erasing clouds

20 More Reviews of Music

by Dave Heaton, Anna Battista, Erin Hucke

I Am Kloot, Natural History (We Love You)

NAM. NAM. NAM. There I said it. By now, I should have caused the death of John Bramwell, I Am Kloot's singer. Yes, because he hates being compared to the New Acoustic Movement and so do his chaps and I Am Kloot members Pete Jobson and Andy Hargreaves. So, let's forget NAM for a while, also because I Am Kloot don't deserve to die at all. Gifted with quiet melodies, Natural History is lovely for being a first album and proves that the band that produced it is rather talented. The album contains the sweet plea "To You", the cruel "Twist", the doomed "Dark Star" populated by a mysterious female figure, and the crescendo of despair "Because", apart from the instrumental "Loch" which sounds like water rippling on a lake, never track was more aptly titled. Healers, dealers, traders, hookers, lookers and transvestites populate I Am Kloot's tracks, which are made up of guitars and obscure lyrics but that's only because the singer has saved for you a list of 'maybes', as he states in one of the tracks, to let you traipse around his music. Most of the tracks are quiet numbers though I Am Kloot explode at the end of the album with a punky hidden track which shows they're no NAM at all. "I'm the morning rain/it's me again/I won't go away" John sings in 'Morning Rain': feel free to get scared, they might won't go away from the music scene. ( battista

Jerk With a Bomb, The Old Noise (Scratch Records)

Against a backdrop of empty cities and dirty factories, Jerk With a Bomb sings songs of gloom. Utilizing mostly acoustic guitar, drums and organ, the duo take folk and blues, infuse them with Stones-like attitude, and play beautifully sullen tunes about feeling lost. Kicking off with the dark murder story "Partners in Crime," their latest album The Old Noise delivers haunting atmosphere and chilling lyrics, but with an undertone of hope for something better. On a certain level, Jerk With a Bomb play warped gospel songs. They're constantly evoking "the lord" and "our savior" but in a hopeless, "help me lord my life is lost to the devil" sort of way instead of the traditional celebratory tone that gospel hymns have. "It's over, my anchor has just jumped shipped again," the lead vocalist (the album credits list the members as "one easy skag and the sile," so it's one of them) sings on "Tragic Anatomy," and you get the feeling that it's the story of his life. Nothing goes right, everyone's wandering lost around a bleak wasteland, but maybe someday something better will come along. "Let's rip that moon apart tonight my love/we'll sleep with angels," is the cry of a restless man, one looking for deliverance in some form, whether it comes from a spiritual revelation or through a good old fashioned revolution. --dave heaton

The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, It's Winter Here (Absolutely Kosher)

The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up play expansive, building rock with sensitive-guy emoting, but there's so much more to their sound. For starters , they have humor, mystery, surprise, sweetness, and an unbelievable depth of sound. A five-piece band from San Francisco, their sound comes from 3 guitars, a bass, a set of drums and nakedly emotional, at times awfully pretty singing of Paul Gonzenbach. The first track on their debut album It's Winter Here), "Jetzt Mit Iodine," introduces their sound perfectly, with the guitars and bass coming together over shimmering percussion and building to a blazing crescendo, with the singer unveiling his heart over the top. Gonzenbach sings about relationships on nearly every track, from the suffocation he expresses on "Shark Repellent" to the "never felt better/never felt worse" mixed feelings of "Before I Left, After I Got Back," a 12-minute explosive journey to the heart of the matter. Musically, the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up have quite a range, and know how to play in a way that balances with the lyrical content; their sound shifts from slow and meditative to loud and raging, but always has a sincerity and heart about it that matches the lyrics pound for pound. "Hello, good evening and good night/I've stayed too long and said too much," Gonzenbach self-consciously sings on "Hello," adding "It's far too late for me to say what I should say to you/or should have said two years ago." The Jim Yoshii Pile-Up's songs are like diary entries, sure, but authentic, human ones. They consist of feelings long kept inside, memories that have been lingering and haunting for years, words that have stung, thoughts that have been building. From track to track, Gonzenbach sings about feeling lost in the world, not understanding the behavior of others, and looking for a place to feel comfortable--these are universal feelings, and are expressed in a way that should hit home with anybody who pays attention. It's Winter Here is a musical and emotional whirlwind, quite a jaw-dropping work for a debut.--dave heaton

