VARIOUS ARTISTS: Don’t Press Your Luck: The In Sound Of 60’s Connecticut [Sundazed]

Subtitled Garage And Psych Howlers From The Vaults Of Trod Nossel Studios ’66-’68!, this is a suitably solid-gone tribute to the Constitution State’s mid-’60s garage scene. It’s a riot of fuzztone guitars, Vox amps and Ham-mond grooves, of improbably clean-cut, gee-whiz all-American kids sporting Roger McGuinn bowl cuts, ludicrously tight strides and Cuban-heeled boots. Each track follows the same tried-and-true formula, namely the ridiculously named beat combos (George’s Boys, Bram Rig Set, Uranus And The Five Moons, to list a few) banging out endearingly amateurish takes on the British Invasion and, in particular, the Stones, the Yardbirds and the Animals (plus a little Who and Them for good measure). It’s infectious, dumb fun, a lovingly compiled souvenir of a long-gone, innocent era. If you’ve grown tired of your Nuggets and Pebbles compilations, consider this a worthy addition to your collection of adolescent pre-punk attitude gone crazy. Bonus Material: The double-12-inch, gatefold vinyl version has five exclusive tracks. []

—Neil Ferguson

THROW ME THE STATUE: Moonbeams [Secretly Canadian]

More ebullient than Belle And Sebastian, less catholic than Peter Bjorn And John and just as tightly tethered to new-wave artifice as the Magnetic Fields, Seattle’s Throw Me The Statue only seems like your average indie-rock sprawlathon. But hiding behind seven other players (who contribute violin, euphonium, trumpet, melodica and more) is singer/songwriter Scott Reitherman. On this debut album, he’s unafraid to tap into the tender turns of B&S or the jaunty pop of PB&J, and he tends to cut his dulcet melodies with the corrosive, dissonant synthetics of Stephin Merritt’s side projects. “Yucatan Gold” fuses distorto-guitar crunch and jangling synth, while “This Is How We Kiss” joyfully embraces the sweetly jagged edges of late-’70s primitive pop/punk. “A Mutinous Dream” closes with electronic sputters and jerks before floating into the glockenspiel-spattered “Your Girlfriend’s Car,” which resembles a dreamy outtake from the Shins’ Oh, Inverted World. Rightly so: Reitherman is the latest Northwestern heir to an indie-songsmith tradition buttressed by such disparate voices as James Mercer, Doug Martsch and Isaac Brock. Yet TMTS carves out its own niche, drawing from a broader palette of musical colors. Coasting on a languid willingness to work with happy mistakes and discoveries, Reitherman and Co. are ready to break from the pack. []

—Kimberly Chun

JAPANCAKES: If I Could See Dallas / Down The Elements / The Sleepy Strange

Led by guitarist Eric Berg, Athens, Ga.’s Japancakes began as an experiment: What would it be like to get a bunch of friends together and play a D chord for 45 minutes? The short answer: hypnotic. The long answer: Well, if there’s absolutely no rehearsal, you could roll tape, let Berg cut and paste to his heart’s content, then create something as gently soothing as 1999’s If I Could See Dallas, which shape-shifts through more than an hour of space-age, neo-psychedelic, ambient-country ragas. Japancakes spent that first album finding their signature sound: three parts drone and one part melody. A year later, Berg recut the same sessions for the harder-edged Down The Elements; in 2001, when the players reunited for The Sleepy Strange, they finally knew what they were supposed to sound like. The Sleepy Strange is as good as it gets, finding the perfect balance between mellow atmospherics and earthy post-rock. Bonus Material: None. []

—Kenny Berkowitz

MARCO BENEVENTO: Invisible Baby [Hyena]

