Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cursive - The Difference Between Houses and Homes

Saddle Creek

Ah. B-sides, the much sought-after thorn in the sides of completists everywhere. I, myself, had got as many of these as possible, but a few stayed out of reach ('And The Bit Just Chokes Them' from 'Sucker and Dry' and 'A Disruption in Our Lines of Influence' from 'Disruption'), so, when this release was announced, I pre-ordered it right away. Along with all these classic, out-of-print 7” tracks we get two new tracks: 'Dispenser' and 'I Thought There'd Be More Than This' (a connector to 'Proposals', from 'The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song'), both older songs from Cursive's early days.

Cursive has always been one of those bands that you can either love or hate—I know, I know, that's said about a lot of bands, but here it's true, I think: you can either like dissonance or not. And Cursive has plenty of dissonance. So, if you're a big fan, buy this. If not, get the hell out of here and start with something a little more whole: 'Domestica' is their finest album to date, followed very closely with 'The Ugly Organ'.

B-side compilations are never a good place to start with any band; they're too eclectic and hard to connect with—albums are put together for a reason; the songs go together (whether by content or sound), are meant to fit together, and need each other for air. That's why 'best of' records always suck so much—good songs need other songs like them to stay alive. Here, the songs are fantastic in themselves, but only when you're listening strait through them are you even sure of what's going on.

The most interesting thing about this collection is that all of the songs were recorded before their current roster—Stephen Pederson ('Criteria', 'The White Octave') was a member back then, forming a foil with frontman Tim Kasher. Their guitars battled and cut each other, then settled down at pivotal moments. Later, Steve would leave to go to college (and form 'The White Octave'), and Tim would leave to be married. After his divorce (which was, judging from 'Domestica', quite painful), Tim returned and picked up where he left off, sans Steve, who was replaced by 'Lullaby for the Working Class' mainstay Ted Stevens. With this dynamic, they recorded the most important album to date, 'Domestica', before picking up another stray: cellist Gretta Cohn, to record an e.p., a few splits, and another full-length album.

The Mountain Goats - The Sunset Tree


Smoother. That’s the word that first poped into my head after hearing this record. John Darnielle has gotten smoother, has found a more subtle approach to finding his way to making us feel dejected–and that’s what The Mountain Goats is about, often, isn’t it? This feeling of dejection and being unsteady on your own two feet.
These songs make you worry and wonder–“There’s bound to be ghost at the back of your closet/no matter where you live”–and, in doing so, they make you feel slightly more human than that almost invincible version of you that you keep at the top of your head (this version of us, we keep them locked up there for a reason–no matter how self-loathing or self-deprecating we are, this version is still well enough alive, making us do things we know are stupid).
So, clarified, these songs make you feel human. There aren’t any songs quite as driving and clashing as “No Children” (from the MG’s ‘Tallahassee’), nor are there any songs as blindly focused as that. These songs, they roll and flow out of the speakers in perfect pop-time, in perfect mix-tape measure, to make us feel that we can put this track between Bright Eyes’ ‘The Calendar Hung Itself’ and Paul Simon’s ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’ because it is the sensible bridge between two-such songs.
But lurking under that feeling of security is something brooding; maybe it’s mid-American guilt or maybe it’s post-traumatic harmony. Whatever it is, it makes you treat these songs not like perfect pop trinkets but, rather, as something secret; the album pulls you in to itself and you don’t want to be let go, you don’t want to have sing-alongs of these songs with your chums. You want these songs to yourself. Perhaps it's the terribly singular subject of the songs; the album is addressed to John Darnielle's step-dad (who, if we're to follow the lyrics, wasn't too great of a guy) and abused children the world over.

The Love - 'Of All the Things in the World that Could Kill You. . .' ep.