Joy Zipper, Joy Zipper (Bar-None)

The cover photo of Joy Zipper's self-titled debut album shows a blissfully happy woman and daughter on the beach, the girl clutching a flower and smiling into her mother's eyes. The photo (of the woman the band is named after and her daughter) has a summer of love feeling about it that is shared by Joy Zipper's music. Lowkey, pretty singing meets drums, keyboards and guitar to deliver summer pop-rock with a sense of style. Band founders Vincent Cafiso and Tabitha Tindale entwine their gentle voices around bright melodies and complementary harmonies, throughout 11 melodic tunes. While the sunniness of Joy Zipper's music would be enough to put a smile on your face for a while, what makes their songs special is the philosophical searching that goes on underneath the surface. Song titles like "Check Out My New Jesus" and "The Power of Alan Watts" make it clear that they're into exploring spirituality, but don't get the impression that they're jumping on a new age bandwagon or using spirituality in a fashionable or phony way. Throughout the album, they're gently using pop music to interrogate the puzzles of the universe. The first track, "Like 24 (6 + 1 = 3)" probes notions of reality ("Things aren't always what they seem/sometimes six and one make three"), while the second, "Transformation Fantasy," with warped vocals and a relaxed veneer, takes on the question of life's futility: "There is nothing and there's nowhere to go/our life is impermanent, our death is inevitable/but like a child's game I'll insist anyway." Other tracks examine the status of God as a fashion figure or status symbol ("Check Out My New Jesus"), Buddhist principles ("Booda"), what people say about God's existence ("god"), and death ("Everyday"). The idea of reaching a spiritual plain through drug use is also an omnipresent theme. Each track tackles some weighty issue, but in a totally relaxed way that avoids showiness or pretentiousness. And it never hurts to have a firm grasp on the language of pop, which Joy Zipper has. Their music works on many levels, as the best music often does. Joy Zipper's brand of pop music is both splendidly pretty and intellectually inquisitive, a great combination. --dave heaton

Kammerflimmer Kollektief, Hysteria (After Hours/Bubblecore)

Kammerflimmer Kollektief means "The Shimmering Collective" in German, and their music is shimmering indeed. The project of Thomas Weber, but with help from many other musicians, their music is a world of sounds that keep you on your toes. Hysteria, their latest release, is 30+ minutes of mood, but it never has a really uniform feeling to it. They set up an atmosphere, pull you into it, and then quietly throw surprises at you. "Hysteria," the first track of six, guides you into an enchanted space via an inviting, repeating bass line and ambient sounds, noises which at first seem like animal calls and forest sounds but then reveal themselves as electronic tones. Once Kammerflimmer Kollektief has grabbed you and brought you into their world, the music takes a variety of turns, many blending improvised jazz with rhythmic electronics. "Seen (but not seen)" starts with relatively standard jazz drumming, but there's an unseen free-jazz monolith which is creeping up behind the drummer and eventually overtakes the track entirely. "Engel wacht" uses glimmering chimes to create a mellow haunting mood, while "Auguri, Auguri" goes the opposite way, with a crazy assortment of electronic noises bubbling up everywhere. The CD ends with a moving bit of meditative jazz called "Mohn!". On every track, the group creates comfortable spaces and then allow for weird sonic happenings which are hard to entirely grasp. Noises and instruments quietly comes and go without your approval or understanding, all adding up to a truly unique sound space which keeps you alert to the bizarre noises everywhere around you, while at the same time soothing your brain with rhythms and atmospheres.--dave heaton

The Ladybug Transistor, Argyle Heir (Merge Records)

