erasing clouds

5 Music Reviews

Bearsuit, Cat Spectacular! (Microindie Records)

Cat Spectacular! opens with a shimmering fanfare that sets things off at a level of drama that's appropriate for the 6-headed creature that is Bearsuit. From there it's straight into action. On one level Bearsuit play music that's quintessentially "indie-pop": songs that sport catchy melodies and bounce forward playfully. But Bearsuit's approach to pop music won't be mistaken for anyone else's. They like messy electronics. They have a love for loud guitars, and occasionally shift their songs into near-thrash territory. And they love harmonies more than about any band you'll find these days, and sing them with gusto and grace. The impeccable harmonies is what really lifts Bearsuit's music up, and gives it its emotional weight. But their aggressive approach to their instruments certainly doesn't hurt. Listen to "Cherryache", a Sunday afternoon walk of a song which begs for a feeling of "wow" at its acapella bridge, but then evokes the double-wow with its last 30 seconds, when Bearsuit's punk rock impulses kick in. Similarly, "Itsuko Got Married" takes what could be the impromptu creation of schoolchildren and rocks it up into something that's still playful but also strong and adrenaline-driven. Bearsuit understand the appeal of melancholy pop ballads, electronic tinkering, doo-wop singing, children's imaginary friends, and heavy metal thunder. It's all here, and more. Cat Spectacular! lasts only 29 minutes, but it's an epic of feeling and sound, proving yet again that the physical length of an album has nothing to do with its actual length. – dave heaton

Lovejoy, Everybody Hates Lovejoy (Matinee)

Lovejoy's new album is called Everybody Hates Lovejoy…or is that Lovejoy Hates Everybody? On the first track, "Everybody Hates Us and We Don't Care," Richard Preece certainly sings with more venom than you would expect from a mellow-voiced purveyor of sensitive pop music. As on Lovejoy's last album Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, his anger on this first track is directed towards celebrity culture and materialism, and the phoniness they've spawned. He also appropriately sings "I've never really fitted in / and I don't care." That could be Lovejoy's creed – their style of sophisticated, melancholy pop music certainly won't be topping the Billboard charts anytime soon. And even within that niche of music where they fall, they stand out. Several songs on Everybody Hates - particularly "Sid Vicious" and "Nicotine and Love" - elevate tales of lonely and heartbroken people to new heights, by matching perfectly tender melodies with lyrics that efficiently, cleverly capture genuine feelings of hurt and disappointment. The economy of words in Preece's lyrics really stands out on this album. A perfect example is the song "Petrol Stars," with its powerfully terse lyrics. Sing a couplet like "I was listening to the Who / I was dreaming of your shoes" in a quiet whisper filled with longing, as Preece does, and the effect is above description and beyond compare. – dave heaton

Mice Parade, Nights Wave EP (Bubblecore)

The Nights Wave EP documents Mice Parade's apparent transition from an instrumental group playing involving, dynamic, world-traveling, melodic, mysterious, funky, percussion-driven music to a group with vocals playing the same sort of music in a more concentrated way. The title song, the first single off their next album, compresses the delightful Brazil-by-way-of-space style which Mice Parade engineered on their previous albums into a 5-minute new-pop song. Kristin Anna Valtysdottir of Mum's light, unique voice takes the song in the direction of the sky, while Mice Parade frontman Adam Pierce's more earthbound voice proves to be the perfect complement, making the song feel both day-to-day genuine and in-the-clouds transcendent. The gentle but driven "Satchelaise" is just as compelling, both emotional and ghost-like. "Drawn" offers a muted sort of funk, while the shoegazer-ish "Neither Stream" is included as a document of an early recording by Pierce which showcased his singing voice. The EP concludes with Kim Horthoy's party-up remix of the last album's pretty "Milton Road"…leaving listeners hungry for more. – dave heaton

Of Montreal, The Sunlandic Twins (Polyvinyl Records)

Kevin Barnes' eccentric, whimsical lyrics seemed to fit thematically with the 1960's pop-rock sounds of Of Montreal's first handful of albums. Yet they fit just as easily with the eclectic mix of styles and influences that make up Of Montreal's current sound. Their last album Satanic Panic in the Attic introduced this wilder, more contemporary, pop-rock sound, which incorporates dance tempos, African rhythms, Prince's sexiness, and 80s new-wave synthesizers as easily as the early albums relied on Brian Wilson-like melodies and vaguely psychedelic tunes. The Sunlandic Twins refines this sound further, blending Of Montreal's new inclinations more thoroughly in with their earlier sound. Where Satanic Panic in the Attic wore the mark of the new a bit uncomfortably at times, here Of Montreal sound confident and excited. There's nothing awkward about this album; new listeners will detect no evidence that Of Montreal ever sounded different than this. The Sunlandic Twins feels more like their earlier albums than Satanic Panic did, even as it sounds even more different in places. The emotional directness in Barnes' singing and writing which drove the group's earliest albums is here, and his talent for melody almost seems to be at its peak. And the theatrical impulse which made early Of Montreal albums sound almost like cabaret shows at times here takes the album in more operatic directions, especially on the final track "The Repudiated Immortals." Imagination and melody can be blessed partners in the right hands. Energetic and strange, The Sunlandic Twins feels both like the most fun party you've ever been to and like that slightly twisted storybook your uncle used to read to you from when you were a kid. – dave heaton

Zion I, True & Livin' (Live Up/Studio Distribution)

"Blacker than a kettle / you made me feel mellow," Zion I proclaim about hip-hop on their latest album True & Livin'. And indeed, for the first half of the album, both halves of the duo Zion I rhyme in a seriously mellow way, to musical backdrops that rely heavily on A Tribe Called Quest-like jazz basslines and Pete Rock-like mid-tempo beats tinged with soulful horns. They're into zonin' out, so much so that both MCs come close to disappearing at times; it doesn't help that neither has an especially distinctive voice. They display a sincere love for hip-hop right from the start, plus an equally sincere desire to use music to inspire and uplift. As the album proceeds, that sincerity combines with velocity to great effect; the beats pick up, the MCs skillfully pick up speed to match. The intensity level swings forward with a quickness, and the album immediately takes hold of your mind and body. An extra dose of energy can do wonders; so can a few well-timed, hot-as-hell guest appearances by dynamite MCs. Talib Kweli's verse on "Temperature" comes at about the time that the album really takes off. The heat he provides is maintained, accelerated even, on the next track "One Chance". The thing is, the tempo of the track isn't especially fast, yet both MCs rhyme like it is – they sound driven as they set down an anti-thug, pro-music agenda: "I've never been no damn killer / rip a spot make it hot that's iller." Ever track after this feels explosive, whether they're riffing on "America" and its problems over a stark rock guitar-meets-marching band tempo track or cutting apart capitalism with an especially potent Aesop Rock on "Poems 4 Post Modern Decay." Zion I hold their own over handclaps and some great drums on "Heads Up," and get lovesick on "Next to U." Then Gift of Gab shows up for the thoughtful "Stranger in My Home," which powerfully captures that feeling you get when changes have made your hometown feel like a foreign land. True & Livin' might seem unexceptional at first, but stay with it, because by the end it proves to be an intelligent, head-noddin' good time. – dave heaton

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds