28 March 2007

Review: Capsule 2007 CD's Vol. 2

In the absence of any shows over the past week or two, here's another review dump of some recent CD purchases. Volume 1 can be found here.

[Note: these are my initial impressions, not full-blown reviews, and Ned-O-Matic grades are based on a 5 being an average album in my collection with the caveat that I am an informed buyer these days, so everything I buy I'm probably going to like. Happy to review others if you want to send me free music!]

!!! - -Myth Takes
First of all, great album artwork. Seeing a lot of good covers lately. This thing is total bottom up dance music. Start with the beat, build up to the bass parts and everything else is almost afterthought. As such, it really grooves from top to bottom. But the bonus CD with some acoustic cuts of the same tunes reveal some damn good songs in there as well. Has the feel of dance club DJ music, but without any of the other trappings of electronica. I defy you not to enjoy this CD. Ned-O-Matic: 6

Air -- Pocket Symphony
It needs to be said that this album just sounds remarkable. Production values have to count for something and Air's latest has it in spades -- there is no doubt that this is exactly as the music sounded in these guys' head. As for that music -- it's good, darn good. I feel like every Air album is sort of a single point of a overall whole: a piece of the big puzzle. There are shades of all their previous work in here, older, wiser and maybe a little less adventurous. That deep pulsing electronic edge of "Moon Safari" lives on in subtle undertones and wicked beats. Dance music for the guy who doesn't want to move, let alone stand up. Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Apostle of Hustle -- National Anthem of Nowhere
The amount of music swirling around the Broken Social Scene which is distinctively not BSS is, in a word, incredible. The quality of most of it is even better. This may be, in my opinion, the best of the lot. Andrew Whiteman's side project yielded one album that caught me by surprise with its subtle Latin intricacies and had me hooked on first listen. This new one will allow the Apostle to shed the "side project" moniker. This is fully developed, addictive, thoughtful, exhilarating.... That debut was the beta version, shielding the true force of songwriting, musicianship and je ne sais quoi deep in Whiteman's soul. A must own. Ned-O-Matic: 8

The Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible
There's probably a negative review of this album out there, some hit piece written by someone who enjoys telling 4 year olds that the Easter Bunny ain't real. Seriously, sometimes the hype is warranted. These guys aren't the second coming (they're not even my 3rd favorite band out of Canada), but damn, under the spotlight that's being beamed down on Arcade Fire, there ain't a pimple to be seen. It's your duty as a music lover to own this album. I've gotten lost in this CD multiple times -- a true album in an age built for downloadable singles. Oh, and the individual songs (Intervention, No Cars Go, My Body Is A Cage) are bloody brilliant as well. Ned-O-Matic: 7

Assembly of Dust -- Recollection
I never understand why one band can get the hype and another one doesn't, but to me, there's an alternate universe where Reid Genauer & Co. are big time stars. I think the rule at work here is "songwriting trumps all" -- great, great, great songs from top to bottom. These guys fall into that late 70's FM vibe that's enjoying a resurgence these days, along with Midlake and a whole host of others, with the AOD slant giving off a real Jackson Browne vibe to me. Irregardless of who they remind you of, the music is crisp acousto-electric yumminess. Don't let their jamband pedigree chase you away, this is good music pure and simple. Ned-O-Matic: 6.5

Do Make Say Think -- You, You're A History In Rust
Another Broken Social Scene cousin, although these guys aren't quite younger brother as second cousin once removed. If Whiteman gets at that pop song angle of BSS, DMST thrives in that monstrous orchestral instrumental aspect. Not songs so much as compositions, happenings. These guys have instrumentation, songwriting and orchestration interwoven perfectly but go even further than that. They use volume itself as a crucial aspect to the music -- each track spanning a chasm of sound, exploring the dynamic range of your ears themselves. Silence to cacophony, it's brilliant through and through. Ned-O-Matic: 8.5

Dr. Dog -- We All Belong
Gosh, do I just love everything? No, not even close, but here's another 2007 gem that I can wholeheartedly and unabashedly recommend. More great songs, great production and pitch-perfect performances from this Philly band. While a mashup of the Beatles and the Beach Boys might sound like the most cliche sound for a gestalt, Dr Dog pulls it off as something unique and refreshing and reveals about two dozen other influences along the way. It always seems to bring out the "this sounds like..." in me, and yet so, so right. Each track stands on its own as a powerful piece of songwriting. Each has the potential to be an "it" song: stuck in your head, stop you in a tracks screaming from the jukebox, make you hit "repeat" once, twice. This is the music of which the Stones sang: "it's only rock and roll but I like it." Ned-O-Matic: 7.5

JJ Grey & Mofro -- Country Ghetto
This is what I like to call an "archaeological dig" album -- the kind of music that might have been made in another musicological epoch and buried deep in strata only to be discovered in modern day. Grey is one of the few who exudes enough soul to pull off such a mish mash of swampy funk, dirty rock and old fashioned R&B. It's the little things that shine on these tunes: hand claps, the sudden blare of goseplesque back-up singers, swinging horn section bubbling up through the mix. There is a warm personality that shines through -- this is a cathartic breakthrough album, well worth your time... you may be surprised. Ned-O-Matic: 6

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