erasing clouds

20 More Reviews of Music

by Dave Heaton, Anna Battista, Erin Hucke, Jeffrey Ruggles

LandSpeedRecord!, Road to Flight (Resin)

The voice at the beginning of LandSpeed Record's Road to Flight gives the band credit for taking a woman out of her body and on a tour of hell. That should tell you a couple things. First, this is a band with a sense of humor. Second, their minds dwell on the darker side of things. This is the balance continually struck by LandSpeedRecord! Using a mixture of hard-edged punk rock, bare-bones rock and roll, pop melody and emotionally exuberant singing, plus a few dips into other styles (techno, folk, new wave), LandSpeedRecord! throw forth a friendly but cynical view of life. Their songs reference exorcisms, an "Internet Killer," celebrity vanity, natural disasters, world wars, depression, domestic violence and suicide. The title track deals with the last subject, as the narrator ponders the best way to hang oneself. Road to Flight is a heavy trip, both musically and content-wise. The band plays with force, as the singer half-screams lines like, "I feel so privileged/8 hours a day I get to push the stone to watch it roll downhill/All work and no play makes me productive, a vital thread in a fabric wove from shit/If I close my eyes it doesn't hurt a bit." Everybody needs some pessimism to bring your head out of the clouds--LandSpeedRecord! give you that dose with more intelligence than a boatload of goth bands, and a tendency for musical variety, which is needed when you're dealing with the harder side of rock (at least as far as I'm concerned). --dave heaton

Low, Things We Lost In The Fire (Tugboat)

Butterflies are beautiful but fragile insects: catch one of them and they'll die on your fingers, a yellow powder staining your fingers will be the only tangible sign that you had actually caught it. But there are also beautiful and fragile songs and if you ever manage to catch one of the bands that sing them, it will remain with you forever. Low are one of these. Fifth album for Minnesota based band Low, behind whose name are hidden Alan Sparkhawk, Mimi Parker and bassist Zak Sally. Produced by Steve Albini, Things We Lost In The Fire is an epic of forlorn melodies and sad heartbreaking songs. Though Low seem to want to give this album a more pop cut, they only manage in "Sunflower" and in the devastating "Dinosaur Act" which comes out as the more noisy tracks of the whole album, the rest of the songs remain an incredibly slow endless show of strings and choruses of mourning voices with the exception of "In Metal" featuring a sample of Alan and Mimi's baby daughter. Lovelorn and wistful, Low's magic stands in their lament like lullabies such as "Embrace" or "Kind Of Girl". Frailty your name is woman, Hamlet said, frailty your name is Low we might correct. --anna battista

The Magic Magicians, Girls(Suicide Squeeze)

I really wanted to like this record. The Magic Magicians is made up of members 764-Hero and the Black Heart Procession. Two great bands right? 764-Hero always put out great stuff and in my opinion The Black Heart Procession is one of the best bands out right now. But this album falls short of either bands notable reputation. The group tries to incorporate glam rock grooves a la Big Star and T-Rex with the straightforward song writing of the Beatles. They fail at both. Instead you get a mediocre rock record with immemorable songs and trite lyrics. I would not recommend this to fans of either group. Instead listen to their back catalouge and hope that something new comes out soon. **(out of five)-- Jeffrey W. Ruggles

The Magnetic Fields, 69 Love Songs (Pias)

Love songs: you know them, if you know them, you'll avoid them. Love songs contain enough saccharine to turn you into a diabetic, yes, because they're usually sugar coated crooner-like lamentations on lost loves, bland prayers to the other half to come back and other empty and vapid stuff of that sort. Pathetic, really pathetic, utterly pathetic. Love overdoses get really easily to my nerves. Eugh. But love songs change and reverse if Stephin Merritt is involved in the whole thing and decides to release a compilation of 69 love songs in three CDs. The tracks prove that The Magnetic Fields must know more than simply something about love. Stephin Merritt and guest vocalists LD Beghtol, Claudia Gonson, Shirley Simms and Dudley Klute, go through a wide range of love songs, from guitary folky ballads, to jazz numbers to disco dance anthems. Call your beloved one because there is something here for him or her, the highlights being "All My little Words", "The Book Of Love", "Parades Go By", "Love Is Like Jazz", "If you don't cry", "Wi'Nae Wee Bairn Ye'll Me Beget" and "I'm Sorry I Love You." "The book of love is long and boring," Stephin sings at some point, but surely he's not referring to The Magnetic Fields' personal book of love, indeed thumbs up must go for whoever can go from happiness, to sadness, to mad joy, touching every shade of love in 69 love songs. Mind you, Merritt had formerly planned to release 100 love songs, but then you wouldn't have had much time for any soixante-neuf. Find yourself contented with 69 tracks, it's a reasonable number after all. (, --anna battista

{editor's note: This album was originally released in the U.S. by Merge in 1999, and is by far one of my favorite albums ever made.}

Maher Shalal Hash Baz, From A Summer To Another Summer (An Egypt To Another Egypt) (Geographic)

Coleridge's mariner was doomed because he had killed the albatross that was happily flying in circle around his ship. His fate decreed that he wore the albatross on his neck as a punishment. There's an albatross, an invisible one, on the neck of too many bands, because they shot the albatross of freedom and sold their souls to record labels or decided to prostitute themselves on the creative level. Fortunately there are still innocent bands around, artists who managed to save and preserve their souls such as Tori and Reiko Kudo also known as Maher Shalal Hash Baz. Tori and Reiko are indeed people whose desire to make music comes from an inner born passion which is a fusion of deranged love for this art and of hidden talent. This album contains 27 tracks some are instrumental, some others such as "Street Corner College" or "Wings Of Dawn" are sung in Japanese. "Summer" is hopelessly sad, "Goodbye" is a Carnival of sounds, "Unknown Happiness" is the main theme of the album and "Heart And Soul And Mind" sounds as if you already heard it somewhere in your life, but you'll never manage to grasp where and when, it is as if it was there before the entire world was even created. This is no land for you pop lovers, but the land of lo-fi worshippers, besides it is such a long lasting album that you will lose yourself while listening to it. --anna battista

Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus (Domino/Matador)

When Pavement split last year, they left behind them 4% of faithful fans and 96% of jump-on-the-Pavement-bandwagon fans, led by Damon Albarn, oh well, nobody it's perfect, but at least in a way or another they had found the real thing, the problem was that they found it when it was too late. Behind Pavement there was Stephen Malkmus' identity that dictated quality music through his songwriting which usually had no choruses but infinite witticisms interspersed with a cutting irony that he remembered Richard Brautigan's surreal short stories. Malkmus's eponymous debut album, gifted by supple arrangements and by his girlfriend Heather Larimer's guest vocals, was apparently meant to be called "Swedish Reggae", and it shows that Malkmus didn't suffered from any splitting syndrome symptoms: "Black Book" opens the album and marks the whole spirit of the work, as it is an explosive ball of joy, energy and wicked irony, that same irony that allows Malkmus to take around Yul Brynner in "Jo Jo's Jacket". Honourable mentions go to the lulling "Church Of White" and "Pink India" and the bright and brilliant "Jenny & The Ess-Dog." There's a past behind Stephen Malkmus, but there is also bright happy future. Bless him. ( --anna battista

Manic Street Preachers, Know Your Enemy (Epic)