Those brought up in the rich tradition of the jazz piano trio, a style that once flourished in the hands of Thelonious Monk, Oscar Peterson and Cecil Taylor, might be amazed at where 30-year-old New Yorker Marco Benevento has taken the keyboard/bass/drums format some 50 years later. When playing live, he sometimes uses indie-rock melodies by Deerhoof and My Morning Jacket as launch pads for his kaleidoscopic excursions. The all-original material on his solo debut finds Benevento (also of the Benevento/Russo Duo) at his piano, armed with effects boxes that give him everything from fuzz-drenched guitar to wheezing prog-rock organ. On the stripped-down “Record Book,” Benevento likes to stretch and restate a keyboard motif rather than improvise over a set of chord changes. It’s a more haunting soundtrack than jazz as we’ve known it, but it’s no less fascinating. If the pure piano on Invisible Baby recalls the work of anyone, it’s the warm, cinematic style of Bruce Hornsby, but Benevento never sits still long enough for a close-up. “If You Keep On Asking Me” juggles dead-slow piano sections, daubed in Taylor’s advanced tonalities, with Sgt. Pepper-ish backward guitar (played on piano). Invisible Baby proves you really can arrive without traveling. []

—Jud Cost

ANTIETAM: Opus Mixtum [Carrot Top]

In ancient Rome, opus mixtum was a building technique that involved mixing bricks and stones. Opus Mixtum is also the title of Antietam’s eighth album, but only its third in the last 14 years. With so much time between releases, the NYC-based, Kentucky-rooted trio had a lot to work with; this album was originally conceived as two separate releases, one a song-based rock record, the other a digitally enabled set of instrumentals. The decision to combine them into a 26-song, two-CD (or three-LP) magnum opus may not have been for the best. There are no problems with the rock tunes, which stomp, squeal and swoon. Josh Madell’s elemental drumming and Tim Harris’ graceful electric bass propel the songs, Tara Key’s Hummer-crushing power chords provide their muscle, and her succinct and twisting leads supply their melodic momentum. Standouts include “On The Humble” (which features simpatico sparring between Key and Eleventh Dream Day’s Rick Rizzo), the anthemic “Time Creeps” and punk slash-and-burner “RPM.” But there are too many instrumentals. They range from regal riff statements to spacey loops-and-beats confections; taken a couple at a time, they’re a swell change of pace. In aggregate, they break up the momentum you need to hang with 100 minutes of music. Either segregation or stricter rationing would’ve better served the great rock record inside Opus Mixtum. []

-Bill Meyer

THE YMD: Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def [My Pal God]

Hip hop is, by definition, referential, and underground hip hop prides itself on being referentially obscure. But the smug approach that the Philly duo formerly known as the Yah Mos Def takes to serving up its pop-culture knowledge is too clever by half. Bryan Poerner and Rick Mitchell made a trademark-infringing name for themselves by backing up their yelping rhymes with indie-rock samples. It’s so very cute to sample Cap’n Jazz and Minor Threat, isn’t it? And calling a song “Jive Like Jehu” is quite the postmodern statement, right? They clearly think so. References to Ian Svenonius, Fugazi albums and Crass are littered throughout Excuse Me, This Is The Yah Mos Def. All of which would be fine if the beats and rhymes weren’t so grating and clumsy. Sure, the YMD has the escape hatch of “keeping it raw like punk.” But you don’t have to think hard to surmise how truly raw the pink-Ralph-Lauren-wearing/handbag-selling duo is when taken out of its self-referencing indie universe and judged solely on the basis of its musical goods. []

—Jason Ferguson

Sons & Daughters: Appetite For Production

Glasgow wasn’t always bursting with great bands. Before Belle And Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand, it had been some time since the Scottish city put anything noteworthy on the musical map. Yet when Adele Bethel and Scott Paterson were growing up, Glasgow still had some credibility.

“Teenage Fanclub, Jesus And Mary Chain and Aztec Camera are the bands I really loved when I was younger,” says Bethel. “And Glasgow is so small, they were all from down the street.”

