Friday, February 26

Shout Out Louds Latest a Workman-like Effort of Pleasing Pop

Artist: Shout Out Louds
Album: Work

Short Review: An above average collection of pleasant, yet inessential, indie pop.

Long Review: The third LP from Swedish pop masters Shout Out Louds is one catchy motherfucker. Work is packed to the gills with hook-y little love songs that would, at worst, make for excellent soundtrack fodder and, at best, sound right at home on a mix CD for that girl in your Creative Writing class whose always wearing the Cure t-shirts. Fans of Camera Obscura, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and being desperately infatuated with someone will find a lot to like on this record.

And yet, it could have been so much more.

The Shout Out Louds are capable of creating transcendent, essential music, yet they seem unable to capture their magic for more than a few fleeting minutes each time. They did it twice on their debut record with "Very Loud" and "Seagulls," two of the finest pop songs created in the last 20 years. The band was able to catch lightning in a jar again on Our Ill Wills with its lead single "Tonight I Have To Leave It," a track with a nearly palpable sense of glamour.

At its best moments, the band is cackling with energy. It is an almost tangible thing, an unobtainable specter of excitement that hangs over their best moments, nearly visible. That manic spark is absent from Work. As a result, the album is fine enough, but never great.

I'll say this: as much as I enjoy the high points on the album, the swelling choruses on "1999" and "Walls" come to mind, I struggled to listen to the album the whole way through. Before, the band never had to, ahem, work to hold my attention. This time around, they kept losing me.

This is such a charming little band, such a charming little album that one wants to like it more than it deserves. Because, really, there is nothing wrong with it. Its just...missing something. What made "Very Loud" and "Tonight I Have To Leave It" such great songs? Rest assured, its some impossible, immeasurable thing that, for whatever reason, doesn't ever appear on this album.

So, yes, this is a catchy album. It is, as I said, packed with fun, almost Twee, songs about love and longing, and is a totally fine record for fans of indie-pop. But for a band like Shout Out Louds, a band that has it in them to really move people, “fine” really isn't enough.

Key Tracks: 1999, Walls, Fall Hard

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Thursday, February 25

Rap Video Thursday: Crooklyn Edition

After the night I just had in Brooklyn with my kinfolk, I may have to reconsider my "New York City sucks" stance. I had myself a corker of a time, but more on that later.

For now, here's Busta Rhymes.

Busta has never been my favorite rapper, but he is far and away the most iconic music video participant of my childhood. If there was a DVD somewhere of all the Busta Rhymes / Hype Williams videos out there, I'd get that shit in a heartbeat.

Anyway, this is the last Busta Video I can remember that got much play on MTV. Not only does it feature silly outfits and video hoes, but the ENTIRE FUCKING THING is in fish-eye lens. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 24

Yeasayer: Oddly Compelling

Short Review: Yeasayer is weird! But fun! So...yeah! Good record!

Long Review: Every 10 or 12 years, Pop music resets itself and is spurned on by the leadership of one or two incendiary artists who set the trend for the next decade. From the Beatles, to David Bowie, to R.E.M / The Cure, to Nirvana and to Radiohead, bands have emerged to dictate what sound will be “cool” for a few years to come.

It bums me out to say, but there is pretty good evidence to suggest that Animal Collective are the barometer against which indie music will be measured over the next few years. If Radiohead was a band about the fear of technology, Animal Collective are the band that Radiohead was afraid of. Everything in the forseeable is going to sound like music made by computers on drugs.

Shit sucks, eh?

Well take heart, people! It's not all so bad! Why, there are bands out there like Yeasayer, bands that aim to take the cold, unfeeling oddness of narcotic-addled processors and make something fun out of it.

So, yeah. Odd Blood is weird. Weird, but fun and upbeat and downright fucking human. This is computer music that sounds like it was made by actual people, actual people who enjoyed the process of making it (as opposed to Animal Collective, which often sounds joyless and bizarre to me. Man! I really don't like Animal Collective!)

