Wednesday, August 27

The Who + Ted Leo = Jet Age and the Rock Album of the Summer

Artist: Jet Age
Album: What Did You Do in the War, Daddy?

Comments: It takes sometimes just a few members to make a massive sound come to life. There are a lot of bands out there that drag tons of people into the studio to achieve their sound. Bands then drag tons of people on stage to replicate this sound live. Not many bands stripped down that can really rock an album anymore. That being said, a few diamonds in the rough come cropping up here and there.

A late night listen to a local college radio station has brought to attention a great three-piece band that can fill your headphones with a cacophony of sounds that rain embers of sheer rock goodness upon those lucky enough to get a chance to hear about them. This very band is Silver Spring, Maryland's Jet Age. Their second LP entitled What Did You Do In the War, Daddy? is a joyous celebration of what a rock band can do with just three members.

That's not the only revelation the band brings to the table. They bring a very stripped down garage rock sound that is honest, bold and thought provoking. The record is a rock opera of sorts. It's about a disgruntled middle aged American man who decides to become a suicide bomber after such hate and disdain for his own bland life and his indifferent government push him to the edge. Sounds like a stretch, right? Well this is probably the weakest element of the album. It might be an over ambitious idea, but if you didn't know that was the concept, you would say it's just a regular run-of-the-mill rock and roll record. And that is really all it is. The concept isn't what makes the album good. It's the fury and passion in the belly of the music and lyrics that drive it to excellence.

The record starts off with "Ladies Don't Cry Tonight" (as well as reprises this theme at the end) which sounds a hell of a lot like a cross between Ted Leo and Pete Townshend. In fact, the whole album sounds as if The Who (sans Daltry) grew up in the late 70s ad started their band during the post-punk movement. It's stripped down, gritty, yet has all the grandiosity that rock and roll ever had. And it's in achieving this with three pieces that really amazes me from listen to listen. A song like "O, Calender" with it's super fast guitar passages, calculated drum smashing and awesome lyrical content build and pulsate with a basement recording quality all it's own.

"Dumb" is a track that will captivate its audience with it's audacious and sinister structure. It's cynical lyric is a telling tale of a common feeling among disheartened American citizens trying to figure out what is going on and wrong in this country. And without being too in your face preachy is still a noteworthy rock song of rebellion, but a rebellion that is one that the rebel questions. Does this make any sense? Even if it doesn't, it's damn fine rock music.

It doesn't take a lot to immerse yourself in the music of The Jet Age. Not much has changed from their debut, Breathless. The concept behind What Did You Do In The War, Daddy? is about it. It's a theme tying together some amazing rock tunes. Maybe it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, even though on the band's website there is a step-by-step reveal of the narrative. It's less of a rock opera and more of a string of rock and roll songs leafed together by a common sentiment many Americans are having. Disillusionment. And if the means of this sentiment is through a furiously exciting rock and roll album, then so be it. If not for nothing, it's a refreshingly great rock album executed with precision by just three members. Bass, Guitar/Vocals and drums. No frills attached rocking.

I can't stress enough that this is something that breathes life into a musical atmosphere that is littered with bands that rely on production rather than straight up quality musicianship/song crafting.

- by Paul Tsikitas

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

Key Tracks: O, Calender, Dumb, False idols, Maybe Loves a Transmission

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Tuesday, August 26

Deliberations #1: JoBros don't JoBlow

Not so much a review, but a general dissertation about what's rolling around in the ol' brain-piece, music-wise.

Artist: The Jonas Brothers
Album: A Little Bit Longer

Comments: It has always been my assumption that someday I will have children. I am aware that this sort of secret dream is one of the most decidedly un-manly things a dude can confess. None the less, it is a sincere hope of mine to someday have a little pup wandering around the house, defiling my well ordered CD collection and breaking my vinyls into jagged shards of hip.

Of course, being an unbearable snob and self-obsessed creature of vanity, the listening habits of my future children will be paramount. I don't relish in the idea of my hypothetical children rocking out to whatever mainstream superficiality the radio will be pumping out, but as I was once a kid with fantastically shitty taste, I concede there is little I can do about it. That being said, the children of today could be listening to much worse than The Jonas Brothers, whose album A Little Bit Longer is by no means the most offensive pop release I've ever heard.

If you'll think back to the pop music landscape of the mid-90s (shudder), you'll no doubt remember the flood of poorly made, emotionless, hyper-fake boy/girl pop that was churned out by Jive records and the like every three weeks. Spears, Agulera, N*Sync, Backstreet, 5ive, 98 Degrees, Mandy Moore, Willa Ford, Blu Cantrell; this was by no means a golden era for pop music. The tunes of the time were much more about "the look" than anything else, which lead to increasingly shallow and vapid music. Few of these turkeys actually wrote their songs, and the music became background to the image. Outside of Timberlake and Agulera, none of late-century teeny-poppers survived Y2K.

While I can't recommend A Little Bit Longer to anyone over the age of 10, I'll commend the Jonas Brothers for actually writing and performing their own songs. Sure, it's still kiddy-pop that goes down sweet and smooth and almost completely absent of substance, but its well made, inoffensive kiddy-pop that won't cause a more discriminating listener to pull their hair out. It's not good, but any step forward in the field of forgettable top-40 pop music should be recognized and appreciated.

These are dudes who not only write their own songs, but preform them! With instruments and shit! My cousins used to put on dance shows at family reunions, decked out in whatever gear the pop music tramp of the day was rocking, doing their best to mimic the R-rated dance moves of their idols while my aunts and uncles looked on in uncomfortable horror. If there is any justice in the world, The JoBros will inspire kids to pick up an instrument, write a song even. And that's something.

The pre-teens of today could do a hell of a lot worse than The Jonas Brothers. As for my kids, I wouldn't chastise them for listening to A Little Bit Longer, but I'd hope they grow out of it. And I'd make sure they get their weekly dose of The Blue Album.

-Mr Dogg

Berg is Bogus

This review appears in Slant Magazine.

Artist: Yung Berg
Album: Look What You Made Me

Comments: Yung Berg is the most recent of the here-today-gone-tomorrow singles-minded rappers. Like the Young Joc and DJ UNK albums before it, Berg's debut, Look What You Made Me, is a collection of recycled ideas and mid-level beats designed to bump in car stereos and night clubs for no longer than two months before the next guy comes rolling in, which would be fine if Berg wasn't so convinced of his own greatness.

