MUSIC REVIEWS: Love and Rockets Tribute, The Antlers, Blind Man’s Colour, The Trews, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Federico Aubele

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Various Artists
New Tales To Tell – A Tribute to Love And Rockets
(Justice Records)

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I feel sorry for tribute albums; so well intentioned, but so often coming across as misdirected adulation. A band like Love and Rockets deserves a proper tribute, and there’s little to suggest that New Tales to Tell isn’t just that. Cover art by It-boy Shepard Fairey, a list of supremely talented contributing artists, and not to mention some killer source material.

That’s why the music is such a let down. These largely unimaginative but well-meaning covers don’t stray far from the footprint of the originals, adding little-to-no new perspective. The worst and most prevalent of these are the faux electro-industrial-dance interpretations. If you ever wanted to hear by-the-numbers remixes of songs like “No New Tale to Tell” and “It Could Be Sunshine,” but with bad vocals, now’s your chance!

The more rock-oriented tracks come off at best as inferior re-recordings of the originals, though A Place To Bury Strangers do good on presenting “The Light” in their own pummeling, noisy style.

As for the rest of the best, Maynard James Keenan’s Puscifer project delivers a skittery electronic version of “Holiday On the Moon” with spacey sustaining guitars, and The Flaming Lips, despite not coming through with their trademark sunny psychedelia (imagine them doing “Yin and Yang the Flower Pot Man”), present a haunting, Vocoder-heavy “Kundalini Express.” Best-of honors go to Snowden, who take the eerie vibe of “No Words No More” and effectively transform it into a lovely melancholic dream pop/shoegaze number while maintaining the original’s sparse instrumentation.

Maybe New Tales to Tell is a success in principle – all I could think of while listening was just how great Love and Rockets was. But I can listen to any of their fabulous albums to be reminded of that.

John Mordecai

The Antlers
Hospice
(Frenchkiss Records)

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Hospice is a heavy album, and when I say that I don’t mean it’s heavy like a Slayer album. Volume-wise it’s mostly pretty quiet and there are no chugging riffs. It’s heavy because it’s so sonically dense and because of its subject matter. It’s an album about watching a terminally ill loved one die. While it’s tough to listen to such painful lyrics the music is easy to enjoy. There is a strong focus on mood and ambience which as you might imagine is lilting and melancholy. “Shiva” is positively dreamy with layers of sound as it tries to capture the moment when life turns into absence of life. The bare arrangement of “Wake” is all the atmosphere that’s needed. Every eight beats there’s a heavily echoed breath that is so eerie and gives the effect that hospital sounds are part of the rhythm of the song. There are however some upbeat moments here too. After the slow sprawl of the first two songs the big pop chorus of “Sylvia” comes as a complete surprise. It isn’t at all unnecessary though. Neither is “Bear,” another catchy number on an otherwise somber record.

Peter Silberman, the man behind The Antlers has created something really special with Hospice. He is without a doubt a creative talent to keep an eye on. The songwriting and arranging is great and his voice is beautiful. It’s most effecting when he goes into his falsetto, which is a dead ringer for that dead singer Jeff Buckley’s. Here he’s written a story in the form of an album with all the right touches, like musical interludes and a prologue and epilogue. In the middle of one such interlude a new voice comes in which is meant to be the voice of the patient and it’s really pretty chilling. Hospice should definitely be checked out but one should be warned of its strongly depressing nature. The whole thing is about death. Maybe it is a little like a Slayer album after all.

Jonathan Zuckerman

Blind Man’s Colour
Season Dreaming
(Kanine Records)

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More and more, I’ve been noticing new bands emerging from the psychedelic/electro pop movement. I usually define these bands by the use of electronics in their music, although usually the technology isn’t pulse-pumping enough to be considered techno.

When listening to Season Dreaming, the debut album from Blind Man’s Colour, I initially found myself comparing them to acts like the Flaming Lips (quirky ambience), MGMT (similar vocals), and Animal Collective (mostly cause they cover two of their songs). However, by the album’s completion I was satisfied to concur that this band was not a copycat; duo Kyle Wyss and Orhan Chettri managed to create a sound, and vibe, that they can call their own.

“Heavy Cloud Hustle,” track two, was the first to reel me in. With its island/techno beats and lullaby vocals, I was instantly hooked. Perhaps the best song on the album is “Jimmy Dove,” in large part because the vocals are the strongest and most present here. While the other nine tracks tend to leave you drifting in a void of mellow ambience, this song elevates you straight to cloud nine, where you’ll be “making friends with the stars.” “Shells,” the concluding track, also leaves you with the same amount of psychedelic TLC that you were dosed with from the start.

