MUSIC REVIEWS: The Best of Bond, Sing it Loud, Noah and the Whale, Pit Er Pat, and The Panics

The Best Of Bond…James Bond
Various Artists

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With the release of the latest 007 flick, Quantum of Solace comes the new CD, The Best Of Bond…James Bond.

There seems to be as many James Bond songs, themes and opening credits hits as there have been Bond’s. As expected, the CD opens with John Barry Orchestra’s rendition of Monty Norman’s “James Bond Theme” (the one with that real dirty guitar riff played by Vic Flick). “From Russia With Love,” the incomparable Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger,” Tom Jones’ passing-out performance of “Thunderball” (the story is when T.J. hit and held the last note he fainted), Nancy Sinatra’s weak “You Only Live Twice” and Louis Armstrong’s “We Have All The Time In The World” all follow in chronological progression. My all-time favorite Bond song “Diamonds Are Forever” is included, and this tune, more than any other of these 24, really illustrates what could be great about these early Bond tunes. The orchestra is restrained, the horns complimenting a great singer singing a well-crafted adult pop song.

A new Bond is represented by Paul McCartney and Wings’ “Live and Let Die,” heralding in the era of Bond songs performed and written by rock/pop acts. I could be mistaken but the sound here seems like it has been cleaned-up, in this version I really hear the electric guitar better then I ever have before. We get a spate of mediocre late 70’s/80’s offerings; Lulu’s “Man With The Golden Gun,” Sheena Easten’s forlorn “For Your Eyes Only,” and talents like Rita Coolidge, Gladys Knight, and Sheryl Crow having a go. For me, Duran Duran’s “View To A Kill” and Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better” are the strongest from this mid-era Bond stuff. The last three songs fare a bit better with Garbage’s techno/string mix of “The World Is Not Enough,” Madonna’s even techno-ier “Die Another Day,” and Chris Cornell’s “You Know My Name” from the most recent Casino Royale.

The Best of Bond…James Bond is a CD chock-full of solid songs written for one of our most enduring cinematic icons.

Ralph Greco, Jr.

Sing It Loud
Come Around

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With so many punk bands trying to infiltrate the scene and stand out, its hard to find a band that’s done it better than Minneapolis band Sing It Loud. Their first album Come Around, gives them the credentials to call themselves a bonafide punk band. Although the band would prefer to be called a pop band on a punk label, they got some help from just the right people to make this dynamic album one worth remembering.

Produced by Motion City Soundtrack guitarist Josh Cain, engineered by Mark Trombino (Jimmy Eat World and Blink 182) and cameos from Cain’s bandmate Justin Pierre and All Time Low’s Alex Gaskarth, this album is filled with catchy hooks, wicked guitar riffs, and fiery synths that make some of the more popular bands sound like amateurs.

By the time you have played this album through, you will forget you’re listening to a rookie punk band and realize this is genuinely enjoyable stuff. They touch on young love and heartache with the emotional “Best Beating Heart” with its strong vocals and harmonies, and lyrics like “pretend this dream will never end / and time will stop again” and bold tracks like “Don’t Save Me” and “No One Can Touch Us.”

Come Around is a collection of punk anthems in the making. Expect to see fans rocking out to their songs for a long time to come.

Jennifer Hein

Noah and the Whale
Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down

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No that’s not a botched reference to a bible story (it’s Jonah and the whale). It is a statement of their affection for director Noah Baumbach and his 2005 film, The Squid and the Whale. This is an appropriate affiliation for a band with the sensibilities evinced in Peaceful, the World Lays Me Down. The album does many of the things that Sufjan Stevens does, without the tics that make him alternately unbearably precious and remarkably masterful. The pocket symphony sound is there, employing a wide variety of instruments, but without descending into overtly show-offy tracks that serve little purpose other than to underscore the band’s mastery of composition, ala the instrumentals on Illinoise. The lyrics deal largely with painful emotional circumstances, without relying too heavily on “crying in a van with my friends” or “crying in the bathroom.” What remains is instead a delightful piece of indie pop, carried formidably by the dual vocals of the sweet-voiced Laura Marling, and the deeper, croakier work of Charlie Fink.

Nate Campbell

Pit Er Pat
High Time
(Thrill Jockey)

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Pit Er Pat has made a name for itself by defying classification. On their newest album, High Time, the Chicago band utilizes a grab bag of foreign textures and timbres, including the bobo balaphone, electrified kalimba, and the anandolohori, to craft a sound that is simultaneously modern American dance-rocky and unplaceably exotic. The tight, eclectic rhythm section is complimented by rougher-around-the-edges guitar lines that meander between exotic scales and powdered-wig melodies; “Copper Pennies” is a representative culturally-ambiguous song, featuring falsetto vocals, varied instrumentation and shifting soundscapes, while “Evacuation Days” trip-hops over a slinking Arabesque guitar.

The record opens with “ANNO IV:XX,” a hypnotic groove layering deep-voiced “one, two”s over alternative percussion. Other highlights include “Creation Tripper,” in which a syncopated marimba foundation gives way to an anarchically crescendoing coda, and closing track “Good Morning Song,” a dreamy trip with seemingly incongruous rhythms and vocal elements repeating relentlessly until a final one-two cymbal crash abruptly ends the album. A High Time, indeed.

Toney Palumbo

The Panics
Cruel Guards
(Dew Process)

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Cruel Guards, released on Dew Process Recordings is the new album from Australia’s own, The Panics. A record that snagged the group four nominations at this year’s ARIA awards, and won Best Adult Contemporary album. Cruel Guards, has easily made it’s way to my top records of 2008. It’s a solid effort that somehow comes across facile, simple and smooth. Among the forty-three minutes and ten tracks, these songs, “Get Us Home,” “Ruins,” “Don’t Fight It,” “Cruel Guards,” and “Live Without” were standout. Compared to the band’s previous work, this album sounds far more upbeat, with pianos and trumpets against the weighty words of Jae Laffer. Each song is a little tale, the lyrics painting vivid scenes against the backdrop of carefully coordinated music.

Dezzy Ramdeen

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