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Eugene Weekly : CD Reviews : 12.09.04

Something Old But Mostly New

Better and best CDs.

From the fabulous staff here at EW…


By Jeffrey Stout, Sales Dude

The Exies, Head For the Door. 2004 VIRGIN RECORDS.

It's 1994. Kurt Cobain's dead, Pearl Jam is mellow, and Alice in Chains is in remission after another rehab stint by Layne Staley. Modern rock radio is awash with guitar-drenched passion.

Now imagine it's 2004, and nothing has changed. Emotive squalor is still the gold standard of rock radio, and sounding like Nirvana is enough to reach gold. Enter The Exies, a Stone Temple Pilots sound alike, nearly a decade after STP's high point. This sums up their new one, Head for The Door.

It's solid without being stellar; about what you can expect from an emulation of a genre-establishing band. Fans of The Exies say this album is a radio friendly sell-out, which it is — if it were the mid-'90s.

For someone still grasping on grunge greatness, The Exies come through. For the rest of us, we'll enjoy the current century.


SeepeopleS, The Corn Syrup Conspiracy. 2004 RASCALZ RECORDZ.

What we have here is a schizophrenic record featuring a frequent collaborator of Dave Matthews. If that sounds likeable, continue. If that's enough to cause some gagging, you should buy something good and relevant.

This is gentle, non-offensive, yet edgy rock with a roots feel. In the fight for a wide audience, the SeepeopleS (no explanation of the uppercase S's) achieve a well-blended forgetfulness. They touch on the psychedelic rock of Led Zeppelin (by way of Jane's Addiction), the reggae bounce of Burning Spear (by way of 311), and the electro-tinged pop of The Beta Band. Nothing sounds quite like SeepeopleS, and that's either positive or negative, depending on your expectations.

Do you like pop, reggae, and acid rock? Then you might like SeepeopleS. Looking for a band that's carving new sounds from available sounds? Then you should look elsewhere.



By Brett Campbell, Free-lance Renaissance Man.

Don Latarski, Guitars on Holiday. 2004 CRESCENT RECORDS.

Almost everyone in Eugene knows Don Latarski as one of Oregon's finest guitarists. Whether in solo or band settings, the longtime UO faculty member (he heads the university's guitar studies there) always displays phenomenal technique and abiding musicianship. But for all his past success as teacher, performer, author of many books on guitar technique, and composer, Latarski has long harbored an unfulfilled dream: a guitar orchestra. And now, thanks to the magic of digital overdubbing at his recording studio, Latarski has at last been able to create the sound he's so long sought.

Latarski's The Ephemeral Guitar Choir (which also includes his 11-year-old son, Spencer, who sings on a few cuts) employs several instruments (including electric bass), classical techniques such as counterpoint, jazz harmony and an Americana feel derived from Lartarski's admiration for Aaron Copland's populist period. Even when parts are doubled, the instruments' varied textures produce a rich, sonorous tapestry of string sounds.

But if the sound is new, the songs are as familiar as can be: holiday classics such as "Good King Wenceslas" and "The First Noel" along with some less familiar seasonal tunes. Except for "Silent Night", where the child's guileless singing just triggers a crusty journalist's hard-hearted cynicism, it makes an appealing seasonal confection. For many listeners, the disk, Latarski's second holiday collection, sounds like it'd be a near ideal accompaniment to a blazing fireplace at a holiday party on a chill winter's eve.



By Molly Templeton, Circulation Siren

Giant Drag, Lemona. 2004 WICHITA RECORDINGS.

Giant Drag's Annie Hardy really hates being compared to the Breeders. The news section of her band's website includes a brief rant at the British press, who apparently insist on using this comparison. The funny thing is, the only comparable part of Giant Drag's sound is Hardy's voice, which shares a strangely ageless quality with Kim Deal's. Otherwise, the band's sound has more in common with the shoegazer bands of the late '80s and early '90s, particularly on "Cordial Invitation," where Hardy's voice floats over a thick layer of distortion. The songs are a little poppier, the lyrics much more decipherable, and in the EP's later tracks, there's a darkness reminiscent of fellow Los Angeles band Concrete Blonde. Nothing here is astonishing, but these are the kind of songs where you find yourself humming unintentionally. Worth a listen.


The Cribs, The Cribs. 2004 WICHITA RECORDINGS.

