane when he debuted, then this band is the south asian tsunami. This is without question the most haunting and important disc I have heard in many years. Yeah, Labrador is great, Human Television too, there's lots of good bands right now, but this, this is gigantic. It leaves me spent and bewildered. Years ago, when I was a child and you were not born, there was a common tag line that asked, "Where are the young lions? Ladies and gentlemen, they are in Finland, and their name is Dive. Since it could be had no where else but thru the band directly, we have made it available in our Popsicle shop.
What, you're still reading this......?
Label ~ Self Release, 4 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.3
Dive - "Confessions Of The Night EP" This is Dives first disc and although it was recorded in the same year as their "Unfortunately Dead" EP there is a degree of difference that is not subtle. While this is quite good, the sound is a bit heavier and fuller. Not in any bad way, and had you not heard what comes after you would certainly regard this highly. In fact had I had this first and not heard the other it would certainly have been rated higher. But between these two EP's, something amazing happened: The sound got streamlined to a razors edge, and everything, and I mean everything that was not critical was removed. Their wesbite claims they spend all their time lying around their loft listening to Joy Division records. I don't doubt that, and in short order the miracle happened. To use my previous comparison, if the second EP is the tsunami, this EP is the earthquake that causes it. It is the moment those tuned in realize something drastic is going to happen to change life as they know it for ever. The animals are astir and nervous and not without reason. Music as we've known it is about to be shattered, and for good. Rejoice pop kiddies, rejoice.
Note: This is not currently available in our Popsicle shop, but if enough requests reach Luke he will include it.
Label ~ Self Release, 4 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Doggy - "Des Stars Dans Tous Les Bus" Which means "Stars in all the Buses" as far as I can translate and it's the debut lp by a frenchman named Guillaume Bassard who runs Anorak Records and he's also been a member of the band Caramel. The picture reminds me however of my hero, Georges Guynemer, the saviour of France and beloved ace of Les Cicognes. It appears storks are still as popular today as they were in the Great War. Anyway, this album opens with Mon Service A Disparu (My Service Disappeared) which is a really beautiful song. It's recorded great and I suppose if I had to label it's sound is it's close to a Swedish sounding ballad. This track and the bulk of the record is sung in French. I have found sometimes that matters and sometimes it doesn't, as I have a hard time with Autour de Lucie but this I found a joy to listen to. Perhaps it's because it's so damn pop contemporary, and recorded so well. I only wish I could get into the songs better as titles like Chanteurs Francais Morts (Dead French Singers) leave a lot to the imagination and I wish I could understand the songs lyrics. (I suppose I could translate it all, and I might learn something to boot.........nah..) It is quite good musically, as is the entire album, with washes of bright guitar teamed to a more adult sound. It closely resembles some German pop bands but this never becomes overtly poppy, only generally so, and some of the songs clearly have heart pangs which again would be better received could I understand them, but the emotion gets thru regardless. This is an excellent record I can easily give a nod to, and were it in english it may have even approached a 10.
Label ~ Anorak, 10 Tracks, 2002
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.2
Doleful Lions - "Motel Swim" The Doleful Lions are basically the vehicle of singer songwriter Jonathan Scott of Asheville NC. This their first LP was recorded with the help of the famed Mitch Easter, one of the greats of the early IRS days with his band Lets Active. I almost have to make a retraction off the review I did above, as this Lp runs deep in the post REM waters of the US south, and with that naturally comes a sound that is indeed "american" and at times CCR like. This succeeds however because Jonathan has a really pleasing voice, and above all, the songs are well crafted and have great melodies. He makes a nod to his liking the German techno outing Can at the start of this Lp's first track The Sound Of Cologne but any hint of that sound creeping into the Lions work doesn't happen until the next LP. I think the song One Revolution (around the world) really encapsulates the sound of this album with it's heady southern rock flair and great chorus. This is probably the best record made south of the masey-dixie since Murmur, and the growth they would exhibit by the next Lp would be remarkable. This one's a must listen.
