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June 2003 Reviews by

Josh Bennett
Frank Bango
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen
Comment Piece
The Divorce

Electric Six
Ether Seeds
Jay Farrar*
Freddy & The Fore Gone Conclusions

Benjamin Gibbard & Andrew Kenny
The Heavenly States
James William Hindle*
I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House

Jenifer Jackson*
The King of France
Lucerin Blue

Mink Lungs

Pine Martin
Pusker and the Poodle Cracks

Quiet, Lovely
The Sick Lipstick

Sister Sonny
The Spectors

Starflyer 59
Kristy Starling

Sufjan Stevens*
Surface of Eceyon


Unwed Sailor*
Yeah Yeah Yeahs

*Top Picks


June 2003 Comment Piece:
Get All the Entertainment You Want FREE...or really, REALLY CHEAP.

Tired of hashing out all of your cash day after day after day...just so that you can enjoy a film or some goddamn music? Fear not, oh TRUSTY READER...there is a way OUT of the frustrating rat maze. You can get as much stuff as you can take in...and even MORE...by following one simple rule. When seeking entertainment...DO NOT BUY ON THE CURVE. To be more precise, whenever that mighty marketing machine in the sky starts churning out news about the latest BAND or FILM or WHATEVER...simply IGNORE IT...and WAIT. Wait months...or even YEARS...until that particular item or project has become unhip or dated...and THEN obtain it. You can also buy OFF THE CURVE in other ways. Simply buy the medium that is no longer in favor. Because everyone now demands CDs and DVDs...we would suggest that the cost conscious consumer concentrate on videotapes...or audio cassettes...or even vinyl records. These items can be had around the planet now for virtually nothing (in many cases these are now totally FREE at yard sales because no one will buy them...despite the fact that they are still completely valid formats!. "But gosh, babysue folks," you may be saying to yourself. "You are giving contradictory advice, aren't you? After all, you yourselves review the latest and the greatest stuff out there every month! Aren't you being a bit hypocritical?" Why certainly NOT, OH TRUSTY READER! We review new stuff because it is FREE. If you can't tap into the free vein of the marketing machine...we would suggest that you simply GO BACK A FEW YEARS...and read our reviews from 1996...1997...1998...or whatever...and seek out the great stuff that was released THEN. We can just about GUARANTEE YOU that you will find most of it either FREE...or very, VERY cheap. Don't let your SNOUT be jerked around by folks who want to take all of your HARD-EARNED MONEY. Be entertained the SMART and BETTER way. Obtain and buy things OFF THE CURVE. You'll be GLAD you DID. Besides...whoever said that "current" means BETTER?!? In most cases...it simply AIN'T!!! Don't be smart...be STUPID...just like WE is!!! We may be DUMB...but we sure ain't SMART enough to know that no matter WHAT we say 'bout NUFFIN...ain't NOBODY lissnin NO WAY!!! Huh huh huh huh huh! We don't care 'bout NUFFIN!!! Nottuh single goddamn FANG!!!

Anandi - Forever Days (CD, Lake Lady Music, Pop/soul/female vocalist)
Anandi impressed a great many reviewers with her last release (The Mirror)...and for good reason. That album established this young lady as a real contender in the world of soul-infected pop. Forever Days picks up where The Mirror left off...and offers even more substantive proof of Anandi's impressive capabilities. Playing the game her own way...without using gimmicks...and without an outrageous image...Anandi manages to captivate and entertain based purely on her own talents (as well as the assistance of Brad Craig on various instruments, Genji Siraisi on drums. and guest artists Dennis Martin, Steve Mayone, and Karla Schiemann). Anandi's music sounds like the more soulful side of Kate Bush...or the more restrained side of Joan Armatrading. But make no mistake, this lady's voice is purely her own...and what a voice she has (!). Anandi delivers the twelve tunes on Forever Days with compassion, sincerity, and true style. Our favorite cuts are "Forever Days," "Know Better," "Always a Child," and "All In It's Own Time." A wonderfully satisfying album. (Rating: 5+)

Josh Bennett - Josh Bennett (Advance CD-R, Private Music, Rock/pop)
Unlike many up-and-coming new talents, Nashville's Josh Bennett isn't afraid to make music that has the potential to appeal to millions of people. His songs present a classic sensibility that is usually associated with artists who have been at it for years. His soulful vocals and deliberate delivery make the tunes on this album entertaining and unique. "Smile" is a wonderfully slick pop tune that just gets better every time you hear it. Produced by Ken Coomer (who has also produced albums by Wilco and Steve Earle), this disc is destined to put Bennett's name permanently on the map for years to come. Good stuff. (Rating: 4+)