Termisique Records
The Love

Me, I've never been a big one for hardcore. I'm more of a Elliott Smith plays piano while Conor Oberst writes songs that Tim Kasher sings with Springsteen playing creepy-ass old rock guitar kind of guy. An indie rocker, if you would like to generalize me like I do. Planes Mistaken for Stars, Blood Brothers, At the Drive-In. That's usually as hard as I get.
The Love: imagine if Beep Beep and Q and not U some how bred with the Phantom of the Opera and the Daughters and made babies. That's what you've got with The Love. The sass is so outstanding that it's oozing into the way I walk. I'm turning sassy by listening to it. Within the first few moments of the record, I'm regretting my anti-hardcore ways; they make me want to love hardcore, they make me want to punch people in the face at live shows and never drink again. Something in their swagger, their screeching, Lord-soaked vocals, and their cross-germination of male and female coals, makes the world a better place.
It's not until the first listen through that I really knew what was going on--'Beautiful', the ep closer, is where the magic sinks in—the do-do chorus and sass-tastic keyboard line suddenly infused itself to my brain, and for days I've been walking along, do-do-doing, much to my roommates dismay.
For Termisique Records, a little indie label out of Laramie, Wyoming, that's obsessed with hardcore, they have found their superstar in the Love—this ep marks a change of pace for them, and it'd be good for them—and us—to take notice.

Spoon - Gimme Fiction


So, the new Spoon album just came in the mail, much to my anticipatory delight. And, so far I'm not at all disappointed. All the Kill The Moonlight-era hooks are in place, all the raw whiskey-melted-sugar Britt Daniel (the frontman) vocal moments are there. I would venture to say that this might just be a more mature release than any Spoon has ever dropped on us. Here, they're giving us another slew of perfect mix-tape songs while maintaining a straight-forward, cohesive album.
On the technical side, they're not exploring any specific grounds; these are perfect rock songs–guitar, drums, bass, and keys, with minimal studio-magic (aside from a tape-loop here, distortion there), songs in the realm of tambourines and driving choruses (Sister Jack!), and drum-beats that could kill you (I Summon You).
I have a few albums per season, most years. Last year, my summer listening was a split between Modest Mouse's "Good News for People Who Love Bad News" and The Good Life's "Album of the Year". Not at all did I expect for the summer's first to be dropped on me so perfectly and seamlessly with the passing of seasons (school just ended yesterday, for Christ-sakes), as I very much see myself playing this album quite a bit.
While, at first, I was slightly concerned about the dancy, disco-esque 'I Turn My Camera On', the more I listen to it, I start to realize that it's more Spoon, more straight-on rock and roll than any song I've heard since the Desaparecidos released 'Read Music/Speak Spanish'. Britt and the gang know exaclty what they're doing, all the time. It'll go easier if you just learn to give in and trust them. They are the professionals, after all.
The LP version of the album is beautiful, though you do lose out on some of the stark photos that you get with the CD version. It's a large gate-fold affair, the likes of which always bring a feeling of grace with them. The National Geographic-esque cover image is stark and beautiful. Snatch yourself up a copy of it, dammit.

Murder By Death - Who Will Survive, and What Will be Left of Them?

