Veckatimest

Concept: Several songs dedicated to one of the Elizabeth islands in Massachussets.

Sound: Old-school choral and crooner harmonies with hip drumming and keyboards. The guitarwork switches off between bold acoustic riffing and glassy electric doublepicking binges. The first two thirds of the album are very, very impressive: absorbing bittersweet hookfests that remind you why the Beach Boys were such a big deal anyway. The last third, however, betrays a formula. The music seems choppy when there’s less melodic meat on all the motion and change in their structures, like they couldn’t decide what kind of song to write, and the magic exits stage left somewhere along the way.

Lyrics: Not gonna lie, the lyrics are lame. The music will make you think you like what they’re saying, since it all reaches the same Disneyfied sparkle and tension, but the pretty words they spout don’t cooperate with each other at all, and are vague to the point of laziness.

Quick And Dirty: Its first onslaught of tracks makes it more than worth the purchase, but this disc holds great songs, not a great album. Still, the kids are gonna love this. (♦♦♦♦½)

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This is an example of a dubious album title.

Concept: New band members make for a slightly different sound. Oh wait, they’re a drummer and a bassist.

Sound: This is easily the loosest Omar’s formula has ever dared get, which is definitely something for a fellow whose music has already been described by critics as ‘a homogenous ****heap of stream-of-consciousness turgidity’. The good news is that the brief moments (2-3 minutes tops) where the rhythms manage to stabilize instead of tumbling along like a brain damaged cat trying parkour are some of the coolest tighest grooves available to rock music, and one can only hope that someone gives them a song structure to inhabit someday.

Lyrics: Aside from the usual verbal scramble, there is a new approach which is surprisingly lewd and pathetic, painting a picture of a vengeful jilted lover with leprosy and epilepsy? There is also a constant background sample of teens talking about their relationships and drugs along with a gibbering ape and a cooing adolescent.

Quick And Dirty: An extended fit of diseased musical impatience yields some strong results. Now the band needs to hold still and make an actual song. (♦♦♦♦)

You don't see enough Toucans in cover art.

Concept: The tenth (?) solo album by guitarist Omar A. Rodriguez-Lopez, influenced by his time in Jerusalem and the films of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The cover art would also suggest this is a spiritual successor to his foremost project’s sophomore effort.

Sound: This is Omar’s second recorded attempt at noise music. It starts off quite solid, with ominous ambience suddenly lurching forward into swirling, beautifully textured discord. Then the second track enters, and it’s the exact same song. Alright, the elements have been rearranged, but even fans of noise would have to call Omar’s bluff: this is not how you make a noise album. Maybe there’s some guarded secret, where if you play each track during the opening credits of the film it’s named after the sounds match up to create a commentary, or if you speed them up and reverse them you get the lyrics to ‘Tiny Dancer’ in Portuguese, but odds are Omar made this album as an experiment and released it as a very expensive practical joke.

Lyrics: Grrraaaaaooooooooolghghghuuuuhhhhhhh…

Quick And Dirty: Maybe it would be okay to buy one track off iTunes if you want some background business or material for your budding DJ career. If you buy the album you have never been introduced to the ‘repeat’ button, or you review music for a blog. Fans of Mr. Rodriguez-Lopez, despair. (♦)

Actress

Concept: A soundtrack for the paranoid and frustrated life of an actor out of work. A very private conversation with a very angry Judy Garland, or David Bowie’s misanthropic little sister.

Sound: Built like a musical, perhaps to satirically accomodate the concept, with a huge amount of variety. There’s strings, winds, horns, timpanis, and fuzzy electric dissonance, playing all sorts of styles. It’s hard to believe one person is doing most of the work in composing this album, but it’s true. Annie Clark is just a very talented lady. Five minutes from a flute-ridden serenade you could be sitting in the middle of a grunge rant, or a synth soliloquy, or a two minute ‘Day-In-The-Life’ crescendo dragging every available instrument into a pounding, shrieking froth. She doesn’t just play on instrumental breadth, either. Tracks like Just The Same But Brand New present melodies that simultaneously entice and withdraw, glistening and tragically cold. The only demands St. Vincent’s encyclopedic tours do not satisfy are improvisation and a quicker pace, so the grand structures might seem stiff at times.

Lyrics: Again, St. Vincent’s frontwoman prefers play between luxury and neuroticism. Looking from the song to its words is like approaching Clark herself. What is dressed to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed is on closer inspection only wide-eyed and sunken-faced. The pretentions of a first-person narrative may be irritating to some, and it isn’t the best example of such writing, but it suits the music and the concept and isn’t particularly self-obsessed unless deliberately so, unlike the work of so many other singer-songwriters.

Quick And Dirty: The only real complaint is that the album musically sacrifices catchiness for depth. There are few simple hit songs here, but tons of inspired composition. (♦♦♦♦)