New Release Round Up, 11/3/09 – 38 Instant Album Reviews

by Gordon Elgart on November 4, 2009

Someone needs to build this guy a Wikipedia page.

Someone needs to build this guy a Wikipedia page.

Pouria is in Korea for the next couple of weeks.  He’s been studying the Pimsleur Korean tapes to prepare himself for this trip, so when I asked him if he was going to have time to do his new release column before he left, he muttered something in Korean that I’m assuming was a polite no. As a reaction, I decided to write the longest New Release Round Up yet!  And glad I did, because buried near the bottom is my favorite album of the week.

Raditude by Weezer – People are mad at Rivers Cuomo for being happy with his life these days. No self-respecting music blog is ever going to cop to liking happy Weezer; it’s just not going to happen. Happy Weezer is good to dance to, but no one can handle how different the lyrical content is from their classic albums. These are still solid pop songs, so if you like solid pop songs, you’ll be happy with this. That said, there’s too much synth here, and there’s rapping on “Can’t Stop Partying.” Rapping on a Weezer record.  Hoo boy.

Play On by Carrie Underwood – Now this is not what I expected Carrie Underwood to sound like. The first song on this album, “Cowboy Casanova,” is a rock song in country clothing. By the time song three comes along, we’re deep into the crap that I hate: things that sound like Diane Warren songs arranged with strings and slide guitar. Oh no, written by four people, including an American Idol judge. Every song on here but one was written by at least three songwriters. Formulaic is not a formula for me.

In Love & War by Amerie – Was I just complaining about formula?  Here’s a singer who plays in the Beyonce playbook, but of every singer who tries, she’s my favorite. I seriously have no working knowledge of this genre, but I really dig the song “Gotta Work,” her not-a-hit from 2007. I cannot add any real value to the discussion about Amerie or her album. Just know that I would not fast-forward past any of these tracks when they appear on the next “Now That’s What I Call Music” compilation.

Let It Beat by Shwayze – When people say that you’ll get older and you won’t understand why kids like the music they do, I think they’re supposed to be talking about people like Shwayze. In this case, though, I understand. This is like hip-hop dance rock. This album even has guest appearances by Ric Ocasek, Snoop Dogg, The Knux, Roy Bittan and Darryl Jenifer! I get why this guy is popular.  Wait.  Is he popular? Is this supposedly a bad album? I don’t know anything about hip-hop. Is this hip-hop? It sure doesn’t sound like hip-hop. Help!

Live at Reading by Nirvana – When I was in college, I saw the video for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on Night Tracks on TBS in Atlanta. No one had ever heard this band before, and I ended up buying Nevermind. (I got one of the early pressings without the bonus track.)  It’s not exaggerating to say that 20 people ended up borrowing this CD to copy it.  Anyway, I found out that Nirvana was playing a show at some club, and I was a dumb kid back then so I thought I could just go to the show, pay some money and walk right in. Of course it was sold out. I never did end up seeing Nirvana live. This album is really making me sad about that.

Glee: The Music, Volume 1 – Talk about your review-proof albums.  You probably already know if you love it or hate it. Please don’t call it a capella, though. If you do, you may be attacked by a giant mass of glee club nerds. There’s 17 songs on this, and I think they should have done about 12 songs and saved some of the others for Volume 2, although I don’t think this TV show is going away for a while. Glee is the new Rock Band: artists will be begging to have their songs included.

Swords by Morrissey – Oh look, a B-side collection! When you’re Morrissey, your B-sides are a heckofalot more interesting than other people’s A-sides. But also, your biggest fans are likely to have bought all the singles that included these tracks. So this album is for everyone else who likes Morrissey but doesn’t obsessively collect singles. I’d like to thank him for it, because I like some of these tracks better than I like the ones on the albums themselves.

World Painted Blood by Slayer – Dave Lombardo should inspire anyone over 40. If you are over 40, please take a listen to this album, go right to track two, “Unit 731,” and be amazed at what he can play. When it comes to drummers, Dave Lombardo’s 44 is the new 22.  And considering that he plays twice as much as anyone else, he’s like 88 in drummer years. It’s pretty ridiculous how good Slayer is after all these years.

Phrazes for the Young by Julian Casablancas – So Julian Casablancas makes a solo album, and track one sounds like a song by The Strokes. What are the odds? There’s a bit more synth on here than you would find on a Strokes album, but nothing here is that much of a departure, really. If you dislike it, you’re probably just a bitter Strokes fan who would rather they hurry up and put out another album already! The rest of us can simply ignore it and move on.

Transition by Ryan Leslie – His first song is a promise that he’s “Never Gonna Break Up.” If your man plays you this song, you can be sure that he is thinking of breaking up with you or that he thinks you’re thinking of breaking up with him. It’s the relationship kiss of death. (Advice: if you ever play synthesizers on my album, please make them sound like the synths on this album.)

Machine Dreams by Little Dragon – I’m expecting to see this band tonight, and will be writing a show review for it if everything goes as planned.  If you see that on our website already, read that right now, then come back and read the rest of this column. I hope it works out because this is one ridiculously cool record.

