National CD Reviews

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Native Speaker
Kanine Records
Street: 01.18
BRAIDS = Animal Collective + Panda Bear
Native Speaker, the self-recorded, self-produced debut album from the Montreal quintet BRAIDS is a swirling musical journey. It starts with dripping keyboards and driving drums which intertwine with ambient swirls and beats, creating a palpable music haze. Raphaelle Standell Preston’s voice swells and howls over the songs, adding layers of mischievous and bruised lyrics, accompanied by chirping contributions by the other members. BRAIDS skillfully managed to keep the short seven-track journey Native Speaker progressing forward. Even with tracks like “Same Mum,” that threaten a halted spiral of atmospheric waves, BRAIDS manage to arrange the songs in a way that never feels overdone or lost. All the elements come together to make a harmonious gift of sound that solidifies. This will not be the only journey we take together. –Liz Lucero

Brandt Brauer Frick
You Make Me Real
!K7 records
Street: 11.22
Brandt Brauer Frick = Koop + Air
Daniel Brandt, Jan Brauer and Paul Frick combine jazz, the catch-all “classical,” and electronic music into something between an ecstasy high and a Mary Jane low. Take the track “Papparazi,” for example—classic, unadorned piano jams against a steady electronic drumkit and then splicing into multiple samples, all underscored by a double-bass-like rhythmic clang and pop. It may be slightly hard to explain, but easier to listen to. If you have even a tiny penchant for modern jazz and its collision with samplers, give this a spin. The good thing about music like this is that it can be listened to solo or enjoyed with a group of like-minded music fans in a relaxed setting—we recommend a side of cocktails and jazz cigarette to complete the experience. –JP

El Ten Eleven
It’s Still Like a Secret
Street: 11.09
El Ten Eleven = Trans Am + The Mercury Program + Breadwinner
Equipment-wise, El Ten Eleven pack the ludicrousness of a 70s prog-rock band into a small, economic-sized duo. We are talking rototoms, double-neck guitars and a literal sea of looping and distortion pedals, all condensed into a size that fits on about half of Urban Lounge’s stage. While El Ten Eleven’s setup is impressive, what Kristian Dunn and Tim Fogarty do with these instruments is downright jaw-dropping. Dunn’s ability to layer rafter-shaking guitar line on top of guitar line while still keeping time with the bass is exciting, but even removed from “how” he does it, these lines pack a deeply felt emotional wallop that range from ecstatic to elegiac. “Ian MacKaye was Right” features a galloping bass line that tips its hat to Joy Division’s “Disorder” before dragging it underneath a landslide of effects. El Ten Eleven’s fourth album gets consistently better on each listen. –Ryan Hall

Erland & the Carnival
Trouble in Mind EP
Yep Roc/Full Time Hobby
Street: 10.19
Erland & the Carnival = Kings of Convenience + ?? the Animals?
Erland Cooper from Scotland recruits The Verve’s Simon Tong to reinterpret folk songs in a classic overdriven British vein. “My Name is Carnival,” a Jackson C. Frank cover, cops Cream’s “White Room” intro before launching into a rockabilly shuffle. “Trouble in Mind” is loosely based on a blues tune, but takes inspiration from the Hitchcock film Rebecca and borrows lyrics from Bruce Springsteen. Despite all the pastiche, the band manages to maintain a singular sound. While their interpretations of folk and blues songs may be heretical to purists, the music is still fairly tame to those not in the know. Trouble in Mind is a capable EP, but it doesn’t convince the listener that it’s as radical as Cooper & co. seem to think. –Nate Housley

Eux Autres

Broken Bow

Bons Mots Records

Street: 11.23

Eux Autres = Asobi Seksu + Best Coast

If you are going to listen to a pop album, it should be Eux Autres’ third and most recent album, Broken Bow. It definitely has the familiar punchy drums, straightforward guitar riffs and almost sickeningly sweet melodies, which comprise great pop music. Songs like “You’re Alight” and “Take it or Leave It,” deliver an air of sadness and un-settlement, which drapes over those sweet melodies to flesh them out to be something more than just pop songs. Broken Bow delivers a cleaner sound than the previous albums, Hell is Eux Autres and Cold City, which sounded scattered and messy in a way that made them seem as if they were unsure they were even pop music. With Broken Bow, Eux Autres seem to have found sure footing and structured their raw lyrics and vocals. Ultimately, Eux Autres reminds us all that if more pop sounded like this, the world would be a better place. –Liz Lucero