It isn't until track five, "Things You Should Be Knowing," that The Cribs truly reveal themselves. Until that point, they've been a pastiche of mid to late '90s indie and Britpop bands, from "Creep" era Radiohead to the more obscure Calvin Johnson, whose uniquely deep voice seems imitated on "The Watch Trick."

In the first measures of "Things," though, things become clearer. Small guitar parts here and there ring familiarity bells, but the alarms go off when the vocals start, drawled lazily over a guitar riff that could have come straight from Room on Fire by The Strokes. It's not pervasive throughout the entire album, but more often than not, The Cribs bear far too much similarity to The Strokes — right down to their font choices. Though their sometimes catchy melodies are weighed down by forgettable lyrics, The Cribs have the potential to make a second album that sounds more their own.



By Todd Cooper, Production Punk-ass

Thievery Corporation, The Cosmic Game. 2005 EIGHTEENTH STREET LOUNGE MUSIC.

Chalk another one up for Thievery Corporation. Rob Garza and Eric Hilton seem to effortlessly charm one album to the next. Their latest release is no exception. The Cosmic Game is filled with that hypnotic, head-nodding world groove we've come to expect from the D.C. duo.

In this go-round, they bring back collaborators Lou Lou, Notch, and Sleepy Wonder as well as Wayne Coyne (The Flaming Lips), Perry Farrell (Jane's Addiction), David Byrne (Talking Heads) and others. The album opens with the perfectly blended Lips/Thievery track, "Marching the Hate Machines Into the Sun." This song supposedly happened via email due to the two camps' conflicting schedules. "Revolution Solution" turns out to be a great fit for Farrell. Finally, Perry made some decent electronica. "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter" (with David Byrne) is tight with rolling congas and funky horns but doesn't measure up to the Thievery remix of Byrne's "Dance On Vaseline" (Abductions & Reconstructions). One of the Game's highlights is the beautiful Gunjan. She blesses four tracks with entrancing, airy Middle Eastern vocals. Too many notable tracks to mention.

Look out for this one. It won't leave your headphones alone. The Cosmic Game is scheduled for a February 2005 release.



By Melissa Bearns, Emphatically Editorial

Kasey Anderson, Dead Roses. 2004 RESONANT NOISE RECORDS.

With a hungry ache and a country twang that's more hip than hick, Kasey Anderson has done something amazing and special on Dead Roses. He's managed to create an album that transports you to dirty back roads, rocking chairs on porches and whisky-soaked melancholy. Where many try and fail, he succeeds with songs that masterfully capture the mood of a cigarette burning to ash between the fingers of bitter heartbreak.

His voice has that rusty, dusty feel and a gritty scratchiness perfectly suited for country rock about wine, women and small towns. While quite a few tracks, including "The Borderline," "Weary Heart," and "Raining In Hattiesburg" toe the downtempo line, the music is never dark. Instead it hovers in a place that's more moody, poetic and beautiful than sad.

With a perfect sense of timing, he mixes it up at just the right moments, rocking out with "5th Avenue Queen" and "Dead Roses (and Blood Red Wine)" all the while telling stories that are as universal as love, life and death.


Magdalene's Dream, Magdalene's Dream. 2004,PIGGYBACK RECORDS.

From the dark, razor's edge mind of Keith Hillebrandt comes this pulsating, throbbing mix of shadowy electronica. Hillebrandt, the mastermind sound designer who works for Trent Reznor and created the soundscape on NIN's Fragile as well as recently remixing four new U2 tracks, teams up with Lana Lokteff to create a multi-layered beat that's as smooth as waves gently rocking a boat, as deep as the ocean and as sexy as 4-inch stilettos.

It creeps in, washes over you and captures your subconscious mind. Lokteff's seductive voice whispers and coos, soothes and sucks you in. Occasionally reminiscent of Shirley Manson (Garbage), Lokteff purrs and winds the vocals through the beats in a way that makes it hard to separate her voice from the breathing layers of the songs.

"Wash Away" is particularly beautiful in the way the song itself imitates the rhythmic pulsating of waves. "What Do You Want?," one of the faster tracks, holds down a beat that's more like a slow burn than a groove.



From our rockin' music writer Vanessa Salvia: Best of 2004

Téada, Give Us A Penny. 2004 GREEN LINNET RECORDS, INC.

Oisín Mac Diarmada, Ar An Bhfidil. 2004 GREEN LINNET RECORDS, INC.

Both of these CDs feature the profound fiddle and vocals of Oisín (pronounced oh-sheen) Mac Diarmada, fiddler and founder of the young Irish group Téada, a group proving themselves the torchbearers for a new generation of traditional Irish music. There are no pseudo-Celtic, new-agey overtones on Give Us A Penny; just 14 traditional gems arranged and performed by five young men with their ears in the past.

Each track is given historical perspective in extensive liner notes which detail source musicians and background. We're also kindly told which songs are jigs, like the triptych "King of the Pipes/Queen of the Fair/The Woodcock," which are reels, like "Humours of Lissadell/Maude Miller/The Jolly Tinker;" and which are airs, such as "The Trip We Took Over the Mountain." Mac Diarmada pleases further on Ar An Bhifidil, 17 tracks of the traditional music he was raised with in Sligo and Clare. He demonstrates the magic of pure, unadorned instrumental traditional fiddling, again detailed with source information and musical form. He includes some rarities such as "The Lark in the Morning" and "The Morning Thrush." Mac Diarmada is joined by Téada bandmates on a number of tunes.


Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose. 2004 INTERSCOPE RECORDS.

For the first time ever, Loretta Lynn has written all the songs on a recording. Her candidness and producer Jack White's (of White Stripes fame and long-time Lynn admirer) in-one-take style makes a bold statement that speaks to her whole life. White plays on the album, but his poised guitar riffs don't detract from the warm country atmosphere.

A young bride and mother several times over before gaining stardom on the Grand Ole Opry, Lynn has a diamond-in-the-rough persona that shines through. The album's most memorable songs are the autobiographical ones. "Little Red Shoes" is a spoken reminiscence about Lynn's mother stealing some shoes for her. She revisits her hometown of Butcher Hollow on "High on a Mountaintop," and the title track is about her father and mother falling in love. She tells. As only Lynn can, tales of adultery in "Family Tree" and a widow's sorrow in "Miss Being Mrs." There's even a duet with White entitled "Portland, Oregon. "


PJ Harvey, Uh Huh Her. 2004 ISLAND RECORDS.

Harvey plays everything but drums here, proving once again that she is bold and bad-ass as ever. Guitars dominate on this one with bitterness and bile parading forth at every opportunity. She snarls about tainted love throughout, such as the angst-ridden "Who The Fuck?" and "The Darker Days of Me and Him." We sense a woman desperately beating back her personal demons, and while we know she'll eventually win, after listening to Uh Huh Her, we don't feel better for it. Gone is the slick city girl of her last release, 2000's Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, and in her place is a tortured banshee, intoning primitively about sex, love and pain with all the glamour we expect from this enigmatic rock goddess.


Macha, Forget Tomorrow. 2004 JETSET RECORDS.

Athens, Georgia's Macha deftly combines trance-inducing lyrics with richly layered rhythms and instrumentation borrowed from Indonesia. Their latest since 2000's collaboration with Bedhead, Forget Tomorrow retains the Indonesian influence, but it's less distinctive and the soaring harmonies have all but evaporated. Musically, Forget Tomorrow has more in common with founding member Josh McKay's Seaworthy project than with Macha's sophisticated self-titled 1998 release. The group are masters at manipulating an indie aesthetic, non-Western musical influence and minimalist lyrics in a way I still love, but Forget Tomorrow's motif is more ambient sound collage than Silk Road exotica.


Eagles of Death Metal, Peace Love Death Metal. 2004 ANT ACID AUDIO.

Nothing like The Eagles or death metal, this release is Party Record Extraordinnaire, sounding like a ray-gun equipped Jon Spencer raising the love child of White Stripes and Queens of the Stone Age. In fact, QOTSA guitarist Josh Homme is the album's producer and one half of the duo, along with Homme's longtime friend and Millionaire's vocalist J. Everett Hughes. Distillers frontwoman Brody Dalle contributes. Whatever long-running inside joke spawned this record is buried within the singer's falsetto and Homme's subversive guitar. Their songs are silly and self-aware, but full of indulgent swagger, a feel-good agenda and over-the-top sex appeal. Own it!


Bebel Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto. 2004 ZIRIGUIBOOM/CRAMMED.

Daughter of Brazilian Bossa Nova god Joao Gilberto and step-daughter to pneumatic singer Astrud Gilberto, Bebel is uniquely qualified to exist within the Bossa, lounge and jazz worlds. Her self-titled third release is sultry and sweet, warm as a Brazilian summer and as carefree, especially on the tracks she sings in Portuguese. Bebel's mother, popular singer Miúcha, provides backing vocals on the track "Aganjú," an up-tempo song with an electronica feel. This CD's mix of faster and slower tempos and lush backing music paired with minimalist acoustic guitar gives a feeling of balance and simplicity. It's perfect mood music when you want something romantic yet sophisticated.