This is it. I'm contented. After years of reviewing stuff and taking the piss about this and that, after banging on about how music is dying and it is becoming a toy in the hands of a few bastard capitalists, after years of seeing the souls of too many musicians being destroyed by lost inspirations, precocious senility and market oriented boy/girl bands, I've found it again. What? Sonic guitars and fierce lyrics. The Manic Street Preachers' come back is amazing: they joined the Havana club and played their come back gig in Cuba at the Karl Marx Theatre in front of the local enthusiastic youngsters and in front of, gulp, Fidel Castro. They even wrote a song which mentions Castro, actually they met Castro because he went to their gig and applauded them when they sang "You don't just sit in a rocking chair / when you've built a revolution." The album marks Nicky Wire's final confirmation in song writing, as only one song is penned by James Dean Bradfield, "Ocean Spray", about his mother. The Wire has mixed in the lyrics all his anger and historical knowledge, diluted in "Let Robeson Sing", in which the band sampled a speech made to Welsh miners fifty years ago by American activist Paul Robeson, "Baby Elian" about the Elian Gonzales case which saw The States Vs Cuba, "The Convalescent" and "Freedom Of Speech Won't Free My Children" in which more bile is bestowed upon the listener. What I've always liked of The Manics is the fact that they stimulate people with their songs, they manage to mention historical figures who are often not well known to their young audience, hence you sometimes have to make an effort to take in all their knowledge but you keenly do it because their tracks are accompanied by their overwhelming sound. Produced by Dave Eringa and David Holmes among the others, the album also contains the grimy guitars of "Found That Soul", the Beach Boys' influenced "So Why So Sad", the speedy "Intravenous Agnostic" and the cheesy disco anthem "Miss Europa Disco Dancer". A hidden track in which James sings in his best coarse voice "We are all free to choose…" concludes the album. The Manic Street Preachers have always been free to choose, free to choose to play small gigs or arena sized crowds, free to stimulate your brains with their inflamed lyrics and free to write cheesy flops. They've even decided to be free from the record labels constipated venues and play in Cuba, which might not help them in becoming really that popular in The States, in the same way as mixing Castro with McCarthy in their songs won't win them a total consensus, but honestly, they don't care. Hasta la revolución, siempre. Y hasta el suceso siempre, o casi siempre, that is. ( --anna battista

Matmos, A Chance To Cut Is A Chance To Cure (Matador)

Have you ever wondered how a rhinoplasty surgery operation sounds? Yeah, I mean, do you think that all that cutting, stretching and massacring of the imperfections of a human body might actually HAVE a proper sound? Apparently Matmos didn't simply thought that it had a sound, but turned rhinoplasty and other surgical operations and a la Frankenstein experiments into the art of making music. I'm not joking: the first single of the album, "California Rhinoplasty", contains real recordings of plastic surgeries, "Memento Mori" is a texture of rhythms made by playing human skulls and other nice things such as artificial teeth, "Ur Tchun Tan Tse Qi" is made up of the sounds composed while measuring the galvanic response of a member of the band's skin, while "Lipostudio…and so on" sounds as if Matmos were trying to suck the fat from your cellulite infested tights through their bleeps and noises. Best track is the dirge "For Felix (And All The Rats)" composed while playing their dead cat's cage. Blimey, these people can play practically everything, we're lucky they're not toilet cleaners otherwise we would have seen something. Now, sorry I have to go and play a symphony on my tooth implant. --anna battista

Mice Parade, Mokoondi (Bubblecore)

From the opening track's first notes, played on a Chinese harp called a cheng, to the final track's vocals, sung acapella by a Brazilian coconut salesman, Mice Parade's third album Mokoondi has an international feel. Yet it isn't a touristy, corporatized "world music" sound as much as a unique, cohesive musical personality informed by a variety of locations and cultures. It sounds like Mice Parade founder Adam Pierce is paying attention to what's going on in the world, and letting himself be naturally influenced by it. The mostly instrumental album's main instruments --the aforementioned cheng, vibes, violin, guitar, synthesizer, percussion---give the songs a lush, soft bed to lie upon, making the key adjectives for Mokoondi words like lovely, relaxed and gorgeous. I suppose Mice Parade's music fits into that ambiguous (some might even say nonsensical) category of "post-rock," yet they're less intense and more blissed-out than most of those groups. What Mokoondi really feels like is a new form of jazz, one based on rhythm and groove but also melody, one which is as improvised as traditional jazz (as I understand it, the songs on Mokoondi grew out of improvisations), and feels as loose and fresh, but which doesn't bear any of that genre's conventions or costumes. However you break it down or classify it, Mice Parade's Mokoondi is a completely beautiful creation which doesn't sound like anything else that I know of. Like all of the best instrumental music (or the best music, period), it's multidimensional and multipurpose--this is music to chill out to, music to travel to, music to sleep to, music to party to. It's music to live to, essentially.--dave heaton

Monroe Mustang, i am the only running footman (Emperor Jones Records)