False Positive
False Positive
One Mad Son
Street: 11.16
False Positive = Lullaby for the Working Class + Warren Zevon + Spook Houses
Justin Mikulka’s False Positive project sounds as defeated as a losing army trudging back home. False Positive is Mikulka’s attempt to offer a few hopeful remarks to distressed comrades, but falls short in actually envisioning a new world. This is scary, because False Positive is an anti-war protest album. As tired as it sounds, Mikulka has more than a few excellent pop hooks up his sleeve. “Strike up the Band” and “The Old Materials” have stay-gold, rabble-rousing sing-along choruses that offer a glint of hope in their delivery, but dissipate as soon as they are put into context. False Positive vacillates between excellent, shambling mid-90s indie rock and subdued folk tracks where Mikulka’s voice takes on a forced Western accent. With no end in sight for the imperialist expansion in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it makes sense that a 2010 anti-war album sounds this depressed. –Ryan Hall

Street: 10.18
Goose = Audio Bullys + Phoenix + Duran Duran
The last album from Belgian’s Goose, Bring It On, was not very memorable. I uploaded it a few years ago and mostly forgot about it. After dusting it off to compare against the latest release from these cats, I found it equally forgettable. The new album, Synrise, is everything the last one was not: justifiably ambitious, catchy and uplifting in points. The work does a mostly amazing job of channeling classic 80s synthpop bands like Duran Duran and combining the sound with modern production techniques. It sounds like, as a friend described one of the songs in passing, “an action montage in an 80s movie.” So, think steady electronic arpegiattors underscoring melodies played in a higher range with some catchy plinky-plinks. Overall, much better than their 2006 Skint record release. –JP

Impossible Hair
Toast a Dozen on the Outside
Street: 11.02
Impossible Hair = New Pornographers + Q & Not U
Impossible Hair go for power-pop via classic rock in the vein of Guided by Voices. Toast a Dozen on the Outside capture the energy of their idols but miss the crucial hooks, similar to how song titles like “My Beloved Gettysburg” aim for the brilliantly surreal lyrical matter of Robert Pollard, but fall short. The duo’s Baltimore/DC origins show up occasionally in bursts of angular chords, but it sounds as if they’re trying to bury it under more conventional pop rock structures. Either Impossible Hair needs to step up the melodies or embrace the musical quirks of their hometown a little more brazenly to reach the next tier of pop rock glory that they’re aspiring to. –Nate Housley

J.C. Satàn
Sick of Love
Slovenly Records
Street: 10.26
J.C. Satan = Thee Oh Sees + The Growlers
My first thought upon seeing this album was that it was going to be some gnarly metal album or even Charles Manson-esque folk (the album cover is adorned with nudity and Satanic imagery ... fucking rad). I was pleasantly surprised, however—apparently a bunch of Europeans set out to make a Thee Oh Sees album. Apparently, the French are fairly good at reverb-heavy, feedback-drenched garage rock. The songs are mainly about love, and are really catchy. They are pretty heavy on female vocals, and some of the earlier songs on the album are a tad bit slow and sort of remind me (instrumentally) of The Growlers. I found this album extremely enjoyable, and I guess the vinyl is only $6; you should go buy it. –Cody Hudson

John Wesley Coleman
Bad Lady Goes to Jail
Goner Records
Street: 10.26
John Wesley Coleman = Nobunny + Ty Segall + Golden Boys
This album sounds like it was found under a pile of dust at a garage sale, and I mean that in the best way possible. With an incredibly lo-fi sound quality and catchy hooks, it sounds like Ariel Pink covering old rock n’ roll hits you’re not quite familiar with. It is never overly aggressive, and he seems pretty concerned with maintaining that 1950s doo-wop feel that Nobunny has (with plenty of oohs and ahhs). It is extremely blown out, but classic-sounding, like The Sonics without all of the covers. It definitely sounds like a Goner release. It is an amazing way to feel forced nostalgia for an unremembered era. –Cody Hudson