Label ~ Parasol, 10 Tracks, 1998
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Doleful Lions - "The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here!" One of the things that is obvious about viewing this group is that Jonathan Scott seems a scholarly lad, and at the very least hung up on the larger than life images of the grecian pantheon. Even the bands name carries an almost Collosus of Rhodes imagery to it. As if that was one of Hercules's tasks, fighting the doleful lions. (doleful by the way meaning "to express or cause grief, dismal, gloomy") The opening track here, I Miss The Kings is an infectous yet almost bizzare romp where punk meets CCR in lo-fi souther grunge and it's quite a captivating song. The previous mention of Can and greek imagery come together on In The Early Morning Aviaries of Marathon which features the first real synth sounds from this band teamed up to tragic lyrics about Greek gods. The synths really take over on the almost out of place Airline Histories which is a great song and while it should have been out of context on this album it manages to work. The magnum opus on this disc is the brilliant Driller Killer which is a honey sweet CCRish romp of southern pop rock. About the only thing I didn't like about this LP was the 7+ minute "slow" (and I mean slow) version of this song called Sweet Driller Killer. That I didn't need. Otherwise this is a very varied and involving record which took a lot of imagination and talent to make. I think there are songs of far greater value here than their first LP, but the first is perhaps a little more even and cohesive as a record.
Label ~ Parasol, 10 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.1
Don Juan Dracula - "Young Debutantes II" This is apparently the first long player from this Norwegian four piece whom I had not heard of beforehand but who appeared to be the Scandi version of Har Mar Superstar. (If you don't know Har Mar, imagine the love child of Jon Lovitz and Ron Jeremy singing Madonna songs while he undresses) So I took the chance and ordered it, and upon getting this it really turned out to be pretty much what one would expect. Well recorded, dancy poptronics sung with catchy choruses. (It has bass but no other guitar rears it's head) The songs clearly tend towards the quasi disco-anthemic with No Control being perhaps the most perfect example of it on here, and it's even the ideal song of that genre type perhaps, the poster boy if you will. You'll find this is an outing that just goes along non stop: It drives, it bumps, it grinds, it's got it's mojo working over time, yeah baby..... it's all that and a bag of potato chips. Of course there are some old people so stiff they don't like this sort of thing, and some young people so depressed they don't like it either. However if you are the sort who thinks John Travolta looked dressed perfectly normal in Saturday Night Fever and you don't let people touch your hair either, then this is the album you've been waiting for. Like it says in the inner sleeve, "It's not about the money, it's all about the fluffy bunny". Honestly, what can I add to that and the picture of them below?
This has it's moments and quite a few really good tracks, but it clearly is best at the beginning and tends to get a bit over blown near the end, losing some of the disco sensibility for rock edged droning. That said there isn't much else out there like this, and it's a wonder......
Label ~ Switch Off, 11 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 6.4
Dorian Gray - "The Sounds Of" I thought the title of this a bit lame and predictable, it not being "the portrait of" but rather "the sounds of"...? Please. That hardly required a seconds thought, and certainly no wit. Anyway, I suppose as I've started by criticising this it means I don't like it. I suppose I'm guilty. This band is actually about the only Swedish act I've heard recently that I don't care for, so we're no longer batting a thousand. They don't follow the indie guitar pop disco of most of the others, choosing instead a path that lends comparisons to Gene or Bush. That would be fine if this band was anywhere as good as either of those two, but they aren't. I don't know what intangible is at work when two things sound very similar yet one is magical, and one is not. I think usually it's something in the singers voice and sadly on this LP that is missing for me. It's recorded well and all that, yet on no level is it reaching me at all. It doesn't help that most of the songs are pushing 5 minutes each either. I think that is a valid point, as just like say eating, ones mindset is more positive if you only get a little wonderful taste and leave wanting more. If you get all you wanted and more, you leave bloated and feeling sorry. I can't say this LP is bad, but it's a record I have no desire to ever hear again. Fortunately it isn't mine, so that isn't a problem.
Label ~ Zip, 11 Tracks, 1999
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 8.9
Douglas Heart - "Douglas Heart" Somehow, and in some way, this record was not quite what I was expecting. So what was I expecting? Not sure really, but for some reason I had not thought that they had a female lead vocalist. It also has an american travellougue of death feeling about it, like Springsteens Nebraska album. I'm not saying it sounds like that album but the feeling they both convey is akin, that you're heading to a funeral, possibly even your own. From the moody organ to the plaintive vocals the album is awash in despair and quiet, heart rending angst, but there is a light at the end that never goes out, and that does save it. Being that that is what this is, it's the kind of album I find essential when one is on the mood for it, and quite forgettable when one isn't. There are some Cocteau albums like this. When the mood strikes me they are all I listen to for a week some times. Everything else pales. This is delicious like that when the mood is right. The problem is, like any delicacy that suits when the hunger is there, there is a catch. Nothing smells better than when you walk into a chinese restaurant hungy, and nothing smells worse than when you walk out the same one full. I happen to be full, so it makes it hard to rate this now. I do like it, and at some moments is has caught me, but I haven't had the proper need or mood for it yet. If you know what I mean and you get those moods as well, then this will certainly fill your bill. Right now for me it's a bit too damn depressing however.
