May 4, 2007

CD REVIEWS

We All BelongDr. Dog(PARK THE VAN)<continuity>Like their cacophonous contemporaries and fellow Philadelphia natives Man Man, Dr. Dog combine all the best parts of a sonic rampage through the junkyard without the batshit crazy, shotgun-toting proprietor or post-romp tetanus shots. At the same time, however, Dr. Dog never let their raucous sound carry them away. Whether this helps the album as a whole is open for debate. While Dr. Dog never overplay their hand by throwing in too much brass or clanging percussion, they also never quite find that decisive hot-damn moment that makes you want to hit the “repeat” button over and over again. In that regard, We All Belong sounds a lot like an Abbey Road for 2007. The album lacks any real standout singles but does manage to capture a certain degree of continuity that often escapes other psychedelic and experimental works. Instead, it shifts between the quasi-melodic “My Old Ways” and “Keep a Friend” and heavier bass- and percussion-driven tracks like “The Girl” and “The Way the Lazy Do” without losing any of the measured momentum that holds We All Belong together. —Justin KeenanThe Optimist’s ClubCasper and the Cookies(HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME)<pure joy>I hate it when music journalists use terms like “post-pop, syntho-prog rock with a twist of glitter metal.” I think these categories are vague and unhelpful. I am about to use one such term, and I’m terribly sorry.Casper and the Cookies fall into a category that I like to call “toy shop pop.” I actually believe this term is a more helpful descriptor of their sound than any other I’ve heard (the technical term is, apparently, “sleepover psychedelia,” which I think is completely stupid). It sounds like the kind of music that you could make if you took all the noisemaking toys out of the toy box and set them all off at once. Music boxes, talking dolls, those oversize pianos like the one in “Big,” things like that, all wound up and playing to one beat.Anyway, I think music like this is a form of sonic happiness, and I love it. The Optimist’s Club is a 40-minute return to childhood that leaves you smiling and glad of how you used your time. Check out “Barking in the Garden of Ill-Repute” if you have any doubts about what I am telling you. If you like Of Montreal, Architecture in Helsinki or Psaap, then The Optimist’s Club is about to be your new best friend. —Kirsten SchofieldSound of SilverLCD Soundsystem(DFA)<punchy>LCD Soundsystem, the brainchild of producer James Murphy, returns with its sophomore effort Sound of Silver, and though I’m not quite ready to proclaim something pithy like “silver is GOLD!,” the disc is punchy, fun and frightened my dog.Murphy’s vocals are a bit take-it-or-leave-it — he can’t seem to decide if he’s trying to sound like early new wave or some falsetto-imbued crooner. Either way it’s not an entirely successful venture. However, it doesn’t overpower the music: hipster cool electronica laced with disco and happy beats that are impossible to sit still to, which is the point, right? You should be dancing, yeah! The best thing about LCD Soundsystem might be the live-band element. It’s good to hear electronic music played on actual instruments. Lyrically, there’s nothing earth-shaking, but on a party disc like this, I’d be surprised if you’re expecting a methodical debate on existentialism in our everyday lives. And don’t argue that point by bringing up “Killing an Arab” by The Cure! —L. ParkThe CostThe Frames(ANTI)<hidden gem>Assessing one of the most overlooked bands of the last 15 years always puts the reviewer in the conflicted role of both cheerleader and objective critic. One can’t say enough about the staying power of The Frames’ work, ranging from their subdued “For the Birds” to “Burn the Maps.” The Cost has a kind of permanence so few rock albums have. Their sincerity disallows any mechanized pomp. In their poetic “People Get Ready,” we hear a ’60s call to action that returns to the personal: We have all the time in the world to get it right. Even when fretting on “When Your Mind’s Made Up” and saying There’s no point trying to change it, the song’s melody reminds us how optimism always accompanies humanity. Yet the album’s clincher is the self-referential “Sad Songs,” in which Glen Hansard sings how too many words make for sad, sad songs. On the surface, it seems this veteran band paints a world in dire straits, but this fear gradually emerges as lingering clouds that haunt the album’s tracks. With each song, The Cost sloughs off its pessimism for a hope that remains so hidden among the dark skies. —Patrick MulloyMaster SuiteEban Brown(STARDOM)<feelin’ groovy>Eban Brown, native of Newark, N.J., knows the art of soul and exemplifies his passion for “feeling the groove” in his new album Master Suite. As lead singer of the Stylistics, Eban has ventured out to create an array of smooth tracks, adding hints of different genres that manage to keep their feet planted firmly in the heart of instrumental soul. Mostly a compilation of minimalist, easy-listening tracks with romantic guitar solos, he manages to draw out the listener, mid-disc, by adding vocal stylings that complement the music without detracting from its true beauty. With tasteful falsetto (“Restless Soul”) and seamless instrumental voicings, it’s easy to get lost in the sheer simplicity of the movements. Filled with sensual guitar ballads and soft vocals, the only possible downfall would be the sense of vertigo you get from expecting Barry White but getting Barry Gibb. With an overall ballad feel and an impeccable sense of rhythm, variety may also be a problem; still, I find it hard to be bored when the right chord is struck. —Andrew Sellinger