CD Review: Don’t Be So Cruel [2011]

Something Fierce
Release: 4/2011
Label: Dirtnap Records

1. “Don’t Be So Cruel” – B+
2. “What We Need Now” – A-
3. “Future Punks” – B+
4. “Afghani Sands” – A-
5. “Before You Raised the Gun” – A-
6. “When You Hurt” – A-
7. “Ghosts of Industry” – A-
8. “Aliens Two” – A
9. “Bad Choice” – A-
10. “On the Backroads” – A
11. “Dying Young These Days”- A
12. “Empty Screens” – A [LINK TO LISTEN]

Comments: Something FIERCE do what they do well. They play music. Music that I’ll describe as mid-range punk rock with many an eccentrically catchy melody. Nothing real heavy, nothing real wimpy. Weird comparison time: the vocals are sometimes (and I say this because the music is quite different) comparable to that of MGMT vocalist Andrew VanWyngarden. In other words, they stand out…for more so than the typical punk singer! The tunes often take on different shapes with “Afghani Sands,” for instance, in the mold of Mission of Burma era post-punk, “Ghosts of Industry” as a combo of modsters The Jam and power-pop/punk greats Exploding Hearts, and “When You Hurt” in the mold of ’70s pop-rock. The whole album is amassed with very satisfying tunes, but things really start picking up on the B side. I would say things are pretty more straight killa no filla and often this is how I enjoy my rock ‘n’ roll. Side note: Dirtnap has been on a tear lately with awesome releases!

Grade: A- (91)


CD Review: Tomboy [2011]

Musician: Panda Bear
Release: 4/2011
Label: Paw Tracks

Comments: Lost a big write-up I just did! Not going to dwell on it…has happened before and will happen again. GREAT TUNES: “You Can Count On Me,” “Slow Motion,” “Last Night at the Jetty,” and “Alsatian Darn.” Not as spectacular as Person Pitch — this has some tunes that simply aren’t as strong as the very best — but Panda Bear does tend to impress when he changes things up in-song. He’s always been good at that.

Grade: B (84)

CD Review: GB City [2011]

Bass Drum of Death
Release: 4/2011
Label: Fat Possum

1. “Nerve Jamming” – A-
2. “GB City” – A
3. “Get Found” – A-
4. “Velvet Itch” – B
5. “High School Roaches” – B+
6. “Spare Room” – B-
7. “Young Pros” – A+
8. “Heart Attack Kid” – A+
9. “Leaves” – A
10. “I Could Never Be Your Man” – A-
11. “Religious Girls” – A

Comments: Bass Drum’s schtick — appropriate term or not — is found somewhere between the regions of power-fuzz masters Death From Above 1979, Thee Oh Sees, and a bunch of recent bands that have roots in the ever-growing underground noise/punk/garage thingie. “Nerve Jamming” is a power number, noise-pop at its core. “GB City” same thing, but even better with more of garage twang. Hooks are quite ubiquitous as there are hardly any dull moments on this record. The aesthetic of “Young Pros” — the catchiest track GB offers — is reminiscent of pre King of the Beach Wavves, something like “No Hope Kids” or “So Bored” but this “Young Pros,” I’ll tell ya is something special. “Heart Attack Kid” brings me back to my early listening days of Harlem’s Hippies when I was so excited to hear the joy of two or three fantastic songs in a row. Of course other records I have heard possess this quality, but it was around this time last year that I really got into Hippies, so this is a parallel. So yes, in conclusion, this is quite deserving of many an accolade and I can surely imagine Bass Drum of Death to be quite the live band as well. Check ’em out!

Grade: A- (91)

CD Review: What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? [2011]

The Vaccines
Release: 3/2011
Label: Columbia

1. “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra) – A-
2. “If You Wanna” – B
3. “A Lack of Understanding” – C+
4. “Blow It Up” – B
5. “Wetsuit” – C
6. “Norgaard” – A-
7. “Post Break-Up Sex” – A-
8. “Under Your Thumb” – B
9. “All In White” – B
10. “Wolf Pack” – A-
11. “Family Friend” – B

Comments: To answer the title’s question, I honestly had no expectations of the Vaccines. I heard the name, was present for the hype, and so on and so forth. I never gave their singles a healthy listen so this is a fresh start kind of review — the kind I like the best because I’m left with little bias. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to point the comparison finger to homeland counterparts Fratellis (“Wreckin’ Bar), Franz Ferdinand/Editors/Early-Mid 2000s Post-Punk Revivalists, and the like; i.e bands that were able to achieve “indie” stardom with a ‘bigger’ sound — so to speak — that was a few hair-lengths and stylistic choices from the real big name, The Killers. In the Vaccines case, it does feel quite like they are aiming (probably not true) for Killers-esque fame, instead of becoming the next Arctic Monkeys. Their descent into safe pop like “Wet Suit” just goes to show you they really don’t care about developing a Vaccines signature sound. When they speed things up to a near-garage level (“Norgaard”), they become a very fun band to listen to. Single “Post Break-Up Sex” and “Wolf Pack” combine the charisma of catchy garage pop with post-punk revival delicacy. There’s a lot to like on Vaccines, but as a fan of the heavier, louder, ‘dirtier’ stuff, there does not seem to be enough.