Eyeball Records

First off, let’s drop the act. We’re all fans of music here, right? We don’t need pushy well-learned critics telling us how spiffy a record is with their comparisons to Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Young Goodman Brown. I’ll tell you exactly why I like this record without that shit–this is a well-orchestrated coherent theme album written and performed by a standard rock-band plus cellist. They do this without getting mired in comparisons to Cursive. They do this while remaining in their boundaries as musicians, without stepping outside their bounds of writing ability, and without fucking up a single sing-along chorus. Plus, there are multi-part songs to quell those critics who have started pointing out the lack of such things in a pop-song world. All while being catchy as shit and infectious like the goddamn flu.
Caught up in the trappings of Label and Scene, Murder By Death popped up out of the Eyeball Records’ roster like a shining gem out of formula music–not like the emo/hardcore troubadours of Eyeball past, Murder By Death shocked me with their stark mood and original combination of cello-soaked Western orchestrations and complex magical realism.
They lyrics read like a Stephen King short story at his most kitsch-literary–someone has encountered The Devil and has shot him. And, like the events in a King story, things get horribly out of hand. There are murders, hangings, fires, children. A broken man with quite the link to whiskey, and a lot of blood. Some would argue that the lyrics are a bit too rough, not very emotionally connected. I could argue that perhaps the emotional distance is purposeful as the protagonist has lost touch with his humanity. I could, but I won’t. I’m not sure I can give the songwriter that much credit. The truth is, there is emotional distance, but it doesn’t put you off or hinder the story at all–it just doesn’t exactly help.
I can’t really imagine this record to be very accessible to people who don’t like music–there aren’t any singles, really, and not many of the tracks would fit on a Spring mix-tape. This is a theme album (one of the best, if I may be so bold as to say, since Cursive’s Domestica) made for a nice sit down and three fingers of Jack Daniels. It’s smoking music or writing music. Maybe even sleeping music if you’re one who can sleep to harsh drum beats and a yalping wounded frontman.
Adam Turla knows his limits and strengths as a singer, which is refreshing when most of independent music is being sung by kids who can’t sing but sing anyway (thank God). Sarah Balliet plays the cello like she learned how to hit her amazing notes in a barn. Vincent Edwards plays the keys out of a Old West saloon, and Alex Schrodt plays drums like he is drunk but well versed in poetry. Matt Armstong’s bass moves in and out of a song like a battleground surgeon’s thread in and out of a gangrenous arm. And all of these are good things.
All in all, the record amazed me so much that I even forgive them for their ridiculous film-inspired name.

Top Track(s) - Three Men Hanging, A Masters in Reverse Psychology
Pick it up if you liked -
Cursive’s Domestica, Bright Eyes - Lifted, Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited, The Cure - The Head on the Door, Thursday - Waiting, The Good Life - Black Out

Parks and Recreation - What Was She Doing on the Shore That Night?


Since Reclinerland released their second self-titled record (or, rather, since I bought my copy of Reclinerland's second self-titled record), I've been waiting for something to match the tone and honesty.

That record was straight up pop and rock songs from Mike Johnson, who has had his turns in other bands (such as Blanket Music) but who, I think, crafts his best music while doing it on his own. Every track off of that one hit and stuck with me, catching in my head and not letting go through out a whole semester of college.

2003's Ideal Home Music Library, vol. 1 had those same type of sentimental flares but was, essentially, too showtunesy for me (which makes sense, seeing as the whole concept behind the album is that the songs are forgotten showtunes). It was a bold move, a creative and gorgeous record but, all in all, didn't hit me like I wanted Reclinerland to.

When I heard that Mike was changing the name of his project (after it stopped being just him and started to be – gasp – a band) to Parks and Recreation, I sort of mourned the loss of a really cool name and embraced the concept that, for at least awhile, Mike would be writing showtunes. Why did I assume the name change would signify more showtunes? I have no idea.

I was wrong.

What Was She Doing on the Shore That Night? reverts Mike and (now) co. back to the 'good ol' days'. Or what I (and probably only I) thought were the good ol' days. Each song has the perfected pop/rock quality that Self-Titled 2 was full of, not to mention the constantly evolving Chad Crouch/Adam Selzer production ethic—make good songs sound good and true, no bullshit.

From such one-off titles as 'I Tried to Date the Singer in a Band' emerge tongue-in-cheek critiques of our times—from MSN love lives to far too self-serious people. Mike has not only succeeded in making more of those personal quips, he's also found a good standing in atmospheric writing--'A Northwest Wind' is a gritty, streaked investigation of a moment without the trappings of character or sarcasm.

Self Titled 2 was, to me, a perfect album of disconnected soundtrack songs—I wanted 'Yours' to be in a Wes Anderson flick—and, much to my happiness, 'Shore' takes that sense of mutual, well-timed emotion and binds it (if only barely) together, track to track.

Jonah Matranga - There's A Lot In Here

Jonah, the reason rock and roll was invented


Another recent release that I'm hooked on is this little beauty.