Frank Bango - The Unstudied Sea (CD, Sincere Recording Company, Pop)
Imagine Scott McCaughey (Young Fresh Fellows) singing Elvis Costello songs...and you may have some idea of what Frank Bango sounds like. Being longtime fans of both McCaughey and Costello...we find Bango's music to be inviting and engaging. The Unstudied Sea features a non-stop collection of instant pop classics. Frank's tunes are based around an acoustic guitar...and they possess a classic sound that is sadly missing in most of today's popular music. While Bango is presented as a solo artist...the contributions of songwriting partner Richy Vesecky should not be underestimated. While the quality is startling high throughout this album...there are two facts that will probably limit this man's chances for success. First, while we love the vocals, Bango's voice has a slight nasal quality that will not sit well with the average listener. Second...and even more importantly...these songs are extremely positive. While we consider this second trait to be wonderfully positive...most folks simply can't take it when an artist is this uplifting (and almost completely lacking in sarcasm!). This album is chock full of beautiful melodies and addictive hooks. Destined to be a favorite among critics, this album is a knockout. Includes "Out of the Water," "Museums," "The Lottery Pieces," "Does the Bitter Moon Really Care About How Dark it Gets?" (Rating: 5+)

Camarosmith - Camarosmith (CD, Dead Teenager, Hard rock)
Camarosmith is Ben "Devil" Rew (vocals, harmonica, guitar), Donny Paycheck (drums), Chris Johnsen (guitar, vocal.s), Pat "F*ckin'" Brown (guitar, vocals), and Jeff "Sweet Potato Jackson" Matz (bass, vocals). These guys are wild and out-of-control rock and roll monsters. Playing rock and roll for the BIG BOYS...these five guys truly know how to KICK ROYAL ASS. No clever gimmicks here. Just some regular lookin' guys who like to turn ALL THE WAY UP and RAISE HELL. This album features a nice, thick sound...courtesy of ace producer Jack Endino. If you like big overdriven guitars, loud danceable rock music, and masculine-fueled rhythms that PUMP like there's no TOMORROW...you're gonna really DIG Camarosmith. This is one of those rare cases where the band is even BETTER than their name suggests. Cut-loose kickers include "It's Allright," "Corrupt," "Flight of the Red Wing," and "Running Free." Killer stuff...highly recommended for fans of Fu Manchu... (Rating: 5++)

Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen - Greatest Hits Live! (CD, King Biscuit Flower Hour, Pop/rockabilly/swing)
This disc features a previously released show from 1976 by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. It is interesting to hear this band now...considering how many bands have followed in their footprints since (!). Commander Cody and Associates were producing rockabilly-induced swing music at a time when few other bands were. And the music possessed a genuine authenticity that was missing in many of the 1990s revival bands. This nice lively album features thirteen hot numbers including "Battle of New Orleans," "Down to Seeds and Stems Again Blues," and "Truck Driving Man." Good stuff...dancin' music... (Rating: 4+++)

The Divorce - There Will Be Blood Tonight (CD, Fugitive, Rock)
The Divorce is a tight, loud, and intense hard rock trio from Seattle. There are traces of a variety of bands in these guys' music...including early Gang of Four, XTC, and Joe Jackson. But make no mistake, this is no retro outfit. These gentlemen are playing modern rock...infused with plenty of energy and (sometimes) screaming yelps and hollers. For the most part, this band plays buzzsaw guitar rock/pop music with intelligent melodies and pulsing rhythms. The band is at their best when they are concentrating on playing like maniacs while still retaining a strong melodic sense. (Some of the songs would have been greatly improved by leaving out the intense screams...they just don't seem relevant considering the exceptional quality of the songwriting.) Good stuff. The next release from The Divorce could be an even more direct hit for the band... (Rating: 4++)

Electric Six - Fire (CD, XL Recordings / Beggars Banquet, Rock/pop/dance)
Detroit's Electric Six pack a hard punch...providing danceable rock music infused with loud guitars, driving rhythms, and vocals that are reminiscent of 1970s disco music. The band is very different from what we are accustomed to hearing on the XL Recordings / Beggars Banquet labels. Far from being an alternative pop band, these guys obviously have one intent...and that is to make their listeners want to dance. Judging from the sounds heard on Fire...the band is succeeding. This album features a non-stop string of dance club numbers that charge out of the gate with fierceness...and then just keep on pumping until the end. What we like best about this band is that...while their main intent is to provide dance music...they don't wimp out with crummy synthesizers and electronic beats. Instead, they deliver their beats with pure masculinity and muscle that normally isn't heard in dance music. Interestingly, the band has a great deal of commercial appeal...as is evidence by such cuts as "Dance Commander," "Danger! High Voltage," and "I'm the Bomb." (Rating: 4+)

Ether Seeds - Ether Seeds (CD, Roadrunner, Hard rock)
The last couple of years have seen a slight shift in focus for the infamous Roadrunner label. Originally known as a label for death metal and black metal bands (which they still heartily support)...the label has now expanded their focus to include hard rock bands. Considering some of the choices the label has made in this arena...that is a very good thing. Consider Atlanta's Ether Seeds...a loud, punchy, hard rocking band. The band's music is surprisingly accessible. Their debut album for Roadrunner contains cuts that are based in 1970s rock...but the music is infused with a modern crash and burn style that is inviting and decidedly LOUD. But while the volume is way, way UP...the band manages to balance their fury with intelligent songwriting and focused playing. Features cool rockers like "Undone," "Kill the Messenger," "So Ugly," and "Fade." (Rating: 5)

