All the music (502)
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Wed, 13 Sep 2006

Bare Stripped Naked / Bettie Serveert
Bettie Serveert combines haunting vocals with low key instrumentals to fine effect. But Bettie Serveert isn't the name of the song; it's just the name of the band. Which is why we call this band Bettie Serveert.

Sorry; I was channeling Arlo Guthrie. But never mind about that; let's talk about Bettie. Which is a Dutch band with a baker's half dozen of albums before this one, or so I discovered on Amazon. Dunno about those, but this one combines the mostly pop sound of tracks like Hell = Other People with the surprising Middle Eastern sounding What They Call Love, a track that makes me think of Sam Phillips' All Night, which doesn't sound Middle Eastern at all.

Confused? Yeah, me too.

Bare Stripped Naked
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 11 Sep 2006

Love and Other Planets / Adem
Love and Other Planets Love and Other Planets is very zen, or at least my ignorant outsider's concept of zen. Each track is minimalist, to the point that you couldn't imagine anything more being taken away. And yet each is distinctive and complete; there's nothing you could imagine wanting to add. Simple and complex at the same time, which would give me a headache if it weren't so relaxing.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 30 Aug 2006

Centuries Before Love and War / Stars of Track and Field
According to the writeup on the iTMS, Stars was a quartet that's now a trio. Or maybe they're still a quartet, having replaced their lost bassist with a new "virtual" bandmate in the form of samples and other electronic sounds. Whichever way you look at it, the new Stars is soothing, intriguing and kind of a blast to listen to. Centuries Before Love and War
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 28 Jul 2006

Volcano and Heart / The Coral Sea
I can't decide if the songs on here are more post-breakup (with which I have a little experience) or post-unrequited, realizing you were playing way above your head, never had a chance, fixation. (With which I've had way too much experience, thank you very much.) Either way, it's just the thing for a good wallow, or for those times when somebody else's misery is what you need to put your own into some kind of perspective. Then again, I've always thought perspective was both rare and overrated. Volcano and Heart
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 12 Jun 2006

Citrus / Asobi Seksu
Asobi Seksu is an interesting amalgam, a fusion of lead singer Yuki's Japanese-tinged vocals with her bandmates' solidly American sound. I could probably make some facile remark about the band's home in New York being the classic melting pot of cultures, and Asobi Seksu (translation: playful sex) a natural result. But whatever the reason for their sound, the results are sweet, tangy and very, very sexy. In a playful way, of course. Citrus
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 02 Jun 2006

Bathtub / Fono & Serafina
If I were a "glass half full" kind of guy, I'd see my complete lack of information on Bathtub and its performers as a blessing. I mean, if I don't know anything, it'll make for a really short review, right? Even Google let me down; aside from two sites that post informtion on new iTMS albums (and which know no more than the iTMS provides, which in this case is nothing) and two sites that seem full of random foreign words, all we have is a link to last year's American Samoa Telephone Directory. And somehow I don't think that's gonna help.

So I can't tell you anything more than you can hear for yourself. Which is as it should be, assuming you like Icelandic-sounding vocals and a cool electronic accompaniment. Or even if you don't.

[ Category: Alternative | 2 comments | Link ]

Fri, 19 May 2006

Hand On the Stove / Liz Clark
Nice to know that not every early twentysomething has to sound like Britney. Liz Clark's lyrics are direct and open, and her voice makes them sound like they matter to her. It's folk with an edge, or minimalist rock.

Or something like that. I'm feeling particularly inarticulate here. Suffice it to say that I could listen to her sing for a long time without complaint. At least until her next album comes out.

Hand On the Stove
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 01 May 2006

Nutty by Nature / BeNUTS
BeNUTS is a German ska band. Yeah, I know; my mind is a little bit boggled by that. More than a little. But they have this infectious tone, you know? And a lead vocalist who sounds a little like Weird Al, if he'd decided to go Caribbean instead of Parody-an. Ah, if only... Nutty by Nature
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 24 Apr 2006

Decline of Country & Western Civilization Part II: The Woodwind Years / Lambchop
Decline of Country & Western Civilization Part II: The Woodwind Years Wow. Just wow. If this is a demonstration of a civilization in decline, I'm glad to hear it.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 10 Apr 2006

Melankton / Kate Havnevik
Melankton Kate Havnevik is a Norwegian singer with a haunting voice and, if her cover art is to be believed, hair with a will of its own. She has a quality that reminds me a little of Emiliana Torrini, who reminds me more than a little of Björk. But there's also a warmth and an elegance to her singing that's particularly appealing. I can tell I won't be any good at describing it. Better for you to sample for yourself.
[ Category: Alternative | 2 comments | Link ]

Wed, 05 Apr 2006

Bring It Back / Mates of State
Bring It Back One plays the drums, the other does keyboards. Their songs are cheerful and fun, their harmonies infectuous. If they were brother and sister instead of husband and wife, they could almost be a less syrupy version of The Carpenters. On second thought, put Richard and Karen out of your mind. Mates of State are nothing like that. Forget I even mentioned it.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 31 Mar 2006

The Best Party Ever / The Boy Least Likely To
The Best Party Ever I don't know what these guys are on, but I want some. You don't get this cheerful and peppy without chemical assistance. Or is that just me?
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 24 Mar 2006

This Fish Is a Stapler / Lorne Greene Preservation Society
Google failed me on this one. All the links it found for Lorne Greene Preservation Society led me to what I assume was once the website for their record label, now a collection of moneymaking links and an offer to sell the domain. Leaving me with nothing but questions. Like who is Jenn Chen and why does her birthday song sound like Johnny Cash? And does the title refer to a fish-shaped stapler, or have they found some way to turn a fish into a stapler? And what kind of fish was it?