Monroe Mustang is back again, tiding its fans over with an EP until their full length album is released in 2001. As one might expect from this Austin TX quintet, i am the only running footman blends country kissed rock songs that are at the same time quiet yet full of vigor. "F.L.N.W.K." starts off the five song disc with a droning keyboard reminiscient of minimalist composition in the 1960's. A simple (programmed?) drum beat follows this and then the vocals begin. "weren't gone" and "spirits of unfreedom" slow down the pace a bit, but still contain the mellow atmosphere and intelligent lyrics that Monroe Mustang is known for. "Your Shapeless Head" and "The Ford Chevy Debate" round out the album in much the same fashion as the first three tracks. Of course the album is good...Monroe Mustang is a good band. But it doesn't break much new ground. Monroe Mustang might as well be Palace, Smog, Idaho, etc. If you are looking for a nice blend of countrified pop look no further. If you want something earth might look elsewhere. ***1/2(out of five)-- jeffrey w. ruggles

Mark Mulcahy, SmileSunset (Mezzotint)

Mark Mulcahy is a hard character to pin down. There is something about his music that resists categorization. It's not so easy to understand what it is about his songs that is so attractive. But it's not so difficult to love them instantly. Mulcahy is silly, but not slapstick or completely absurd. His songs are sweet without getting too sappy. He experiments with unusual instrumentation without creating outlandish, alien results. His melodies are delicate and careful, but accelerate at just the right moments with powerful vocals or rocking guitars. All of this combines to create a mighty attractive, mass-appealing product. The music is a little funny, a little arty, a little rockin', a little weird, a little lovey-dovey... it's a wonder his records aren't discussed at the dinner table in every American home. If the name Mark Mulcahy sounds familiar, it might be because he was once the frontman of Miracle Legion, an '80s rock band on the cusp of fame, hailed as "the next R.E.M.," they never quite caught on. While his solo work isn't miles away from the style of Miracle Legion, it is at least a few giant steps ahead of it, using atypical instruments and gentle song structures. On top of that, Mulcahy has an instantly recognizable voice. It's unmistakable, even when you aren't expecting to hear it. "A Cup of Tea and Your Insights," a dainty, minimal melody on SmileSunset, ran over the credits of the 1999 independent film Spring Forward. Sitting in the darkened theatre, I was both surprised and truly thrilled that I knew I was hearing a new Mark Mulcahy song without really knowing. (By the way, Spring Forward is a fantastic film, telling the story of two pretty unalike guys coming to the realization over time that they really aren't so different after all.) But back to Mark, it really is puzzling that even the American indie music press hardly takes notice of him when his music is so unconventionally loveable. It leaves me wondering if Mark Mulcahy will ever get the praise he deserves. SmileSunset is a damn good album and 1997's Fathering is in my permanent rotation. (I'm not even going to get myself started raving on about Miracle Legion or The Adventures of Pete and Pete band, Polaris.) All of Mulcahy's efforts are incredible, and SmileSunset is a brilliant addition. --erin hucke

Novillero, The Brindleford Follies (Endearing)

Novillero includes 5 songwriters, all from previously established Canadian bands of which I am not very familiar (Duotang, Transonic, Bullet Proof Nothing). If I had heard just that fact without first hearing the album, I would have been hesitant--too many cooks in the kitchen, as they say, can be a reality. Most "supergroups" of this sort are more interesting in concept than in practice. Almost any time you hear that your favorite musicians are teaming up to collaborate, be scared; what sounds like a dream but end up as an awkward mess. That's my prejudice I suppose, but it's one that's quickly eroding, thanks to Novillero's brilliant debut CD The Brindleford Follies, which has a more cohesive sound than most albums you'll hear. This six-member band, which has your usual guitar/bass/drums plus trumpets, keyboards and glockenspiel, plays a mixture of bright pop and dirty rock that congeals into its own sound. My past equation for it is this: Stereolab/Velvets-ish grooves + a big-band feel + Elephant 6-like pop melodies + a glam-rock sense of style. The result is a loose, fun party atmosphere, but with serious songs about culture, addiction, love, sex, etc. (in other words: life). The Brindleford Follies contains nonstop energy, at its best in melodic workouts like "The Day the Trumpet Player Fell In Love, And Learned to Hate Men" and "Loose Lips, Sink Ships" but still present in more relaxing pop moments like "On a Canvas, Stained" or the jazzy closing lullaby "The Best You Ever Saw." Novillero is a collaboration between songwriters and musicians that is also its own band, and a damn fine one. --dave heaton