I'm saddened, actually, that I fell so far out of the Jonah/Oneline loop that I didn't know this thing was coming out. Back when Jonah was known as Onelinedrawing, my buddy Brecon put on some mp3's while he was packing up clothes at his at-the-time empty childhood home. I was instantly amazed—and, shortly thereafter, I had a copy of Visitor and Sketchy #2, (thanks to Jonah's unique and infamous sliding scale/'pick yr price' sells technique) and couldn't stop playing them—or the mass of Mp3's I had slowly been collecting.

It was only recently when Jonah decided to drop the Oneline moniker and step into the role of himself-as-name. I was a little disquieted by this news (kind of like the news that David Bazan is no longer Pedro the Lion), but not entirely turned off to the idea. Jonah is a rock god, as both this DVD/CD combo and myself (I saw him one night at Kilby Court a few summers ago [three? Three years ago? Brecon had yet to leave on his mission; Mark, #2, and I had gone to Salt Lake to catch The Dismemberment Plan with my brother, Stanton—which, of course, was kind of a we-might-as-well-because-we're-going-to-see-Oneline type experience that, ideally, rooted that weekend as one of the best show-going experiences of my life—and met Brecon, Tucker, and co. there] can attest to. He has the ability to completely disarm you, taking the 'star' quality away from good-ol' rock shows; his stories about his friends and kid interrupted nearly every song and, in turn, every song tore us to shreds with its integrity.

This record came out last week, I think—or maybe a week or two before that—and features a DVD highlighting two concerts and music videos for the whole of The Volunteers. The CD is a compilation live tracks from those shows both with and without the backing band.

I have to go ahead and say that Jonah has been a mainstay in my record collection for as long as I can honestly had a collection—or taste in music, for that matter—and, it seems, he will be for a long time to come. Every song is the precise combination of goofy and soulful and each recording is scalding in its honesty.

(Also, tooling around the Revalation and Equal Vision pages for these links is sort of like a who's who of my self-professed 'emo' days. And those were fucking great days.)

Lukewarm (Mp3, from 'There's a Lot In Here')

Neko Case - The Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

Yet again, the Cunucks make good music


I picked up a copy of Neko Case's latest triumph a few days ago and, officially, I love it.

Neko Case, who had me hooked right before the release of The Tigers Have Spoken, gives us another reason to not dismiss country music. And I'm not just talking 'alt-country' in the vein of Lifted or even Rabbit Fur Coat. I'm talking about right down to the fucking quick, god-honest Country music—Like Emmylou or Dolly. This is the caliber I'm speaking of. Emmylou, Dolly, and Neko.

Ms. Case got me, like I said, in the pre-buzz of 'Tigers', when I went out and picked up a copy of Black Listed to see if I was really going to count down the days until 'Tigers' was released. Turns out, I loved 'Black Listed', and I did count the days down to 'Tigers' release—and past, thanks to Laramie's local Hastings and how far they keep their fingers from the pulse of music, period, let alone indie-rockster musings.

Really, I don't have to tell you about this record. Everyone has already beaten me too it--Venus has Neko on their cover of the most recent issue. But I figured I'd drop a little mention for you kids out there who like picking up the shit I tell you about. Don't even worry about downloading it; just go out and buy the fucking record.

(Actually, you can hear the whole of the record here, so I don't see the point in downloading just to hear it. Personally, I'm going to say check out track four ['A Widow's Toast'], which is what I can't stop listening to).

(P.S. : Playing around with that media player and trying to figure out which track was 'Toast', I hit play on my CD player at the precise moment in which the media player finished buffering—and I got a in synch, pitch-perfect rendition of 'That Teenage Feeling' through both my stereo's speakers and my computers speakers. Rad.)

(P.P.S. : Speaking of female country singers of greatness, I'm thinking about picking this up, after hearing a track off it on a (semi) recent Paste sampler. What do you think? Worthy of purchase?)

Bright Eyes - Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness

Motion Sickness

I recently got my copy of Bright Eyes' live album, Motion Sickness, out on Team Love. I know, I know, it's a late purchase—but I've, of late, been lacking the funds to explore music in anyway not blog-related or .torrent related.

First off, if you're not one for live albums, don't be discouraged. I've been downloading bootlegs of Bright Eyes shows for years (since discovering the wonderful world live communities, .flac, and, of course, bit torrent), and they have been a heavy stable in my BE listening. This set, though, only features a few points that put it above any of those flac downloads: one, the sound quality is fantastic—being pro-recorded at a sound board helps on that—and two, we get a Feist cover that we haven't heard before.

But, I've realized, the album isn't worth the purchase for those who just want new music. It's not even nessecary for people who love Bright Eyes (unless, like me, you are a completist).

What makes this release special is the liner notes by one Jason Boesel (of Rilo Kiley fame), who details the tour for Wide Awake (for which he was the drummer) with such Kerouacian clarity that I couldn't put it down. He gives us examples of the rigorous routine of road life (which I, myself, have only briefly sampled), complete from beginning to end; the trappings of rehearsal to the final goodbye. He gives us insight to the whole of the Bright Eyes/Omaha/Saddle Creek mentality of companionship—from his hard found decision of which bus to ride during the European leg of the tour (which had Rilo opening and riding in another bus) to the odd moments off stage, where he and Conor “walked out into the festival and were visited by an angel in the sunglasses tent” at a festival in Byron Bay (Australia), or when they “ended up at a 'We're not getting our deposit back” moving party where we stood around and were encouraged to burn the carpet by the loud exciting tenant”. This prose, linked to the perfect recordings of songs that have (I say modestly) linked themselves to the very fiber of my life, make it a great purchase for me. If you'd like to experience it, buy it here.

Pleasant - Awkward as a Beehive

Pleasant is, well, aptly named

Awkward as a Beehive

While I was discovering The Hazzards I also got a message from Pleasant, and another musician. The other musician didn't have an album. Pleasant did. I think I switched them up in my mind when I ordered Awkward as a Beehive from CD Baby so that, when I got the package yesterday, I was a mix of disappointed and pleased (in the same way as when you asked for Snake Eyes for your birthday and got Crazy Legs instead—the former is obviously a must-have, but the latter keeps getting more and more speaking parts in your playtime).

At first listen, the obvious Mercury Program and Chin Up, Chin Up references pop to mind—that sort of jangly rock/pop where you know that you're going to have a good time, even if you were expecting Snake Eyes. Each song gets you a in a good frame of mind, and you can't help but hum along (even if you don't know the tune).

Pleasant - ”Welcome, Come In” (mp3)
Pleasant - ”You There” (mp3)

The Hazzards - So Pretty

The Hazzards hazard a try at pop and win; news at 11.

So Pretty

Like do-wop queens with a ukulele, the Hazzards come at you with a blend of indie-pop and motown; the five-piece writes humorous songs about standard staples of indie-kids of our age—from Girl Beer in “Girl Beer” to being a Temp in “Just a Temp”, they create a window into a not-so-tempting life of everyday girly-angst (without the freshman-girl-poetry vibe). And then there's that one punk song. But that's not to detract.

I found these guys via MySpace, when they requested to be friends with either me or my band/label (I don't remember which), and I was impressed by the music they had streaming, so I went over to CD Baby and picked up their disc. At the first listen, it's hard to distinguish the tracks from each other (not counting 'The Business', the afore-mentioned punky track). On the second listen, each song has a chorus that will catch you and not let go of that part of your brain that stores such things for internal play (much to your dismay, at times—this is not such a time).

Mostly, you'll find them to be precious more than precarious, snappy rather than progressive, and sassy instead of rocking. All in all, a good chance to connect with your inner girl.

I've only had a few listens to it, and I'm sure a couple of tracks will end up somewhere in my mixes and playlists and things, but I'm not sure I'd recommend buying it blindly; there are niches that people fit into, of course, and you might not fit into this one. I do.