Label ~ Labrador, 10 Tracks, 2003
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9.4
Douglas Heart - "I Could See The Smallest Things EP" This is the most recent outing from this band and it is quite a departure from their past work. The opener, Always No goes right for the jugular with a wash of My Bloody Valentine like guitar and fuzz. It is followed by the very infectious Komplex which again showcases some special guitar magic and a really great soaring melody line. I suppose in this neighborhood quiet is not the new loud anymore, loud is. It's not often such drastic change is a good thing, but I think in their case it is. Their debut was ok, but as a whole it was hard to listen to without really wanting to top yourself before it was over. Such is not the case here. Now, they leave you wanting to dance. The only complaint I could levy is the vocals are recorded a little back in the mix and they are somewhat hard to pick up on some of the songs. A minor quibble, and in fact it may be a non issue and a matter of taste because the more I heard this the less it bothered me. Also, this is really a 4 track as song 4 is only a half minute instrumental. Still, I don't often plug EP's owing to how cheap I am, but in this case this is one you ought to consider. A nice treat and a good job of re-inventing themselves with some damn fine and catchy songs.
Label ~ Labrador, 5 Tracks, 2004
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 9
Linda Draper - "One Two Three Four" It always makes me wonder when I get the "4th" album from someone I had not even heard of before. Oh well, you can't hear about everything, and this would be by it's nature a bit off my radar anyway as it belongs to a genre that calls itself "Antifolk", whatever that is. Things that get minimal like this often get miscued in the press and in this case there was no serviceable explanation of what to expect. Upon hearing it, I would say she comes off as a cross between the New York angst of Suzanne Vega mixed with the avant garde nature of Jane Sibbery only toned down to a more fragile level. I own albums by both of those artists but find I don't often listen to them often. I am fond of some of Jane Sibberrys songs, especially Red High Heels but it tends to be mood music for me, in that I have to be in the right mood for it. While there is some obvious variety in songwriting displayed on here, there is not much in they way of a change of gears. That is it's biggest flaw. Individually there are a number of charming, even haunting compositions, but taken as a whole it begins to drag about three quarters of the way thru. For what it is it could also have been recorded better I think, not that the recording is bad, but I would have hoped it was extraordinary, and it is just very good. A hash criticism perhaps but this genre demands the utmost in recording playback. I believe she would do herself a service to adopt some of Sibberrys traits, and perhaps not be so fixated on being folk, or anti folk, or whatever she views herself as. She seems very suited to a song that starts cold and still as ice, but ends by burning down the house, much like the aforementioned Red High Heels does. Maybe she did before, as I have not heard her other albums and a song of hers on the “Sunsets” comp has a bit more life in it and I quite like it. There is promise here, and some quite nice songs, but this is not her promised land. At least not one I am ready to land and plant my flag on. If she can reach beyond the boundaries of her style and “genre” I think she has the goods to be dynamite. So while I sort of sailed by, the view from the ship certainly had it's moments.
Label ~ Planting Seeds, 12 Tracks, 2005
Hip-ometer Rating ~ 10+
Dubstar - "Disgraceful" It's true this is a bit older than most of what I've put in the archives but it is just so good and seemed to me to go more unnoticed than it should have. I'm not sure how to characterize the sound of this band. They have keyboard pop sensibilities but there is a sadness and humanity to the songs akin to say Everything But The Girl. It's very adult, very intoxicating, and lead singer Sarah Blackwood has an absolutely lucious voice. On top of that there's some great lyrics such as "If the man you've grown to be, is more Morrison than Morrissey, I'll tell you straight as we undress that, things got better when you left". This is a little jewel of a record. It is so incredibly uplifting, and is loaded with songs on it like Not So Manic Now which is a gleaming diamond of a pop gem. They also do a great cover of the Lads (re-Wm Bragg) St. Swithins day I think it's better than his version. (I thought June Tabor did a better job covering his Valentines Day is Over as well. Poor Bill) This ought to be able to still be had, and you'd be hard pressed to do better. I actually got a double disc, the second being remixes, and I have to say it's horrible. That doesn't take anything away from the real disc and at this point the double probably can't be had anymore anyway.
Label ~ Food, 11 Tracks, 1996