Monster Monster by The Almost – This is so depressing to listen to after Little Dragon. I want my originality back please. This isn’t even almost good. I do like the cover, though.

Balm in Gilead by Rickie Lee Jones – If it weren’t for this column, I never would have listened to this album. I would have said “didn’t she have like one hit 30 years ago and that was it?” And I’d be right about the chart success, but this is a pleasant gospel-tinged, jazz-inspired,country-flavored record, and she’s a great singer. I could do far worse today; in fact, I already have. You probably already know if you’re a fan of hers, so consider this a PSA about the release of a new album. She’s even coming to San Francisco soon.

A Good Year For Hardness by Six Finger Satellite – I just turned to Pouria (not leaving for Korea until the morning) and said “oh man this is awesome!” And he was listening to the same album!  We shared our glee over it momentarily, and were both surprised that this is some Sub Pop band we didn’t know.  (And they’re from New England like I am, so you’d think I’d have heard of them, even.) Now we’re both looking online to see when they’re playing around here.  This is a band that understands beyond a doubt that it’s the space between the notes that makes something rock.  Sparse and intense with a killer vocalist — this is terrific.

Belly of the Lion by Ola Podrida – I’m never gonna like anything called “Alternative/Indie Folk” so why should I even try? Especially after getting punched in the musical gut by the last album, this makes me want to curl up and go to bed. Do you like that sort of sleepy music? Then go for it with this.

Halford IIII – Winter Songs by Halford – I’m only doing one Christmas album this week, and this is it.  That’s right!  A Christmas album from the lead singer of Judas Priest.  This is so much more metal than Trans Siberian Orchestra! It’s laughingly bad, and doesn’t have much of a purpose for existing other than simply to laugh about it. I don’t know who would play this around the Christmas tree anyway.

Digital Ghosts by Shadow Gallery – I was so excited to see a Shadow Gallery album on this list, but then saddened to find out that the original lead singer died a year ago, and I didn’t know it.  Mike Baker was the cheesiest singer that ever lived, and as a bombast junkie, I loved him so much for it. I can’t even listen to this album right now. Instead I’m going to recommend you listen to an admittedly silly track called “Colors,” and understand what made him unique.

Love Comes Close by Cold Cave – After a bit of a break, I came back to start listening to more albums. Cold Cave is next, and track one makes me not want to listen to track two, but I’m a trooper. Track two, “Love Comes Close,” is what would happen if your favorite ’80s band couldn’t afford a real producer. It’s a good song, but there wasn’t anyone there to try and make it sound good on record. This is basically a high quality demo.

You Are the One I Pick by Felix – It’s track eight, I’m still listening to this, and I’m been too involved in it to write about it up until this point. Here’s the best quiet afternoon alone at home in front of a window reading a book album that I’ve ever heard.  It makes me want to do all of that.

Escape 2 Mars by Gift of Gab – First of all, I’d like to thank this album for the smooth opening, as anything else would have been too jarring. If every hip-hop album sounded like this, I’d listen to a lot more hip-hop. Then again, the song “In Las Vegas” pretty much demonstrates why I don’t. Stick to … err … jams … joints … songs? … like “Richman, Poorman” and “El Gifto Magnifico.” These are killer.

Ancient Lover by Tigercity – Oh yeah, I totally dig Tigercity. They are the band that time forgot. They were an ’80s pop/rock combo that discovered a time machine and came to 2009 to bring the real sounds. When I saw them at SXSW, I was totally blown away. A new album means a tour can’t be far behind. Go see this band. And listen to this album, too.

Theories of Dr. Lovelock by The Chemists – The first track is all spoken word and I thought I might be listening to a new prog rock band, but then the guy starts singing on track two, and I realize I’m listening to just another alt-rock combo. It’s a much better than average one, though, so it’s not that much of a letdown. Nothing new here, just quality rock.

Tinted Incubators by Dude ‘n Nem – I’m not sure why I pushed play on this album. You know those people who walk around on BART and say “do you like hip-hop?” and then try to sell you their CD? I think that’s where these guys got their start, and if not, you may be seeing them on BART soon.  This sounds very much like it was made at home in a studio apartment in Oakland.

Life With a Slow Ear by Taylor Hollingsworth – If you saw this guy opening for someone else, you’d be happy about it because he’s got entertaining lyrics, and is probably is great with the stage banter. You might buy his CD to support the guy because artists like this need to exist, you’d then get it signed and soon forget about it. One day,  you’d find it, remember the gig fondly, put the disc into your player, and wonder why you liked it so much in the first place.

Molina and Johnson by Molina and Johnson – This is one of those indie big deal supergroups, made up of dudes from two bands I don’t listen to. Some of my friends would love this, I’m sure.

Introducing by Brilliant Colors – I have this CD in a stack at home to review, and by writing this instant review, I’m making myself ineligible to write the full-length review. I’m mailing this CD to Joel to review, anyway. It’ll be his new favorite. Look for his review next week.

Klang by The Rakes – Here’s a new album from a band that broke up a few weeks ago instead of touring the U.S. There aren’t going to be many bands left playing the Gang of Four inspired dancy post-punk in a few years. Like all faddish musical styles, the lesser bands disappear, and a few survivors carry on the tradition. So you should enjoy even the mediocre bands as they breathe their final breath.

Blackheart Revolution by Genitorturers – You can go through life having never heard of a band that’s had a 19-year career as “the world’s sexiest rock band.” They were even on Capitol Records for a minute in the early 90s. Their sound immediately reminds me of Course of Empire if they had a woman singing lead. The lyrics are really silly, but I’m really enjoying this.

Box of Stones by Curtis Harvey -When this started playing, I thought I wasn’t going to listen to much of it. It’s “acoustic-folk indie” and that’s not really my thing. This album, though, feels like a quiet descendant of side two of Led Zeppelin III, acoustic-folk indie’s greatest moment. It’s a great record. I’m trying to find out something about this guy right now, and I’m having trouble doing it. Oh wait, here’s his bio page from this UK record label, Fat Cat.

People Are Soft by The Swimmers – There’s an overabundance of modern British bands that do the “The” thing. Here’s another one, although this one appears to be from Philadelphia. Do you miss Peter Hook’s bass-lines already? Are synthesized hand-claps a love of yours? Do you wish OK Go would release more albums? Then this band is for you. It’s good.

Sugar Sweet by Grandpa Elliott – According to his bio, he’s a New Orleans street musician. Man, the streets of New Orleans are cool. He’s part of the Playing For Change series which has a political bent, but in this case, he’s been taking it literally for years. I have a feeling the same people who bought Buena Vista Social Club are going to buy this, but I’ll recommend it to anyone.

Extended Vacation by On Fillmore – Vibraphones and sound effects. 45 minutes of vibraphones and sound effects. It’s peaceful. Good choice of title for this one.

Flame Desastre by Sister Iodine – Oh my goodness gracious do not listen to this album after the last one. Exploding feedback, scratchy noises … this is the sound of hell on earth. It’s a classic French experimental noise trio, and man are they good at their jobs. I seriously cannot take more than about 30 seconds of this. If you listen to this for pleasure, please call your parole officer.

The Music Scene by Blockhead – I’m listening through somewhat-better-than-average headphones, and streaming this album over the Internet, and I’m still amazed at how good this sounds. This is electronic music, but I don’t think it’s made for dancing. I think it’s made for sitting on big fluffy couches drinking expensive drinks. Just having this album playing will make you want to drink the top shelf vodka. If you have a bar, you don’t need a DJ, you need this CD.

A Perfect Solution by Mesh – When the DJs at Death Guild need some new music to play, I hope they check in on Mesh’s new album. This music makes me want to dance with goths.

And the Elephant Is Dancing by Goldspot – This album sounds like the quieter solo material of the various Beatles (not Lennon). There was a lot of hype surrounding this band’s last album, yet I never listened to it. Now, that seems like a mistake. This is impeccably produced and arranged pop sugar. Where’s the hype on this album? Nic Harcourt, where have you gone when we need you?

Universe by The Irish Front – Oh no, I’m being assaulted on all sides by loud noise. This, at least, seems to have more value than Sister Iodine. There’s things resembling lyrics and riffs here. The musicians are no joke here; I just question their choice of musical path. I would like to recruit friend of the site Josh to review this album. If the band happens upon this post, get in touch.

I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On by The Bloodsugars – I really really like this. Like, really. This is my album of the week, and I don’t see the need to keep going with this column when I could be suggesting it to you right now. I wonder why I didn’t know about this band already. (Question for the band: Is track two built around a sample of Toto’s “Rosanna” or am I just imaging it?)

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Megan November 4, 2009 at 10:49 am

10 gold stars for the Toto reference alone.


Dakin November 4, 2009 at 11:12 am

How have you never heard of the genitortuters before? They are the only band that guarantees a new STD is formed everytime they play live


Gordon Elgart November 4, 2009 at 11:28 am

Formed from scratch? Or just passed around in the audience?


Dakin November 4, 2009 at 11:40 am

It’s a mutation.

Ben November 4, 2009 at 11:18 am

Wait, was Tigercity the band that put together that music video that looked like an old public-access cable performance?


Gordon Elgart November 4, 2009 at 11:29 am

You’re thinking of Music Go Music. They bottle up the ’70s. Tigercity bottles up the ’80s smooth rock.


Tony November 4, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Good stuff, and long comments. A lot to live up to. That Weezer album is crap, and I used to like them a lot and even liked some of their recent stuff.


Joel November 4, 2009 at 1:36 pm

I reviewed Qemists for KSCU, but not Chemists. And I reviewed the new Morrissey album, not the one with all the B-sides apparently.

“Warm in the Shadows” and “I Walk Alone” are the two Music Go Music songs I have played. It’s like an Almond Joy. Nothing wrong with it, but there are better candy bars out there.

And I will never tire of “Pork and Beans.” No video has ever been more topical at the time of its release.


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