Jay Farrar - Terroir Blues (Advance CD, Act/Resist, Folk/pop)
A founding member of both Uncle Tupelo and Sun Volt, Jay Farrar returns with his third solo album. Farrar's first album (Sebastopol) was slightly hampered by busy arrangements and overproduction...but those problems have now obviously been dealt with. Terroir Blues is a pure and beautiful album. The tunes are pensive, folky, subtle...and presented with only the bare essentials necessary in order to get the point across. The album is, for the most part, a subtle and understated affair. Farrar's vocals have never sounded better. His voice is masculine yet gentle...effective yet never strained...and his lyrics seem to come straight from the heart. Farrar is fond of utilizing the talents of special guests. On this album, folks lending a hand include Mark Spencer, Eric Heywood, and Jon Wurster among others. Our favorite track is the eerie and haunting "Heart On the Ground II," an unusually effective piece that really has staying power. If you've never heard Farrar's music before, this is an excellent starting point. If you're already familiar with the man...prepare to be blow away...again. (Rating: 5+++)

Flowchart - Pre-2000 Singles and Comp Tracks Part One (CD, Fuzzy Box, Obtuse pop), Pre-2000 Singles and Comp Tracks Part Two (CD, Fuzzy Box, Obtuse pop), Evergreen Noise is Flexible / The Spirit of Kenny G (CD, Fuzzy Box, Obtuse pop)
Flowchart is the ongoing experimental project begun in the mid-1990s by Sean O'Neal. Courtesy of the fine folks at Fuzzy Box and Darla, three whopping discs of older Flowcart material have been released. The first two discs (Pre-2000 Singles and Comp Tracks Part One and Pre-2000 Singles and Comp Tracks Part Two) aren't exactly what one would normally expect from a "singles compilation." These discs feature compositions that are decidedly uncommercial and peculiar. The pieces on these discs have more in common with soundtrack music...evoking a mood in space rather than turning a clever melody with cute words. The adventurous compositions on these two discs are hard to describe...which is probably exactly what O'Neal and company were striving for when they recorded them. Evergreen Noise is Flexible / The Spirit of Kenny G, the third disc, features more accessible music that would more easily fit into the category of pop. This disc features cuts from two previously released EPs that have been out of print for some time. Because of the peculiar nature of Flowchart music...it is difficult to compare, describe, or even rate these recordings. For the adventurous in mind and spirit, these are recommended listening...as they present a strangely compelling body of work. (Rating: 4+++)

Freddy & The Fore Gone Conclusions - Wigged Out Sounds (CD, Get Hip, Pop)
For those who love the sounds of the sixties...that spirit is still alive and kickin'...and Freddy & The Fore Gone Conclusions are sheer living proof of the fact. The band is headed by Freddy Fortune, who many will remember for his previous bands The Covingtons and Fortune and Maltese and the Phabulous Pallbearers. Freddy & The Fore Gone Conclusions remind us of wonderfully uplifting bands like Hermans Hermits. The tunes are simple, melodic, mostly based around love, and served with sincerity and style. This band's image fits their sound. With their matching suits and sunglasses...they seem ready to revive the world with a consciousness of decades gone by...when music was simpler...and bands were more genuine. Friendly, uplifting, and totally lovable, this band is doing everything right. Kickass tracks include "Today," "Stranded," "Cry In Shame," "Shattered," and "I Can't See You." (Rating: 5)

Garrison - The Model (CD EP, Iodine Recordings, Rock/pop)
Garrison continue in their mission to write and record memorable hard pop. The Model may just be the band's best release yet. This quartet continues to grow and mature...without sacrificing their addiction to volume and power. The five tunes on this album are loud, powerful, smart, and full of cool metallic hooks. The band's music is anchored in overdriven guitars and throbbing rhythms...but the vocals are what push the music to the next level. Instead of cooing softly or screaming like out of control zombies, vocalists Joseph Grillo and Ed McNamara sometimes sing in a straightforward manner...but when the need arises, they can really BELT it out. Getting better with every release, Garrison is one of the best hard pop bands around. Top picks: "Let's Fight," "The Only One," "The Sound." (Rating: 5+)

Benjamin Gibbard & Andrew Kenny - Home: The Post-Parlo Records Split CD Series (CD, Post-Parlo, Pop)
This split CD features four tunes from Benjamin Gibbard (of Death Cab For Cutie) and Andrew Kenny (of American Analog Set). The basic premise here is to present songs with the theme being "home." Each artist presents three tunes of their own...and then offers a cover of a tune written by the other artist. An interesting concept presented in an intelligent manner (which is nothing less than we would expect from the clever and eclectic Post-Parlo label). Gibbard's first three tunes ("You Remind Me of Home," "Carolina," "Farmer Chords") were recorded late 2002/early 2003. Kenny presents the first tune he wrote ("Hometown Fantasy") as well as two new compositions ("Secrets of the Heart," "Church Mouse in the Church House"). Gibbard and Kenny are a good pairing for a split CD. Each offers soft and introspective folky pop with a heavy emphasis on melody. Both artists' lyrics are personal and reflective, which is fitting for the "home" theme. This release is recommended for fans of both bands that these men belong to...as well as anyone else wanting a fresh dose of soft, reflective pop... (Rating: 4+++)

