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June 25, 2008

Music Reviews

At Mount Zoomer

Wolf Parade

(SUB POP)

<fork in the road>

Remember 2005, when everyone was all about Canada for a minute? Every interesting new band suddenly seemed to be from Montreal, and The New York Times couldn’t send enough reporters to cover every aspect of the, for once, actually great Great White North. Well, that passed, eh?

Which isn’t to say that Wolf Parade’s second album isn’t pretty good. It is pretty good. Is it $9.99 good? Not really, it’s more like $6.99 good, but iTunes hasn’t made its inevitable devolution into Sam Goody yet. If you happen to be a reasonably hip, upper-middle-class 22-year-old girl, this will probably be the soundtrack of your summer.

The shame is that a band that has spent most of the past years on interesting side projects (Sunset Rubdown, Handsome Furs, etc.) has made a somewhat safe, at times bland, pop album that, at its best, is reminiscent of Weezer, Spoon or an Elephant 6 band, but it lacks the finest spark of any of those. Unique moments pop up for, well, moments, but like a burp during a meal, don’t dominate or last. This is a group who could emerge as extra special a couple of records down the line, or it could remain in the bargain bin. —Peter Berkowitz


Posters Fade

Derby

(GREEN SUBMARINE)

<smitten>

OMFG, Posters Fade is totally hot, LOL.

I seriously love this album so much, it has forced me to revert into a hyperactive tween — albeit a tween with exceptionally good taste in music — but a tween nonetheless.

The follow-up to the Portland indie trio’s This Is the New You is an epic triumph. This is the first true, indie rock opus I’ve heard since Neutral Milk Hotel’s In an Aeroplane Over the Sea. The opener, “Why Don’t You Do It,” is wonderfully vague as singer Nat Johnson repeatedly laments: Here’s to the girl who helps you get through. Parts of this song remind me of The Beatles’ “Girl,” which is in no way a bad thing. The drum-heavy ballad “Only What She’s Selling” will make you buy everything Derby is selling. The thick, brooding drums never overpower the well of depression from which the song springs.

I don’t know what else to say beyond: I love this album. I’m giddy. As of now, I’m fully anticipating writing about this record again, once it’s time for end-of-the-year “Best Of” lists to come around. —Brent Owen


ReDiscovery 

Frisbee

(SELF-RELEASED)

<spin this>

ReDiscovery’s claims to channel John Lennon and Elliott Smith are understandable, but someone like Howie Day is the first artist that comes to mind listening to the tracks. If you enjoy pop music like Day, you will probably like ReDiscovery. The music is smooth, light and familiar, and the vocals equally so. These are tunes that stick with you all day: music you can bob your head and tap your foot to. 

This is like going through a summer romance in 45 minutes. The lyrics take you through the happy, cheesy and (blindingly) blissful time: Birds are singing in the trees, jets are flying over me. Life is living and it’s all around and I’m just thinking of you. Then it ends on denial close to groveling: Come back with me, baby. I really need you girl. Now you can experience it all without the bad taste when it’s over. —Cassie Book


Fire Songs

The Watson Twins

(VANGUARD)

<gals done good>

Once Louisville’s own Tegan and Sara, the twins have decamped for Los Angeles, where people’s idea of what acoustic, folk and/or that quaint country music is a little different from ours. Indeed, the “Grey’s Anatomy” producers who like this variation on our regional music must be thrilled that, not only are The Watsons easy to look at, but also that their record came out so slick, easily digested and NPR- and SUV-friendly.

I know many of you dear readers went to school with them; they’re probably nice gals, and I was certainly hoping to enjoy their disc. Throughout music history, sibling harmonies have a long and solid track record. Their band, led by fellow native Louisvillian Russ Pollard (Everest, Sebadoh, Out.), is skilled and tasteful (if, perhaps, restrained to the level of a benzo). Indeed, like Scarlett Johansson’s recent debut, the beasts help the beauty get it done. —Peter Berkowitz


Real Animal

Alejandro Escovedo

(MANHATTAN/BACK PORCH)

<for real?>

Don’t want your approval/It’s 1978, begins “Nun’s Song,” one of too many street-walkin’ raps about how badass Al and his boys were back in the day. That’s pretty much how this concept album goes.

Escovedo and his songwriting collaborator here, Chuck Prophet (also an ’80s rocker turned ’90s Baby Boomer singer-songwriter turned 21st-century NPR regular whom no one else cares about), were “Sensitive Boys” who were “Real as an Animal.”

They were so enamored with “poets” like Lou Reed and Jim Carroll while dreaming of being rock stars like Iggy and Bowie (even hiring Ziggy Stardust producer Tony Visconti here) that they lived out their lives (being now 50-ish) without stopping to realize that, talent-wise, lots of guys can lead one of the best bar bands in town (have you seen “Eddie and the Cruisers” lately?), but there can only be one Bruce Springsteen. —Peter Berkowitz


Rockferry

Duffy

(A&M)

<intoxicating>

Because I normally listen to early Motown and ’40s swing/big band, contemporary music has to have a retro sound to grab me. The sultry, blue-eyed soul of 20-something Welsh singer/songwriter Duffy fits the bill.

You can barely escape her hit song “Mercy” right now, grooving from the soundtrack of “Women’s Murder Club” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” It’s the bounciest thing on Rockferry, the CD released in America after saturating Great Britain.

The rest of the songs are throaty love ballads, sung in the fashion of a modern-day Dusty Springfield (the latest singles are “Rockferry” and “Warwick Avenue”). Her collaborators are Bernard Butler from the ’90s English band Suede (who’s also part of her band) and Jimmy Hogarth, who worked with Amy Winehouse.

Duffy’s on a European tour right now but has plans to return to America later this year. She was here in March at Austin’s SXSW Festival, and you may have caught her on “The Tonight Show.” Yeah, yeah, yeah — I can’t get enough of this stuff. —Jo Anne Triplett