The Ladybug Transistor's newest album Argyle Heir, their third for Merge Records, is a vision of heaven as spending a lazy summer afternoon in the country, playing music and hanging out in the natural world. The music is bright and laidback, both dreamy and alert. The six-member group fits into the leagues of musicians today who were highly influenced by the 1960s, yet they're not annoyingly retro. And even though the analytical side of my brain can pick out all sorts of 60s influences, the rest of me feels like their music is timeless, conjuring up a magical relaxed place. Argyle Heir is their most complete-sounding album yet, with more lasting songs and a lush musical backdrop. They blend flutes, organs, guitar, strings and other instruments all together into a comforting pop bed of grass. "The river's running at your feet, are you listening?," one of the four singers sings on "Perfect for Shattering," a perfect pop single with a mysterious edge. Nature plays a big role in The Ladybug Transistor's music, but more through images and as a general mood than through any sort of simplistic or vague environmental message. Instead their music captures the freedom and beauty of the natural world, while projecting the same sides of music. Yet it also captures the truly human feelings of sadness, expectations and desire, and have an aura of the fantastic about them at times ("I was dead for 20 years before you even noticed," go the lyrics to "Caton Gardens"). In general, the lyrics are more complex than the melodic music at times indicates. Take "Words Hang In the Air," for example: a pretty Beach Boys-meet-Phil Spector-sort of ballad, but with seriously philosophical lyrical musings. From mellow instrumentals to jaunty upbeat pop tunes, with some moments of pure beauty along the way (like the perfectly pretty "The Reclusive Hero"), Argyle Heir is a superb pop album with a lyrical complexity to it. It offers both a relaxing backdrop to weekend afternoons and something to think about.--dave heaton

Le Tigre, From the Desk of Mr. Lady (Mr. Lady)

Following up their excellent debut album, Le Tigre deliver another batch of songs that mix a focus on activism and independent media with homemade dance beats and the sense of urgency which Katheen Hanna infuses everything she does. From the Desk of Mr. Lady is a 7-song EP released by…yes, Mr. Lady, an excellent purveyor of indie videos and albums. The first track here fits perfectly on a Mr. Lady release; "Get Off the Internet" is a call for progressive-minded people to take to the streets and "destroy the right wing" instead of sitting around and playing on the internet. While the song doesn't allow for the idea that people can be political and be on the internet, its overall message is clear and timely; that action is more important than talk. "Bang! Bang!" is a portrait of police violence, with allusions to the Amadou Diallo case, that takes a more intense approach, melding chanted and screamed vocals with noisy guitars to achieve a scary effect that drives home the immediacy and importance of the issue. On other tracks, Le Tigre address people's apathy and acceptance of mediocrity, in relationships and life ("Mediocrity Rules") and self-focused, superficial critiques of others ("Yr critique"), and get across their love for sheer pop melody ("Gone b4 yr home"). Le Tigre have a certain freeform approach to music that's refreshing; punk, pop, rock, dance music are all part of their sound. They also are continually playing with beats and samples--not experimenting in any groundbreaking way, but having fun with using both electronics and more conventional instruments to get their points across. As EPs tend to be, From the Desk of Mr. Lady feels more randomly put together than their debut, but it's still a fine release by a group that has a rebellious and intelligent attitude to both music and life. --dave heaton

The Lucksmiths, Why That Doesn't Surprise Me (Clover Records/Drive-In Records), North American Tour 2001 7" (Matinee)

The Lucksmiths' sweet, melodic pop tunes come from their experiences, from people they've met, stories they've been told, places they've been, events they've experienced. In other words, from real life. That fact is part of what makes this Melbourne, Australia band's music so affecting; their songs are about universal experiences like falling in and out of relationships, spending time and breaking your leg. When you get right down to it, they're mostly about love, as is most pop music (and most art, really). But the Lucksmiths manage to capture both the giddy and sad sides of love better than most. The other things that make their deceptively simple pop songs strike such the right chord with listeners' hearts include lead vocalist/drummer Tali White's gentle voice and all three members' knack at writing lyrics that are both witty and heartfelt. The Lucksmiths are wordsmiths at their core, constantly taking common phrases and cleverly twisting them, juxtaposing certain words for effect and in general just using words in a more careful and smart way that most songwriters do. Their latest album Why That Doesn't Surprise Me showcases all of The Lucksmiths' best traits to a great extent. Over 14 tracks, some mellow and melancholy, some jangly and upbeat, they push great melodies right into your head while getting you to pay close attention to their words. What this album adds to their sound is more lush instrumentation. While the basic components of their sound are still guitar, bass and drums, here there's also piano, melodica, glockenspiel, strings and horns to fill out their sound. Currently finishing up a tour of North America, the band has also recently released a two-song 7" to celebrate the tour. "Friendless Summer" and "Goodness Gracious" fit right in qualitywise with the other songs in their catalogue. Both are sweet downers, songs about feeling disappointed. The first track's disappointment comes from a friend/potential lover's announcement that she's in love (with someone else), while the second track, which has a nice mellow groove about it, deals on the surface with feeling glum after your favorite football team's defeat ("soccer" for us dumb Americans), but under the surface again about loneliness and unrequited love. As a tour-only 7" it's perhaps not as essential as Why That Doesn't Surprise Me, but it's one more example of the gifted songwriters that the Lucksmiths are. Here's a dare worthy of the most difficult "reality TV" show: listen to just one Lucksmiths release and try to resist the urge to go out and buy everything they've put out thus far. Go ahead, I dare you. --dave heaton