Shoghaken Folk Ensemble. 2004 TRADITIONAL CROSSROADS.

Armenian Lullabies and Traditional Dances of Armenia. 2004 TRADITIONAL CROSSROADS.

Formed in 1991, the Ensemble use only traditional Armenian instrumentation, maintaining an authentic sound as they explore the folk music heritage of this smallest Republic of the former U.S.S.R., adjacent to Turkey. Extensively detailed with liner notes, both CDs showcase the wealth of musical forms present in the region. Lullabies is a haunting collection of some of the oldest songs in Armenian music, gathered from villages where the traditional way of life is fading. Traditional Dances offers both instrumental and vocal presentations of the music of circle dances, line dances, gestures and jumps of historical significance. Liner notes tell the tale of magnificent ritualistic and symbolic dances which are no longer practiced, such as the wedding-tree dance, a dance of sacrifice and transfiguration led by the village blacksmith, chosen for his ability to join forms of molten metal.


Dios, Dios. 2004 STARTIME.

From Hawthorne, Calif., the home of The Beach Boys, these five guys are unabashed fans of that quintessential beach pop group; however, their music is cut from a different cloth. The album has touches of earnest folkie singing amid swirling psychedelic embellishments. Sometimes the guitar notes float lazily and sometimes they crash together in a buzzing whirlpool, while the complementary vocal harmonies of brothers Joel and Kevin Morales linger over sun-splashed melodies. On several tracks the instrumentation rises to a breathtaking crescendo of piano, handclaps, and fuzzed-out guitar, then shifts focus back into vibrant pop. Do yourself a favor and check this out!


Jucifer, War Bird. 2004 VELOCETTE.

This Athens, Georgia based duo of drums and guitar has mastered the "heavy + loud = good" equation. Guitarist Amber Valentine plays through an arsenal of amplifiers resulting in an immense sludgy sound while her vocals alternate between leonine growls and kittenish coos. G. Edgar Livengood's powerful drumming propels every song to the brink of destruction. War Bird is not as heavy as their 2002 release, I Name You Destroyer, but its strength lies in its variety. On the track "My Stars," Valentine accompanies her Southern-accented crooning while plucking the banjo. Overpowering on record, the band's live performance should not be missed by any fans of gigantic heaviness.


The New Year, The End is Near. 2004 TOUCH AND GO.

Fans of Bedhead wonder why brothers Matt and Bubba Kadane bothered to change the band's name, considering the music covers the same ground and even the CD package design is the same. The other players are different, but the music is remarkably similar. Less substantive than Bedhead, the music maintains a polite distance, not challenging or questioning too much. The trademark Kadane/Kadane harmonies and depressive one-liners are still present, but there's a feeling that making this record took effort, whereas the best of Bedhead seemed like a gift from the gods. There are some unexpected turns here, but overall it's chapter two of the personal diary the Kadanes began with Bedhead, albeit penned in paler ink.


Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Love Bad News. 2004 EPIC RECORDS.

By now Isaac Brock's distinctive vocal styling and odd-time signatures of Modest Mouse have made them a household name. On this, their fourth full-length, thankfully their characteristic sound is intact despite drastic lineup changes. The mood is easily more upbeat than on past full-lengths, although there's plenty of anxiety brimming under the surface. "Float On" is disarmingly optimistic, very different from what they typically do, and it is a standout of the CD. Through recurring themes of death and the afterlife, the band continues to produce memorable moments of contentment and restlessness.


Sonic Youth, Sonic Nurse. 2004 GEFFEN RECORDS.

Sonic Youth has welcomed one of my favorite musicians, Jim O'Rourke, into the fold, which just makes this great album all the better. After 23 years of creativity and 19 full-length records, this band of NYC giants continues to impress with experimental rock that bears their unmistakable stamp. Sonic Nurse is a return to the hallowed ground of their late '80s work, but with a cleaner production value and cohesive theme. On "Pattern Recognition," Kim Gordon's seductive voice tells us "you're the one." "Unmade Bed" is the only track under four minutes, and builds from beautiful guitar to a twisted climax of noise. Destined to be listed among SY's best work.


