Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quickie Record Reviews: Fall '09 Edition

It's time to dust off the Bazooka™ ratings and dole them out to some of the more notable album releases of the past few months.

Here's the break down, in case you forgot:
5 Bazookas: Classic (KABOOM!!)

4 Bazookas: Great (BOOM!!)

3 Bazookas: Good (POW!)

2 Bazookas: Not Too Good (bang?)

1 Bazooka: Total Crap (...thud.)

Them Crooked Vultures - Them Crooked Vultures

Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme emerges as the alpha male in this super-group vanity project rounded out by Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones. Blues riffs not quite as dirty as the Dead Weather, but just as playful and unrestrained.

Flaming Lips - Embryonic

The Flaming Lips must have recently reached a comfortable level of popularity because Embryonic is by far their least accessible record of the last decade. That being said, it's also the closest they've come to their freak-out, free-for-all roots in as much time. Art rock meets Bitches Brew.

Future of the Left - Travels With Myself And Another

Mclusky alums Andy "Falco" Falkous, Jack Egglestone and former Jarcrew bassist Kelson Mathias return with their second album as Future of the Left. They're still attenuating unadulterated musical fury with sardonic lyrical smartassery. And occasionally, still peeling the paint off the walls with grating discord. Like The Jesus Lizard, but with an occasional oblique sense of melody, and humor.

Julian Casablancas - Phrazes For The Young

The Strokes frontman proves without a doubt that he's the unsung principal songwriter of that band on his first solo effort. The differences between the two projects are conspicuously minor: trebly guitar solos are substituted by shimmering synths; prosaic aloofness and angst are supplanted by a new-found nostalgia.

The Avett Brothers - I And Love And You

Rick Rubin makes the boys sit still while they play on their major label debut, therefore it's not as loose/fun as previous efforts—works more as a showcase of their strong songwriting talents. Now that they're more polished, can people please stop calling them "grungegrass", please?

Clues - Clues

Indie pop from Montreal with familial (and musical) ties to members of the Arcade Fire crew. Totally worthy of a listen, if only for the fantastic piano-driven track, "Perfect Fit."

The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love

London duo makes a thoroughly enjoyable record by bringing together 20 years of British influences into a lovely pastiche. Like MGMT for the 4AD crowd. And don't sleep on "Dominos", it's the electro-rock anthem of the year.

Built To Spill - There Is No Enemy

A bit more focused and less meandering than 2006's You In Reverse, but still dragging in parts, especially on the longer, jammy songs. It's beginning to feel like Doug Martsch can continue to make albums like these ad infinitum. And perhaps that's not such a bad thing. But it would be nice if more of the songs on this record had the urgency and punch of "Pat".

The Clientele - Bonfires On The Heath

Melancholy pop dressed up in a lush production. Bonfires On The Heath often feels like a Seals and Croft record—even though, thematically, it's more autumn wind than summer breeze. Good music for a nice little Sunday.

Monsters of Folk - Monsters of Folk

Monsters of Folk is a collaboration between Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward, and producer extraordinaire Mike Mogis. All of them are so prolific that it really should come as no surprise that the songs feel a bit like throw-aways from individual projects rather than brand new collaborations. However, even if the song flow is a bit uncohesive, everyone involved is really talented and ultimately the highlights make it an enjoyable listening experience.

Dead Man's Bones - Dead Man's Bones

Uh, didn't someone tell Ryan Gosling that albums made by actors are supposed to suck? I kinda hate him right now. He's good looking, a bona fide movie star, girls go crazy for him, AND he made a remarkably spooky-yet-cutesy indie pop record?! Man, fuck that dude.

The Antlers - Hospice

A growing number of bands hide the holes in their songwriting with valleys of reverb and waves of noise, but with The Antlers it's clear that the songs would work even with the sparest of productions. There's an obvious sentimental connection between the lyrics and the singer, and that emotion comes through as pure sincerity. That's really all I can ask for from a band.

Mastodon - Crack The Skye

Atlanta's favorite metal sons have a knack for making each progressive album (in both meanings of the word) feel like an instant classic. Crack The Skye is certainly no different. Epic in scope, technically proficient, and ultimately, true to itself; a metal album this gloriously unpretentious and free of self-serving wank and macho posturing is rare.

Nirvana - Bleach (Deluxe Edition)

The band's seminal SubPop debut gets remastered and repackaged with a full 1990 Portland concert. Producer Jack Endino gives the tracks a respectful lift in fidelity without reducing their original murkiness. The live set is a reminder of how the band could fill a room, even as just a trio. And in case you were wondering, yes, the record still holds up.

Raekwon - Only Built For Cuban Linx Pt.2

Along with Ghostface Killah (who pretty much steals every track he guests on), Raekwon is keeping the Wu-Tang Clan's iron flag flying high with this long-awaited sequel to the 1995 classic. Gritty, cinematic, and very often brilliant—just like anything you remember from Wu-Tang's mid-90's heyday.

Slayer - World Painted Blood

It's fucking Slayer. What else do you need to know? They still out-metal just about everyone. Yes, even Satan.

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