The Heavenly States - The Heavenly States (CD, Future Farmer Recordings, Rock)
Epic pop with loud guitars. The first couple of tunes on this band's debut album reminded us of The Poster Children...but by the third or fourth song that comparison no longer applied. The Heavenly States' sound ranges from noisy alternative guitar rock...to lilting pop music with heavenly arrangements. The songs are not easy...nor are they predictable. And although the band's overall sound seems slightly familiar...they do not sound derivative. This band has some good songs...but they seem hampered by overproduction. Tunes that would best be presented simply and directly...and sometimes hidden behind too many instruments and overdubs. Perhaps by their next album these problems will be straightened out... (Not Rated)

James William Hindle - Prospect Park (CD, Badman, Pop)
It would be difficult for any artist to match the quality of James William Hindle's debut album. But on Prospect Park, the second full-length album from this unique British gentleman, he far surpasses the quality his first release. This album does, in fact, rank right up there with some of the greatest pop albums of all time. Hindle has chosen his players wisely...blending the talents of members of The Essex Green, The Ladybug Transistor, Sunshine Fix, and Aden into the mix. Hindle's vocals are wonderful...slightly reminiscent of Harpers Bizarre...but it is his ability to turn a tune that is most remarkable. The subtle beauty of this man's melodies only becomes apparent after many spins. Upon the first spin, listeners might be apt to dismiss this material as nothing more than soft pop fluff. But there is a great depth and honesty here that is highly rewarding and satisfying. The lyrics are pure, intelligent, and moving. This is subtle soft pop at its best. Supremely satisfying compositions include "You Will Be Safe," "Leaving Trains," "The Great Woodland Summer," "Shadows Cast a Lie," and "Park Slope Song." Fantastic stuff. Highly recommended. (Rating: 6)

I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House - Put Here to Bleed (CD, In Music We Trust, Rock)
Sounding something like a Southern refried sloppy combination dinner containing slices of Alice Cooper, The Replacements, and The Pogues...this band is a barroom lover's delight. The band is led by singer Mike D., a man who can out-rasp even the raspiest of singers. His drunken sing/growl is the main focal point of this band's music...although the songs themselves are impressively strong. Though the band is based on Portland...they sound more like a band from Georgia or Alabama. The band's no-frills rock music is stripped down, honest, and goes down easy. This album took a couple of spins to sink in. These guys don't sound anything like other bands on the In Music We Trust label (!). Good downhome rockin' music. Top picks: "Twerp," "American F*ck Machine," "Things That Fall," "Sixsixfive." (Rating: 4+++)

Jenifer Jackson - So High (CD, Bar/None, Soft pop)
Wonderfully soothing soft pop. We haven't heard a vocalist with a voice this smooth and sincere since...Kirsty MacColl. Jenifer Jackson has a voice that is remarkably similar to MacColl...but her material is more obtuse and not as obvious. So High (Jackson's third album) is chock full of absorbing melodies and dreamy arrangements. Not one to be easily pigeonholed, Jenifer's material sways back and forth into many musical genres...including folk, jazz, pop, soul, and world music. But whatever style she takes on, Ms. Jackson seems to make it entirely her own. Her unique presence comes through crystal clear in these recordings...and she has a voice that has to be heard to be believed. This young lady has an uncanny knack for drawing the listener into her world. Instantly addictive and wonderfully heady, So High is a remarkable album from start to finish. Unforgettable tunes include "The Power of Love," "We Will Be Together," "Got To Have You," and "Blue Forever Mine." Timeless music. Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Jeremy - Pop Dreams (CD, Jam, Pop)
One day...if and when things are totally right in the world...Jeremy Morris will be a super successful pop star. Until that time arrives, he will continue to be a underground cult icon with an extraordinarily devoted following. Mr. Morris has been writing and recording for many years now...but instead of burning out, he continues to grow and mature. Pop Dreams features more of the cerebral, uplifting, and wonderfully melodic pop music that we have come to expect from this multi-talented gentleman. Jeremy has really outdone himself with his harmonies this time around. His thick vocal overdubs are so velvety smooth and right on that it gives us chills (particularly on "Why Don't You Love Me?"). These pure pop confections are layered with just the right balance of instruments and voices...to create a mind-blowing experience that ought to thrill even the most jaded pop fan. Songs are Jeremy's strongest point. He seemingly pulls instant hits from the clouds one after the other after the other... At this point, there's no telling how many songs this man has written...and the most amazing part is that they're ALL exceptional (!?!). Pop Dreams is right up there with Jeremy's best works...and that's saying A LOT. Utterly fantastic and beautiful music that comes straight from the heart that never stops giving. This man is a true underground genius. (Rating: 5+++)

