Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Super Review – February

Frightened Rabbit
New Release: Pedestrian Verse
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Record Label: Atlantic Records
Sounds Like: We Were Promised Jetpacks (NMT, NMT), Tired Pony (NMT), Alphabet Backwards (NMT)
Location: Selkirk, Scotland

Frightened Rabbit is one of those groups like Rilo Kiley or Essex Green that I mention often here, but haven't been able to review yet (although, unlike those two bands, this is not their fault; I couldn't get my ass in gear to cover The Winter of Mixed Drinks in 2010). Regardless, Scottish bands always seem to find their way into this space, trailing only the Canadians as non-U.S. groups reviewed here, and frontman Hutchinson layers everything underneath a filmy, viscous peat. On the dozen tracks of Pedestrian Verse, Hutchinson opens up the songwriting process to his mates and returns to the heart-sleeve honesty found on the quintets first two records, but largely missing on The Winter of Mixed Drinks. Collectively, there's a little less folk and roots influence here than found across their earlier catalog, an element that set the group apart from their power-punk counterparts in Jetpacks.

Come for: "Backyard Skulls" (measured, but forceful)
Stay for: "Holy" (as epic-sounding as Frightened Rabbit gets)
You'll be surprised by: "Late Match, Death March" (nowhere near as dour as the title would suggest, at least in tone)
Solid efforts: "The Woodpile" (rich, textured lyricism and musicality) ; "December Traditions" (the most Scottish-sounding track here; could be a slow-paced New Pornographers [NMT] cut); "Housing [In]" (urgent); "Dead Now" (despite the content, a fun little shuffle; something you'd expect from Los Campesinos! [NMT] on a sad day); "Nitrous Gas" (stark; "Shut down the gospel singers and turn up the old heart-breakers / I'm dying to tell you that I'm dying here" could have emerged from the notebook of The Gaslight Anthem's Brian Fallon [NMT, NMT, NMT]); "Housing [Out]" (a good compliment to its earlier-appearing counterpart; "The Oil Slick" (sounds most similar to the group's first two records)
Meh: "State Hospital" (good imagery, but very moody)
Skip to next track: "Acts of Man" (the lyrics and piano are fine, but I just don't care for Hutchinson's voice when it's high and fragile)

Feeding People
New Release: Island Universe
Release Date: February 5, 2013
Record Label: Burger Records
Sounds Like: Metric (NMT), Howler (NMT), Tennis (NMT)
Location: Orange, Calif.

I'm not sure how interested I'd be in Feeding People's mash of psychedelia and surf rock were they not propelled by the powerful and commanding voice of Jessie Jones, a frontwoman who'd be destined for superstardom if this were the 1970s. A mix of classic rock power along the lines of Grace Slick, Chrissie Hynde and Deborah Harry with a modern crispness of Metric's Emily Haines or Alaina Moore from Tennis, the 19-year old Jones transforms unfocused psychedelic haze into strident, blistering rock, and lackadaisical surf vibes into crystal-clear beach odes.

Come for: "Other Side" (muscular; the hookiest stuff here)
Stay for: "Big Mother" (sludgy at times, but arena-rock hugeness)
You'll be surprised by: "Island Universe" (as good as anything as Tennis did on Cape Dory)
Solid efforts: "Silent Violent" (great introduction of Jones' talent to get things started); "Uranium Sea" (measured, but forceful; a bit trippy); "Insane" (appropriately chaotic); "The Cat Song [Secrets of Luna]" (a little slow at times, by Jones keeps it from becoming grating); "Inside Voices" (middle-of-the-set anchor; tempo changes are fun); "Desert Song" (sufficiently surreal, Doors-y); "Each His Own" (the most psychedelic here, eastern influences); "Closer" (perfect for its track location; first encore ballad)
Meh: "Red Queen" (a track that wouldn't be very enjoyable without Jones)

Yellow Red Sparks
New Release: Yellow Red Sparks
Release Date: January 29, 2013
Record Label: org music
Sounds Like: Noel Gallagher (NMT), Her Space Holiday (NMT), Father John Misty (NMT), Melanoid (NMT)
Location: Los Angeles, Calif.

I feel almost the same about this record as I did about Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds: after mentioning it previously, I now feel obligated to review it here, but it certainly isn't my favorite recent material. Like Gallagher's first post-oasis product, the L.A.-based indie-folk trio has assembled a collection of overly-moderately to slow-paced numbers, each of which is fine in its own right, but there's just too many of them. Frequent readers here will remember by preferred ratio of 3:2:1 of uptempo to mid-paced and slow tracks per album. Here, the balance is more like 1:3:2, yielding a yawning, ambling affair. Maybe for some this is their cup of tea, but I need something a little more spirited. To his credit, frontman Joshua Hanson – brother of previous NMT profilee Melanoid leader John Hanson – has gradually increased both the size and complexity of his work with Yellow Red Sparks by adding multi-instrumentalist Sara Lynn and drummer Goldy (no last names given) to round out the sound from previous records, much like Her Space Holiday's Marc Bianchi and Father John Misty (a.k.a. Joshua Tillman) have done. I also enjoy the self-titled album/single/band name triquetra.

Come for: "Yellow Red Sparks" (robust, Sara Lynn's mark is felt most clearly here)
Stay for: "My Machine Gun" (good rockabilly strut)
You'll be surprised by: "A Play to End All Plays" (Hanson's most expressive work)
Solid efforts: "Buy Me Honey" (earnest, swaying); "To Love and Loathe" (simple, clever lyricism); "Monsters With Misdemeanors" (good folksy/rootsy character); "Scents and Sensibility" (the second most upbeat track on the album, after "My Machine Gun");
Meh: "Happiness Comes In A Box" (not bad, just not very interesting); "Hope On A Rope" (a little more complex than the other slow songs, but not by much)
Skip to next track: "Mr. Wonderful" (yawn); "A Buffalo" (the same reason I didn't like "Mr. Wonderful")

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