One gets the sense that he actually believes the boasts he makes; according to him, there is no better rapper, no better lover, no bigger gangster on Earth. He spends most of his time name-checking hip-hop's finest (B.I.G., Jay-Z), as if he counts himself among their ranks. But Berg's flow is as predictable as the changing seasons, and his subject matter (bitches, hoes, bitches and hoes being on his dick, how awesome he is) is old hat.

Considering that this is his first album, it's surprising that Berg doesn't really have a stronger presence on the album; Look What You Made Me is heavy on guests, featuring appearances from Twista (still around, apparently), Trey Songz, Amerie and Ray J. Nine of the album's 15 tracks feature someone else, and every guest invariably has more charm and charisma than Berg, who can best be described as secondary on "Sexy Can I" and forgettable on "Victory Lap."

Look What You Made Me
will burn brightly for a few more weeks on the strength of its club readiness, but with Berg's flaccid delivery, misguided confidence, and no desire to shake up well-worn subject matter, the album should fade into oblivion like so many other disposable pop-rap LPs. Enjoy the ride, Berg.

-Mr Dogg

Rating: 3 out of 10

Key Tracks: Sexy Can I, Victory Lap

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

Sunday, August 24

Five Card Draw #3: From Waits to Winehouse

In which we'll have a friend of LOTD put their ipod on shuffle and write about the first five songs that play. One skip is allowed, so use it wisely. This idea is pretty much the exact same thing as something the City Paper does, so any and all credit should go to them. This week, LOTD contributor and second generation gonzo observationalist Jared Adams laments the fall of Amy Winehouse and professes his love of the Ramones.

1) The Smashing Pumpkins – Perfect (
Adore, 1998)
First off, I must assure you of what a pleasure it is to be contributing, once again, to Mr. Dogg’s Left of the Dial reviews, the finest music community and review blog on the web. Secondly, to commence with the beginning of the start of the proceedings, I must assure you of what a pleasure it is to have the Pumpkins for a jump off point. I can’t think of a more perfect song to begin with than "Perfect". The third track off of The Smashing Pumpkins follow up to the grandiose epic with the equally grandiose and epic name of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, kicks the Adore album into high gear. With an ominous single string swell the song crashes into a somber, upbeat, pop rock groove that plays like a slightly more awake 1979 with very little variation throughout. Less is more on here, reigning in the albums true beginning with gentle Corgan crooning punctuated by frantic electronic break beats and synths every so often. Perfect for any situation, your next play list could welcome this one with open arms and make it feel right at home.

2) Amy Winehouse – Me & Mr. Jones (Back to Black, 2005)
Wowzers. Isn’t it sad that I had almost forgotten that Amy Winehouse is a recording artist? And a damn good one if you ask me. Before she was the drunken Looney Tune on tabloid covers in check-out aisles the world over, she was a rough around the edges alternative jazz crooner who had paid her dues with quite a few albums and finally hit her best work yet, destined for Grammys galore. One of the more condensed tracks on Back to Black, Me & Mr. Jones is just as lyrically uninhibited, fearlessly soulful and delightfully chaotic a number as any of them. Anchored by a standard blues progression underneath Winehouse’s dominating vocals, aided by a chorus line of ladies interjecting echoes of her choice lines, it stays consistent with her tales of late nights, lame guys and her endless search for a sustainable high, which I for one hope she safely finds soon so she can get on back to the studio and record another boozy doozy like this one.

3) Ramones – Learn to Listen (Brain Drain, 1989)
Alright. I really, really love the Ramones. Love them. I do not love this album. The unhinged and invigorating Ramones fun, while sparsely sprinkled throughout Brain Drain, is almost non existent here and is traded in for imitations of Judas Priest, AC/DC and (eek!) Billy Idol-esque growls with some distracting eighties pop radio production. "Learn to Listen" is perhaps one of the least fun, but also the kindest with its 1:50 run time, making it the shortest track on the album. It doesn’t sound like any of the Ramones are singing on this one, but they are. I don’t really wanna bash it too badly though, like I said, I love these guys. It’s just a boring song and the whole album is overshadowed by the gloom that the band found itself in as this was the last studio album with Dee Dee and the last one it did for Sire before switching labels and rattling off their last three albums. If I had gotten a song off of, say, "Pleasant Dreams", well then hot damn! We would’ve really been on to something here!

4) Pixies – Vamos (Wave of Mutilation, 2004) (Fuck yesssss! - Ed.)
This particular version of the song, off the Best of compilation, comes from the band’s debut album Surfer Rosa (without the “fucking die” dialogue) and contains an overlong midsection filled with what seems to be, screams of pain, livestock moans, car crashes and erratic guitar solos making it just over a minute longer than the earliest cut off Come On Pilgrim. Musically embodying the lyrical themes of mental illness, incest and apocalypse that marked the band’s early works, the song rockets through with frustration and sincere disdain for its chosen topics. Up-tempo rhythm and furiously strummed flamenco-ish chords are shredded apart by bizarro slide guitar and shrieks. A fine example of where the Pixies came from with hints of the unique ingenuity they would impress upon a world of fans and future acts they’d inspire. I’m glad I got this little ditty and not one of their Earth shattering achievements or this’d be shaping up to be one looong long entry indeed.

5) Tom Waits – Semi Suite (The Heart of Saturday Night, 1974)
Oooooh… Just listen to it. It and the whole album. If you haven’t already or even if you have. Several times. Whether you’re a Waits novice or aficionado, whether or not you’re familiar with the, uh, new and exciting directions he started going in during the 90’s you should give The Heart of Saturday Night a listen. It’s tough to review this song without reviewing them all. The third track from Waits’ second and most celebrated album, is some of the most interesting and engaging jazz you could ever ask for. Piano driven, horn treated with Waits’ smoky tenor, which is, on this album, many, many years away from descending into the gravely demon grown of his present day recordings, dances and tip toes over the keys to seamlessly interweave his storytelling prowess with breezy melodies in a way that few of even our most cherished artists can match. As good as any song on the album, a fine early placement on The Heart of Saturday Night and an even finer fifth card to draw this time around the dial, until next time!