Grade: B (85)

CD Review: Rolling Papers [2011]

Wiz Khalifa
Release: 3/2011
Label: Atlantic

1. “When I’m Gone” – B-
2. “On My Level” – C
3. “Black And Yellow” – A-
4. “Roll Up” – B-
5. “Hopes and Dreams” – B-
6. “Wake Up” – B-
7. “The Race” –  B-
8. “Star Of The Show” – B-
9. “No Sleep” – C+
10. “Get Your Shit” – C-
11. “Top Floor” – C-
12. “Fly Solo” – D+
13. “Rooftops” – C-
14. “Cameras” –  C

Comments: We’ve got a new Kid CuDi in town! Now, now, not really, but you can see a theme. Wiz had an intricate revelation after smoking via rolling papers and here we are with this, a very “focused” record. Focus from a stoner….no way?! “When I’m Gone” is an aspirational number — a non-single with the aim of a single — see where I’m going with the CuDi comparison. There’s the opening piano, the OH SHIT’s about to get REAL moment following that, some meh-meh rhyming (“Back in the day money was short, I’m making it taller), and a decent hip-hop chorus. So at this point, it’s pretty reasonable to assume Wiz is about to travel down the “I’m about to get rich” rapping route, a well-traveled path…but wait maybe he’s not! “On My Level” is bass heavy — a deep beat that is a bit too deep and not aided any by a less than spectacular chorus and real rudimentary verses. “Man, I’m high as fuck and I swear I’m on my level. Man, I’m sloppy drunk, man I swear I’m on my level.” Huh! “Black and Yellow” is old news at this point, but it still holds up pretty well. Pretty much one of the freshest hip-hop songs – verse, chorus, break, everything – of 2010! “Roll Up” sounds like a handful of other songs — does it not? It’s pretty lazy — a trait that a lot of the hip-hop records I’ve reviewed possess. A pre-requisite to listening to this album may indeed be smoking, but a well-done record is one that need not require the green leaf to be appreciated. Rolling Papers – I think it can be argued — lacks genuine excitability. It’s perpetually chill, which could be appealing to a lot of listeners. I will give it that. BoB lacked true excitement, I mean he’s not on Wiz’s level if only because he included that girl from Paramore on a song. That’s some weak ass shit. “No Sleep” is like a ghetto Miley Cyrus tune. Lyrically, speaking. Just got to shake your head listening to “Fly Solo,” which is similarly corny. The latter third/half of this is just frustrating. I’m giving Wiz an honest chance too, but it’s hard to find anything better than average. Speaking of BoB, “Cameras” = that silly “Nothin On You”.

Grade: C+ (77)

Wiz Khalifa performs April 9 at Northeastern’s Matthews Arena with Third Eye Blind, Taking Back Sunday, and Mac Miller as part of the school’s annual Spring Fest concert.

CD Review: Belong [2011]

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Release: 3/2011

1. “Belong” – A+
2. “Heavens Gonna Happen Now” – A
3. “Heart In Your Heartbreak” – A
4. “The Body” –B+
5. “Anne With An E” – B-
6. “Even In Dreams” – A-
7. “My Terrible Friend” – A-
8. “Girls of 1000 Dreams” – A-
9. “Too Tough” – B+
10. “Strange” – B

Comments: The first thing that is very noticeable about Belong is that it is more expansive than really anything we heard from their S/T debut. The heavy choppin’/Dino JR sounding guitars on opener “Belong” are a welcome addition, as is simply the flow of the tune. The LOUD catchy chorus transitions into a brief boom before a buiLDING verse leads back to that LOUD chorus. “Heavens Gonna Happen Now” is more like old Pains material. Excellent. “The Body” ain’t the best thing to come out of their discography, pretty solid Pains, a dancey new-wavy number. “Anne” might be their first shoe-gazey slip-up, no problem as the synths in “Even” make up for that. Belong doesn’t have the coy top-to-bottom catchiness that their s/t debut did, but this noisier, longer record does have some fantastic moments (the first three songs).

Grade: B+ (89)

CD Review: Angles [2011]

The Strokes
Release: 3/2011
Label: RCA

1. “Machu Picchu” –  B+
2. “Under Cover of Darkness” – A
3. “Two Kinds of Happiness” – A-
4. “You’re So Right” – C+
5. “Taken For A Fool” – B+
6. “Games” – C+
7. “Call Me Back” – C
8. “Gratisfaction” – B
9. “Metabolism” – C+
10. “Life Is Simple In The Moonlight” – A-

