As seen in issue 53 of Closer Magazine, published on 2008-07-20 in the "CDReviews" section.
Electronic dance sensation Walter Meego isn’t a dude; he’s two dudes: vocalist Justin Sconza and knob-master Colin Yarck. The Chicago duo’s debut album combines layers of digital sound and restless beats with whiney-to-eerie White Town-meets-Louis XIV-style vocals, reminiscent of all the best parts of the late-80s/early 90s dance genre (Underworld, Air, New Order). Often, under the synthesizers and techno-charged sounds, there’s a rock and roll backbone, while a few tracks hint at what Radiohead would sound like if Thom Yorke OD’ed on Prozac--though we’d rather he didn’t.
On their first studio offering--a five song EP appropriately titled H’amsa (that’s Arabic for “five”)--Deerfield Beach’s The Resolvers deliver the kind of easy-flowing 4:20 grooves that go perfectly with fruity concoctions and tropical breezes. The album opener, “Sound Check,” pretty much lays it out: “Now it’s time to get ready/ everyone gonna feel irie.” The fluid dub step and lead singer Ojay’s reggae ethos on tracks “Clear” and “Babylon System” will leave listeners feeling like they lit up some hydroponic funk. There’s romance too: “It Was You” mixes the Rasta beat with radio-friendly pop balladry and Beatlesque harmonizing.
The Light of a Golden Day, The Arms of The Night
With vibes of glowing optimism, chilled-out melodies and love of life, this is what California sunshine would sound like if it was a band. The Los Angeles-based Armour explores Hot Chip-minded hypnotic beats and breezy Elliot Smith or Flaming Lips-like acoustic tunes, using drum machines, synthesizers and guitars to seamlessly shift from high-energy DJ scenes to feel-good daydream sounds. “Get in my car and driiiiive,” Armour sings on the pop-y “Prince of Wands,” practically begging to be next in the Volkswagen alt rock ad campaign.
Into the Trees
All stoner bliss and drunken chaos, with PJ Harvey-meets-Karen O vocals and a 90s alt-rock mentality, this Chicago-based quartet have mastered the art of reverb and distortion. Mixing Lo-fi melodrama and rousing hardcore, longwave psychedelic moments are paired with Sonic Youth-type experimentation, making something retro-focused yet decidedly fresh, with a raw, enthusiastic DIY vibe. When Into the Trees isn’t a sleepy shoegaze, it’s a hard kick to the head, an essential album for anyone who owns a 1995 CMJ sampler and tripped out on “Cherub Rock.” (See them June 14 at Respectable Street, WPB)
-- Monica Cady
Those looking for the conscious hip-hop this Oakland, California group is known for are in for a surprise, as these indie rappers have taken a bold jaunt into a more visceral realm. Note the chiming guitars and tribal scowls of “Exiting Arm,” the lead off and title track of this, the sextets’ third long player. Check lead vocalist Adam Drucker’s (a/k/a Doseone) channeling of TV on Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe on “Day Dangerous.” But don’t despair, Subtle diehards, Doseone still throws down those mile-a-minute rhymes on stellar tracks “The No” and “Unlikely Rock Shock.”
The second full-length release from one of Australia's leaders in dance offers a moody, doomsday perspective. "Kicking and Screaming" starts things off with driving synths, tweaky acid and angry, tortured vocals. The electro and 80's-inspired vocals of "Yippiyo-Ay" and the speedy digi-punk of "Eucalyptus" evolve to a deeper level of disturbed. "A New Sky", brings a funkier beat, ominous lyrics and a sick break that flips the track on its ass--and makes you want to shake yours. Apocalypso foreshadows a foreboding future. Escape is futile. So why not dance?
The Wedding Present
It’s been more than twenty years since The Wedding Present’s shambling jangle pop made them the biggest thing in England since fish ‘n chips. The Weddoes mellow out a bit on their latest album, but guitarist/ vocalist/sole remaining original member David Gedge’s snarky vocals and delightfully blunt lyrics remain intact; exhibit A: instant pub classic “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk.” This is an album sure to be the bangers in the mash of all respectable Anglophiles--even if Gedge’s rollicking lad tunes now center around his L.A. lifestyle, i.e., lust, jealousy, betrayal and Wynona Ryder sightings.
The Staple Singers
The Best of the Vee-Jay Years
Skeptic alert: Don’t dis this album from gospel’s first family--best known for their late ‘60s mainstream hit “Respect Yourself”--because of its Christian roots. These late ‘50s-early ‘60s recordings are art that rises above. Patriarch Pop Staples’ shimmering, profoundly rhythmic guitar is a marriage of this world (the impossibly rich reverb) and the next (the sparse phrasing in which the tones echo). In parallel, the voice of youngest daughter Mavis’ deep oak timbre is the earth, her enraptured inflections the sky, while the shatterproof, soaring harmonies of siblings Cleotha and Pervis unite them all. No more emotive music exists.
Draped in a shroud of decadent, Depeche Mode-esque glitz, electro-pop vamps Helen Marnie and Mira Aroyo and keyboard wizards Daniel Hunt and Reuben Hu are back with their fourth full-lengther. Cuts like “Predict the Day” and its sleazy beat, coupled with Marnie’s sultry vocals--like a tramped-up Bjork--will have you on your knees. Only the mid-tempo finale “Versus” offers some relief, with delicate acoustic guitar and a rare vocal from Hunt in a melodious duet with Marnie. Listeners spanked with sounds so kinky, gothic and glamorous will soon be begging for more. (See them June 11 at Studio A, Miami.)
Less Than Jake
Frisky horns, clap-along drum beats and optimistic lyrics at a firecracker pace mark these ska-punks’ homage to their hometown Gainesville, Florida. But it isn’t just a homecoming, it’s a return to the original style of their 1995 debut, Pezcore. This latest full-length—their tenth, out June 24--mixes rebellious old school attitude with confident maturity. But LTJ aren’t growing up just yet, they’ve simply gone from thoughts of candy to how to pay the rent. On “Conviction Notice,” Chris Demakes sings “Give’em our conviction notice/Tell them all to go to hell!” (See them June 18 at Revolution, Fort Lauderdale.)