-Jared Adams

Thursday, August 21

Haiku Reviews: Foals, Flight of the Conchords, Man Man



Artist: Foals
Album: Antidote

Post-punk with some horns.
Tight, sounds like Minus the Bear.
Drags, a good début.

Raiting: 7 out of 10
Key Tracks: Cassius, Red Rocks Pugie, Electric Bloom
Buys, Steal, Skip: Steal

----------------------------------------------------------

Artist: Flight of the Conchords
Album: Flight of the Conchords

Acoustic soul songs
With jokes. Better with pictures
Still good party tunes.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: Inner City Pressure, Think About it, The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)
Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

-----------------------------------------------------------------

Artist: Man Man
Album: Rabbit Habbits

Man man’s “pop” record
Less love sick insanity
Good but not like Bag.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Key Tracks: Ballad of Butter Beans, Rabbit Habbits, Top Drawer
Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy


-by Mr Dogg


Wednesday, August 20

Feeling Guilty about Modern Guilt

Artist: Beck
Album: Modern Guilt

Comments: There are a whole bunch of reasons why I probably won’t ever be taken seriously as a critic. One of those reasons is my apathy toward Beck. Here is an example of every conversation I’ve ever had pertaining to a new Beck album, including his most recent one, Modern Guilt.

Buddy #1: Oh man, Beck has got a new album coming out!

Buddy #2: No shit! Aw man, that’s awesome, I love Beck!

Buddy #1: Dude, me too! He’s so cool and crazy!

Mr. Dogg: (waking from a nap) ….What’s going on?

Buddy #1 and #2: New Beck album!

Mr. Dogg: Oh. Neat. (goes back to sleep)

“Oh. Neat” is really the best I can do for Beck. Not that I don’t understand the hullabaloo; I consider Beck to be my generation’s David Bowie. Love him or hate him, there is no one else like him. At the very least, each Beck album is interesting from an audio production standpoint due to his interest in samples, production and studio elements.

Of course, calling an artist interesting isn’t the same thing as calling an artist good. Despite his individuality and uniqueness, his albums have always been little more than singles and filler to me. I’ve listened to Modern Guilt from start to finish a few times now, and nothing has jumped out at me.

As much of a cop out as it is, the best I can say is this. If you like Beck, specifically the newer, more mature, more restrained Beck from Sea Change and The Information, then Modern Guilt will be up your alley. If you’re still looking to get into Beck, this might not be the place to start.

Part of me wonders if I am missing out by not being on the Beck boat. Years from now, when my children start getting into music and they ask me about Beck, one of the most innovative and memorable artists of my generation, I feel like I’ll be cheating them when all I can say is “Yeah, I was never really into him.”

Of course, Rush was one of the most innovative bands of their time, as well. And who the fuck cares about Rush?

- by Mr Dogg

Rating: 5 out of 10

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Five Card Draw #2

In which we'll have a friend of LOTD put their ipod on shuffle and write about the first five songs that play. One skip is allowed, so use it wisely. This idea is pretty much the exact same thing as something the City Paper does, so any and all credit should go to them. This week, LOTD contributor and internet-enthusiast Paul Tsikitas spins some hot jams and Michael McDonald.

1) Michael McDonald – Believe In It (Yacht Rock Soundtrack)
What a delightfully awkward way to start this little endeavor. Let me explain myself here. If you have never heard of or seen the JD Ryznar Channel 101 series Yacht Rock, you'd think I was a closet Mike McDonald fan. But since I have all these episodes on my iPod and the entire soundtrack (which consists of Toto, Kenny Loggins, Steely Dan and even Dr. Dre,) then I direct your attention to the link here to see the episode named after this delightful cheese tune from the 80's. Seriously, watch the shorts and try NOT to get addicted to all things Yacht Rock. And after these episodes, you will be outed for your love of Mikey Mc.


2) Radiohead – Go Slowly (In Rainbows Bonus Disc, 2007)
That's more like it! An amazingly haunting and sumptuous dream pop classic. When Radiohead released In Rainbows for free, I decided to shell out the dough for the Disc Box which came with the vinyl, the CD and the bonus disc as well as a lot of artwork. As much as free music is great, it was worth the large sum of money for the genius presentation and the brilliant second disc with this awesome cut. Radiohead played this song at their last Camden Waterfront show. A pure delight.

3) Coldplay – Such a Rush (The Blue Room EP, 1999)
Before it was a sign that you were gay, liking Coldplay wasn't all that much. And in 1999 when this wonderful EP was released, not that many people were buzzing about the band yet. Most of the songs on this disc appeared on Parachutes the next year, but here they all sound a bit different and were the signs of a pop muxic powerhouse to come. This track builds at the end into a gorgeous "rush"* of emotions and clamor of instruments.

*(Ugh - Ed)

4) Cold War Kids – Rubidox (Robbers & Cowards 2006)
A lot of buzz surrounded this band and their first single, "Hang Me Up to Dry" received a lot of praise. It's an overall decent album but nothing to write home about. This track has copious amounts of percussion and an interesting structure. I think my favorite part of this band is the lead singers bluesy swagger in his voice. I saw them open for Muse, which was a terrible combo, but they were really kinetic on stage. I think they'd be better at World Café or something like that. The last place I want them to play is with a band where I expect to rock the fuck out.

5) Dump – Curl (I Can Hear Music, 1995)
I first heard Dump from an amazing tape called That Skinny Motherfucker With the High Voice, a rare release of Prince covers. Dump is the alias of Yo La Tengo bass player James McNew. I went on a feverish hunt for all of his releases after hearing that and found one of my favorite artists. A one man band who uses a Casio drum machine writes beautiful songs that are raw and from the heart. This track just floats above the ground with it's soothing melodies and dreamy vocals. If you stumble upon a Dump album at the record store, pick it up immediately. Not only are they hard to come by, they are diamonds in the rough.

-by Paul
Tsikitas

Tuesday, August 19

A Post-Punk Love Letter


Artist: Forward Russia!
Album:
Life Processes

Comments:
Dear Forward Russia!,

I want you to know that I really tried to make this work.

When you released your first LP, Give me a Wall in 06, I embraced it, warts and all. Sure, the songs all named after numbers. Sure, there was the obvious Bloc Party comparison to be made. But I didn’t care about any of that. I liked you for your earnestness, your aggression. I liked that you shied away from overly emotional songs while maintaining a sense of drama and grandness. Sure, you fell flat on your face sometimes, but you always charmed me enough to draw me back in.

When I heard you were coming back into my life with this year’s Life Processes, I was excited. And when I heard your songs would have actual names, I couldn’t help but get my hopes up. I got my hair done, bought a new outfit. I was ready to see the new you, improved and mature.

What happened?

Sure, the things I’ve always liked about you are still here. Your ear for the dramatic is as sharp as ever. Tracks like “A Prospector Can Dream” and “A Shadow Is a Shadow Is a Shadow” are top-notch post punk songs. They don’t reinvent the wheel, but they would look mighty pretty attached to my car.

But where is the fun, Forward Russia!? You’ve always been tight, but you used to sound playful even when you were trying to be serious. Your lead singer Tom Woodhead used to play with his voice, alternating between scrappy guttural tones, falsetto yelps and mid-level British crooning, but he never seems to break out of his croon this time around.

When did you start taking yourself so seriously? I loved you for your earnestness, but it takes more than some guitar layering to make you U2. You used to want nothing more than to be a good post-punk band; why the sudden need to be the most important band of all time? I admire your aspirations, but you can’t make that kind of jump in two years.

I want you to know I still have feelings for you, Forward Russia!. Life Processes has a lot of good things going for it, but it's not all I hoped it could be. There will always be a soft spot in my heart for you, but I can’t take your self importance and your similar sounding songs. There are some bright spots here, and if you can focus on them, I’m sure we can be happy together. Please don’t keep me waiting.

-Mr Dogg

Rating:
5.5 out of 10

Key Tracks:
A Prospector Can Dream, Breaking Standing, A Shadow is a Shadow is a Shadow

Buy, Steal, Skip:
Skip

Monday, August 18

Stereolab Gets Spacy

Artist:Stereolab
Album: Chemical Chords

Comments: For a fan like me, every Stereolab release is like a debut: fresh, new, and alive. In reality, Stereolab has been making groovy music for more than a decade. Their polished sound, which combines meticulous Krautrock and smooth 60’s lounge pop, has a track record of influencing bands and fans alike. With Chemical Chords, Stereolab’s newest release, the band serves some mighty fine, mature tunes all tied up in a pretty rainbow colored bow.

Stereolab’s obsession with the future comes out with a vengeance on this album. Once the first note of the recording sounds with the effervescent “Neon Beanbag,” you feel like you’ve been instantly transported into an uninhabited time. Space surrounds you all shimmering and graceful, while you float around stars and other celestial beings in a poised manner, like you were queen or king of the planets. Everything comes to life right in front of your ears. Colors and shapes are splashed everywhere while you are in your finely tuned space suit. Chemical Chords is imagination being used at its finest.

From “Neon Beanbag” to “Three Women,” the language changes from English to French. The lead singer, as well as instrumentalist, Laetitia Sadier is bilingual. French can also be heard on a few other Chemical Chord tracks, just don’t ask me to translate what she is singing. “Three Women” is a charming song that is one of Stereolab’s rare straightforward pop tunes.

With Chemical Chords, there great tracks, then there are the OK ones. The great ones are total gems, introducing new arrangements and ideas, but then the others always seem to pale in comparison. The OK ones are fallbacks that can be found on any Stereolab album. But the good side is that there are only few of them, meaning two or three.

One of the great tracks is the precise, album-titled “Chemical Chords.” A short drumroll leads into an odyssey of spacey orchestral sounds. Sadier’s voice is gracefully echoed, while a beautiful string section gives “Chemical Chords” a whimsical touch, shifting this spacey song to more of a dreamy one.

The string section continues to lead, until met with the brassier “Self Portrait with 'electric brain'.” Horns chime in at perfect times, giving this jangly track a hint of well-deserved muscle.

Rounding out the album is the futuristic chamber pop “Nous Vous Demandons Pardon” or “We Ask for Your Forgiveness,” the coincidentally sunshine drenched “Cellulose Sunshine,” and the rather childish “Daisy Click Clack.”

The closing to this colorful journey is the more relaxed “Vortical Phonotheque.”. Soft synths and keys entwine together creating a somewhat saddened sound. A pedal controlled electric guitar creates a stream of light along with Sadier’s vocals. In a sudden manner, the song stops on a beat, leaving the listener hanging, but satisfied.

Chemical Chords is a sure treat for anyone who is looking for something new and accessible. The sound may seem complex, which it is, but after one or two listens the music clicks and becomes totally comprehensible.

-Erin Mae Szrainkowski

Rating: 7 out of 10

Key Tracks:
Neon Beanbag, Chemical Chords, Silver Sands, and Vortical Phonotheque

Buy, Skip, Steal: Buy

Thursday, August 14

Five Card Draw #1

In the interest of keeping the daily updates rolling, here's a new feature called Five Card Draw, in which we'll have a friend of LOTD put their ipod on shuffle and write about the first five songs that play. One skip is allowed, so use it wisely. This idea is pretty much the exact same thing as something the City Paper does, so any and all credit should go to them. This week, Mr. Dogg himself will handle the inaugural proceedings.

1) Ladyhawk - Start a War (Fight for Anarchy, 2007)
I've given Ladyhawk more credit than anyone I know, and in all honestly, probably more than they deserve. I really wish this cut from their vinyl / digital-only EP had made it on to this year's Shots. Catchy and cloudy, this is the kind of song the band really needs to start making more often.

2) Sufjan Stevens - John Wayne Gacy Jr. (Illinois, 2005)
It's not often that a song can be both beautiful and moving while putting you on edge, but "John Wayne Gacy Jr." does just that. Probably the best song of Illinois, its notable for making the listener feel sympathetic for a dude who killed a whole mess of people dressed like a clown.

3) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Fancy (Show Your Bones, 2006)
While the backlash is starting to die down, I can't help but feel like Show Your Bones is the album that time forgot. Despite initial disappointment across the board, to me this album is the sneaky hit of 2006. Granted, "Fancy" is by no means my favorite track, but the progression in songwriting by Karen O and the movement away from Strokes-punk makes this record way better than folks like to admit.