Old 97's, Satellite Rides (Elektra)

In the latest release from No Depression darlings the Old 97's, band photos in the CD booklet have the boys looking more "alt" than "alt-country" with the band members displaying their major-label-photo-shoot, Goo-Goo-Dolls hairdos. Some loyal fans may worry this cosmetic change might signal a musical change, but thankfully, the music retains the Texan spunk it always had. The pop characteristics emerging in 1999's Fight Songs step out of the dark a little further, kicking up the mood even higher (if that's possible). The Old 97's fall somewhere in-between out-and-out rock 'n' rollers and an exaggerated country band like BR5-49 minus the gaudy outfits and excessive twang. What comes out of this combination are some country-kissed, fast-paced rock songs that are among the catchiest you've ever heard. On Satellite Rides, the Old 97's stick with their typical song subject matter of relationships: the heartbreak and the happiness. Reaching desperation with "What I Wouldn't Do" and a state of pure, innocent love on "Question." The first 75,000 copies of Satellite Rides include a six-song bonus disc with live-in-studio versions of fan favorites like "Barrier Reef," "Nineteen" and "Time Bomb," as well as a new song, "Singular Girl," which didn't make it onto the album itself. --erin hucke

Orange Cake Mix, A Shadow of Eclipse and Other Phases of the Moon (Blackbean and Placenta)

As Orange Cake Mix Jim Rao makes gorgeous, multi-layered pop music all by himself, and then releases it on whatever cool independent/DIY label he can find. He's put out a ton of releases in recent years, all of which vary slightly in style but bear Rao's general sense for lush, synth-based pop songs and soundscapes. All of his songs take place in a dreamy, comforting setting that makes album titles like Fluffy Pillow, Dream Window and Microcosmic Wonderland entirely apropos. Three of my favorite Orange Cake Mix releases, Silver Lining Underwater, Fluffy Pillow and the Rivers and Trees EP, each feature a slightly different aspect of the Orange Cake Mix sound: guitar-based ambient moodpieces, synthesizer-heavy electro-pop, and intimate, melodic love songs, respectively. Rao's latest CD A Shadow of Eclipse and Other Phases of the Moon is perhaps his best yet at combining all of these elements into one. The album overall has an otherworldly feel augmented not only by the usual electronic instruments and light beats, but by bird noises and other ambient sounds. Yet this setting is also home to truly catchy pop love songs, delivered by Rao's sweet, sensitive-sounding voice. Orange Cake Mix's music is always transporting--it takes you to Rao's world of sound, a place where you float through space and sky, dreaming all the way. On A Shadow of Eclipse… the music is as transporting as ever, and then he sings sweet pop songs to you while you're there. It's an achievement in both songwriting and sound-crafting, in creating a sonic comfort space and in giving listeners something to sing along to. --dave heaton

The Pharcyde, Plain Rap (Delicious Vinyl)

Starting your career with an album as deliriously creative and as filled with juvenile humor as The Pharcyde's Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde puts you in a tricky spot. The album's wild creativity and wild, some might say "immature," content made such a mark that it's been hard for them to grow up without people being let down that each new album doesn't sound like their debut. On the Pharcyde's second album, Labcabincalifornia, the group tried so hard to convey their maturity, that they were "kicking something that means something," that they dropped a lot of the verve and creativity that made their debut so much fun. At first glance, their third album seems similar to their second, like another attempt at no-frills, straightforward rap. The song titles are all one word, the music is relatively sparse and on the surface there's nothing especially ambituous going on. But give this album some time and its true colors show. While The Pharcyde's second album suffered from an aimlessness and a lack of a unique style, on Plain Rap they've found a sound of their own. It might not be in the same realm as their debut, but it's just as rewarding in its own way, and doesn't seem forced or out of step with the MCs' personalities. The Pharcyde got their start in the California independent scene, one rooted in the basic elements of hip-hop: freestyling and DJing. In that way, they fit in with the Freestyle Fellowship and the Solesides collective, plus many of the rising California hip-hop groups of today (Jurrasic 5, Cali Agents, etc.). As the title indicates, this album is about the basics, about the artistry of rhyming. On that level it's fantastic, but what's even better is the more soul-based sound that they stumble into as the album proceeds. On track after track, they combine articulate rhymes and soul singing over mellow beats, as they reflect on the world, its problems and what can be done about them. The album shifts from an old-school exercise into a next-wave hip-hop meditation, a blunted, blissed out soul suite. The tracks' one-word titles seem like subject cards for extemporaneous rhyming, like the Pharcyde picked a word and improvised off it, seeing where the train of thought took them. And that train leads them into intelligent commentaries on all sorts of topics. In the end, not only do the Pharcyde end up kicking something that truly means something, but they do it in a seemingly spontaneous, sincere way. Plain Rap is an album's worth of genuine hip-hop that sounds like it came straight outta the MCs' hearts. --dave heaton