From you, our faithful readers:

CKW Trio, The Is. 2004 BLACK HAT RECORDS. By Risa Dotson.

This San Francisco area band is made up of Michael Cooke, Alex Kelly and Andrew Wilshusen. The instrumental album was recorded earlier this year, and it has a truly unique sound. CKW Trio involves history, math, & science lessons — without lyrics — and would have made advanced theoretical physics tolerable in college!

As creative as the music is, it is surprising that the band's name (the musicians' initials) is so unoriginal. This album is not something to listen to while studying or reading. It feels good to zone in to every note and try to figure out what the music is telling you.

While listening, you might hear an exotic animal you've never seen or heard of before. You'll get the feeling it is endangered, and it has something really important to tell you. Then imagine feeling self-conscious, and getting the overwhelming feeling that you don't care what anyone thinks, causing you to run out to the street naked and dance in the fog. There is a great drum solo during "Alex in Wonderland." The album concludes with a relaxing mood, with flute playing and funky beats, and the band leaves you with an overall good feeling at the end.


William Shatner, Has Been. 2004 SHOUT! FACTORY RECORDS. By Kris Bluth.

You're outgrowing emo and you don't want to go down the Celine Dion path. You want music that deals with "adult themes" like disillusionment, regret, and death, but without the shtick of a Nick Cave or the pretension of a Leonard Cohen. You also want music that isn't afraid to laugh at itself, so it's natural that all roads should lead to ... William Shatner?

OK. Sure. Shatner may not be a "musician," but Ben Folds sure knows how to produce an album that plays to his strengths. Crafting musical backgrounds based on garage rock, country, gospel, '60s pop, and even spaghetti Western, Folds provides an impeccable bed for Shatner's spoken word musings. There's some of the goofiness you might expect: Witness his cover of Pulp's "Common People" and "I Can't Get Behind That," a rant featuring co-screamer Henry Rollins. However, I'll be damned if "What Have You Done," an ode to his drowned wife, didn't give me genuine chills, while "That's Me Trying," a tale of a father reaching out to his estranged daughter, hits you in the gut like a short story by John Updike or Raymond Carver.

All this and he's 73. What will you be doing then?


The Sluts of Trust, We Are All Sluts of Trust. 2004 CHEMIKAL UNDERGROUND RECORDS. By Veronica Vergara.

The name The Sluts of Trust might not ring a bell now, but it should. Part of the recent indie/underground music explosion from Glasgow, Scotland, you could loosely compare The Sluts of Trust to some of the early Stooges work. The Sluts' John McFarlane on vocals and guitar, and Anthony O'Donnell on drums, have created an album that oozes with sleaze and "leaves you feeling violated ... In a good way." Starting with "That's Right ... That Cat's Right," We Are All Sluts of Trust begins rather hypnotically. But it gets better. "Piece O' You" is one of the gems on this album, and is also one of their first singles. It's introduced by a funk guitar riff and firecracker-like drums. Good way to start a near masterpiece? Oh, yes. But the lyrics are what frustrate me; they named the song "Piece O' You" but actually sing "Piece of you." Ignoring that, it's notably catchy. Track four, "Leave You Wanting More", is one of the GREATEST UNDERGROUND ROCK TRACKS OF ALL TIME! "Dominoes" seems to be one of the songs that best displays the talent of both McFarlane's vocal ability and O'Donnell's drumming. From the first single, "Meanwhile in Rocksville" is power-driven, repetitive and fun.


Tool, Aenima, 1996 ZOO ENTERTAINMENT, By Matthew Stone.

In my opinion, few other albums capture the astral aspects of the agony and redemption of the human experience better than the Tool opus Aenima. From the rhythmic bio-mechanical intro and angst-soaked guitar tones of "Stinkfist" to the tribal drumming and spiritual overtones of "Third Eye," this album is a concoction of expression from four individuals who have seen destruction in the face of beauty, shadows hiding in plain sight, and panic nesting in the consciousness of the commonplace. Driving it, in fact.

The title track seethes with the hatred of popular culture, and expresses the nightmare of its fate which some people wish to be true. "Pushit" deals with the people we try to disassociate ourselves from, especially when we are most like them. "Eulogy" depicts the final moments-to-be of a self-proclaimed martyr.

This entire work is structured and sculpted by sound: distorted guitars like demons which slither and sing, bass and drums striking the very template of human emotion, and a stunning set of vocals which invite one to, according to the lyrics, "step through the shadow and come out on the other side."