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Spoon - Transference

Spoon
album- Transference

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

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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

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Ignore Everybody - Hugh MacLeod

Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys To Creativity
by Hugh MacLeod

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Hugh MacLeod’s Ignore Everybody inspires creative types to carry on believing and producing, even if the book seems short.

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It’s difficult to find fault in a guy who is out there to inspire creative types to carry on believing and producing.

Hugh MacLeod’s wildly successful GapingVoid.com and business card art has led to the creation of his book, Ignore Everybody, which is here to do just that- inspire.

But my criticism is less about his intention or talent; it’s that this makes a better coffee table book than traditional hardcover. Maybe a calendar.

Each of his recommendations are succinct, perfectly tweetable, and useful. But collected as a Top 40, it doesn’t seem like enough, and ironically gets repetitious.

The cartoons aren’t half-bad (and I like his website and blog, too), but this review is about how his ideas and art scale up to book form, and that’s where “Ignore” falls short.

Hugh, make another…I’ll buy it.

Haiku:
Hugh MacLeod proclaims/
Ignore everybody/
And find your own voice

The Willowz - Everyone

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

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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”

I See Hawks in LA - Shoulda Been Gold

I See hawks in LA
album: Shoulda Been Gold

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Listening to “Shoulda Been Gold,” one gets a chill as if I See Hawks in LA should have already broken out of their Americana genre.

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I See Hawks in LA conjures visions of wooden porches, whiskey sours, lap dogs and hand-rolled cigarettes. And that’s not to say this is lazy music; they write about varied topics, never grounded in one theme or location. Literally. Their restlessness takes them from LA to West Virginia, Ohio to Mexico.

When listening to “Shoulda Been Gold,” one gets a chill as if I See Hawks in LA should have already broken out of their Americana genre.

I’m reminded of the last Replacements album where Paul Westerburg sings a thinly veiled commentary about his band in “Someone Take The Wheel.” It’s that sort of pining for the success they deserve.

With the band already well-respected in the alt-country realm, this collection of their favorite tracks will be welcomed warmly.

Hightlights:
“Shoulda Been Gold”
“Hope Against Hope”
“Grapevine”

Haiku:
I’m listening to
some I see Hawks in LA
Why aren’t these guys big?

Cold Cave - Love Comes Close

Cold Cave
album: Love Comes Close

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Cold Cave: n. A dark, dank, graffiti-ridden club with stare-at-the-floor dancing, guy-liner, and black. Lots of black.

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I’ll admit I almost didn’t buy the Cold Cave CD because I disliked the artwork. But I’m glad I got over that. (But I still insist the cover of the insert would have been better.)

Anyway, this record was made for a dark, dank, graffiti-ridden club, a cold cave, if you will. Guy-liner, stare-at-the-floor dancing, and black. Lots of black.

Ironically, no matter how solemn the lyrics or vocal delivery, these songs make me happy. That’s a cool trick few bands can do, like Movement-era New Order. For them, and Cold Cave, darkness is a celebration.

It’s probably not surprising they are signed to Matador Records, who had signed contextually similar Interpol.

Highlights:
Soon to be classic: “Love Comes Close”
Ladytron would surely be jealous of: “Life Magazine”

Haiku:
Cold Cave, Love Comes Close/
Guy-liner, black. Lots of black/
Celebrates darkness

Haiku:
A dark, dank, club with/
Ladytron and New Order/
Created Cold Cave

Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms

Neon Indian
album – Psychic Chasms

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Shoe-gazing vocals, processed guitar riffs and infectious keyboard hooks make Neon Indian more about songs than dance beats.

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Shoe-gazing vocals, processed guitar riffs and infectious keyboard hooks make this electronic album more about songs than dance beats.

Even when swimming in compression and layered effects, the melodies remain prominent. Even when ethereal, the songs remain energetic, as if Daft Punk had remixed the first West Indian Girl record.

Unlike many electronic artists, Neon Indian manages to do something I find important: sound warm. Besides production, this is due to the fact one could strip down any of these tracks to its core song, play it on guitar or piano, and it would sound great.

I don’t why, but I imagine Neon Indian being like ELO in their heyday- hook after hook, and sounding very “current.”

