Sights & Sounds: Back to the Rock

WATERS – Out in the Light

THE GOOD: What do you get when a California boy leaves his old band, forms a new group in Norway, and then records their album in Texas? One hell of a debut!

THE BAD: Nope.

THE NITTY GRITTY: Van Pierszalowski split up California alt/folk rockers Port O’Brien, moved to Oslo for awhile and eventually put together Waters. Light is their debut. And while the album isn’t the most original collection you’ll ever hear, the songs are solid and the playing is tight.

The new outfit sounds tougher than its predecessor; sometimes coming off like a heavier take on the Shins, other times resembling a less abrasive Thermals. In the end, Light may be textbook indie rock, but it’s the best kind of indie – a raw presentation of some very accomplished tunes. From the scorching opener “For the One” to the riff-happy “Back to You” to the sweeping celebratory “Take Me Out to the Coast,” these tracks work together to create a whole that divinely clicks.

BUY IT?: Absolutely! Hopefully this is not a one-off project, because we need to hear more from Waters.

LOS CAMPESINOS – Hello Sadness

THE GOOD: British indie rockers Los Campesinos mature ever-so-slightly on their fourth outing.

THE BAD: None.

THE NITTY GRITTY: For a band this young and prolific, Sadness is incredibly consistent with the quality of their already existing catalog. Only this time the writing is more varied; the songs improving. Even though the group still blurs the lines between twee pop and punk, garage rock and progressive indie, their music now has room to breathe. What was once a full on attack is now a series of violent peaks and calmer valleys; a more natural give and take.

Lyrically, frontman Gareth Campesinos is still hopeless and hapless when it comes to relationships. You think you’ve had bad break-ups? Our boy often sees his brief affairs ending in embarrassment, outright hatred or even death; Sadness a very dark but infectious record. Tracks like the title cut and “By Your Hand” are prime examples of tragedy converging on pop bliss; tense situations made tolerable by female harmonies, solid backbeats and youthful rock ‘n’ roll abandon. The biggest difference here is Los Campesinos has never sounded this good as a BAND before.

BUY IT?: Most definitely.

THE BLACK KEYS – El Camino

THE GOOD: Ohio blues/garage rock gurus The Black Keys return with their seventh blazing effort.

THE BAD: Nothing.

THE NITTY GRITTY: It’s as if 2010′s Brothers was the duo’s stab at making an epic record, and now they’ve decided to simply “crank and cut loose.” El Camino, the boys’ third consecutive collaboration with producer Danger Mouse, is a lean (just misses the 40-minute mark), mean (uptempo and aggressive) rock and roll machine.

Drummer Pat Carney and vocalist/guitarist Dan Auerbach are augmented by DM’s occasional keyboard flourishes and some playful female back-up’s. For the most part though, the two just plug in and wail; the album a perfect combination of the spirit from the band’s early days and recent progressions.

What makes El Camino really work though is its overall mood. This is a fun record. The riffs are rough, the beats are tough, and the lyrics direct (if sometimes goofy). This is the loud carefree stuff that reminds you it’s possible to dance to live drums and jagged guitars. Tracks like “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Hell of a Season” practically force you to get up and boogie.

BUY IT?: Absolutely.

NEW RELEASES – CD

ASTEROIDS GALAXY TOUR – Out of Frequency

IMPERIAL TEEN – Feel The Sound

LANA DEL REY – Born to Die

THE 2 BEARS – Be Strong

NEW RELEASES – DVD

THE BIG YEAR with Jack Black and Steve Martin

DREAM HOUSE with Daniel Craig and Naomi Watts

DRIVE with Ryan Gosling and Albert Brooks

IN TIME with Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried

THE THING (2011 Prequel)