You've got the usual elements: “sonic textures,” repeating samples, repetitive sound snippets, programmed drums, weirdo noises that don't sound as if they occur naturally in the music world. Lots of keyboards, you know? The difference here is how obtainable and friendly Yeasayer makes the intimidating elements sound. On paper, lead single “Ambling Alp” is an insurmountable wall of drugged out fuzz. In practice, however, the tune is an upbeat dance number about sticking up for yourself.

Its hard to describe Yeasayer to folks who aren't in the know. For the average person, this shit is gonna sound fun, but way out there. To hipster fucks like myself, it is much easier.

You know that one Atlas Sound song “Walkabout?” Odd Blood sounds like that song, but with more energy and for an entire album, without getting boring. Remember the best parts of Strawberry Jam? Yeasayer is like that, without the pretension. Did you like Yacht's latest album, but wish it sounded a little less like android music? This is the record for you! Do you like TV on the Radio in concept more than in practice? Fuck that, get your hooks into something your body can enjoy as much as your mind!

Look, no one is more upset about the coming tide of AnCo trend followers more than I am. Fuck all that noise, gimme some guitars. That being said, Yeasayer really opened my mind about what this new trend of music can accomplish outside of art-house pretension. This is a fun record for fun people, and while it might take a little warming up to for the uninitiated Joes, the bad haircut set will have no problem grooving. Odd Blood takes a hard idea and makes it effortless, endlessly easy. Good work, dudes.

Key Tracks: Ambling Alp, O.N.E, Love Me Girl, Mondgreen

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Tuesday, February 23

Freeway Still Hustlin': Stimulus Package is Great

Artist: Freeway & Jake One
Album: The Stimulus Package

Short Review: Rapper Freeway goes underground, drops the whine in his delivery, pairs with Rhymesayers producer Jake One and drops a near-classic.

Long Review: On the surface, it is easy to understand why people might not be excited for The Stimulus Package, the fourth album from Philadelphia native Freeway.

The man is now seven years removed from his career apex, the eternally excellent “What We Do” off his debut, Philadelphia Freeway. The years in between then and now have been anything but kind to Free: label trouble, lyrical barbs with mega-producers Just Blaze and Kanye West, the formation and disbanding of not one but two crews (State Property and Ice City) and a loss of faith in the genre itself have all plagued the rapper. Now he's gone underground, singing with indie label Rhymesayers, priming himself for an underdog-style comeback.

How can someone deal with moving from Jay-Z to Brother Ali? How can one overcome that kind of career letdown? By making a fucking great album, that's how.

Freeway has never been a very technical rapper. His strengths lie more in delivery and emotion than in rhyme schemes or cadences. Free is a worker: he brings the same intensity to every track, the same all-or-nothing energy that endeared him to people seven years ago to every song he works on. The Stimulus Package finds the man playing to his strengths, sounding as feirce and working as hard as possible on songs.

There is an edge to his voice, a gnarled, everyman quality that makes him understandable, obtainable, even admirable on a very human level. These are not the words of some well-educated backpacker or a far off multi-millionaire global icon, this is some motherfucker who short order cooks down the street and freestyles in the kitchen. This isn't an album meant for dissection. This is a tangible album; something to be held and understood in a basic, emotional way.

It's about the struggle, man, and Freeway knows the struggle. He's afraid of having to fall back on construction work should his rap career fail (“Sure not trying to do carpentry like my pops / big pain in the bottom of his back/ and it be hurtin' him”). He remembers having to catch public transportation (“Had my walkman in my pocket / used to hop on the bus”). He's out of the hood, but he remembers what it takes to survive ( “Watch your back in the hood / hate comes from all angels”). On this album, Freeway is always honest, always earnest: he means every word he says, believes in everything he says and the album sounds better for it.