Mark Sultan
Last Gang
Street Date: 04.13.2010
Mark Sulan = Spaceshits + Surf + The Marcels
There’s no shortage of energy in Mark Sultan’s newest solo album, ranging from his familiar punk riffs to doo-wop to lo-fi garage rock. $ might be too diverse for some listeners, but most will quickly realize that they’re obviously being too narrow-minded, and that this album is actually really fucking funny. Some songs could easily be mistaken for classic 50s prom songs, and others are the farthest from it, keeping true to Sultan’s hazy, punk-rock sound. “Icicles” starts the album off with four or so minutes of psychedelic fuzz before breaking out in distorted vocals, reminiscent of Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds’ latest effort. Things switch up on the next song, “Don’t Look Back,” focusing on jangly guitars and heavy drums. “Status” and “Go Berserk” have the same punk rock/classic rock n’ roll feel to them, but are pretty different and equally awesome. The rest of the album is all energy and no apologies. It’s an easy album to love if you were ever a fan of Spaceshits, Sultan’s most well-known project, and even easier if you haven’t. –K.Grant

Munly & the Lupercalians
Petr & The Wulf
Alternative Tentacles Records
Street: 10.05
Munly & the Lupercalians = Beirut + Nick Cave
The premise of this album is a lengthy back story that purports to be the “true” story of Peter and the Wolf, including a take on the Wolf that only wants acceptance from the Lupercalians, yet receives distrust and hatred. If that sounds interesting to you, maybe you’ll be able to put up with the lack of imagination in the music. The first three songs contain enough minor-key mandolin to choke a Renaissance Fair mule. “Bird” is a breath of fresh air on an otherwise cheerless album, but two tracks later, “Duk” will probably make you give up on the album with its cloying “Duck duck goose” refrain. Lackluster music carrying a narrative is not unheard of, but the big problem here is that the narrative is just as dull as the music. –Nate Housley

No Age
Everything In Between
Street: 09.28
No Age = Japandroids + Women
No Age seems to calming down, and it certainly isn’t a bad thing. This record is more experimental and less raucous than Nouns. It is less punk-rock and way more noise-pop. “Skinned” almost sounds like a Panda Bear track, while “Katerpillar” and “Dusted” are both ambient and nearly noise music. The majority of the album finds a nice middle ground between the aggressive and overly calm. The songs are catchy and the vocals are much clearer than before. The album sounds more polished, and is pretty accessible. Nouns took me a few listens to enjoy; I think this album might be good introduction if you have never listened to No Age. –Cody Hudson

Pepper Rabbit
Kanine Records
Street: 10.26
Pepper Rabbit = Andrew Bird + Local Natives
Beauregard is full of indie pop-song structures decked out in orchestral arrangements and reverby, faux-lo-fi production. It’s a rich record—and well-timed for an autumn release with its wistful, amber tones—but lethargically paced. The album fades from memory as soon as it’s over, leaving a pleasant but vague impression. Whatever melodies exist get lost in the impressionistic murk, with the notable exception of “Song for Pump Organ” and its xylophone cutting through the reverb. The album is a grower, but don’t expect to get reeled in by a hit, because unfortunately, Beauregard lacks one. –Nate Housley

Second Story Man
Screaming Secrets
Noise Pollution
Street Date: 12.05
Second Story Man = Favours For Sailors + Bird Talk + Suzi Quatro
I’m surprised I’ve never heard of Second Story Man before, as I’ve recently been scouring the Louisville, Ky., music scene, which is astonishingly good/well-rounded. This band stands out from the others, with banjos and a punk-ish but pretty voice coming from Minnows frontwoman Carrie Newmaker. Screaming Secrets is full of rich, interestingly textured instruments mixed with the dreamy harmonies of Jeremy Irvin and Newmaker. “Want Within The Need,” the first track, has sort of an 80s throwback, which continues with “Clocks,” reminding me of a (gasp!) rock n’ roll-ier Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The next song, “Oompa Loompa,” starts out with a distorted, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams,” my favorite line from the Willy Wonka movie, and easily grooves into a smooth, dreamy world for rock n’ roll. The next few songs dip into a shogaze-y realm, bordering on the verge of Film School’s awesomeness. The last two songs are noticeably slower than the rest of the album, but hold the album together well and end on a good, slightly angry note. –K. Grant