Comments: While this is no Is This It, I’m not sure anyone — band, fan, or critic — was expecting it to be something of that magnitude. Instead, it’s a pretty solid record that does a lot of soul searching in terms of sound, which is probably its primary downfall. We all heard “Under Cover of Darkness” first and from the way that sounded, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It had a nice Phoenix vibe going on the verses and a pretty poppy chorus so overall I thought…nice, but not overly impressive. Upon a lot of listens, it grew on me and I actually throughly enjoy that tune. I can’t say that for too many more on here. The first and third tracks stand out — “Two Kinds” because it oddly sounds like “Two Tickets to Paradise,” though I’ve seen perhaps more apropos comparisons to The Cars. “You’re So Right” sounds Yorkian and quite average at that. “Games” and “Call Me Back” are draggy and have potential in some places…they really do…except…”Call Me Back” disappoints when it reports back to average Yorke. If this was Guts, do you HAVE IT? “Gratisfaction” is pretty borderline so we’d have to check with Mo to see. So yeah, the recording process was a horrible one for most of the dudes, though it’s pretty hard to tell that Julian sent mp3s of his voice and they were copy and pasted on the songs. Modern technology guys. This is it. Calm down on the Muse-y ambition on “Metabolism” guys, that shit is not where you wanna go! Aw too late. “Life” gives us hope. No pun intended, it’s a quality revival jam. Good thing Julian only got two seconds of average Yorkian at the end AGAIN ! damn that impersonation ! This isn’t KLYAM recommended, but check it probably. It’s on their website.

Grade: B (84)

CD Review: Screws Get Loose [2011]

Those Darlins
Release: 3/2011
Label: Oh Wow Dang

1. “Screws Get Loose” – A-
2. “Be Your Bro” – A
3. “Let U Down” – A-
4. “Hives” – A-
5. “Mystic Mind” – B
6. “Tina Said” – B+
7. “$” – B
8. “Boy” – B+
9. “Fatty Needs A Fix” – B+
10. “Waste Away” – B
11. “Bumd” – B+

Comments: Those Darlins have the country/garage thing down to a tee and this record goes to show that. “Screws Get Loose” is a fantastic way to open things and the exquisitely true to life “Be Your Bro” is a fitting follow-up. “I just want to run and play in the dirt with you, you just want to stick it in!” How ’bout that! We get a taste of the songwriting/singing of drummer Linwood Regensburg on “Let U Down,” a dive into Costello-esque power-pop. It’s pretty obvious after the first few songs that this is an extremely exciting work of art for the Darlins. The rest of the album is a lil bit more country (some slower points) until “Fatty Needs A Fix,” a WINNING combination of Weird Al, Devo, and Taylor Swift. “Bumd” sounds like “Do The Fuck Yourself” by Nobunny. Fo’ real. Cool stuff. So yeah, this is a funstix record.

Grade: B+ (88)

CD Review: Share The Joy [2011]

Vivian Girls
Release: 4/2011
Label: Polyvinyl

1. “The Other Girls” – B-
2. “Heard You Say” – B
3. “Dance (If You Wanna) – B-
4. “Lake House” – B-
5. “Trying to Pretend” – B
6. “Sixteen Ways” – B
7. “Take It As It Comes” – B+
8. “Vanishing of Time” – B
9. “Death” – B
10. “Light In Your Eyes” – B

Comments: I’ll begin by saying I much prefer other Vivian Girls releases to this one. Most, if not all, of the songs on here lack in excitement or spark. Both Kickball Katy (La Sera) and Cassie Ramone (The Babies) released non-VG records this year, but I won’t be quick to say this one sounds rushed. At its heart, its typical Vivian Girls fare with a few more twists and turns. Songs like “Take It As It Comes” and “Death” start with talking intros — an old school maneuver. The former is real good (I note the lead guitar and background vocals as aspects I enjoy) while the other is good, but isn’t really distinguishable. The production on Share the Joy is the Vivian Girls best to date, but some of the stand alone vocals, song clutter, and repetitiveness of sound take away from what this could have been. I’m more of a Babies guy, anyway.

Grade: B- (83)

CD Review: La Sera [2011]

La Sera
Release: 2/2011
Hardly Art

1. “Beating Heart” – B
2. “Never Come Around” – B+
3. “You’re Going to Cry” – B+
4. “Sleeptalking ” – B+
5. “I Promise You” – B-
6. “Left This World” – C
7. “Hold” – B-
8. “Under the Trees” – B-
9. “Devil Hearts Grow Gold” – A-
10. “Dove Into Love” – C
11. “Been Here Before” – B+
12. “Lift Off” – B

Comments: Here we have it, a brief exhibit in well done girly harmonies, light noise, and a tidbit of dream. Kickball Katy (La Sera) knows her music and stuff like that. Of course, this album is chock full o’ hooks and all that stuff that we music listeners enjoy, but there is that thing that haunts a lot of today’s music — uniformity. Unintentional, probably. Just comes off that way. We hear some neat psych-pop numbers, but also some commercial (literally sound like background TV advertisement/nu-Christmas music…”Left This World” I’m pointing at you) cutesy jingles. Don’t let the jingles get to you, though. Katy’s preciousness so-to-speak is both the high and low point of this record. She doesn’t have that rock ‘n roll spirit possessed by her contemporaries, Best Coast (probably closer to Katy’s sound than…) and the Dum Dum Girls. It’s just not really her thang. This is more of an easy listening thing, like 8th grade final slow dance music (why hello there, “Dove Into Love”). Some of my favorite numbers, in case you are wondering: “Sleeptalking” and “Devil Hearts Grow Gold.”

Grade: B- (83)