4) The Hold Steady - Magazines (Stay Positive, 2008)
While this album is growing on me in the best kind of way, it's still not as good as their 05 release. Sam Scavuzzo wrote in his original review of this album that Craig Finn sounds like he invented the chorus, and I'm starting to see what he means. Also, shout out to Lucero guest vocal-ing on this track.

5) Whole Wheat Bread - Lound and Clear (Minority Rules, 2005)
These guys made slightly above average pop-punk, but got play based on the novelty of their skin color in a a genre populated by 12-14 year old suburban kids. There are at least three good songs on this album, and this is not one of them. Interesting tidbit, the bass player of this band got arrested about an hour outside my town.


- Mr Dogg

Wednesday, August 13

Lollapalooza 08, Saturday August 2nd, 2008: Come on Zach, Get With The Times


Chicago. Crown jewel of America's heartland. Gateway to the west. Home of Batman and deliciously fattening pizza. Location of America's finest celebration of alternative music of every persuasion, Lollapalooza.

Due to my new job as a corporate shill and some flight delays, my Lollapalooza began at 10pm Friday night, not long after Radiohead had finished their bellowing nonsense. Instead of rushing out to see the end of a band I don’t care for, I met my family for pizza in downtown Chi-Town. This is notable for two reasons: lead singer of the Flaming Lips Wayne Coyne sat next to me at the restaurant, and my little brother got tanked in front of my mother for the first time. I’m still not sure which I enjoyed more.

Roughly 14 hours later, I found myself in Grant Park watching England's latest addition to the already overcrowded sea of hipster dance music, the poorly named Does it Offend You, Yeah? (I'm told this name is taken from the British version of The Office, which makes it marginally less irritating).

Luckily, their music is better than their name might suggest. With a combination of electronica and new wave, DIOYY successfully rocked the midday crowd. Playing almost their entire new album You Have No Idea What You're Getting Yourself Into, DIOYY are masters of the build-and-release style that makes live techno so engaging for crowds of e-popping ravers. Of course, even the sober can enjoy "Dawn of the Dead," "We Are Rockstars," and "Doomed Now," Especially the last two, with which the band closed their set. DIOYY left the stage to clapping hands and warm smiles. Their performance was good enough that I bought the album, and it made my older brother dance, which is an occurrence about as common finding a live platypus under your bed.

**********

I trekked across the park, bought a bottle of wine, and settled in to watch Dr. Dog, Philadelphia's worst-kept and biggest-hyped secret. Some shows demand that you rise to your feet and pay attention, while other shows are just content to have you sit and enjoy. Dr. Dog was one of the latter; their stage show doesn't draw you in, but their songs are sharp enough and the band is tight enough to keep you interested. Their brand of 60s style rock music was the perfect soundtrack to laying in the grass and drinking some wine with friends. And they were good enough that I bought their most recent album, Fate. Better on stage than on album, but still not incendiary, Dr. Dog's polite and professional show was a good comedown after my dance party.

**********

Every year there's a band that comes out of nowhere to slap me in the teeth , have their way with me, and leave me in a bloody pile with a stupid look on my face. This year's band to achieve such violent awesomeness was Foals, an Oxford six-piece that blended elements of Bloc Party post-punk with the angular hooks and tough edge of Minus the Bear. The dudes lurched and stumbled around stage, hitting sharp guitar riffs and seaworthy drum beats, howling into their microphones (everyone was mic-ed) while the teaming masses danced at their feet. Foals drew an impressive crowd, especially for a band in down time on a side stage. Their most recent album Antidotes will be covered on this page soon. In the mean time, if Foals come to town and you are at all interested in hearing what Minus the Bloc Party would sound like, peep them.

Between my now-empty bottle of wine and the frenzy of Foals, I was feeling pretty good. Sadly, all it took was a bad performance to knock the wind from my boozed up sails, as MGMT was Saturday's big letdown. The slow, awkward shuffling and reworking of the songs off their 08 release Oracular Spectacular ruined what could have been a good show. I understand that MGMT is a two man project, only recently fleshed out to a traveling five-piece live band, but after such flaccid and soulless renditions of their music, I wish they had taken a little more time to practice together. MGTM songs can be fun, but live that Saturday, they were anything but.

My mood sufficiently soured, I moseyed on across the park to watch the last few songs of DeVotchKa (who was kind of lame) and give mild attention to Explosions in the Sky (who might have sounded better if I was playing football in the sunset, but really just came off as repetitive and overly-dramatic).

By 6:29, things were looking grim. Despite my fun morning and alcohol fueled afternoon, morale was low thanks to MGMT and the mediocre one-two of DeVotchKa and Explosions. All that would be turned around within two minutes. Thank the good dude for Okkervil River.

**********

It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what I like so much about Okkervil River. Their music is either in the same genre of or a blatant rip-off of Bright Eyes depending who you ask, and the world has enough folk-rock without adding one more pig to the pile.

It might be in the songwriting, which was on full display with the poetic and ominous opening of "The President's Dead" and followed through on to "Black." But it's probably more simple than that; I like to rock, and Okkervil River rocks. Lead man Will Sheff howled and called in his trademark warble as he stalked the stage with his acoustic guitar on "A Hand to Take Hold of the Scene," "A Girl in Port," and the fucking awesome "Our Life is not A Movie or Maybe" all off of their super-fine 07 release The Stage Names.

I'll admit, I lost my shit a little bit during Okkervil River. But I wasn't the only one. The band had the crowd whipped into a frenzy, delivering all the passion and fire that is sometimes muted on their albums. By the time the band closed the show "Westfall," my spirits were lifted, and I was ready to go again.

Broken Social Scene
was next. They played all the hits ("7/4 Shoreline," "Cause = Time," "Fire Eye'd Boy," "Major Label Debut") and I did more than my fair share of dancing. Honestly, I was still too worked up over Okkervil and alcohol to properly take them in. My bad, BSS. Next time.

**********

I took an hour to myself. I reflected. I meditated. I ate some tacos. I had to prepare myself, for one wrong that had plagued my life since 7th grade was finally going to be righted. I was going to see Rage Against the Machine.

Me and about 50,000 other boozed up silverbacks, apparently. To describe the RATM crowd as hostile would be like describing a mass amputation as a flesh wound. The combination of aggressive music, oppressive music and obsessive alcohol consumption made the festival grounds a powder keg for disaster.