The King of France - Salad Days (CD, Egret, Pop)
This band seems to have a fascination with aluminum foil and...CANDY. The King of France is/are Steve Salad (guitar, vocals), Tom Siler (keyboards), and Michael Azerrad (drums). The band released these early recordings on their own Egret label. Some of the tunes on this disc bear a strange resemblance to John Vanderslice...while at other times, the band's fancy for The Pixies shines through. Salad has a nice unaffected vocal style makes these tunes work. These lo-fi recordings have a strange sound quality that makes them sound as if they were recorded in the eighties...rather endearing (!). Nice simple pop that is not hampered by excessive overdubs and unnecessary clutter. Top picks: "Lover Don't Cry," "Been So Long," "Makeshift," "Moving Up the Valley." (Rating: 4++)

Lucerin Blue - Tales of the Knife (CD, Tooth and Nail, Rock)
Drummer Ryan Turner sums up the sound of his band best by stating that they sound "...like power pop, mixed with a dash of metal, and a teaspoon or hardcore." The four men in Lucerin Blue mix their thick overdriven guitars with explosive rhythms and urgent vocals to create a heady and intense brand of melodic hard rock. Some tunes have a poppy feel...while others are rather abrasive and border on arena rock. Lucerin Blue's tunes are far from generic. The band writes songs that are intelligent and memorable. With the proper backing, this band could become HUGE. Eleven tunes here, including "Game," "Man Made Weapon," "Superstar," and "This Letter." (Rating: 4+++)

Mink Lungs - I'll Take It (CD, Arena Rock Recording Co., Rock/pop)
A lot of folks will likely buy this CD for the cover art alone. A great album title is supported by a wonderful photo of a nice young lady taking a little blue pill on the cover...while red, black, and white 1960s graphics calmly swirl behind her head. It's a great, unforgettable album cover (and title)...and gives a good indication of what the band's music sounds like. The band's 2001 release (The Better Button) was impressive...but this album is even better. It showcases more focused songwriting...and features greatly improved sound quality. This Brooklyn-based band's sound could best be categorized as peculiar and slightly psychedelic pop...and their sense of humor is an integral part of their image. One fact that makes this band unique is that all four members write and sing their own songs. Mink Lungs is Jennifer Hoopes (vocals, bass), Gian Carlo Feleppa (vocals, guitars, samplers), Tim Feleppa (vocals, guitars), and Tom Galbraith (vocals, drums). Another cool album from a band with a truly unique approach. (Rating: 5)

Nedelle - Republic of Two (CD, Kimchee, Pop)
Every so often an artist pops up out of the blue to reminds us why we started reviewing music. The first album from California's Nedelle is a KNOCKOUT. Featuring many of the first songs that she has written, this 22-year-old lady has come up with a real winner here. Nedelle's voice is silky smooth and just a little bluesy. This album was recorded using vintage audio gear...which may explain why the sound quality bears a strange resemblance to stuff recorded in the late 1960s. Nedelle writes some great tunes to be certain...but her voice will likely be her strongest asset in the years to come. Despite her youth, she sings with a maturity and confidence that is missing in many artists twice her age. Republic of Two is a breath of fresh air...featuring eleven quality performances...each and every one as good as the next. Pop music of the highest caliber. Superb. Top picks: "These Days," "I Lied," "Too Late," "Possess Me," "Grow Willow Grow." (Rating: 5+++)

Pine Martin - Beautiful Stakes and Powerpoles (CD, Wild Hotels of the Sea, Progressive pop/rock)
While too obtuse to land them a spot on MTV anytime in the near future...Pine Martin have created a wonderfully satisfying and ultimately textured album. Instead of relying of familiar gimmicks and samey hooks, this trio instead prefers to combine strange chord structures and unlikely rhythms to create their own brand of pop/rock. Pine Martin is Mark Wooten (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Joe Lester (bass, keyboards), and Brian Thornell (drums, keyboards). While this band has obvious leanings into the world of experimental music, their tunes are...for the most part...nuggets that are easily digested. What we find most intriguing on Beautiful Stakes and Powerpoles are the arrangements. These compositions feature complicated and challenging arrangements that prove there is still a great deal that can be done with a basic lineup of guitar, bass, and drums. This music was recorded in the same manner that a painting is created. Layers and layers of sounds were meticulously added, giving just the right thickness of sound...without ever going overboard. It would be difficult to say exactly who these guys sound like..and that is, of course, the grandest compliment of all. Top picks: "Mechanically Separated," "The Sequel," "Cottontails," "Bear." (Rating: 5)

Pusker and the Poodle Cracks - We Snoozed Out the Loose Punkin' (CD, Sissythread Cooker, Electronic spuffs and whey)
Damn the snores and yeeps...Pusker and the Poodle Cracks done come along to do it ALL! There was once a sad nothing going on somewhere along the way...it was all holed up beside a lonely tree branch...crying its eyes away and feeling pouty...when all of a sudden everything got CHANGED. The lights got real BRIGHT...the colors got all FOCUSED...and the big ol' mixing bowl in the sky was suddenly FILLED to the BRIM with the VERY BEST STUFF AROUND. That's where Pusker came along...toting plenty of Poodle Cracks for everyone. There weren't no CD...no digital nothing...just plenty of good ol' cracks like what hadn't been seen since...since Roosevelt was having dinner with your old Aunt Susan. We wanna record something! We wanna record something! Oh YEAH? Well then you'd better got off your rotten old HIGH CHAIRS and start DOING SOMETHING about it. Children. They don't have the right. They don't have anything because they can't do anything. Adults. They're the reason children are so bad. They can't create anything that matters...so instead they create things that DON'T matter. And there you have it. Pusker is all cushy and comfy in his little doodle hole...and he don't give a primrose of a duster WHAT we all think of it. That's the way it is. And if we don't like it, then we just won't. Mammy? Can you give me a big ol' kiss, Mammy? Like you used to....? Let's pretend we're whores. That will be fun. I will be a whore and you will listen to my whore-like music. We will spend the day playing with everything that is sunny and jumps. Sunny. Jumpy. That is the way the animals play. Sunny and jimmy jimmy...ALL DAY, EVERY DAY. (Rating: 2)

Quiet, Lovely - Automata, Musica (Independently released CD, Progressive pop)
More complicated that it at first appears to the untrained ear...Automata, Musica is not your average collection of generic and predictable pop songs. Far from the contrary...this band's slightly familiar sounding tunes are based around odd time signatures and strange arrangements that initially don't sound so unusual. After a few spins, however, the intricate unique nuances of the music begin to become apparent. Quiet, Lovely is Monte Holman (guitar, vocals), Erik Lugo (bass), Tim Jenkins (guitar, vocals, keys), John Perkins (guitar, vocals), and Jonathan Standefer (drums). This band shatters preconceptions of what a Texas band should sound like. These guys just don't sound like other Texas bands. In fact, they don't really sound similar to any particular bands that immediately come to mind. Unpredictable from start to finish...Automata, Musica is a strangely satisfying album...full of surprises...and melodies that have the potential to stay in the mind for years to come. A uniquely crafted album. (Rating: 5+)

Rooney - Rooney (CD, Geffen, Pop/rock)
Upon viewing publicity shots of this band, our first reaction was..."Oh no...yet another invasion of the pretty boy bands." Boy were we WRONG. Though they're young and very pretty...the fellows in Rooney have more than earned their recording contract with Geffen. This album is a non-stop string of pure pop singles played with the loving intensity of a group of guys who just happen to have a wonderful knack for writing superb melodies. Rooney's major label debut is a positive and upbeat experience from start to finish...and that's OKAY WITH US (!). The band effective combines all kinds of pop influences from the 1950s right on through to the present...and they do so with integrity and style. The band's velvety smooth vocals...and seamless harmonies...make their tunes seem to glide by like the clouds overhead. If you're looking for a band that is breaking new ground...Rooney may not be for you. But if, however, you are simply looking for some super slick pop that is guaranteed to make you feel good...and stick in your head like GLUE...then Rooney is your surefire CURE. Great tunes include "Blueside," "I'm a Terrible Person," "Popstars," "Sorry Sorry," and "Losing All Control." The band's slight bubblegummy influences REALLY TURN US ON (!). Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

The Sick Lipstick - Sting Sting Sting (CD, Tiger Style, Rock)
Harsh and slightly hilarious. The Sick Lipstick play harsh and intense rock music...and there is no denying that the key identifying factor of the band's music are Lindsey Gillard's vocals. This young lady's voice contains all the restrained energy of a high school junior in heat. The band sounds something like Ex Models...with Alvin (of The Chipmunks) on lead vocals. This is a true helium-enriched affair with abstract songs played with the conviction of an albino ex-killer. This band's silly/serious approach will likely be misconstrued by most everyone. Our guess is that they're probably just having noisy fun. And judging by the tunes on Sting Sting Sting, it sounds like the quartet had a HELL of a time in the recording studio. A weird experience here...featuring twelve yelpers like "Go to Bed!," "Pretend I'm Sleeping," "Knit-Stitch/Crotch Itch," and "She's Got a Broken Femur." Yow!!! (Rating: 4++)

Sister Sonny - The Bandit Lab (CD, Five One Inc., Abstract/impressionistic/pop)
Combining an exotic variety of sounds and styles...Norway's Sister Sonny delve into wildly mental territory on this, their fourth album. The Bandit Lab is actually two albums combined on one lengthy compact disc. The band is already popular in their native country...and it easy to see why. While they have a keen interest in technology and the freedom of expression that it brings...they never forsake their love of pop music in the process. By blending the experimental with the accessible...these fellows manage to challenge their listeners...without ever leaving them out in the dark to dry. The band has bitten off a large chunk here. Bandit Lab features seventeen puzzling tracks. Our favorite moments are when the experiments bleed away...revealing the band's heavenly sense of melody...and some of the most silky smooth vocals this side of Cincinnati. Super soothing cuts include "Rumba Parumba," "Nothing Amuses the People As a Puppet," "Educating Jimmy," "Girl at the Heart of My Grief," and "Watchman." Challenging without being difficult. Great stuff. (Rating: 5++)