But when singers/guitarists Bethel and Paterson teamed with bassist Ailidh Lennon and drummer David Gow to form Sons & Daughters in 2000, they didn’t take cues from their indie-pop neighbors. Instead, Paterson found inspiration in rockabilly, early R&B and rootsy, greasy garage; Bethel’s lyrics were born out of similar stews: murder ballads, blues laments and noir narratives. While a current wave of American bands revels in the exoticism of Brit folk’s intricate fingerpicking and magickal mythologies, Sons & Daughters turn their gaze back across the Atlantic.

Continue reading “Sons & Daughters: Appetite For Production”

Q&A With Bob Mould

Bob Mould has become more cheery than he was on brooding, post-Hüsker Dü solo albums such as 1989’s Workbook and 1991’s Black Sheets Of Rain. The 47-year-old Mould now laughs a lot and seems more pragmatic than the guy who swore he’d never play his Minneapolis trio’s tunes again and was all-around gnarly when asked about anything other than his solo career and subsequent band, Sugar. But then again, everybody was pissed off in the ’90s, including fans disappointed in Mould for breaking up Hüsker Dü in order to make acoustic folk/rock and MOR punk. After playing pop/punk with Sugar, Mould dropped the sweetener and made heavy-duty electronic records and crafted complex solo efforts while maintaining the smartly harsh ruminative lyrical stance that made him both a prick and a saint. Suddenly, Mould began to look back, something he seemed incapable of doing. Mould’s current backing band coaxed him into doing Hüsker Dü tunes, which were taped for a documentary DVD, Circle Of Friends (MVD). He also signed to Anti- to release the new District Line, his most varied solo effort of acoustic blues, hard-ass guitars and subtly electronic tracks. And he’s laughing.

Continue reading “Q&A With Bob Mould”

GRAND OLE PARTY: Humanimals [DH]

Look out, Karen O. On this San Diego trio’s debut, drummer Kristin Gundred proves she’s mastered more than just the Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman’s sneering swagger and come-hither growl. She can also sing. Sounding like a pissed-off bastard child of Grace Slick, Gundred’s voice dominates Humanimals. Whether she’s snarling in sing-speak or breaking out in a bone-rattling wail, every word that crosses her lips quakes with raw emotion. Back it up with some bouncing bass lines and a half-dozen spidery guitar melodies, and it’s as if Jefferson Airplane had been reborn in the swamps of the Mississippi Delta, weaned solely on rotgut moonshine, one-night-stands and Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs. Humanimals works best when it sticks to the minimalist formula, as on the slinky “Nasty Habit” and the cymbal-crashing “Gypsy March,” giving Gundred’s expressive screech a strong melodic counterpoint. But the real highlight is opener “Look Out Young Son,” a dark, chugging anthem of seduction on which Gundred proclaims, “I must be the devil’s daughter/Such a dark father to dwell in me.” So that explains the voice. Sorry, Karen O: Looks like you’re screwed. []

—Miles Britton

Basia Bulat: Darling Buds

Canadians have a reputation for affability, and first-generation singer/songwriter Basia Bulat, the daughter of a Polish music teacher, is no exception. But that doesn’t mean roiling angst and quiet desperation don’t lick at the edges of Bulat’s debut album, Oh, My Darling (Rough Trade), in spite of its lighthearted feel and the sunny undulations of her golden vocals. According to Bulat, Darling emerges from the quiet hurts suffered when native sweetness brushes up against harsh reality. She recalls a moment when her childhood love of oldies radio was ridiculed by classmates.

“All the kids were into the song ‘Good Vibrations,’ and I thought they were talking about the Beach Boys,” says Bulat on a patio outside the San Francisco venue where she’s performing. “But they were talking about Marky Mark And The Funky Bunch, and I was ostracized. The girl who came to my birthday party and gave me the tape told me I was a big loser for not knowing who they were … There’s darkness on this record! Darkness!”

Continue reading “Basia Bulat: Darling Buds”