Highlights- club-ready “Deadbeat Summer” and the video game influenced “Local Joke.”

Haiku:
Neon Indian/
When you strip away layers/
You still get great songs

Haiku:
Electronic bands/
Unlike Neon Indian/
Rarely sound this warm

Twitterville - Shel Israel

Twitterville: by Shel Israel

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Twitterville, when relating the history of Twitter, is interesting. After that, I refuse to say the word Twitterville ever again.

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The history of Twitter is an interesting story, but only makes up a fraction of the book. Instead Israel chooses to spend his time proving to us that Twitter is the future of all community, coming just short of the book earning infomercial status.

He spends much effort providing anecdotes of businesses who have thrived using this newish technology and others who have suffered the peril of ignoring it.

Israel has many useful things to say, but uses 287 pages to say what he could have said in 28 pages. Maybe restricting himself to 140 characters for so long finally got to him and he exploded in verbosity. Plus, he really wants the “Twitterville” moniker he coined to stick- he uses it dozens of times. I still call it Twitter.

For a newbie, I suppose Twitterville is useful.

Haiku:
Shel Israel’s book/
Twitterville, is much longer/
than one of his tweets

The XX

The XX
self-titled album

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The XX do one thing and do it well: they make college make-out music. Sparse, breathy, and naively sexy.

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The XX do one thing and do it well: they make college make-out music.

Serving a role where Massive Attack and Morcheeba leave off, they make airy electronic music suited for dorm room experimentation. The music is sparse, not quite minimalist, and tailor-made for remixes and mash-ups.

Although the back and forth breathy vocals from Oliver Sim and Romy Madley Croft become redundant over the course of an entire album, individual songs will work great on a “chill-out” or “patio” playlist.

The self-titled album is linear, if not subtle; catchy, if not boring. Tracks will grow on you as quickly as other tracks turn you off. The album is naively sexy, and, once these songwriters have felt heartache once or twice, their future music should have more soul.

Highlights: “VCR” and “Crystalized”

Haiku:
The XX write songs/
For college make-out sessions/
Sparse, chill, and sexy

Black Hollies - Softly Towards The Light

The Black Hollies
album: Softly Towards the Light

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The Black Hollies 3rd album is littered with uptempo songs in minor keys, as if written for an imagined 4th Austin Powers film.

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The Black Hollies, at their best, channel the Small Faces and the Zombies, as tracks like “Gloomy Monday Morning” and “Can’t Stop These Tears (From Falling)” testify.

Their third and newest album is littered with jangly uptempo songs in minor keys, complemented with organs, as if written for an imagined fourth Austin Powers film.

But before one tires of this prominent sound they sprinkle in a few slower, atmospheric tracks to cleanse the palette (“Everything’s Fine” and “Number Ten Girl”).

Interestingly, the band features a couple members, Jon Gonnelli and Herbert Wiley, who had played in Rye Coalition. Like sonically similar Darker My Love, who had members who played in The Nerve Agents, their previous band’s music was much heavier, before moving on to a 60’s dark pop sound.

Haiku:
The Black Hollies write/
As if for an imagined/
Austin Powers film

Haiku:
Organs, minor keys/
The Black Hollies utilize/
I hear the sixties

The Raveonettes - In and Out of Control

The Raveonettes
In and Out of Control

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With uber-dark lyrics set to cloying melodies, The Raveonettes are the Roxette of the Underworld.

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People who know my taste in music well know that I have a soft spot for artists that provide a dichotomy between upbeat or poppy music with dark lyrics (New Order, The Faint), or pop melodies laid over dark music (The Black Keys).

The Raveonettes take this to the extreme on their new album, a collection of pop songs about drugs, suicide and rape, highly produced and often catchy before you are aware of the dark lyrical content, which makes a song about a breakup seem trite (Gone Forever).

At times the melodies are cloying (Bang!), but at their best they temper that (Last Dance), then find a space somewhere closer to BRMC (Heart of Stone).

Although they’ve been around since 2002, it’s only now that it dawned on me: The Raveonettes are the Roxette of the Underworld.

Haiku:
Cloying melodies/
Of drugs, suicide and rape/
Sing The Raveonettes

Haiku:
On their new album/
The Raveonettes are Roxette/
Of the Underworld