Lupine Howl, The Carnivorous Lunar Activities of Lupine Howl (Beggars Banquet)

Severe subjugation, 100% uncut filth, depraved sexual fantasies, whip bitches and other average rape bondage stuff, this is what Lupine Howl, that is the other two out of Spiritualized, Sean Cook and Mike Mooney, promptly promise in the artwork inside their first album and on its cover. Packaged with photos and collages in an Akbar-Del-Piombo-meets-Playboy-meets-a-porn-site fantasy, Lupine Howl's first album doesn't manage to stick to their promise. If their first single "Vaporizer", is a stream of consciousness containing a pack of skins, a deranged brain on a psychedelic trip and a submarine needle exchange (whatever that is), they hemorrhage after the third track, '125' another hallucinated trip about necking it and they finally and mercilessly bled to death in their shambolic last track, "The Jam That Ate Itself". Spiritualized's atmospheres characterise the album here and there but Lupine Howl's drugged up visions of a chemical hell are even more marked thanks to the distorted guitars which will dazzle you too much to pay attention to the muffled lyrics. Disappointedly there aren't any orgasmic groans as the sleevenotes would promise, but an invigorating distorted guitary sound which loses its great nuances little by little to become a paranoid trip not to be recommended in people trying to recovering in detox.--anna battista

Mogwai, Rock Action (Pias/Southpaw/Matador)

Better known for being masters of guitars and for having printed the infamous 'Blur: are shite' T-shirts, Mogwai were the new way of making a revolution with instrumental soundscapes which lacked the lyrics, but bore the imprint of talent. With their new album, Rock Action, follow-up to their 1999 darkish and great Come On Die Young, Mogwai break their vow of silence conceding Stuart Braithwaite to exhale on the second track of the album, "Take Me Somewhere Nice", and call Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys to give a hand on the glorious "Dial: Revenge" on which he performs in Welsh. And yet, though they broke their vow, they never broke the spell that encapsulate their great talent. Indeed life is an adventure through sound for Mogwai and they show their belief through their orchestral punk rock which has the magnitude of a volcano exploding. Recorded with Dave Fridmann of Flaming Lips and Mercury Rev fame and with Tony Doogan, also known for being The Delgados and Belle & Sebastian engineer, Rock Action is overbearing and overcoming, sounding like winning a battle and losing too many, like a desired victory never achieved, like hope struggling to win over despair, like trying to breathe while your lungs are suffocated, buried in the concrete of your daily life. Having always been infatuated with Glaswegian gangs, Mogwai now seems to be infatuated with noises of alien ships landing in Glasgow, as it happens in "Robot Chant" or in "Take Me Somewhere Nice". Great tracks are also "2 Rights Make 1 Wrong" and "Secret Pint", in which relentless guitars play and you feel choked by their atmospheres. Mogwai: are great. --anna battista

The Moldy Peaches, The Moldy Peaches (Rough Trade)