The Spectors - Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996 (CD, Get Hip, Rock)
This disc is a retrospective covering Minneapolis band The Spectors and their career in the early to mid-1990s. The band never received much attention outside of their own turf...and we can only wonder why, as their music is a fantastic jolt of pure undiluted fun. Some members have since gone on to join the more successful The Conquerors. The 21 cuts on Cockfights & Cakefights 1992-1996 are simple, direct, and full of uplifting energy. Considering that this is a compilation, the consistency and the flow of the album as a whole is surprising. The Spectors may be no more...but their legend lives on, courtesy of the fine folks at Get Hip. (How do they unearth so many cool bands every month of every year?!? ) Great garage rockers like "Private Dick," "I Fell In Love," "Little Country Shack," and "Big Beat Country Dance" make this one a charged up roll and roll party album. Fun stuff. (Rating: 4+++)

Starflyer 59 - Old (CD, Tooth and Nail, Pop)
One of the greatest...and most criminally overlooked...bands of the past decade. Starflyer 59 have put out more incredible albums than just about any band on the planet...and yet they remain an obscure delight for those enlightened few who have turned onto the mind-blowing music of Jason Martin. Even the band's most enduring fans are likely to be surprised at the material on Old. While many of the basic ingredients of the band's sound remain intact (exceptional melodies, fantastic vocals, killer guitars)...these thickly produced and surprisingly radio-friendly tunes are certainly a departure in many ways. When listening to this album, it is crucial to keep an open mind. Upon the first listen, one might be inclined to think that the band has sold out...but this is far from the truth. In fact, Martin himself admits, "...this is really what we've been wanting to do." Even though this album has an unbelievably accessible sound...Martin's flair for writing unforgettable tunes still manages to shine through. One can only hope that...after so many years of creating exceptional music...this will be the breakthrough album for the band... (Rating: 5+)

Kristy Starling - Kristy Starling (CD, Curb / Warner Bros., Pop)
Uplifting, purely positive pop. Young female vocalist Kristy Starling has a voice that is just as beautiful as she is. She got her start on NBC News' "Today's Superstars" competition...making it to the last six finalists (she lost in the final round to a singer from Atlanta). Though the tunes on this album are slick and formula-driven pop all the way...Starling has enough personality and talent to make things work. Perky, positive, and upbeat...this young lady is sure to please that legions of fans who are seeking pure feelgood music. Includes the tunes "Water," "Something More (I Need to Praise You)," "To Where You Are," "I Need You." (Rating: 4)

Sufjan Stevens - Greetings From Michigan: The Great Lake State (CD, Asthmatic Kitty / Sounds Familyre, Progressive pop)
In an unprecedented career move, Sufjan Stevens undertakes an extensive, exhausting...and very likely amazing...project. This album marks the first in a series of FIFTY albums...each one to be devoted to a different state. For the first album in the series, Stevens takes on his home state of Michigan. On the first couple of spins we were determined to figure out who this man sounds like...but by the tenth spin we determined that the influences are so vast and far-ranging that it would be impossible to compare Sufjan to other artists. The true beauty of Greetings From Michigan is the fact that this man is creating his own audio world with his own unique sound and vision. The music ranges from soft pop to abstract pop to jazz to experimental...and that's just the beginning. Unlike most artists who merge so many styles, however, Stevens manages to do so while retaining a solid sense of continuity throughout his album. His lyrics are thoughtful, smart, and introspective...and they are delivered in such a subtle and sincere manner that the listener can't help but be drawn in. If all fifty albums are this good...we'll be supplying reviews of every single one (!). Fifteen fantastic cuts here, including "Flint "For the Unemployed and Underpaid)," "Holland," "Alanson, Crooked River," and "Vito's Ordination Song." Highly recommended. (Rating: 5+++)

Surface of Eceyon - Dragyyn (CD, Strange Attractors, Progressive space music)
Cool stuff always seems to be surfacing from Portland's Strange Attractors label. Surface of Eceyon consists of Aaron Snow, Adam Forknet, Daron Gardner, Dick Baldwin, and Phil Jenkins. Together, the five produce what might best be described as progressive space music. The moody and moving compositions on Dragyyn are strangely hypnotic and slowly make their way into the center of the mind. This band's sound is by no means obvious. These free-flowing songs feature a great deal of spontaneity and creativity...various instruments and sounds merge together into one subtle and transfixing mixture. The results is a somewhat hazy and translucent jazzy brand of music that sounds something like a combination of ideas from progressive rock bands from the 1970s and trance bands from the 1990s. It is difficult to describe (and to pronounce) Surface of Eceyon...but what we like best is that this album evokes a definite mood. You have to admire folks who produce this kind of stuff...because they are obviously doing it out of pure dedication and desire. Six wonderfully lengthy pieces here, including "Stolen Wind" and "By A Curious Vessyl." (Rating: 5+)