”Shut Up and Make Out” (video)
My Gay Boyfriend (video)

The Notes and Scratches - Uh Oh!


I have The Perm and Skullet to thank for finding these guys.


This album is fantastic. So fantastic that you can but it, and automatically get the full album via download. Which is fuckin' awesome.

It's like if Tom Waits stopped smoking at 14 and then joined The Elected. With fun stuff.

Check out the Notes and Scratches website, then download some thoughtfully linked mp3's below.

They're soft, they're fun, and their design is awesome.
The Notes and Scratches - The Hours (mp3. No relation to the novel or movie.)
The Notes and Scratches - The Clockmaker's Daughter (mp3, my personal favorite)
The Notes and Scratches - In the City of Eggtimers (mp3)
The Notes and Scratches - The lines Reveal

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins - Rabbit Fur Coat

Team Love

Upon arriving home I found three packages awaiting me—all music—and this was one of them.

Jenny Lewis is one of those brilliant pop/rock/folk songwriters, so I knew it was going to be a good one (and I had heard almost all of the songs before now, thanks to that bootleg that was circling around a few months {a year?}ago, so I already knew how good they were), but I was (and still am) shocked by it; it's gorgeous.

Maybe I'm just one of those guys who thinks that anything remotely connected to Saddle Creek has a certain genius quality (Jenny is the front woman of Rilo Kiley, who made the switch to Saddle Creek when Tim Kasher {The Good Life, Cursive}found out about them while touring with Superchunk. Rilo's since left the Creek for a major/indie label set-up they made for themselves {Brute/Beaute}, and this record is released via Team Love, Conor Oberst's baby-Creek label), and I think I'm right in that feeling; when you have a creative pool the size and scope of Omaha's musicians, everyone does their best to make each record the best yet.

I think that, already, I have found my first favorite record of 2006, and it is Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins – Rabbit Fur Coat. It also features a strong contender for best guest-vocalist track in “Handle With Care”, a song that features not only Ben Gibbard (who created a working relationship with Jenny via The Postal Service), but also M. Ward and Conor Oberst, each with their own verse. And, god, is it gorgeous.

Jenny Lewis takes a step back from balls out (no irony intended) rocking and folk-rocking and takes a stroll through the territory of soul-filled, wonderful folk; here she showcases the voice that we've always known was gorgeous but had always wondered at the depth of; turns out, pretty damn deep. The Watson Twins add a sort of mix-up between Do-Wop and Choir quality to the tunes they're featured on (which equals most of them), and the large stable of Saddle Creekers make the quality of music and sound pitch-perfect: Mogis (Mike, not AJ) steps in as producer (again), and it stinks of that—the perfect transitions, the lead-ins, and the multi-instrumentation. As I said, Conor makes his appearance, and M. Ward is featured not only as a vocalist but (thank god) as a guitarist (he's one of the best guitarists in independent music). Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley) plays drums, as does (ex-Decemberist) Rachel Bloomberg (!).

The liner notes are sparse, making room for some high-quality photos of Jenny and co that are nearly as sweet as the songs themselves.

Pay attention to 'You Are What You Love' for a Tim Kasher reference. I love Tim.

Buy 'Rabbit Fur Coat'
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins -- Rise Up With Fists! (mp3)
Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins - Melt Your Heart (mp3)
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (and Ben Gibbard, M. Ward, and Conor Oberst) -

Thursday - A City By The Light Divided

Island Records


After an urgent text message from Brando, I went out and picked up Thursday's new album, 'A City by the Light Divided'. Being a Thursday fan who spent next to no time with 'War all the Time', I was a little taken aback by the. . . glitz?. . . of it all.

Thursday hasn't left behind their sense of momentum or timing, and, as a result, the record is filled with perfect post-hardcore melodies and guitar lines. Geoff has, in the space between 'War' and 'City', worked with a vocal coach, a change that, to my surprise, doesn't detract from the harshness of the band; he can, simply, create slight shifts in his voice. But no vocal cracks? Weird.