"The Moldy Peaches are __________ (adjective). They sound like _________ (noun). When I listen to them, I want to _______ (verb). Too bad they are just a _________ (band name ) rip-off!!" and that's what Adam Green and Kimya Dawson have written on the back cover of their album almost as if they were trying to make it easier for you or for the average music journo to describe them and their music. Adam and Kimya, the two halves of The Moldy Peaches are part of what music journalists have re-christened the brand new NY scene together with their pals The Strokes, who, like The Moldy Peaches, release their stuff on Rough Trade. Better known for going around dressed like Robin Hood, like a sailor or like a bunny, The Moldy Peaches are extremely lo-fi, as a matter of fact, their songs are characterised by sparse chords and not that tuned voices. Actually, they're so lo-fi that they'll make you cringe and you'll end up loving them so much that you'll forget them for looking like psychos in fancy clothes on Halloween night. A clear case not of mutton dressed as lamb, but of passionate music fans dressed up like musicians, The Moldy Peaches release on this album nineteen songs, in which you can hear Adam and Kimya candidly and lovely singing in a duet on "Lucky Number Nine" or "The Ballad of Helen Keller & Rip Van Winkle", breaking your heart on "Nothing Came Out" or highly playing with decency on "Downloading Porn With Davo" (check out the lyrics "Suckin dick for ecstasy/Paid a 70 year old hooker to make out with me/Now the get high shack is just a memory/Downloading porn with Davo/Tried to buy your love but I came up short/So I fucked a little waitress in exchange for a snort") or anthemically singing "Who's Got the Crack?" and accusing New York on "NYC Is Like A Graveyard", the best song of the whole album, the track in which their awareness of NY being not the Big Apple of dreams is clear in the lyrics "New York City's like a graveyard/All the corpses like the way I play my guitar/You've gotta be cute if you wanna get far…". Beware of bunnies offering you velvety peaches: their juicy fruits might conceal razor blades. Get scared NYC, they are The Moldy Peaches are an AFNY band: afny standing for anti-folk new york that is. ( battista

Morricone Rmx (CineSoundz)

Awarded with the man of the year prize from a Rome institution in June 2001, Ennio Morricone, is the movie composer whose name usually inspires reverence and respect, but also fear, especially for those who had to remix him. The Italian maestro who gave life to probably the best soundtracks of our century is in fact reinterpreted in this flawless compilation which includes harmonicas, spooky atmospheres, dreamy, evocative and sensual soundscapes, jazzy, melodic, dance-y and sambatastic rhythms by bands and artists coming from France, Austria, Germany, Great Britain, Turkey, Japan and the States. Apollo 440, Terranova, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Nightmares On Wax and Thievery Corporation are just a few of those who appear on the various tracks, which belong to the soundtracks of movies such as Once Upon A Time In The West, Sacco e Vanzetti, Clan of The Sicilians, The Secret Picture of A Respectable Woman and so on. Honourable mention goes to Copasetic con Vivi e Selda's "Here's To You" for the track they choose to reinterpret and for the remix. "Ennio Morricone is quite simply the daddy: the top man in his field … It was an honour and a joy to be involved in this long-overdue project," writes Apollo 440 in the true spirit of an album which pays a tribute to a musician, a maestro, but above all a man. --anna battista

Nuggets: Luke Vibert's Selection (Lo Recordings)

Nuggets collects 28 tracks of "library music" from the 70s, weird funk/electronic music, created mostly in France, which is extremely hard to find. Luke Vibert of Wagon Christ and Plug has apparently been collecting this music, and here offers his favorite tracks. If I didn't know the background to this, but just the album's title, I would have guessed it as a new project of Vibert, a more group based more on funk groove than melody or technology. What that says about Nuggets is that it is mostly quite now-sounding. You could have told me this was recorded yesterday, and I would have believed you. Everything here sounds fresh and vibrant. Nuggets opens with Richard Demaria's "Next Episode," with Funkadelic-ish guitar and heavy bass. If this tracks sounds relatively like funk as we know it, most everything else does not. The second track, "Turkish Delight" by Epstein/Kraman, combines a Raymond Scott-ish jumpiness with truly bizarre singing. And from there, the collection goes all over the place. There's songs that set a mood, songs to dance to, songs with energy, songs that are relaxing, and plenty that are just plain weird. The most prevalent instruments seem to be keyboards, drums and bass, but there's various electronic touches that I don't recognize; not quite as electronic-sounding as today's music of that sort, but definitely moving in that direction. Like listening to the Sliver Apples for the first time, listening to Nuggets is like entering a weird time-free zone, where you know when the music was recorded, but what you're hearing bears little relation to your notions about that time. It's a spectacular trip, and apparently just a skimming of the surface of this mostly unrecognized music.--dave heaton

Of Montreal, Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies: A Variety of Whimsical Verse (Kindercore)