Scrambles of Earth: The Voyager Interstellar Record, Remixed by Extraterrestrials
Street: 11.01
SETI-X = First Dog to Visit the Center of the Earth + Coil + Negativland
Scrambles of Earth is a collection of “remixes” of the Voyager Interstellar Space Craft’s sound cylinder. SETI-X (Search for Extraterrestrials in Exile) received these transmissions, and due to ostracism from the scientific community, was forced to release the album on Negativland’s vanity label. Then, this historical proof of extraterrestrial life somehow landed in my inbox with a press sheet listing the contributors as doctors with titles such as “Theorist of Information and Noise”… You have every right to be suspect. One question: Why would an advanced race of extraterrestrials sound like an uninspired version of late 70s Throbbing Gristle or a rudderless Black Dice? While mangling their source material (the sounds contained on the Voyager Spacecraft) beyond recognition, SETI-X has managed, musically at least, to weave together a semi-compelling fabric of harsh noise and found sounds that requires (and rewards) close listening … if you have 70+ minutes to do so. –Ryan Hall

Black Box
Street: 10.05
SHAD = Most Def + Talib Kweli + KRS ONE
Now this is hip hop. This is bigger then hip hop; this is some scholarly journal-type, raw. Shad is a Canadian rapper originally born in Kenya but raised in Canada, and he doesn’t suck like Drake. The dude funded his first album with the winnings he received from a radio talent competition. TSOL is his third album and it does not disappoint. The real stand-up tack is “Keep Shining,” a song about paying respect to the females—real respect, not that “you got a nice ass and know what to do with it” respect. “We, Myself and I” is another one. It will give you goose bumps. With a rock-hard beat and verbal assault, this track will pump you up and make you want to make a difference. –Jemie Sprankle

Sleeping in the Aviary
Great Vacation
Science of Sound
Street: 11.30
Sleeping in the Aviary = Soft Bulletin-era Flaming Lips + They Might be Giants
On their third LP, Minnesota’s Sleeping in the Aviary embrace Flaming Lips’ sunny, psych-pop sensibility and combine it with clever, subtle lyrics about not-so-subtle topics like S&M (“She forgot the safety word/Now she’s dead”). The lyrical matter generally upstages the music, but the band could have at least partially remedied this through better sequencing. The first side of the album seems to showcase the band’s genre-hopping (banjo one minute, squall of guitar noise the next) while the back half is filled with sleeper gems. On “Axes Ground Lost Teeth,” accordion player Celeste Heule quietly shows up lead vocalist Elliott Kozel with her demure, effortless delivery. New wave slow jam “I Want You Back (I Want You Dead)” closes out the album, inviting the listener to go back and reconsider that tricky side A. –Nate Housley

TV Buddhas
TV Buddhas
Street: 11.01
TV Buddhas = The Stooges + the Velvet Underground??
I went into this album thinking of Black Flag, probably because the album cover is a Raymond Pettibon-inspired image of a cigarette being put out on a hipster’s eye through the slits of his plastic Kanye-style sunglasses. The music does pay homage to a legendary, old-school punk band, though it’s more Stooges than Black Flag. TV Buddhas combine lo-fi growl with bluesy swagger, just like Iggy Pop & co. The Berlin-via-Tel Aviv trio opted for a legitimately punk recording technique, recording the entire record to analog tape in one hour with one mic. While TV Buddhas sounds a little too indebted to its source material, it’s not the work of talentless poseurs. The album’s middle finger to “cool” kids, a timeless theme in punk, is made personal and updated for the 2010s as they write songs about not fitting in with the hipsters who pay lip service to the same punk pioneers that TV Buddhas emulate. If feeling out of place fuels TV Buddhas’ fire, let’s hope they stay misfits. –Nate Housley