The lyrics, as always, are a bit on the trite side; this was true of both 'Waiting' and 'Collapse', where the lyrics would border on sophomoric but with a slight hint of charm; you couldn't disregard the lyrics because, goddammit, they were good in their context and they were meant. It's no different on this record; we have moments of 'meh' (we shall overcome) and moments of 'alright!' (this is all we've ever known of God/fight with me/let me touch you now).

That the production quality has risen since 'Collapse' isn't a detractor from the Thursday appeal; they sound good amongst the studio magic that an Island contract provides. They never cross the line from 'epic' to 'angst', and there are only a few moments when the actual music of the album is iffy (the guitar at the beginning of 'Running from the Rain' could have been cribbed from Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the drumming on the instrumental intros is a little tired and unoriginal).

Several songs ('Sugar in the Sacrement' and 'The Lovesong Writer') have the knack of getting stuck in my head.

And, you know what? I'm not complaining.

Free Diamonds - There Should Be More Dancing

Free Diamonds
There Should Be More Dancing
Deep Elm

Again, I hate comparing bands to other bands, but the easiest thing to say about Free Diamonds would to make reference to Blood Brothers or Beep Beep (or even Modest Mouse on 'The Day We Conquered').

That's the easy way.

Personally, I'm going to take another approach: the band sass-kicks your face in while you dance; ultra-hyper tracks and jilted guitars make this album the type of album you want to fight to. Or paint to. Or, if you have a strong pelvis, fuck to. The lyrics don't do so much in the realm of imagery, nor do they lead you to any real reference points, but the high vocals over tricky breakdowns more than make up for that.

You can stream this album (which is how I heard it the first time), much like a lot of the Deep Elm albums these days. Deep Elm was, for a long time, my Emo hide out, with acts like Seven Storey Mountain and Cross My Heart. They're taking a turn away from that type-casting these days with comps like This Is Indie Rock (the counterpoint to the original Emo Diaries of yore); an odd move who, presumably, engineered bands like Planes Mistaken For Stars, Last Days of April, and The Appleseed Cast to sound 'more emo'.

Morningwood - Self-Titled


When a lead singer can channel equal parts of Corin Tucker/Joan Jett/Karen O and Jenny Lewis/Beth Orton/Liz Phair, you know that they'll be an immense asset to a band.

Which, considering that Morningwood's other players aren't contributing much more than the afore mentioned Ms. Jett's Blackhearts or, even, at a stretch, Daft Punk, is a good thing.

Mostly I picked this album up after hearing a track or two off of it and seeing a series of articles in which the frontwoman (Chantel Claret) is featured in beautiful photos; she's a looker, alright and, while usually I hate comparing one artist to another for these reviews, that's the strong suit of Morningwood—Claret, as both face and voice of the band.

She goes equal parts Phair and Jack White on the disco-pop track 'Jetsetter', Joan Jett on the album opener 'Nü Rock', but never once do the band do anything as remotely flexible as she; both songs (even if 'Jetsetter' is more disco than rock) have the same types of hooks—the most stand-out of the tracks is 'Body 21', in which we start out crooning (again, Claret) to post-goth (Manson style) in the space of three and a half minutes. Meh.

All the songs on the album are fun pop-rock tracks that you'll, no doubt, get stuck in your head if you listen to it enough times—the problem is getting the motivation to listen to it more than a couple times; it may be good background rock for, say, Entourage, but definitely not a summer soundtrack—especially seeing as how Yeah Yeah Yeah's, Saves the Day, and Free Diamonds have albums out this summer; I'd be hard pressed to say that this album would be even a fall or winter soundtrack for me; even if albums are few and far between, it doesn't exactly mean you'll listen to whatever the fuck you can.

Buy it if you like poppy beats and chicks rocking the mic, but don't buy it if you want something clear, well versed, or even well-written.