Theatrical pop, pure melody, introducing eccentric characters and telling fables through song: that's what Of Montreal is all about. Their newest full-length Coquelicot Asleep in the Poppies takes everything they've been doing over the years and gives listeners more of it, especially the theatrical side. Coquelicot is a massive pop concept album, a mini-opera with so many characters and plotlines that it's pretty difficult to figure out the overall story, which seems at times to be a love story, and at other times might be about gene-splicing and mutated animals. There's so much here that there's quite a lot to love, though. There's love songs, character profiles, moody ballads, and story-songs, like the opener "Good Morning Mr. Edminton," which tells of a hostage situation. There's also an absolutely surreal mystery tale called "The Events Leading Up to the Collapse of Detective Dullight," a lengthy story about a town being invaded by three-legged hyena cicadas and a 20-plus-minute piano instrumental to close the album. Of Montreal's music is like no one else's; they work with Beach Boys-eque melody, but also vaudeville, psychedelic rock and much more. Coquelicot is ambitious as all get out, and successful, a creation you can listen to on many levels. With each album, Of Montreal delves further into storytelling and theatre; this one goes so far that it'll be interesting to see where they can go next.--dave heaton

Par Avion, A Song A Day (Best Kept Secret)

As the title indicates, Par Avion's A Song A Day, a cassette release on the fine Best Kept Secret label (see feature last issue), has 7 songs, one for each day of the week, presumably. A collaboration between Janiece Pope and Jason Sweeney (Mr. All Over the Place--he records as Sweet William, Other People's Children and Simpatico, at least), Par Avion matches Pope's beautiful, stately voice to synth tracks from Sweeney. The material is nice, mellow pop fare, catchy songs about love and other emotions. The first side is four straightforward, pretty tunes, including a sad ballad ("Horrid burger"), a jaunty lovelorn transportation song/duet ("By air") and "Ackland Crescent," which uses the atmosphere of the outdoors as its musical background. The second side is more varied, staring off with the 7-minute dance track "I don't want to be interesting," which strives to achieve a trancelike state but ends up just getting repetitive. The last two tracks are a weird instrumental, with spoken instructions for doing I'm-not-sure-what, and a beautiful pop song about being happy called "Dragon's blood," which really puts Pope's voice to great use. Like any week, A Song A Day has its ups and downs; but overall this week's better than most, because it has a good share of pretty moments. --dave heaton

Peaches , The Teaches of Peaches (Kitty-Yo)

Latin classics are real masterpieces for what regards the art of flogging, bestiality and other S&M little joys, but honestly, who needs Petronius when you have Peaches? Sexed-up Canadian hardcore artist Peaches is in love with her MC505 groovebox, but above all is in love with her explicit lyrics with which she will totally and literally fuck you up. Previous Gonzales collaborator, this is Peaches' first proper album on Kitty Yo but it is enough to define her style. Ripping your bowels and balls with "Rock Show", rapping hard as on the repetitively brilliant "Fuck the Pain Away" and "AA XXX", getting electro-funky on "Lovertits", Peaches' music is a shagging mayhem in which she underlines that "there's only one peach with the hole in the middle"and delivers other explicit messages such as in "Suck and Let Go". Not for the faint-hearted, at all. ( battista

Ping Pong Bitches, Ping Pong Bitches (Poptones)

All Hail Emily Hell, Louise Prey and Mandy Wong, better known on the Poptones catalogue and to the people they abuse with their music as Ping Pong Bitches. Sounding like a scary pastiche of the perverted visuals that are often associated with Add N to (X), the noise of Atari Teenage Riot and pseudo-S&M military chic, Ping Pong Bitches are a carnival of leather, coloured helmets and high heels. "Beat You Up", the Primal Scream-influenced "Rock Action" and "Chinese Song", sung in, well, Chinese (or what else?) are the core of this album, which is more comparable to an EP since it contains only five songs that sound like an '80s electro-influenced blabbing. Now we just have to understand if they're serious about their music and are actually "harder than fuck" as they preach to be or if they're just taking the piss and are some artsy-fartsy trashy project. ( battista

Portastatic, Looking for Leonard (Merge)