The Pilot Ships, The Limits of Painting and Poetry (Blue Sanct Records)

What happens when you put members of Bees Are Black, Monroe Mustang, and Stars of the Lid together? Well you get two things. First, you get the band The Pilot Ships and secong you get fabulous music. I can not say enough about this record. It seems to transcend anything these days that carries the burden of "indie rock." The songs are absolutey beautiful mixing the slow pop ideals of Monroe Mustang with the classical ideas seen on Stars of the Lids "Per Aspera Ad Astra." The record starts with an ambient piece, "The Lazy Swimmer" that would make even Brian Eno cry. "Backyards" picks up where the first track leaves of, but this time adds the lush female vocals of Cheree Jetton. The album then moves into less atmospheric, more rock oriented songs. But rock in the sense of brooding guitars and yearning vocals. These changes never seem manufactured and up until the las song, "Suicide Pilot Theory," one may not have noticed the songs even changed. I really can't say enough about this record. It takes all the cliches of indie rock and blows past them creating something whole and truly original. A must have! *****(out of five) jeffrey w. ruggles

Poor Rich Ones, Happy Happy Happy (Rec 90/Five One Inc.)

Radiohead might have marked out their place in history with the mindbending turns of OK Computer and Kid A, but their album that seems to have most affected the musical climate of today is The Bends Whether it's a case of direct influence of not, the pop sound they hit at so hardly on that album can be seen today in sounds both underground and mainstream, from the ambiguous, rising voice that permeates the experimental rock of Sigur Rňs' to the sweet, similarly rising voice coming out of the mouth of that omnipresent Coldplay single that's been climbing the Billboard charts as of late. The sound they share can best be characterized as an eternal rising, a sense of longing conveyed through melodies, voices and instruments continually building up, and up, and up. What's refreshing is that, while Nirvana and Pearl Jam lead (and are still leading) to a whole slew of pretentious, vacuous and tuneless rip-offs, thus far Radiohead's influence seems to be with already talented, creative, artistic-minded musicians who have taken that certain rising quality and modified it for their own uses. While Sigur Rňs took that certain rising rock sound and used it in a context of mood, intensity and unpredictability on their fantastic ŕgaetis byrjun last year, Norway's Poor Rich Ones take it and use it in a more traditional rock way on their third album Happy Happy Happy, their first album released in the U.S. Their basic sound is big, bombastic rock, with soaring guitars and keyboards and even further soaring voice, that of William. He sings in an androgynous, gorgeous voice that reaches up into the heights of the scale and down again while soulfulness and expressiveness that help match the depth and emotional scale of the music. Poor Rich Ones' songs are melodic and graceful but pack a punch; they'll knock up the intensity with guitar and keyboards in a second, as on the radio-ready title anthem. Yet every forceful blow is matched with stunning beauty, not only from William's unique voice, but especially from the keyboard arrangements and some well-timed strings here and there. Happy Happy Happy is that rare album that is both drop-dead-gorgeous from start to finish and rocking. Take a song like "Drown"; there's killer rock n roll drums and low-end guitarwork, and you'll be carried into the heavens via a sprawling sea of strings, keyboards and melody. It's that one-two attack of the basic rock and roll elements, played just right, and an unmatchable sense for conjuring up beauty through vocals and instruments, compounded with that constant emotional rising that Radiohead excel at. While Radiohead, Sigur Rňs, Coldplay, etc. are worthy of the superlatives and raves they receive, I hope somehow Poor Rich Ones find their way further into public view, because their unique sense for the prettiest in music is a healthy and important addition to the current musical landscape. --dave heaton

