3.5 out of 5
Review by Bob Hartzer
The second record from experimental noise-rock band Magik Markers isn’t as noisy or experimental as one would expect. The record opens with Sonic Youth-esque guitar feedback, which is to be expected from a band with such close ties to Sonic Youth. Not only are The Sonic Youth a big influence on Magik Markers, they are signed to Ecstatic Peace which is run by Thurston Moore. This album was also produced by Lee Ranaldo, so there is a very clear connection between the two bands. And hey, if Sonic Youth likes this band, there must be something here. The singer, Elisa Ambrogio, delivers a delightfully deadpan sneer on “Body Rot,” the second track of the record. There are times when it feels as if the band is going to come apart with a big bang, but it’s always kept in check. However, there are softer, more tender, moments on the record, “Last of the Lemach Line” being a prominent one. The following track, “Empty Bottles,” is also soft. Ambrogio’s voice is actually very complimentary to the sound, and the piano on the track is just great. The album as a whole offers a pretty solid mix of the expected noise and tender, pretty songs. Boss is only Magik Markers second release, so be on the lookout for future releases. It might just take one more dose of magic for this band to make their mark.
Xavier Rudd: Dark Shades of Blue
Rating: 4.3333 / 5
Xavier Rudd is an artist I was oblivious of until it was handed to me for review.
After listening to his new album, Dark Shades of Blue, I knew it would be one of my new name-drops to make me feel cool.
Xavier comes from Australia, and there is no mistaking it. The first track opens with a guitar sound reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady”, but drops out into to deep didgeridoo. I was hooked. The entire album continually brings out new sound arrangements, utilizing a slide guitar, cello, drums, and a stomp box. Xavier’s music is filled with a variety of textures. One song, “Guku”, bumps along in a reggae style, only to be followed by the Folksy “Edge of the Moon”, followed the rocking rhythm of “The World as We Know It”. “Up In Flames” also showcases a sharp, deep rocking rhythm that I was really able to get into. My only complaint on that is that “Up In Flames” is really catchy, and you’re sure to get the guitar riffs stuck in your head if you listen to it.
Rocking aside, there are also some tender songs to round the album out, such as “Shiver”, “Hope You’ll Stay” and “Hope”, which wraps up the end of the album. Overall, the entire album is well-rounded, and sounds very different from most of the other music out there right now. If you dig a good atmospheric, laid back, organic sound, you should check out the slower tracks. But if you like rock out, there is plenty of material on Dark Shades of Blue for you as well. There’s a touch of the blues, some folk, and the ever-popular term “indie” could definitely be applied to this CD as well. In comparison to his previous works, imagine the album “White Moth” taking an edgier direction with a more electric sound. Another sound this CD brings to mind is that of Jethro Tull. There is both acoustic, lighter numbers, and a pseudo-metal “Aqualung” feel to the rock songs.
Dark Shades of Blue is an all-around solid album, and a distinct development in Rudd’s material. It is balanced, interesting, and creative. The only flaws that I can point out is the occasional repetitiveness of certain songs, which can sometimes make them irritating. In all honesty, I would recommend giving this album a listen to anyone, no matter what you are into.
Broken Social Scene Presents:
Arts and Crafts Records
By Kelly Reed
4.5 out of 5 stars
Kevin Drew Spirit If… is the first of a series of solo albums being produced by Broken Social Scene. The band members first met in Toronto and have been playing together since 1999. Kevin Drew, their lead singer, has created something fantastic in this new record. Billed as a solo project, it still includes many of his BSS band mates and friends. This circumstance brings out the familiar sad, rough, and inspiring sounds that are associated with previous Broken Social Scene albums. Before you even have a chance to listen to Spirit If… you instantly see the cover’s bright yellow background and two unicorn figurines giving very endearing looks to one another. As the case unfolds like a present, it’s clear that something special lies in your hands. At first listen, I was skeptical of whether or not this album would be able to surpass the expectations set by preceding Broken Social Scene records. After listening to it more than once it is clear that Spirit If… surpasses any former doubts. This album has the ability to stand on its own, and I have the feeling that even if it wasn’t presented by Broken Social Scene, it would still fly off the shelves. Drew is accompanied by Justin Peroff’s crisp drum sound, flute interludes by Ohad Benchetrit, and the lovely backup vocals of Amy Millian, Feist, and Emily Haines. Drew himself sings with a strange intensity that comes naturally as he sings into the mic. Drew’s almost inaudible lyrics in “Farewell to the Pressure Kids” set the scene for the coming songs; it’s a mess of instruments and voices that can only fit with Drew’s style of music. Fingers tap as the drums start up in the second half of the track and the words, “Well the pressure kids… they like to escalate, believe the measurers will form an alarm with the silence that speaks to the ridlin mouths and tongues of hate” slide from Drew’s mouth. This is just the first song, and excitement builds as the second song starts to play. Whether you are a long time fan of Kevin Drew and Broken Social Scene, or just happen to have picked up the album at random, there is little chance of disappointment. This album is something fresh, new, and can be listened to again and again.
Mute RecordsReview by Bob Hartzer
4 out of 5 stars
Liars’ fourth full-length and self-titled release is a tough album to pigeonhole. The Liars are known as a dance-punk band, because their first album sounded a very reminiscent of this sound. Liars may have been described as dance-punk, but there’s so much more experimentation going on in this newest album. There is one notable synthesizer part on ‘Sailing To Byzantium’ which is most certainly progressive. ‘Sailing To Byzantium’ also has, hold on to your hats, a good drum solo. It’s short and it’s jazzy. The drum work, done by Julian Gross, is superbly simple. There are times when the effects put on the drums become a bit tiresome, but they do help create an interesting texture with the fuzzy guitars. The vocals play an essential role in the soundscape Liars attempt to create. They are droning and monotonous. This dullness can become tedious, but it is shaken halfway through the album on the track ‘Cycle Time.’ Singer Angus Andrew shows his upper register during the first half and shows melodic prowess in the middle register during the second half. The band’s more experimental side comes out on the third track, ‘Leather Prowler.’ The drums are doctored with various effects, and the track as a whole is a strange one. Twangy guitars pluck disjointed melodies over a piano, a very distorted bass, and spacey, monotone singing, create a very haunting mood. Liars’ Liars is a very interesting work, although it lacks energy and variation during certain points. This album is Definitely worth a listen.