The Van Gobots – Guantanamo Beach Party
From a band name like the Van Gobots, I had expected to be listening to a kitschy oddball synth-driven band. At least I had hoped there would be quirk. But alas, the album was synthless, quirkless, and rife with pentatonic scale dual-guitar boogery, including a beefy guitar solo on the first track. The singer comes out washy and indistinct, is lacking dynamically, and spews out lyrics in a barky and sometimes awkward sequence. The production is fairly clean and straightforward, which emphasizes a fairly tight drummer and well orchestrated, albeit wanky, angular guitar interactions. I probably wouldn’t walk out if they were opening for a better band and only played for 20 minutes.
MISC – Happiness is Easy
While some sound like the unfortunate offspring of pop ballads and vaguely dissonant post-rock, many of the choruses on MISC’s Happiness is Easy are simply bad. Harmonies on “Such a Fighter,” the album’s fourth track, are cringe-worthy and poorly introduced by the mixing. The record is somewhat dissonant; the first half of Badman Recording Co. owner Dylan Magierek’s release successfully attempts to misunderstand all the charm of groups like Mogwai by adding the numbingly earnest voice of Daniel Ahearn, while the second half is spent on stylistic experimentation intimating at folk, electro-pop, what-have-you, but never with enough charm or originality to stick. Perhaps the most consistent aspect of this album is that all the songs overstay their welcome. Its 40 minutes seem long as each song hammers every repetition in, but somehow, at the end of it, it’s hard to remember anything about it at all.
Meridene – You’re Not Pretty, You’re Worse
1) The music on your album is pretty good. I especially like the horns on “Kill the Memory.” But your lyrics are forgettable. Forgettable lyrics are hard to get stuck in your head. This is a pop record. Catch my drift?
2) Where is the harmony? Again: pop record.
3) Your one sheet reads: “…a record full of the happiest sad songs you might ever come across.” I listened to your record. I still think the happiest sad song is the J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers rendition of “Last Kiss.”
4) I don’t get your album title.
Ada Jane – Again…Again
Ada Jane is one of those bands that comes in big with them horns at the chorus. The first track ends with “whoa-oah-oah’s.” Though some brief moments of instrumental play are intriguing in their abrasiveness, the band falls easily into the patterns of folk/blues standard stylings which makes for predictable ends. The vocalist’s alt-countryish singing drawl often reaches moments of overkill. The lyrics can get awfully sentimental, with tons of mushy romantic lines like, “With all this busy-ness/Just stop by every once and a while for a kiss.” However, lyrical gems such as “Every time I cop a stance someone’s waiting behind me pulling down my pants” can be gleaned from the record.
Future Lisa – Clone
We first encountered Future Lisa in the present, which is now the past. Over time, our initial innumerable copies of Clone dwindled to one. Despite this passage of time, we still seem to be eons behind Future Lisa. At present, the lyrics are too simple for meaningful connection: “The discussion is over when I end it.” The vocal recordings are far too articulate – we can hear every uncomfortable vocal nuance. We investigated. Clone was recorded, mixed and mastered by Tom Herbers of Third Ear Recording – the same studio that played a part in Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha and various Fog and Low albums. Yet Third Ear mentions nothing of Future Lisa on their website’s past clients list.
Where’s the future clients list?
Brendan Themes – Fast
The music of local artist Brendan Themes leaves much to be desired in his new six minute EP, Fast. Themes plays one-man acoustic pop punk. The songs aren’t completely inept as it is clear he has talent in his guitar playing. Unfortunately, Themes has trouble writing anything original. His production value is low, as all his songs end very abruptly and none are over two minutes. Also, Themes’ lyrics in Fast are far too simplistic. It will be hard to win an audience with the hook “What exactly are you, hiding in the open?” I recommend skipping this artist, at least until he improves his talent.
UltraChorus – Words Kept Talking/Planetman 7”
UltraChous’s Words Kept Talking/Planetman is auto-tuned dance music with nicely patterned samples. Side A, “Words Kept Talking” contains a groovy dulcimer (!) sample that contrasts the airy synths that fade in and out of the mix. “WKT” is about words talking on their own volition. In fact, in a parallel universe there is a club in southern Costa Rica where the dance floor is packed with raving raised hands screaming, “you wasn’t talking and the words came oOOut.” That’s my dream. “Planetman” is a bassier track with a less catchy hook: “it’s the end of the night and I’m so excited” or other banal stuff that rhymes with that.
Alicia Leafgreen – The White Lesbian Rapper EP
Maybe it’s too easy to compare every white MC to Eminem, but Alicia Leafgreen not only sounds like a female version of the real Slim Shady, she openly name-drops him. Unfortunately, she doesn’t quite have the fierceness to sell the chip on her shoulder. The Twin Cities rapper’s simple, driving beats and smart-alecky rhymes are fairly engaging, but her boasting about her confrontational persona would be more convincing if her delivery weren’t so laidback. There’s something appealing in these tracks, but Leafgreen’s hip-hop neither gets in your face nor makes you want to party, and it ends up feeling a little empty.