Despite a few hairy moments, there were no problems. The band played all their hits like it was 1999. "People of the Sun?" Check. "Bombtrack?" Check. "Know Your Enemy?" Check. "Guerilla Radio," "Sleep now in the Fire," and "Bulls on Parade?" Check, check and fuck yes. Sure, some things sounded dated ("As we move into 92/ still in a room without a view? Come on Zach, get with the times) but the band delivered the same riotous aggression and power that weightlifters and protesters have blasted out of headphones since the mid 90s.

The band had to stop the show three times to beg the crowd to take "five or ten steps back," but we'd all prefer ruined flow to a massive disaster. As it was, Lollapalooza ended that day with a sigh of relief instead of a call for help. I saw a cool new band, got my expectations blown away by a band I already liked, and finally got to see one of my favorite childhood bands live. Not to shabby for a Saturday in the Midwest.

-Mr Dogg

Tuesday, August 12

Lollapalooza, Friday August 1st, 2008 - "We Don't Give a Fuck About Radiohead"

On August 1 lines of bodies surrounded the gates of Grant Park in downtown Chicago as travelers from all over the country stood outside the park in anticipation of a weekend of booze, friends and tunes, tunes, tunes.

Friday was the first day of my inaugural Lollapalooza, and I walked into that unchartered world with mixed expectations. Sure, my beloved Go! Team and Bloc Party would be gracing the stages today, but what about the rest of these bands? With some, I knew a few choice hits; others were completely foreign.

Let me just say right now, I wasn’t disappointed.

As Bang Camero, a joke of a metal band, took the stage, I realized just how little an idea I had of what I’d be seeing over the course of the weekend. The stage was crowded with 20ish greasy, grimy men who I’m convinced formed this novel band just for the free festival tickets, head banging in unison and throwing up devil horns, all before noon. At least ten of them had mics which, despite the ferociously metal music they were making, actually sounded pretty cool. Kids rocked out in the front, but most of us milled around with confused smiles before wandering off to see what else Lolla had to offer.

Sofia Talvik graced the Citi stage, one stage over from Bang Camero’s nonsense-metal. Here people sat under the trees along either side of the stage as the soft-spoken Swede and her pink acoustic guitar countered the metal with some light love songs. Her pretty, mellow voice and delicate demeanor were in stark contrast with Bang Camero, making me realize that this weekend was going to have something for everyone.

I took a shot in the dark and headed off to Parlor Mob (my accomplice for the weekend was checking out each band meticulously in the program to make sure they at least sounded promising). The Parlor Mob turned out to be a long-haired, guitar riffing rock n’ roll group out of New Jersey. And it was here, at 1:30 in the afternoon, that I got my first taste of the massive amount of weed that was going to be consumed in this park with minimum discretion. The men in front of us lit up a joint as Parlor Mob started in on their second. A security guard walked right between us, said nothing, and everyone continued to rock out.

By now it was almost two, which meant it was an acceptable time to start heading over for the Go! Team. I was surprised at the size of their crowd, which was full of everyone from highschoolers to a 30something man who turned to us before the set and beamed, “This is my favorite band!”

And then the dancing started.

Singer Ninja came out in her devilish grin and giant heart sunglasses, and the Bud Light stage erupted. The Go! Team hit all the right notes, playing “Panther Dash” and Ladyflash” and even kicked it down for drummer Chi Fukami to come out and win the crowd with “Hold YR Terror Close,” (This is consistently the most adorable thing in live music – ED) while everyone’s favorite front-woman took over the drum set. Despite the ravaging heat in Chicago that day, the Go! Team’s energy never wavered as they blasted through dance numbers, and the crowd carried on with them step for step.

A quick dash sent us back over to the Citi state for Louis XIV’s sexual soundtrack just in time to catch the end of “Pledge of Allegiance.” The southern alt-rock band cruised through “The Best Little Secrets Are Kept” with the unrestrained vigor. Jason Hill’s sensual rasp captivated their audience as he crooned, “Politics are so much better when there’s sex,” in "Paper Doll". Louis, with their racy lyrics and knee-weakening bass, are somewhat of an acquired taste, and I hung near the back with the less devout as the kids up front moved and shaked in time to Hill’s voice.

A food break put us briefly in listening range of goofy punks Gogol Bordello and their raucous fans before we settled in front of the MySpace stage.

Say what you want about lovely-dovey couple act Mates of State, they write some pretty solid numbers. Jason Hammell pounded away on the drums while wife Kori Gardner belted out that yell in the middle of “Get Better” with a power you wouldn’t have foreseen just from looking at her. Their cotton candy pep may seem hokey to some, but get in range of that keyboard and let’s see you not start tapping your feet. The set closed strongly with “ “ off May release Re-Arrange Us.

Though we didn’t see much of the Grizzly Bear set, the two numbers we did catch calmed my racing pulse with their soothing indie-rock. Hopefully I can check them out more thoroughly in the future.

And no, we didn’t go see the Raconteurs. Call me a heretic if you will. I’m a Bloc Party kid through and through.

The problem was that when we got to the AT&T stage it was already full of people. People who were neither singing nor dancing to Kele Okereke’s beautiful British voice. Our confusion was cleared when a man to our left muttered to his friend, “Man, these people lined up for Radiohead early.” Bloc Party fans were nowhere to be found, swallowed up in an enormous crowd of Radiohead fans who wanted no part of my beloved dance rock band from across the Atlantic. And I was furious.

“Excuse me, are you here for Radiohead? Yeah? Well we’re not. We want to see Bloc Party and then we’re leaving. We don’t give a fuck about Radiohead.”

That’s how we got to the middle of the AT&T crowd and discovered, to our joy, that there were Bloc Party fans hiding up near the stage. We joined in the dance as the band, minus normal bassist Gordon Moakes (he was busy playing with his new baby daughter), plowed through favorites “Banquet” “This Modern Love” off Silent Alarm. Despite the people around us who still didn’t see what all the fuss was about as they waited with bated breath for Thom Yorke, Bloc Party still drew shouts of, “So James Dean-so blue jeans!” from the crowd during “Helicopters.