Overall, this album managed to transport me out of my bedroom walls, into a hypnotizing, tropical time portal… It’s uniquely refreshing beach meditation and rave music for dreamers. For more information on the band, be sure to check out their MySpace page HERE.

Lucy Tonic

The Trews
No Time For Later
(Universal)

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The Trews, a Canadian four-piece with a solid guitar-driven sound, offer up thirteen tight little rockers on No Time For Later.

Talking to lead singer/guitarist Colin McDonald (see my interview) I agree that this band has a wide range of influences. There’s a little Gram Parsons on the opening jangly “No Time For Later,” maybe some Ben Folds on “Paranoid Freak” (one of my personal faves) and even some Nazareth-yeah, yeah, I know you haven’t heard of them-on “Hold Me In Your Arms.” But whomever they might sound like occasionally, The Trews have a straight ahead vibe all their own.

I don’t know who is singing what parts in the band’s perfect harmonies, all The Trews (Jack Syperek bass, Colin’s brother John Angus on guitar and Sean Dalton on drums) sing, creating infectious choruses like on “No Time For Later.” “Hold Me In Your Arms” and “Burning Wheels” rock, reminding me of Aerosmith, “Man Of Two Minds” is a nice love song but a bit too loud for the lyric I feel. If I have any criticism at all it is questioning why the band comes in on every single song when it doesn’t need to. On “Be Love” I would have preferred just Colin’s vocals and Dalton’s drums…though Monkees-like backing vocals are great, I got to admit.

On the verge of socialized medicine ourselves, just like they have in their home country of Canada, right now the import we can be proud of to share is The Trews.

Ralph Greco, Jr.

Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground
Self-Titled
(Suburban Home Records)

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A veritable toy box full of sounds or sound box full of toys, Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground’s self-titled album might be something you would play if you were throwing a singles mixer inside a Hieronymus Bosch painting for all of Dr. Seuss’s fun-loving fictional characters. That is to say, the album is extremely colorful, a bit whimsical and not without talent.

Kirk Huffman and Kyle O’Quin from Gatsbys American Dream are founding members of Kay Kay. Add over a dozen other musicians, and you’ve got the recipe for this experimental soup of sound of which Huffman’s voice is the key ingredient. His falsetto is stunning at times. It’s especially lovely during “Hey Momma’,” a highlight on the album that runs the gamut from a psychedelic interlude to snapping and whispering reminiscent of a beatnik poetry session.

This song isn’t the only track in the kooky collection that takes curlicue turns that can be amusingly charming. “Ol Rum Davies” features a weird western intro and “oh yeah-ah-ah’s that are as loveable as its back-up “bum, bum, bum’s.” Its lyrics pregnant with discontent, the song surmises the state of things in the line, “All the girls don’t go to the beach no more, they just daydream it all behind a desk.”

But, hey, daydreaming behind a desk is never a bad way to kill an afternoon if you have a good album to listen to.

Amy Hamblen

Federico Aubele
Amatoria
(Eighteenth Street)

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The title of this Argentine singer/songwriter’s third album is Latin for ‘of Love’ and though I don’t speak Spanish, I’m pretty sure that’s what each and every song has to do with.

Born in South America, transplanted to Europe, and now living in Barcelona Spain, Federico Aubele’s music is a conglomeration of all these disparate influences.

Beautiful acoustic guitar mixes in the styles of Argentine tango and Spanish bolero while accompanied by Aubele’s strong flexible voice singing exclusively in Spanish is actually enough to hold my interest, as he seems intent on mixing many genres. Latin influenced bass grooves, congas, and throaty feminine backing vocals continue to add to the South American feel of the music, though the majority of arrangements blend all this flavor with over produced ambient electronica.

The result is an album full of slow songs that might well have been romantic and emotional, but suffer from a distracting glut of post-production additions. The title track is the best offering of the entire album though Aubele leaves it for last. I can’t figure out if he wanted to save the best for last or added it simply as an after thought, for “Amatoria” stands out amongst it’s peers as a stripped down gem. Sans vocals, electronica, or even other instruments, the acoustic guitar is simply beautiful and high lights this artist’s talent. An album probably best suited for those who were fans before.

Kenneth Joachim

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