I’M FROM BARCELONA – Forever Today
THE GOOD: Huge Swedish outfit (membership numbers range anywhere from 20 to 29) I’m From Barcelona release their third snappy affair.
THE BAD: Today isn’t anything you haven’t heard before, but it’s a decent collection of sunny indie pop.
THE NITTY GRITTY: If you called these guys and girls Scandinavia’s answer to our own Polyphonic Spree, you wouldn’t be far off the mark. Both organizations subscribe to the same hippy-dippy "I’d love to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony" aesthetic, delivering catchy sing-alongs that combine elements of modern folk, indie pop and early 70s AM radio kitsch.
The biggest difference between the two outfits is Barcelona’s more solid backbeats. These people are also all about three-minute pop songs as opposed to sprawling multi-chapter set pieces (one of Polyphonic’s primary problems). Clocking in at a tight 32 minutes, Today delivers the hooks and gets the hell out of the room. Better bits include lead single "Get in Line" and the churning "Come On." But there really isn’t a bad song here; a few interchangeable ones, but certainly nothing disagreeable.
BUY IT?: Sure. Today won’t make you think, but it’ll sure make you happy.
THE CARS – Move Like This
THE GOOD: New wave legends the Cars are back together, and as relevant as ever.
THE BAD: Late original bassist/co-vocalist Benjamin Orr is sorely missed. But the guys manage to recapture at least most of the band’s original innovative spirit without him.
NITTY GRITTY: Move sort of happened accidentally. Ric Ocasek wrote a bunch of new songs back in ’09 and had no idea exactly how to proceed. So he called up the three guys with whom he genuinely wanted to collaborate – the other ex-Cars. They said "okay," things clicked and the end result is this – the group’s seventh proper album.
Along with Ocasek’s nervous hooks but cool vocal style, everything else falls neatly back into place. Greg Hawkes quirky little keyboard countermelodies, Elliot Easton’s precise but sharp guitar playing, and Dave Robinson’s airtight backbeats pick up exactly where they left off all those decades ago.
However, Move is not a nostalgia trip. This music is fresh. Maybe the Cars aren’t ahead of their time anymore, but sounding "caught up" is good enough at this stage of the game.
BUY IT?: Yep. And hopefully, this is only the beginning of a new era.
THEY MIGHT BE GIANTS – Join Us
THE GOOD: The two John’s from Brooklyn get back to making quirky pop for nerds of ALL ages.
THE BAD: The past decade has been a tad uneven for long-time TMGB devotees; the guys releasing more children’s records and soundtrack contributions than actual "albums." And they haven’t made a GREAT album since 2001′s Mink Car. Thankfully, that changes here.
THE NITTY GRITTY: Pardon the cliché, but you really can’t classify Join Us as anything but a "return to form." The usual tight nasally harmonies are here. Big hooks turn out in mass quantity. Clever satirical (and sometimes dark) lyrical content is abundant.
From the stinging melancholy running throughout "Canajoharie" to the Ween-like pitch bending of "Dog Walker," Join Us is a record brimming with both outlandish ideas and real emotion. Referencing everything from cephalophores to Sleestaks, and keeping the tunes bright and tight, TMBG once again walk that fine line between disposable sugar pop and true intellectual stimulation, bringing the two disparate worlds together in a heightened state of bliss.
BUY IT?: Yes. Nice to know these guys aren’t running on fumes three decades into their career.
NEW RELEASES – CD
GEORGE STRAIT – Here for a Good Time
LINDSEY BUCKINGHAM – Seeds We Sow
THE RAPTURE - The Grace of Your Love
NEW RELEASES – DVD
EVERYTHING MUST GO with Will Farrell and Rebecca Hall
HANNA with Saoirse Ronan and Cate Blanchett