A Quiet Revolution, A Quiet Revolution (Poptones)

Ex-Undertones and That Petrol Emotion's Damian O'Neill has learnt that you can make a revolution with angry sounds and you can make it with dreamy soundscapes as well and sometimes the latter are better, at least in his case. With a little help from My Bloody Valentine's Kevin Shields, O'Neill has built the texture for A Quiet Revolution's eponymous and quixotic album: "You Stepped Out Of A Dream" evokes the soundtrack for the movie "A Place In The Sun", "French Nightmare" is a proper nightmare of arpeggios and spiralling loops whereas "Monday's Child" is an hypnotic hallucination. "Hell Is A Closed Door", is for sure the best track of the album, with its enthralling and devastatingly positive vibes, a Carnival of guitars, organs, trumpets and looping samples. If one day they'll ever use any of these tracks for the next edition of Walt Disney's Fantasia, they'll accompany the sounds to images of a body stretching his muscles to infinity, to sperm and blood mixing in a maelstrom of bodily fluids, to the rain falling on a forest, to flies trampling with their sticky legs on sugar cubes, to tears running on a kid's cheeks and falling to the ground splintering in miraculous dew, to a gondola floating in the canals in Venice and to the instruments synchronically played in an orchestra. Well, perhaps I'm becoming a visionary, but who wouldn't listening to this stuff. With their art musicians often hammer on the windows of your world. Sometimes they quietly intrude in your heart of hearts, sometimes they violently break into your head. Damian O'Neill's revolution will break into your heart through his dreamlike music. --anna battista

River, Once Upon a Time (Best Kept Secret)

Once Upon a Time is a fun, pretty trip through the homemade pop songs of Fabrice Hervč, a.k.a. River. Released on the Best Kept Secret tape label, Once… collects early tracks by River, recorded between 1996 and 1998. With 22 songs, the cassette is packed full of sweet sounds and melodies. River's terrain is purely pop, and mostly love songs. Hervč has a stunningly beautiful voice, landing mostly in the upper range, octave-wise. He sings against a backdrop of synthesizer and beats, yet the musical mood ranges from bright and cute to darker and sadder (as on the heartwrenching "Suicide"). There's so many songs here that some of them float by without the lyrics really sticking with me, yet when the overall sound of River washes over me it leaves a jovial mood. But what makes Once Upon a Time so remarkable and ultimately so impression-making are the songs and moments that hit an emotional peak that breaks right through your skin into that amorphous thing they call the heart. River's songs roll along pleasurably until some line, melody or combination of the two touches an emotional chord. Once Upon a Time's sonic atmosphere is pleasant enough to make it worth your while, but the real treat lies in the details, in the emotionally genuine and revealing moments that arise from time to time.--dave heaton

Christina Rosenvinge, Frozen Pool (Smells Like Records)

The world is a fragile crystal sphere for Christina Rosenvinge, but she feels at ease in this delicate place "…I keep quiet 'cos I'm supposed to do", she sings at a certain point of her album. With a little help from Two Dollar Guitar's Tim Foljahn and Janet Wygal, Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley, cover picture by writer Ray Loriga, "Frozen Pool" bears the Smells Like Records do-as-you-like imprint: Christina's voice, sometimes only barely audible, highlights the soft and tender tones of the album in "Hunter's Lullaby", in the samba interspersed "White Ape" and in the flawless "Green Room", both Two Dollar Guitar's tracks, and in the doomed Leonard Cohen's cover "Seems So Long Ago, Nancy", whereas "As The Wind Blows" shines like lava exploding from a volcano. Sublime rhythms and lyrics as subtle as lullabies melt with killing guitars and can percolate the hard carapace of all of you pessimists. Let her sing for you, in her relaxed and angel like voice, she's not an inch short of grace, but has reached it and, if you let her, she'll bestow it upon you. --anna battista

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