Jake One, the sole producer for The Stimulus Package, supplements Free's life stories with a series of soulful, occasionally spooky, occasionally triumphant soul beats. The music is top notch, blending seamlessly with Free's lyrics, always hitting the correct emotional tone to match the flow and content.

Really, though, the record would sound good regardless of producer, because The Stimulus Package is Freeway's realization that the rags-to-riches fable of gangsta rap is just as flimsy and opaque as rap's detractors would have people believe. The ride will end, things can go wrong and no amount of swagger can change that. This is Freeway coming to terms with his own career mortality by pushing himself harder than ever, stepping his work ethic up a notch and dropping his best album to date. This is the product of a hungry, able hustler, sounding better now than he ever has.

Don't get it twisted: this isn't a classic. There are a few lame tracks, and Freeway still occasionally stumbles over some dumb rhymes. However, listening to his Ghostface-esqu storytelling on "Never Going To Change" or his Tyson-like intensity on "One Thing" or even his fear on "Money," it isn't had to believe that Free has a great album in him.

Key Tracks: Never Going To Chance, One Thing, Microphone Killa, Money, Stimulus Outro

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

This track is crazy!

Monday, February 22

Hot Chip: Too Cuddly?

Artist: Hot Chip
Album: One Life Stand

Short Review: Latest from rock-minded electro-dance troupe is less sexy, more mature.

Long Review: The problem with Djs, or really any artist who works in a totally isolated, non-collaborative way, is that the music comes without an editor. Sure, Djs might have their friends listen to mixes before they test them out on dance floors or make albums, but by and large, there is no one pushing against. Djs rarely have someone along side, who has been a part of the creative process, to say “Hey, man, this part sounds like shit.”

Hot Chip has never had this problem. The band has not made a bad album yet, benefiting from their status as a group of dudes making music that could conceivable be made by one dude. I mean, I can't prove anything, but I'm confident that having a room full of people working on one song will always lead to a better product than having one person work on the same song. Call me a Communist, whatever.

Regardless, One Life Stand continues this trend of excellence, providing the world with more top-notch electronica.

Hot Chip's latest finds them moving away from their pants-off-dance-off-iest fourth release, 2008's Made in The Dark. That was kind of sleazy record (or, at least, as sleazy a record as dudes who look like this could make). It was all bass lines and boom, the sort of thing that Brooklyn vegans might do coke to at a house party. One Life Stand, in contrast, tones down the sex appeal quite a bit, making for a more mature, if less funky collection of tunes.

In fact, the album almost suffers from a lack of sexiness. Most tracks run in the softer, more indie-electronica-pop orientation of their breakout single “The Warning.” Three tracks use this slowed down, more instrumented mind set. Two of these tracks, “Alley Cats,” and “Brothers” are sufficiently awesome. Only two tracks could even be called sexy: the album opener "Thieves in the Night" and the titular track. The other songs are above quality, mid level techno / electro pop that may or may not contain auto-tune.

The problem here is that things are a little too somber, a little too mellow, a little too mature. The Warning worked so well because it balanced ballads with bumpers, and Made in The Dark worked so well because it was electric sex, with the slow songs serving as breaks to regain stamina. One Life Stand is more of a cuddle fest, with some occasional heavy petting.

Still though, with all the shitty electronic music coming out these days (cough ALBUM LEAF cough), you can't do much better than Hot Chip for quality and consistency.

Key Tracks: One Life Stand, Brothers, Alley Cats

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Friday, February 19

Hiku Reviews #5: I'm LAAAAAAAZY Edition

Haiku Reviews: In which Nate Adams uses the ancient art of (Chinese? Japansese? Mexican?) poetry and reviews albums in a 5-7-5 format. Is it laziness, or NEW ZEN CRITICISM? Be the judge or submit your own, assface! Contact Nate on Twitter or at

Artist: Lil Wayne
Album: The Rebirth

For die hard Wayne fans
only. Between Avril and
T-Pain lies Rebirth

The Soft Pack
Album: The Soft Pack

How many more bands
will record stuff in Brooklyn?
Garage rock, please stop.

Artist: Mixtapes
Album: Maps

Lemuria got
married to Reliant K,
had a cute 'lil babe.

The Go Find
Album: Everyone Knows Its Gonna Happen, Only Not Tonight

A few quick pop songs
are all that keeps this record
from total mope-rock.

Tuesday, February 16

Rap Video Tuesday: Cam'ron

You could write a book about Cam'ron. Not that I'm gonna try, but I'm just sayin...

Anyway, here's his kinda shitty video for "I Hate My Job," one of the more bomb-ass tracks off his scattershot '09 release Crime Pays. Even if the visuals don't set you off, its important that you listen to the song because it is probably my favorite rap track of last year.

Cam'ron- "I Hate My Job"

Cam'ron | MySpace Music Videos

Monday, February 15

The Album Leaf: Vanillia Ice Cream for Boring People

Artist: The Album Leaf
Album: A Chorus of Storytellers

Short Review:
If listening to Sigur Ros is like having sex with a mermaid in a coral palace, listening to A Chorus of Storytellers is like holding hands while walking down the street: pleasant, but unremarkable.

Long Review:
Jimmy LaValle has been making low impact ambient electronica for over 12 years, and, motherfucker has gotten his act pretty much down. A Chorus of Storytellers is the latest album under his Album Leaf moniker, and it continues on his established legacy of making easy electronic music for people to sleep / write / grope to.

Its hard to write about an album as honey smooth, sticky sweet as Chorus. Featuring no real peaks or valleys, there isn't much to speak on other than its polite, courteous, inoffensive nature. Keyboards softly swell over programmed drum beats. Ocassionaly, there are some lyrics. By and large, however, there is a lot of soft melodies and simple progressions.

The songs work on the same build and release principal that dominates post-rock, but it features none of the eerie charm of Godspeed! You Black Emperor, none of the emotional catharsis of Explosions in the Sky or any of the woodsy jazz of Do Make Say Think. This is the definition of background music.

A Chorus of Storytellers isn't a bad album, but there isn't much to grab hold of a listener, either.

If one assumes that LeValle has no higher aspiration than to make something sweet and substance-free, like the audio equivalent of a puff-pastry, then this record is a success. And if all you are looking for is something nice to put on after a long day or something to go down some one's pants to, then you could do a lot worse than The Album Leaf. However, this ain't no Postal Service-esque crossover hit in the making. It is a simple, straightforward, inessential listen.

Maybe I'm missing something. Perhaps a trip through The Album Leaf's back catalog would provide some context to Chorus, give it some meaning within the band's body of work. But who's got time for that shit? Besides, any good album can be appreciated on its own merits. This album can be enjoyed, but only as soft static and not in any active. Bedroom music, and nothing more.

(Note: Latterman has nothing to do with The Album Leaf, but it's way more interesting. You want Album Leaf tracks, find them yourself.)

Buy, Steal, Skip:
Skip it.

Thursday, February 11

Nick Jonas, Motherfuckers

Artist: Nick Jonas and the Administration
Album: Who I Am

Comments: Unless you are the sort of person that has been without a radio, a television, a magazine or Internet access for the last several years, you have probably heard of Nick Jonas (and if you are that sort of person, welcome to the Internet! Thanks for choosing my blog.) Still, here are the facts:

- Nick Jonas is one-third of the Jonas Brothers, a wildly successful, Disney-backed pop-rock band.

- The Jonas Brothers' success is due partially to their radio-friendly rock songs, partially to their alignment with Disney and partly to their “good boy” image, which has garnered them a large following with girls between the ages of 8 – 16.

- Who I Am is Nick Jonas's second album, his first since his 2004 release and the first solo release since his Jonas Brothers success.

Now, I don't expect anyone to have any sympathy for a good looking, hyper-wealthy young man with an army of young women clamoring for him and more fame than Moses, but there is evidence to suggest that Jonas wishes to be taken seriously as a songwriter and that'll be near impossible given his teen-pop fame. Who I Am is an attempt at a much more mature sound than Jonas would be able to put forth with his “brothers,” one that aims to distance himself from his celebrity and establish him as crossover adult-rock star.

So let it be said now: Who I Am doesn't sound like the Jonas Brothers, it sounds like Nick Jonas. I'm just not really sure that is such a good thing.

This album is one wacky affair. Featuring members of the New Power Generation (fucking Prince's backing band!), songs jump from John Mayer-like easy listening to top 40 adult pop to weird faux-funk outbursts. The funk tunes, like the Stevie-Wonder-biting “State of Emergency” and the bewildering “Conspiracy Theory,” are played well enough by the NPG, but there is something awkward about hearing Jonas cut loose with “Woo!s” and “Yeah!s” and the like. His voice, while fine enough, doesn't really lend itself to soulful power vocals.

While Jonas fairs better on his John Mayer knockoffs, it is his adult-rock songs that have him sounding best. The title track is an A-OK piece of top 40 writing that would easily appeal to someone who has completed puberty and can probably serve as an indication of where Jonas will end up.

Who I Am, then, can be thought of as a teen pop star trying to establish himself as something more and the sound of him misstepping through experimentation. Should his solo career continue, this record could stand as an in between point between his teen past and his adult future, but as it stands now, it's just a muddled, occasionally interesting but often baffling pop-rock album. Nick Jonas might never be the next Prince, but he'll make a fine Rob Thomas someday, and that's not bad for a dude who doesn't wanna be tied to Disney for the rest of his life.

Key Tracks: Who I Am, Stronger (Back on the Ground)

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip

Tuesday, February 9

One Terrible EP (How I Learned To Buy Music Again)

Artist: Semi Precious Weapons
Album: Semi Precious Weapons EP

Comments: For reasons totally not worth getting into, I boycotted the itunes music store for about a year or so. Around that same time, I was pretty steadily unemployed, so I stole a shit load of music.

Stealing music is wrong, sure, but its also counter-productive to writing reviews. It gives one access to everything, all the time. It makes the idea of possibly reviewing all of that stuff so terrifying and unobtainable that a critic (well, this critic) can retreat into a stasis of Bear vs Shark albums and paralysis.

So I'm buying my music again, both physically and itunes. And, yes, there are still a metric dick-ton of albums to be reviewed, but at least now they come in manageable, weekly packages.

What does this little interlude have to do with Semi Precious Weapons? Earlier this year, before anything even remotely worth reviewing was out, I was perusing the Itunes releases to see if I was missing anything cool, if anything worth while was sneaking under my radar. This brought me to download the hyper-affordable most recent EP from this New York based glam-rock band.

The good news is this: nothing was sneaking under my radar. Semi Precious Weapons is fucking terrible.

This EP sounds like a more vapid version of Velvet Revolver. This EP sounds like a reminder of why everyone like Nirvana so much back in the 90s, because they killed shitty fuck-music like this. This EP is the kind of thing Randy “The Ram” would listen to if he hadn't killed himself giving Ernest Miller a Ram Jam.

I mean, this is bad, even by glam-rock standards. This isn't fun or sexy or shocking or anything. If its a joke, its a bad one. If its just for irony sake, Semi Precious Weapons should fuck off. This is useless music for useless people. I wouldn't even do coke to this record. Fuck this EP and everyone involved.

I just looked over this review and I realize that I haven't really described the music very well. It sounds like late 80s rock music. Lots of faux-sexy, cock-sure ham-handed metaphors for fucking. A few garden variety guitar solos. I mean, really, this sounds like a shitty version of Velvet Revolver. Or a really shitty Guns n Roses. No, that's not right. Guns n Roses kick ass. Like a shitty Night Ranger.

Fuck this EP. Bring on the Nick Jonas CD.

Key Tracks: None. Three tracks of shit.

Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip, skip, fucking skip.

Monday, February 8

Los Campesinos!: Just In Time To Ruin Valentine's Day

Artist: Los Campesinos!
Album: Romance Is Boring

Comments: Writing one great song is no easy feat, but becoming a great band is even harder. This simple axiom explains every one hit wonder ever, as well as explaining why the truly special bands (Bear vs Shark) are so few and far between.

Los Campesinos!Have already written one great song. That song is "You! Me! Dancing!" And the band knocked it out on the Sticking Fingers Into Sockets EP. It's first release, no less. That particular mountain climbed, they have spent the rest of its brief career trying to become your new favorite band.

So if Romance Is Boring is not loaded to the gills with emotional powerhouses, it is not for a lack of ideas or quality. It's just fucking hard to be good, and this album is the sound of a band trying as hard as they can.

Romance is far and away the nosiest album the group has released to date. Los Camp records have always been high-energy, musically crowded affairs, but the band has been good about balancing all that clamor into highly focused tunes. They succeed where bands like The Polyphonic Spree have failed because the band understands that not everyone needs to be playing at all times.

That being said, there is a shit load happening on this record. Specifically, there are a ton of keyboards and guitar lines that layer the songs to an occasionally suffocating degree. “These Are Listed Buildings,” for example, could have done with a little editing and a little less of the everything-all-at-once mentality.

A few editorial changes here and there, and Romance Is Boring could have been a fucking classic. It continues down the darker path that We are Beautiful, We Are Doomed took, using boy-girl dynamics and razor sharp wit to decimate any notion of storybook romances. “We Got Your Back” and “Straight In at 101” are two of the band's best songs to date. The latter also features this neat little lyric: “I think we need more post-coital / and less post-rock / seems the buildup takes forever / but you never touch my cock.” (fuck you, Explosions in the Sigur Ros!) Then there's the melancholy “The Sea Is a Good Place to Think of The Future,” a song about a girl with an eating disorder that rockets the band out of the realm of “cute smart kids” and into “serious songwriters” land.

So, no, Romance isn't great, but cut Los Campesinos! Some slack. After all, they're trying to become your new favorite band and they're coming close.

Key Tracks:
We Got Your Back, Straight In at 101, The Sea Is A Good Place to Think of The Future

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Wednesday, February 3

I Think This Review Features a New Personal Record for Parenthesis Use

Artist: Fucked Up
Album: Couple Tracks: Singles 2002 - 2008

Short Review: A collection of occasionally good, occasionally bad songs from up-and-coming experimental hardcore band Fucked Up.

Long Review: You are Fucked Up, a hazy hardcore outfit from the frozen north of Canada. You've been making songs at a break-neck pace for about five years now. Your Internet stock is as high as it has ever been. Your most recent album, The Chemistry of Common Life, is your most profitable and well-received release to date. Such is your ubiquity that your lead singer is able to land a gig as commentator for Fox News.

So what do you do now? Wait, you don't know? R-record a new album? Shit, no! What the fuck is wrong with you?

You release a singles compilation, idiot. That's what Fucked Up did with Couple Tracks: Singles 2002 – 2008. (See, this is why you'll never bee Fucked Up.)

First thing's first: if you are at all interested in buying this record in some way, getting the physical copy is a must. The liner notes to this double album monster are a dream come true for obsessive music fans. It lists where every song first appeared in the Fucked Up catalog, as well as a little fun-fact about where the song was recorded / why it was recorded / how the band feels about it, and makes for a total bitching compendium to the non-stop punk.

Serving as a “Get to Know your Fucked Up” kind of thing, Couple Tracks is an intimidating behemoth of fast, screamy punk music. The comp starts out with the band's first song ever, "No Pasaran," a kind-of -shitty tune with an overlong intro (The liner notes that the band has “weird feelings about this track now.” See? See how cool the liner notes are?). From that point, it's just an hour and change of career-spanning singles with a focus of acclimating new-comers to what's been going on for the last seven years.

There isn't really a rhyme or reason to the arrangement of tracks, so there is not much flow to the comp. This makes it somewhat daunting to listen to all in one sitting, as songs can tend to meld together into one long buzz saw factory. As all these tracks are singles, they are all on the more melodic end of the Fucked Up spectrum, which contributes to the saminess.

Some standout tracks: The aptly named “Neat Parts” is an early album highlight. “David Christmas” is a well-produced punk song with a touch of musical theater thrown in towards the beginning. Twee covers “Anorak City” and “I Don't Wanna Be Friends With You” come from an obvious place of love, and make them all the more endearing (finally, some Fucked Up tracks me and my girlfriend can agree on).

Some not so standout tracks: The aforementioned "No Pasaran," the single versions of "No Epiphany" and "Crooked Head" (sounded way better on Chemistry), the overlong "Triumph of Life" and the too gnarly "Last Man Standing."

While it is by no means required listening, Couple Tracks is certainly worth it for newcomers and short-time fans of an up and coming experimental punk band. And while it never achieves an album feel, it's got enough short blast of quality to make it worth the money. Just make sure you get the physical copy.

Key Tracks: Neat Parts, Anorak City, David Christmas

Buy, Steal, Skip: Steal

Monday, February 1

Spoon: The Sam Jackson of Indie Rock

Artist: Spoon
Album: Transference

Comments: Spoon is a relentlessly cool band. Its songs are groovy affairs. Listening to them is like dancing with mysterious stranger who moves with a confidence both seductive and dangerous. It is not hard to imagine everyone in the band wearing leather jackets and sunglasses at all times, cigarettes dangling uncommitted from their expressionless faces as they casually walk to the next party, fully aware that all eyes are on them but making no notice of the attention.

Here's the thing about cool, though: It don't keep you warm at night. Sure, everyone wants to be cool, but man cannot live on cool alone, you know? Man needs soul, man needs something more substantial, less detached, more true to that intangible, indescribable core of human nature that gives power to the pop songs that can move people, change people.

Spoon is occasionally capable of achieving this zen-like level of pop mastery while maintaining their aloof, Fonzie-esque aesthetic. Their last full-length, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, an album so dripping with effortless perfection on a song-by-song level that it almost seemed like the band wasn't even trying, was a modern classic that could stand both as a touchstone of modern hipness and a piece of near-flawless alternative for the stadium minded.

Transference, however, is not so much a cosmic success as it is a cool fucking album. So, if you were looking for another car-ride, life changer this time around, you'll be let down.

Still, there's nothing wrong with a good headphones album, and this album is certainly that. There is a lot to take in, from the echo-y bass-and-piano grove of "Mystery Zone" to the meandering, jammy guitar of "I Saw The Light." Production wise, the band is back on their studio experimentation BS (ala Kill The Moonlight), focusing less on rocking like a hurricane and more on layering their rock songs with as much cool shit as they can think of.

It makes for an interesting listen, no doubt, but a more detached one, as the band wants to keep the listener at arms length instead of fully drawing them in for the big rock and roll bear hug.

There is one track that bridges the gap between studio knob-fiddling and full on emotional rocking, and that song is "Trouble Comes Running."

"Trouble Comes Running" is fucking awesome.
It's a quiet little rocker with a goofy mix so the guitar is pushed higher than the rest of the song, and the drums are kind of low-fi and canned. All this means is that the song sounds interesting as well as emotionally satisfying.

Transference doesn't swing for the fences, it doesn't strive to capture anyone's heart. It is fine to be another solid addition to an already solid (and occasionally perfect) catalog of mercilessly cool music. Get your sunglasses on, motherfucker.

Key Tracks: Mystery Zone, Written in Reverse, I Saw The Light, Trouble Comes Running

Buy, Steal, Skip: Buy

Who Thought This Was a Good Idea?

...because it wasn't.