While Mac McCaughan's always had a lyrical fixation on traveling ("Precision Auto," "Eastern Terminal," most of Nature of Sap), it's also nice to see him doing some musical genre-traveling lately. Where his recent Portastatic EP De Mel, De Melao was a tribute to Brazilian music, this album documents his first try at music for films. The film in question here, Looking for Leonard, is a yet-to-be-released, low budget independent film which tells an "urban fairy tale" concerning a man, a woman and Leonard Cohen. It was written and directed by two long-time Superchunk fans who asked McCaughan to do the score. The album kicks off with the theme from the film, and it's a splendidly melodic tune with a big, repeating emotional arc that has greater impact the more times you hear it (ala the music for Hal Hartley's films). With guitar, drums and a string section, it has a hugeness of sound that propels the melody forward--without having seen the film, I can easily picture this theme soaring over images, adding extra resonance to what's going on in the film, like the best film themes do. The rest of the CD is filled with more mellow, atmospheric pieces for guitar and keyboards. There's a bluesy, echoey tune on guitar that strings through a number of the tracks, and the pieces all blur together into a nice, pretty dream. Any good film music works outside of the film on a different level; even if you have seen the film, it fills you with feelings and images. Looking for Leonard's music does that superbly. What this CD shows off isn't just McCaughan's skill at instrumental composition (something already known to Portastatic fans) or his talent at diverse types of music (something he's continually making known to music fans), but his absolute expressiveness as a guitarist, his ability to take the instrument and use it to push you in all sorts of directions emotionally.--dave heaton

Projektor, Red Wolf Glass (Endearing)

Red Wolf Glass, the debut album from Projektor, explodes with emotion from the first track on. "Foxfire" begins with lead singer Jahmeel crooning about his feelings to a loved one gone astray, over rock music that has a huge sound. "Why aren't you near me?", he asks with an "emo"-like forcefulness, as guitars echo his intensity and a tight rhythm section propels the song along. From there, the band continues on a similarly powerful path. On "The Warm Winter," Jahmeel and guitarist/vocalist Dustin trade off vocals about maintaining trust and order in a relationship, while the whole band rocks on in a dreamy yet potent manner. The lyrics throughout Red Wolf Glass are poems about love relationships which reflect all of the struggles, fears and conflicting feelings that exist in them. "Communication's like an airplane/break down over the sea," Jahmeel sings on "Double Dragon." Projektor's songs are all about the inevitable disconnects and disruptions that interfere with the idyllic, dreamer's view of love. The lyrics are descriptive and from a supremely personal perspective, continually achieving a fierce sort of catharsis. That transcendent emotional release is equally achieved through the music; the band continually gets into a Red House Painters-like Zen state and then builds the strength behind it over and over again, until the music catches afire. Projektor dive into the human psyche with an unbelievable vigor, pushing their way into the innermost workings of human relationships and directing what they've learned into top-notch, eruptive rock. --dave heaton

Radiohead, Amnesiac (Capitol)

Largely worshipped as the latest great saviors of rock, Radiohead return with another album full of paranoia and anti-capitalist rebellion, Amnesiac. Made at the same time as Kid A, Amnesiac stands separate but not so far away from their fourth album. And this stands as the most noticiable difference between Amnesiac and every other Radiohead album, where a new disc suggests a new sound. With their similar techno beats, Amnesiac will forever be paired with Kid A as sister albums in the presently-unmade Radiohead musical catalog of the future. But there are a few distinct differences between the two albums, namely the presence of guitars, more vocals and sometimes more traditional rock 'n' roll song structures. "He's bloated and frozen, still there's no point in letting it go to waste," Thom Yorke wails on "Knives Out." Supposedly about cannibalism, but what sounds more like catching mice to cook up for dinner, the lyrics of "Knives Out" are representative of the scary themes of Amnesiac. Not that Radiohead's music was ever cookies and rainbows, but the fear expressed in songs like this definitely push Amnesiac to the top of the "Most Frightening Radiohead Albums" list. In "Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors," we hear Yorke reciting types of doors and explaining the hazard of the worst type. "And there are trapdoors, that you can't come back from." "Like Spinning Plates" is obtuse and attractive at the same time, with the music running completely backwards and the lyrics sung in various states of reverse. Ironically, the reassuring lyric "Nothing to fear. Nothing to doubt" from "Pyramid Song" remains long after the disc has stopped. But overall, Amnesiac leaves you with the feeling that really may not be the case.--erin hucke

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