Micachu & the Shapes, the Coathangers, Superchunk and more: Really Quick Spins
Micachu & the Shapes - "Jewellry"
There's a lot of static, blurting keyboards and other random noises that populate the songs on the debut by this 21-year-old Londoner. But if you strip away all the noise -- not that you'd want to, since it gives the album its personality without cluttering things up -- you'll find some simple, catchy pop songs. Only two of the dozen tunes here top the three-minute mark, probably because Micachu crams so many ideas into each one that there's no need to stretch things out. It's hard to ask for much more from a debut -- good hooks, a unique voice (literally and figuratively), repetitive listening ability. It's like if Lily Allen had more than one idea and Bjork didn't indulge all her bad ideas. Check it out.
Micachu & the Shapes - "Just in Case"
The Coathangers - "Scramble"
Is my opinion of this album skewed because I have a monumental crush on the band? Maybe. But would I have a monumental crush on the band if they didn't cook up some incredibly fun, catchy new-wave party punk? Of course not. As I said after seeing them in Austin, music should be fun and the Coathangers make sure it is. It's not just fun, it's mischievous. Not in any sinister sort of way, just playful and a bit flirty. OK, that's probably just wishful thinking on my part. These ladies may not be musical virtuosos but they sure know what sounds good, like when they all sing/shout/scream/shriek in unison.
The Coathangers - "Stop Stomp Stompin"
Superchunk - "Leaves in the Gutter"
During its heyday, these indie rock stalwarts were one of the genre's best and most prolific bands, serving up blast after blast of hyper enough indie-punk jams -- on albums, EPs, singles, you name it. It's been ages since there's been a proper Superchunk release, but don't call them Slack [Expletives]. You think coolest label around just runs itself? The last couple of full-lengths were where the strings came in -- almost adult-contemporary indie, which made sense since they were, you know adults. But this five-song EP finds Mac McCaughan and the gang as feisty as ever, serving up guitar anthems on par with the ones they delivered during the early Clinton years. McCaughan doesn't pour himself as completely into his vocals as he used to, but he's still one of the most emotive singers around and the guitar interplay between him and Jim Wilbur remains dynamic. A very welcome return.
Superchunk - "Misfits and Mistakes"
Junior Boys - "Begone Dull Care"
More smooth and icy dance tunes that sound like that song that's playing when the Geico caveman carrying the tennis racket sees the Geico ad while on the moving walkway at the airport. As with the band's past two albums, there's a tangible sensuality, which is rare with most electronic music. But it's never laid on too thick, which keeps things from getting into gimmick territory. There's no single nearly as irresistible as "In the Morning" this time around and the band stretches out the songs, so it's a little more dance and a little less pop, but still enough of the latter to appeal to listeners who might otherwise bypass the genre.
Junior Boys - "Dull to Pause"
The Thermals - "Now We Can See"
The Thermals have progressed about as well as you could hope any band would. Sure, it would have been just fine if the Portland, Ore., group kept making its debut album over and over again. "More Parts Per Million" not only predates the current lo-fi craze, but it outdoes pretty much every album that's part of the new hip scene in terms of awesomeness. Those songs leaped from the speakers, all crackling fuzz and clipped vocals and the follow up, "[Expletive] A," was just as good. But 2006's "The Body, the Blood, the Machine" signaled that the Thermals had some legs, improving the fidelity and the scope of the songs but never losing the urgency of those first couple albums. This album continues down that path -- the songs are more refined but just as memorable -- making the Thermals a rare band to start its career with four truly excellent albums.
The Thermals - "Now We Can See"
Various Artists - "SCORE! 20 Years of Merge Records: The Covers"
Current indie rock bands pick through 20 years worth of Merge Records releases for songs to cover, but it's not just a parade of hits. And that's a good thing. The best songs are impossible to improve upon, as Bright Eyes' lightly funked-up version of Magnetic Fields' "Papa Was a Rodeo" and Apples in Stereo's sugar-rushed take on Neutral Milk Hotel's "King of Carrot Flowers, Pt. 3" prove. It's the more obscure songs that prove to be the highlights -- Mountain Goats' old-school, lo-fi version of East River Pipe's "Drug Life," Quasi's fantastically fuzzy "Beautiful Things" (3Ds) and the Shins' bouncy, breezy "Plenty Is Never Enough" (Tenement Halls). What, no Guv'ner covers???
The Shins - "Plenty Is Never Enough"
Eat Skull - "Wild and Inside"
OK, so the singer of this band wants me shot. But I won't hold that against him. Especially after he drops this mighty impressive CD that shows you can be a lo-fi band and still have some songwriting variety. OK, it's not like there's shifts from rock to jazz to funk, but it's also not a dozen interchangeable fuzz-pop songs. "Who's In Control?" is a damaged sing-along with what sounds like a bunch of grade school kids, "Talkin Bro in the Wall Blues" is some dreamy bedroom folk, "Down in the Face" sounds a bit like vintage Mountain Goats and "Stick to the Formula" is just some toe-tapping indie-pop driven by a rudimentary keyboard riff. The best kind of keyboard riff.
Eat Skull - "Heaven's Strangers"
The Veils - "Sun Gangs"
This band caught my attention when they turned in an impressive set opening for Liam Finn at the Rock and Roll Hotel last fall. There was nothing especially groundbreaking about it, just some really solid, really intense '80s-inspired Brit-rock, non-synth category. Singer Finn Andrews is the main attraction here. When he gets especially worked up on "Killed By the Boom" he sounds a whole lot like Jack White, and throughout the album his shaky, dramatic wail is enough to keep things interesting. It works better when the musical accompaniment is a bite more raucous ("The Letter," "Three Sisters"). The second half of the album loses steam, but if you thought that last British Sea Power album was too over-the-top and are looking for something to fill that void, this will do nicely.
The Veils - "The Letter"
By David Malitz |
April 7, 2009; 1:09 PM ET
Really Quick Spins
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