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140 Characters:
This is a review of Brothers by The Black Keys in less than 140 characters: It’s all about great songs.

140 Words:
This is a review of Brothers by The Black Keys in less than 140 words. It’s still great.

Many bands are all about sound, tone, vintage amps, etc. to the point that other aspects of writing, performing and art suffers. The Black Keys are pretty much the contemporary leader of vintage rock and blues, but, as appealing as the the warm and cozy tones and production are, this album is all about great songs. Something the copycat bands struggle to, uh, copy. I had thought they’d never do as well as Attack & Release. I was wrong. What if Hendrix had recorded an album for Motown? Album of the year.

The Black Keys - Brothers

This is a list of the highlights from the album:
Everlasting Light
Tighten Up
The Only One
Never Gonna Give You Up
(I almost wrote: “All of them”)

Haiku:
This is a haiku
About The Black Keys, Brothers
Album of the year

Haiku:
The Black Keys, Brothers/
What if Hendrix recorded/
One more for Motown?

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Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts

140 Characters:
Male Bonding, with melodies emerging from noise and reverb, extends the tradition of bands that made Sub Pop great.

140 Words:
Male Bonding’s album Nothing Hurts extends the tradition of Sub Pop bands that made the label great.

Dreamy reverb-laden effects obscure the major key pop hooks while feedback and crashing cymbals actually serve to highlight the guitar riffs played with reckless abandon. It’s great to hear music still made like this.

This is for you if you like: intros with drum stick four-counts, the punk side of post-grunge, melodies that emerge through noise with repeated listens, garages more than studios, loose and energetic over meticulous precision, analog over digital (footnote: not just tape hiss vs absolute silence, but tape stretch vs perfect synching), Sonic Youth more than Pearl Jam, Bleach more than In Utero

Male Bonding - Nothing Hurts

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Highlights (really tough to decide):
Year’s Not Long
Your Contact
Crooked Scene
Nothing Remains

Haiku:
To know Male Bonding/
Is finding a melody/
In reverb and noise

Male Bonding’s album/
extending the tradition/
of great Sub Pop bands

Dommin - Love Is Gone

Dommin

album- Love Is Gone

140 Characters:
Dommin’s Love Is Gone presents tales of disillusionment about relationships through the lenses of goth, pop, and metal.

140 Words:
Dommin work their magic through the lenses of the dark crooner: part goth, part pop, part metal.

Band namesake, Kristofer Dommin, possesses a voice that fills the speakers and is as much an instrument as any guitar or keyboard on the album. But as much as Kristofer’s heart-wrenching tales of disillusionment about relationships could be construed as a solo artist’s work, Dommin sound very much like a band, as I can attest from their intense live show.

Although one of the producers, Logan Mader, is known for his work with Machine Head and Soulfly (guitar/producer), and Five Finger Death Punch (producer), Dommin’s album, Love Is Gone, explores a range of keyboards, processed beats, atmospheric soundscapes and sludgy guitar chords.

For lovers of HIM, Type O Negative, Danzig.

Highlights:
My Heart, Your Hands
Love is Gone

Haiku:
Dommin’s Love Is Gone/
presents tales through the lenses/
of goth, pop, metal

Haiku:
Kristofer Dommin/
Fills the role of dark crooner/
disillusionment

Ariel Pink's haunted Graffiti - Before Today

album- Before Today

140 Characters:
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is a twisted take on recognizable sounds, an ironic mocking of popular music.

140 Words:
Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is a twisted take on recognizable sounds, an ironic mocking of popular music.

Rather than borrow, sample, or rip-off, Pink reinterprets these sounds like an indie(r)-rock Beck, never actually mimicking a particular band or song. But you know where it’s coming from:

60’s pop (L’Estat), 70’s disco (Beverly Kills), 70’s yacht rock (Can’t Hear My Eyes), 80’s synth (Fright Night), and so on.

Although on paper this may seem all over the map, the album is surprisingly cohesive and Ariel Pink somehow still sounds like no one else (again, as does Beck). I’ve been told Pink is an acquired taste, but listening with this in mind, I feel he will be gaining many new fans this year.

Highlights:
Bright Lit Blue Skies
Round and Round

Haiku:
Ariel Pink makes/
Haunted Graffiti, twisted/
Ironic mocking

Karnivool - Sound Awake

Karnivool
album- Sound Awake

140 Characters:
Karnivool is dark melodic prog rock- often soaring, powerful and unpredictable. And always desperate and haunting.

140 Words:
Karnivool’s music is dark melodic prog rock, often soaring, powerful, and unpredictable, so it took me a few listens for it to really sink in.

Don’t be fooled by the veneer of production, since over time the slinky bass lines and great guitar work emerge. And the vocals become more desperate and the melodies more haunting. This is a well-executed record.

Karnivool isn’t really a “metal” band the same way A Perfect Circle isn’t really a metal band- they use restraint when they play and no one in the band oversteps their role. And they’re not a typical contemporary rock band in the sense they don’t sound like “brown-rock,” which is what I call post-grunge bands (playing in Drop-D tuning) that are overplayed on rock radio. Thank God.

Highlights: “Simple Boy” and “New Day.”

Haiku:
I hear Karnivool/
It’s desperate and haunting/
Unpredictable

Crash Kings

Crash Kings
Self-titled album

140 Characters:
Crash Kings are a guitar band without a guitar, pounding out pop songs and making more noise than a keyboard-based 3-piece should.

140 Words:
Crash Kings make pop songs with piano/keyboard as the dominant instrument, but what sets them apart from artists like Ben Folds or Keane (and with songs like like “It’s Only Wednesday,” “Non-Believer,” and “Come Away” one could group CK with them) is just how much noise they can make.

And this is when they are the most fun, pounding out tracks like “Mountain Man,” “You Got Me,” and “14 Guns” -where singer/keyboardist Antonio yells, “We’re just a speck! Let’s give them what they least expect!” And so they do.

With interesting keyboard tricks and distorted bass, you wouldn’t know this band plays without guitar. I’d bet for half the album most listeners wouldn’t notice, either.

They sound fun live. I’m going to try to see them at SXSW in Austin next week.

Haiku:
Crash Kings. Guitar band/
Pounding out radio songs/
Without the guitar

Paper Zoo
self-titled EP

140 Characters:
Paper Zoo’s EP is a rock carnival on acid, performed by anachronistic teenagers seemingly delivered here straight from the 70’s.

140 Words:
Paper Zoo’s debut EP is a rock carnival on acid, performed by anachronistic teenagers seemingly delivered here straight from the 70’s. Dynamic and epic, they deliver the songs as if they were twice their age. Although heavy, they aren’t afraid of melody, and where other young bands stray into candy-coated hooks, Paper Zoo restrain themselves to hooks Pink Floyd would be proud of.

They may be Bigelf proteges, but Paper Zoo are no Bigelf wannabes. They mix in as many Beatles circus tricks as guitar hero riffs.

Stand out tracks:
Title track “Paper Zoo,” where singer Allister implores, “Join us, we are the Paper Zoo.”
And, “Laughing Legba,” which gives keyboardist Martin a bit of prominence- it’s twisted and deceptively catchy.

Like any good EP, Paper Zoo is too short. Five songs.

Haiku:
Although they are young/
Paper Zoo delivers songs/
as if twice their age

Haiku:
Paper Zoo’s EP/
Is deceptively catchy/
Dynamic, twisted

Orphaned Land - Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

Orphaned Land – The Never Ending Way of ORwarriOR

140 Characters:
Orphaned Land has breathed new life into metal with their duality of light vs dark, East vs West, old vs new, good vs evil.

140 Words:
The new Orphaned Land is the most interesting metal record I’ve heard in a couple years. And that’s no shot at their previous releases- this is only their third since ’96, and first since ’04.

Simply, it’s a series of incredible contradictions that fully work in concert.

Dark vs light. Ugliness vs beauty. East vs West. Strength vs vulnerability. Heavy vs melodic. Old World vs modernity. Distorted vs clean. Loud vs acoustic. Anger vs compassion. Guttural vs symphonic. Simplicity vs complexity. Good vs evil. Death vs Life.

More spiritual than Opeth. More diverse than Virgin Black. More classical than Sepultura. More organic than Cradle of Filth. Mixed by Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree/Opeth), I’ve heard the album described as Israeli progressive folk metal. Now, that’s a niche.

Highlights: Sapari, The Path Part 1: Treading Through Darkness

Haiku:
The new Orphaned Land/
Is filled with contradictions/
Which work really well

Spoon - Transference

Spoon
album- Transference

140 Characters:
Spoon’s Transference is more esoteric, more indie, a finger to the face of Spoon fanatics that claim they’d sold out.

140 Words:
About the more mainstream Spoon songs, a friend described them as modern day Billy Joel songs. I laughed it off, but hearing “The Underdog” later, I couldn’t shake the feeling.

Spoon’s new album Transference is a departure from their catchier side that was prominent on the previous two records. It’s more esoteric, more indie, a finger to the face of Spoon fanatics that claim they’d sold out. (How old must they be, twelve?)

There are moments of this new classic sound of theirs, the tight metronomic rhythm section, loose guitars, and achy vocals with major-label-worthy hooks, like “The Mystery Zone” and “Nobody Gets Me But You.”

But much of the record harkens back to their days of diminished chords and atonal string rakings, eg.“Is Love Forever.” One of my favorite bands, Spoon does what they want.

Haiku:
Spoon’s disc, Transference/
is indie, esoteric/
They do what they want

The Willowz - Everyone

140 Characters:
The Willowz waste no time on their new album, Everyone, rattling off ten solid songs in less than a half hour.

140 Words:
Rattling off ten songs in 26 minutes, So Cal band The Willowz waste no time on their new album Everyone, their second for Dim Mak Records.

Richie James Follin’s overmodulated, percussive vocals compliment the punky, distorted guitars, resulting in a highly energetic collection of songs with no dead space.

This album is tighter and more focused than others they released on Sympathy For The Record Industry (Are Coming and Talk In Circles), which were looser and more garage-y. I can speculate this is due to the influence of Dim Mak’s owner, Steve Aoki, who is known more for his work with DJ’s and electronic artists.

There are some Jack White moments, but these diminish somewhat on repeated listens, and vocals from bassist Jessica Anne Reynoza and guitarist William McLaren help change it up.

Highlights: “Repetition” and “I Know.”

Haiku:
Willowz waste no time/
With their energetic songs/
On “Everyone”