Though I was not as fond of Weekend In The City, I still amped up when Okereke, sporting an Obama shirt, burst into “Hunting for Witches.” Even a new song or two managed to sneak its way into the set to good reception (from the people who were actually there to see them, anyway). Drummer Matt Tong gained a mustache since the last time I saw them, but his drumming was as tight as ever, and Russell Lissack was a one man powerhouse as he carried the band’s catchy guitar through the set without a letdown.

Dance-weary and frustrated by the fans around us, once Bloc Party finished we didn’t stick around for Radiohead.

And so ended Day One of Lollapalooza.

-by Liz Wagner

Monday, August 11

Case of the Mondays....

No update today.

Check back tomorrow around lunch time. Here's what this week looks like:

New Pornogrphers / Andrew Bird concert
Lollapalooza 08
All Points West
Forward, Russia!
Stereolab

<3,

Team LOTD

Friday, August 8

The Accidental's Wolves Fine for Fall

Artist: The Accidental
Album: There Were Wolves

Comments:
The ending of summer brings an onslaught of changing temperatures, school, and work. While it stinks returning to normal life and leaving the summer behind, there is a lovely remedy; blissful folk music. The Accidental's new release There Were Wolves is the perfect soundtrack for the season changing blues. This folky album easily takes you from the carefree summer months to the more serious sweater-wearing fall. The Accidentals have the ability to tame any beast, even the wolves out there.

Before I start to review the album, I want to put out a disclaimer: (Thank god) There Were Wolves is NOT a boring album. This is not the folk your great grandparents grew up with, which only needed good lyrics, a sad man, and a guitar. No, instead, its some British twentysomethings folking the party.

There Were Wolves kicks off with “Knock, Knock,” a boy/girl sing-song that allows for delicate feminine and masculine touches. Onomatopoeia is used quite impressively in the song. This literary technique helps to make up the majority of the song. Words like “knock” and “ring” are slowly recited in the background as bandleader Sam Genders sings “You broke my legs and you asked me to stay.” A handclap and a softly strummed guitar give added texture to the subdued vocals.

The best thing about Wolves has to be the lyrics. The Accidental does not stray from the simple folk formula, but they add in their own personality. Because of this, their lyrics turn out good, well-written, and colorful, painting lovely visual portraits of pretty things.

“Wolves” is another good example of the previous statement. This track personifies a fairytale, slightly resembling a more mature Little Red Riding Hood, but at the same time taking on real-life situations; talking about a man who wants to do something about a girl, but only has grimy liquid confidence. Genders, The Accidental’s storyteller extraordinaire, sings “She was dancing in a neon cave with a tilted smile and a lover's laugh,” about the Little Red of the situation, as the “wolves” “drink their beer from plastic glasses 'til they find the words to make the first move.”

Even near the end of the album, the tunes still play out to be solid.

The love-longing “The Closer I Am” and the softly apocalyptic “Illuminated Red” are both nice closers to this debut album.

In Wolves it is easy to see how inspirational The Accidental is as a band. Everything seems to be performed with the slightest of ease and comes out sounding great and totally professional. In each track, the band has obvious general strengths, like the lyrics and vocal pairings. Overall, Wolves is a nice folky album with legitimate lyrics and humble music ensembles. However, after listening to the album, I felt there could have been more room for experimentation. They already had existing talent; they just needed to cultivate it a bit more. That would have been nice to hear.

But, besides that, there aren’t any other cons to There Were Wolves besides occasional over-simplicity. This album should be everyone’s soundtrack to the changing seasons.

-Erin Mae Srainkowski

Rating: 6 out of 10

Key Tracks:
Knock, Knock , and The Closer I Am

Buy, Skip, Steal:
Buy

Thursday, August 7

New Sigur Ros Album Breaks my Spell Checker

Artist: Sigur Ros
Album: Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

Comments: For the past 11 years, Iceland’s Sigur Ros has been making grand, dramatic music that comes as close to classical compositions as a band can get without being classical. Their brand of slow building decompression music is most closely associated with post-rock, but that’s a misnomer since the band has seeming never even considered rocking. Sigur Ros looked only to give life weight with massive arrangements that combine strings, woodwinds, keyboards, guitars played with bows and Icelandic howls that run the gamut from angelic to wolf-like.

This kind of music doesn’t really lend itself to silliness. Intentional or not, Sigur Ros has been a desperately serious band, both in their actual production and how their music is received by the public. Their first four albums could be found on movie soundtracks, make out play lists, and anywhere were intense not-joking-around was to be done; never on a party play list or a casual afternoon at the beach. And while Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust isn’t a complete departure from the formula, it does show the band changing a little bit.

All the division from their established sound can be heard on first single and album opener “Gobbledigook.” Right away it’s easy to tell something is different as the song is only three minutes long, a dwarf in the Sigur Ros catalog where songs can last for over 10 minutes. “Gobbledigook” is an acoustic thumper of a track that evokes a brand new feeling for a band that seems to do nothing but evoke emotion; playfulness. This song is actually fun. One could listen to this song outside of a colossal break up, or life changing car accident in slow motion.

“Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur” and “Góðan Daginn” are similar in their deviation from large-scale dramatics, although they are still built on the on the build-and-release template that the band has perfected. These early tracks are noteworthy for how much they stand out among the rest of the band’s work; some albums spin indefinitely as single bodies with no distinguishing characteristics, but these songs are songs.

After this, things revert to standard Sigur Ros. The remaining songs are beautiful and meaningful, utilizing every instrument under the sun to produce something gargantuan and elegant. This isn’t bad, in fact two cuts, “Festival” and “Ára Bátur” rank among the band’s best. However, this is safe, well tred ground for the band, and after the initial branch out of the first few cuts, it’s depressing to hear the band fall back on what is safe, no matter how beautiful.

A miniature departure of sorts, Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust continues Sigur Ros’ streak of enormously emotional music, but also hints that beneith all the layers of sound and theatrics there are people, a reminder that the minds behind even the most grand masterworks like to cut loose every now and again.

-Mr Dogg

Rating:
7 out of 10

Key Tracks: Gobbledigook, Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur, Festival

Buy, Steal, Skip:
Steal

Wednesday, August 6

Live: Old 97's and Sleepercar, Philadelphia, PA


Walking across Philadelphia on my way to the Trocadero last Wednesday (7/30/08), I had visions of kids ages 16 – 24 rocking along side me to the county alt-pop of the Old 97’s, America’s finest cow-punks. That noble vision, one of an entire class of kids I never knew who could appreciate music with a dash (and often way more) of country without being ignorant, didn’t really pan out. The crowd for the 97’s definitely skewed more towards the 30s and 40s than it did the teens. This was punctuated by an overly crowded 21+ balcony and an extended bar on the main floor.

