Saturday, February 27, 2010

Frightend Rabbit -- Too Brilliant for Words

We all knew it when we circled the date on our collective musical calenders that the new FRIGHTENED RABBIT record was going to be a big deal (at least to those of us in the blogosphere). There was the appropriate amount of worship of their last record (and a wee bit of sell out backlash for those who loved their debut) and our appetites had been whetted with "Swim Until You Can't See Land" being played live and released as a stand alone single well in advance. But I for one was not prepared for what I have been hearing over the past week. It is the sound of a band coming into focus in ways I could not have imagined. Freed from the constraints of writing about lost and jilted love, Scott Hutchison has found new depth in his poetry that is now matched with the power and drive of a fully realized band.

Whether it's the droning guitar that anchors the lead track, "Things" or the string arrangements that float around "Skip The Youth", the Rabbit have expanded their arsenal of sound without sacrificing their basic song structure. They are still, for lack of a better term, a pop band writing songs that are meant to be sung along to and they still find their way to the catchy tune for each track. "Nothing Like You" is a clean, simple pop number that is the closest to the Midnight tracks in style and tone. "Swim" feels right at home with this record where live it stuck out from the earlier stuff. "The Loneliness" and "The Wrestle" form the core of the record and seem to share a theme of isolation and despair that Hutchison rides throughout the album. "Not Miserable" sounds like the response to "Floating on the Forth" as the writer has now come to gripes with what happened and has started to move on. (which may explain why Hutchison has already stated he will not play this live, much like he rarely plays the other song). The album ends with "Yes I Would", which is soft coda to a work of upheaval and noise.

I can't really tell you what will happen with this band. There is so much depth to what they do that the possibilities are endless. My fear is that they will be pushed out as a middle of the road alternative band and get played on TV shows and movies. The reason that scares me is I think they could be so much more. They have a chance to be truly great. It's hard to remember it's still early. Someone with this much talent needs time to harness it and develop it. Scott Hutchison is that sort of talent. I'm glad I'm here to hear it unfold. You should be too...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Introducing...Watch Out For Rockets

WATCH OUT FOR ROCKETS are from Austin, Texas and according the blurb they sent me they are the greatest band ever. Now while I'm not quite willing to go out on a limb and say that I will say this...they are certainly an entertaining and intriguing listen. I can't really figure out why but I could have told you they were from Austin just by listening to them. There is something about their sound that screams southwest. Their record, "Beasts With Hearts of Gold" is such an eclectic mix of sounds and structures that it's really hard to pinpoint a given sound. At times they remind me of SPARKLEHORSE, mostly due to the distorted vocals in songs like "Class Action Pant Suit" and "Urgent Serpent Merchant". There is a country swing to some tracks while other have an early PAVEMENT feel to them. In fact, that type of snarky, DIY ethic is probably the unifying force to the record. It sounds like most of the songs were recorded on lo-fi four tracks. It gives the whole album a roughed up feel. There are also touches of THE PIXIES, REVEREND HORTON HEAT and a host of classic punk rock riffs throughout the 20 songs (most of which clock in at 1-2 minutes long).

The highlight of the record for me is "Heart Poppers", which is the closest thing to a traditional rock song on the record. It shows a band that could grow into something more commercial if they chose to go that route and write catchy pop songs. I don't think they will simply due to the rest of the record's more esoteric approach but it's certainly part of their DNA. The nice thing about these guys is their versatility has meant that each time I listen to the record I discover something new, which means the record will stay fresh longer and has so far kept my interest.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cleaning out the InBox (again)

**Now back to the music. Which is what the point of this whole exercise was to begin with...

The inbox has been filling up with new and exciting music so I thought I would get a few quick reviews out of the way as we get set for the onslaught of new records from FRIGHTENED RABBIT, ARCADE FIRE and many, many more.

THE THRUSHES are a Baltimore based three piece band that specializes in feedback drenched indie rock not unlike early PIXIES, if Kim Deal had fronted the band all along. There is also a hint of Tonya Donnelly and Kristin Hersch in lead singer Anna Conner's vocals. There songs have a nice mix of melody and discord that reminds me of stuff I listened to a lot in college. In fact, this band is a living reminder of college radio's signature sound (and I mean that as a compliment) Their debut record, "Sun Come Undone" is out now and is worth a listen (at least based on what I have heard). Included is a pretty by the numbers cover of Mazzy Stars' "Fade Into You", which is a good choice as covers go. This is actually some pretty good stuff and worth checking out...

PAUL MASSON is a singer/songwriter out of Baltimore as well, although his sound is as far from The Thrushes as possible. More akin to dust bowl country music of Hank Williams, Masson uses slide guitars and hushed acoustics to tell his tales of lost love and the ache of loneliness. Although not really my cup of tea, it certainly has a place for those looking for a melancholy take on life.

HER NAME IS CALLA are a UK outfit that would most likely find a home on 4AD given the chance. It has that orchestral feel of DEAD CAN DANCE. The songs take a while to get where they are going and are more like sonic landscapes than pop songs. I imagine their is probably a huge visual element to the bands live show that enhances the music. It's a bit bombastic, but for those with a goth past in them it might be worth your time.

Finally, OUI SI ONLY YOU are from Chicago and they are a hard rock/hip hop band. I feel bad because I know that I should really not post if I don't like it but any publicity I can give a starving band is fair I guess. It's not as if I bear them any ill will, I just don't like them. But by all means check them out for yourself...