Deep questions, I know. Now all I need are a few answers.

This Fish Is a Stapler
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 20 Mar 2006

Supernature / Goldfrapp
I've seen Goldfrapp described as sophisticated lounge pop and as reborn 80s disco. Which may both be true; my club experience is rather limited of late. But there's something compelling about both Alison Goldfrapp's silky vocals and the electronic backing provided by Will Gregory, something beyond mere danceable or good background for drinking yourself silly.

Not that I've done that. Not lately at any rate. Been months, it has. Wait, what was I talking about?

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 10 Mar 2006

Human Stain / Cornerstone
If there's ever a category for Fogy Rock, I want to nominate Human Stain for charter membership. And I mean that in the most appreciative and unironic way. I feel like I've known this album for years; it was the kind of thing my college roommate liked to play way too loud in the dorms to drive our neighbors crazy. (They liked to play Sha Na Na. Endlessly. So they deserve no sympathy at all.)

Yeah, I know; Cornerstone wasn't making music back in those dark days of the Nixon Administration. But they sure would have fit right in. And suddenly I don't feel quite so old and out of it. Which feeling I'll enjoy while it lasts.

Human Stain
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Wed, 08 Mar 2006

We'll Pick Up the Pieces Next Time / Angle
We'll Pick Up the Pieces Next Time I guess this is what I get for complaining constantly about overproduced albums. We'll Pick Up the Pieces Next Time is minimalist to a fault, to the point that in most tracks it's hard to pick out a melodic line. I'd describe Angle's music as a downer, which I mean in a nonjudgmental way. It's the kind of thing I'll enjoy when I'm in the mood for a good emotional wallow. Which, thankfully, doesn't happen all that often lately. Maybe there's something to be said for getting older. Or is it lately being un-unemployed that makes the difference?
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Fri, 03 Feb 2006

The Greatest / Cat Power
The Greatest I first read about The Greatest in a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly. It didn't make much of an impression, which is hardly surprising; reading about music is like hearing about a painting. And even EW's enthusiasm didn't get me to sample any of her tracks; that had to wait for my weekly wander through the iTMS.

A few seconds of the title track was enough to grab my attention. As you may have noticed, I like low key vocals, especially female, and especially when they're accompanied by rich but not overpowering instrumentals. All of which are on display here, thanks to a company of well known Memphis musicians backing Ms. Power.

Oh, and since other reviews have mentioned it, I will too: this isn't a greatest hits collection; it's all new material. The Greatest isn't a reflection on the tracks inside, but a reflection on the subject of that title song. Just so we're clear.

[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Mon, 30 Jan 2006

Grace / Wild Strawberries
Grace If great art comes from great suffering, what are we to make of Toronto couple Ken and Roberta Carter Harrison? They've been making music as Wild Strawberries for more than a dozen years, had several successful releases on a German record label, left the label and continue to have hits among the Hasselhoff fans in Deutschland. They're happily married, happily parental and still turning out insightful songs with a sweet and folksy flavor. Grace goes back to the beginning of their career; it was their first CD. I'm looking forward to seeing how their style and approach evolved over the decade between then and now.
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

Fri, 27 Jan 2006

My Diary / Mocca
I remember (but just barely) a trip to Japan a bunch of years ago, and a very long evening in the bar at the top of the Tokyo Bay Hilton. There was much drinking that evening. And there was also a Singaporean country/western band that did a credible impression of the real thing, only, you know, good. Then again, maybe it was the whiskey talking. As it turns out, it had a lot to say.

Which is relevant only because I was surprised to discover that Mocca hails from Indonesia, which isn't (or at least wasn't to me) obvious from a casual listen. I discovered this fact by a diligent search of Google, which revealed little but did lead me to MTV Asia and eventually to the truth. (But not to their website, which for whatever reason refuses me entry.)

Not knowing anything about Indonesian pop, I can only say that I enjoy the soft and low key stylings on display here. And if I ever make it back to that part of the world, I'm gonna have to check out the music scene.

My Diary
[ Category: Alternative | 1 comment | Link ]

Mon, 23 Jan 2006

Local Angel / Brant Bjork
From an early age we're told that you can't judge a book by its cover. But what they mean is that you can't always tell. Because sometimes the cover gives us a first impression that's right on the money.

Here's just such a case. From the minimalist monochrome cover art on Local Angel, the superficialist might expect a low key minimalist production. And right from Beautiful Powers, the first track, that's what Bjork (not to be confused with Björk, not that anyone but a superficialist would) delivers. Yeah, things get a little more produced by track two. But only a little more. After all, covers don't lie. Well, they do. Just not this time.

Local Angel
[ Category: Alternative | Add a comment | Link ]

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