Topoware (Obvious kind of new product sort of thing)
"For the mouse who don't wanna waste it!"
Hey all you clean little snoutsters...don't worry about POLISH and SOAP no more! Now there a WAY! A brand new WAY! A new way to think about mousing up your pad with something other than that same old lackluster polish that just don't make your whiskers push up the way they used to. The newest line of things that gets talked about now is...TOPOWARE. Topoware is many different buyable projects that all hold things inside and then they has clean fitting LIDS that keep everything in the ENTIRE WORLD AIRTIGHT! Think about all those little mouslings on the other side of the world who don't got NOTHING...while you there in your self-absorbed little spoiler pad has EVERYTHING. The point is to save, save, SAVE...all the while whisking your brisk little whiskers on the THINGS that MATTER. Get TOPOWARE now...at a VERY DISCOUNT! That very same discount you USED to think about when you was a YOUNG mouser! Go mouses, GO! Go, go, go , go, GO!!! Grab that Topoware by the handle and plug your MUG with the BIGGEST and the BEST! Snitzer and SNOBB...Topoware makes you THROB! Happy mousers, one and all. Happy mousers...BIG and TALL. (Rating: 2)

Tricky - Vulnerable (Advance CD, Sanctuary, Soul/techno/pop)
The seventh full-length album from Britain's Tricky. The man who calls himself Tricky has made quite a name for himself over the past few years...and now many critics are calling Vulnerable his best work yet. This album was recorded in Los Angeles and features many "tricky" production tricks. Tricky tunes are a hybrid of soul, pop, and techno. But while the tunes tend to rely heavily on technology...there is substance beneath these ocean waves. The soul-influenced pop numbers are melodic and seductive...and are surprisingly easy on the ears. This album features female vocalist Costanza Francavilla, who has a smooth and silky voice that is a good match for Tricky's tunes. While the advance CD only features audio tracks, the actual CD when released will also feature three films and a video. Vulnerable will no doubt please fans already impressed with Tricky...but our guess is that many others will also be drawn in by the sultry and hypnotic tunes on this album. Top picks: "Stay," "Car Crash," "Moody," "Search and Survive." (Rating: 5)

Unwed Sailor - The Marionette and the Music Box (CD, Burnt Toast Vinyl, Instrumental)
A simple idea...beautifully executed. While millions of bands and record companies are whining about money they are losing because fans are copying CDs...the fellows in Unwed Sailor have solved the problem in their own unique way. The Marionette and the Music Box is a CD and storybook set...and each item is integrally tied to the other. The storybook features paintings by artist extraordinaire Jamie Hunt, who some folks may know for his creative work with the band Aspera. For this project, Hunt created models of the characters in the story and then photographed them in different situations. These photographs were then used in order to create the paintings. The results are mind bending. Equally as mind bending are the compositions. Each composition on this album corresponds to a painting. Interestingly, the instrumentals seem to embody and capture the spirit of each painting. While there is a small phrase underneath each painting to describe what is happening, there are no other words used...either in the paintings or in the music...to explain the events that occur. This is the sort of creation that should appeal to listeners of all ages all over the world. It could just as easily be enjoyed by a young child...a senior citizen...or even a teenage punk. What we like best about this project is that both pieces stand just as well on their own as they do together. The booklet is highly entertaining on its own merits...as is the music. With so many artists and bands heading off in almost identical career routes...these fellows win by taking their own wonderfully imaginative path. A uniquely rewarding experience. Highly recommended. Superb. (Rating: 6)

Visionfest - Visionlive (CD & DVD, Thirsty Ear, Avant garde jazz/modern classical compilation)
This CD and DVD package features performances from the Vision Festival, an annual event staged in New York's Lower East Side. The artists and performances featured are extremely unorthodox...stretching the boundaries of jazz beyond their already exceedingly stretched limits. The CD and DVD both feature the same nine artists performing in the same order. The audio disc is intriguing...featuring some rather complex...and at times mind-grinding...explorations. The DVD is, for the most part, a video documentary...featuring only a minimal amount of editing and/or effects. Possibly the most entertaining artists featured are the Billy Bang Trio, the Douglas Ewart Quintet, and the Matthew Shipp String Trio. Without a doubt, however, the most amazing performance here is given by bass player Peter Kowald. Watching and hearing what this man can do with an upright bass is nothing short of astounding. He does everything to the instrument except drill it full of holes and fill it with hot syrup. Hunched over his instrument like a madman, Kowald gives a truly amazing solo performance . No doubt fans of traditional jazz would have a hard time swallowing this pill...but for those with an adventurous spirit, this is a great introduction to some of the more obtuse and heady jazz being performed today... (Rating: 5)

Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fever To Tell (CD, Interscope, Rock/pop)
Chances are that Karen O is going to be a big, big star. You can just see it in her eyes and her facial expression...plus the girl is just bursting at the seams with sexual tension. She's something like a cross between P J Harvey and Chrissie Hynde. New York's Yeah Yeah Yeahs have chalked up a lot of points in a lot of areas in a very short amount of time. Fever To Tell is a case where the intent of the musicians playing the songs is just as important as the songs themselves. This trio is obviously dedicated to their cause...as they crash, bash, burn, and yell their way through these eleven modern trash rock creations. A lot of these tracks are noisy indulgence...but the intent behind the noise is so well-focused that it doesn't really matter. The last track ("Modern Romance") shows just how good a singer Karen can be when she tones things down a bit. Expect big things from these folks in the future. A nice rigid JOLT of an album. (Rating: 5)

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