Sights and Sounds
by Mike Evans
THE TWILIGHT SAD — No One Can Ever Know
THE GOOD: Scottish indie rockers Twilight Sad shake things up again on their third full-length.
THE BAD: These lads ensure every album comes with a slight shift in sound. That’s only “bad” if you’re unwilling to follow.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Now a three-piece (bassist Craig Orzel has left the fold), Twilight Sad are experimenting with bolder rhythms, analog synths and a more densely packed sound. Andy MacFarlane’s layered guitars still scream; they’re just less important to the overall presentation. Legendary producer Andrew Weatherall (Beth Orton, Primal Scream) also makes sure the guys’ wall of sound is more multi-dimensional and sonically diverse; the band cranking out everything from the slowly churning “Nil” to the more straight-laced but challenging “Another Bed.”
But the band’s most distinct element remains intact — that is, vocalist James Graham’s heavy Scottish brogue. His singing brings a sharp intensity to these songs, at times adding feelings of frustration and hopelessness (No One is not the most lyrically optimistic record you’ll hear this year). It all ends up being an abrasive but winning combination for the disenfranchised among us.
BUY IT?: Oh yes.
THE DANDY WARHOLS — This Machine
THE GOOD: Oregon alt-rock outfit Dandy Warhols are still plugging away on their seventh.
THE BAD: The band’s last two albums, Odditorium (2005) and Earth To (2008), sucked hard (to put it bluntly). This Machine is a vast improvement over the past seven years, but is that saying much?
THE NITTY GRITTY: Being a longtime follower of the Dandies (sometimes enthralled and often times frustrated), I’m just happy there are a handful of halfway decent tunes here. Low burning lead single “Well They’re Gone” is eerie and gloriously understated. “The Autumn Carnival” is a bit of creepy funk. “Enjoy Yourself” is the band at their sarcastic best.
Unfortunately, Machine also packs on the filler. “Don’t Shoot She Cried” meanders in a muddy psychedelic haze (I think there’s a melody in there somewhere). “Alternative Power to the People” has to be an instrumental goof. And the group’s baritone sax-infused cover of “16 Tons” sounds less like Tennessee Ernie Ford and more like a discarded Morphine leftover.
Machine forces you to think either “Yeah, they’re back” or “Not again” at different points. That’s only slightly better.
BUY IT?: Your call.
HOWLER — America Give Up
THE GOOD: Young Minnesota indie rockers Howler give us a loud debut.
THE BAD: This band has potential, but…
THE NITTY GRITTY: Right now, the guys have about a dozen other bands in their sound. And all of those other bands are still better. Pick any track and you’ll hear the Black Lips’ spontaneity, the immediacy of the Black Keys, the Strokes’ tortured souls, and the cranked licks of “insert your favorite roots rock band name here.”
So why bother? Maybe so you can hear a young group formulating their style. These guys are barely in their 20’s, and they do have some growing up to do. But as you listen to America, you can’t help but think their music will eventually turn out okay. There are traces of not only modern contemporaries in these songs, but the legends as well. You can tell Howler did their homework when the occasional rockabilly stomp or garage psyche reverberation bursts through the din. Not every cut is memorable, but at least these boys are on the right track.
BUY IT?: Maybe. America is decent. Next time around should be better.
NEW RELEASES — CD
EDWARD SHARPE AND THE MAGNETIC ZEROS — Here
INSANE CLOWN POSSE — The Mighty Death Pop
MARISSA NADLER — The Sister
REGINA SPEKTOR — What We Saw from the Cheap Seats
SIGUR ROS — Valtari
NEW RELEASES — DVD
MAN ON A LEDGE
with Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN
with Tilda Swinton and John C. Reilly