A little bummed about my generation but no less excited by the prospect of seeing an old favorite live for the first time, I took my place alongside the fanatical and the young on the floor and settled in for Sleepercar, the show’s opener.

Regular LOTD readers (hah!) might recall Sleepercar, Jim Ward’s country solo project, getting treatment a few months back. In my original review of his album West Texas, one of my biggest gripes was Ward’s voice, which irked me for its lack of variation between a conversational low and an almost post-rock yell. While I stand by initial review, it’s clear that I underestimated the power behind Ward’s pipes.

The set started off with “A Broken Promise,” West Texas’s excellent album opener, and only went up from there. Ward and his backing band looked a little green at first, as this tour is their first major outing as a band. Ward seemed timid in between songs, and there were times when the entire band looked more like wide-eyed teens than seasoned rock vets.

Still, the best songs from West Texas more than held up live. “Kings& Compromises” sounded full and rocking, with four of the five dudes on stage adding to the song’s excellent chorus. The show stopper was “Wednesday Nights,” in which Ward’s voice was so powerful that I had to re-think my original criticism. Ward crooned and called with a fervor and passion that can only translate live, all while the saddest steel guitar plucked behind him. The band isn’t ready for the big time yet, but they make for a fine opening act.

As the Old 97’s took the stage, I was struck by how…er…old they all looked. Sure, they’ve been putting out albums for 13 years, but that kind of thing never really sinks in. Drummer Philip Peeples looked like someone’s dad (hell, he might be someone’s dad), guitarist Ken Bethea looked like an aging hipster and bass player Murray Hammond might be the goofiest looking man in rock, like the combination of a science teacher and a Muppet. Only lead man Rhett Miller looked like a young man, probably because of his steady diet of sleeping with beautiful women.

The band played a set that leaned heavily on their excellent new album Blame it on Gravity, and some songs stood next to the classics better than others. Show opener “The Fool” didn’t play well next to fan favorite and 97’s classic “Barrier Reef,” but “No Baby I” and “Color of a Lonely Heart is Blue” sounded right at home. Also present in the main set were classics like “Nightclub,” “Buick City Complex” and “Hands Off.” Especially awesome was “Smoker,” which is a total slip track on Drag it Up, but rocked out with a furious intensity live.

The band has a reputation for being great live, and I’ve got nothing to detract from said rep. It’s rare to see a group perform their material tightly while appearing loose on stage, which is exactly what the 97’s were able to do. Bethea was a stone-faced madman, ripping off solo after solo as if it was the easiest thing in the world. Hammond was all smiles and non-sequesters, displaying a nerdy charm that was both comical and endearing. Miller pounded on his acoustic guitar, breaking strings three times throughout, shaking his hips like Elvis incarnate, his eyes scanning the crowd for a woman to bed and his mouth permanently fixed with a scoundrel’s smile. The confidence was oozing off the stage; they rocked and they knew it.

The band played two encores. The first allowed for both Hammond and Miller to do some solo performances, and while Miller’s “Singular Girl” was nice, Hammond’s pure country drawl outshone on “Valentine.” The entire band came back out to blast the audience with “Dance with Me” off of Gravity and “Doreen,” from Wreck Your Life before leaving again only to be called back out for one more go around. The second encore was brief and fun, with the band playing “Timebomb” and “The New Kid” before finally calling it a night.

The Old 97’s lived up to both my personal expectations and their established hype. I’ll be sure to catch them again next time they come around. Now if I could just get someone under the age of 30 to like this band.

-Mr Dogg

Pictures
Sleepercar
Old 97's

Tuesday, August 5

Alkaline Trio Ready to Rock Your Radio

Artist: Alkaline Trio
Album: Agony and Irony

Comments:
It seems that whenever a band releases an album that the fans hate with fanatical zeal, the damage control protocol is to say “but wait, this new album is going to sound exactly like that old album that you love!” On occasion, the band actually delivers on the promise, releasing an album of catchy pandering (ahem, Less than Jake.), but more often than not this wild promise just leaves the fans let down.

Such is the story of the Alkaline Trio. Their last album Crimson was universally rejected as garbage, and rightfully so. To stop the bleeding and appease their fan base, the group released an album of b-sides and rarities and started to float rumors about an upcoming album that would harken back to the band's Goddamnit glory days. That album is now out, and it's called Agony and Irony.

The hype is what is wrecking this album. While Agony and Irony doesn't live up to the Goddamnit hype, it is a fine album in its own right; a safe rock album that mixes the band's natural pop leanings and dark, lovelorn lyrics with a sleek, mainstream pop production.

Sleek is a fine description for a used car, but when you apply it to punk rock, there's a problem. There is no denying that Agony and Irony is a smooth as buttered sheet metal. Far removed from the rough-around-the-edges rock of their heyday, the tracks on this album are all radio ready and studio slick in a bland way that doesn't jump out right away, but sits in the back of your mind bothering you like a popcorn kernel stuck in your teeth.

That being said, the songs are pretty good. Get past the production and what's left is a collection of solid-to-near-classic AK3 songs. Their dark demeanor and heartbroken heads remain intact and the band seems to have recaptured the poetic pen that blessed their early albums, the same one that was painfully absent on Crimson. The band even occasionally overcomes their wall of auto-tune to create some really good songs, namely “Over and Out” and “I Found a Way.”

By no means a new American punk classic, Agony and Irony is a strong release after the monumentally crappy Crimson, and establishes the Alkaline Trio as they move into an elder statesman roll in the punk world. They aren't going back to their early days, but those willing to grow along with them will be rewarded with some of the best radio-ready rock music in months.

-Mr. Dogg

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Key Tracks:
I Found a Way, Over and Out, Help Me

Buy, Steal, Skip:
Steal

Friday, August 1

Mae Shi(t)

Artist: The Mae Shi
Album: Hlllyh


-by Erin Mae Szriankowski

Rating:
2 out of 10

Key Tracks: Run to Your Grave

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip