Concept: Psychedelic electronic pop group refuses to rest on its new laurels.

Sound: The opening track marks an even more ethereal tone for the band, and is musically more complex than most of their previous work. Unfortunately, the following tracks fall short of the promises of the first, more repetitive and tepid than new fans would expect. Here at KJNB, we’ve decided on the Animal Collective mantra: arpeggio, ostinato, reverb, offbeats, triplets. That is what Animal Collective ultimately is; the rest is subject to change. Graze is one exception to shelve with Lion In A Coma.

Lyrics: Again, Animal Collective, in relying on substance abuse, grapples with the confusion and inanity of their inspiration along with the chance glimmer of spirituality and wisdom. The lyrics betray a sense of the band spinning their wheels more than the music does.

Quick And Dirty: A dismissive and timely followup to Merriweather Post Pavilion that establishes the next destination without giving away too much. (♦♦♦½)

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Concept: QOTSA guitarist/vocalist, Nirvana drummer, and Led Zeppelin bassist get together for whatever. It’s amazing it wasn’t hyped more.

Sound: There’s a wealth of addictive riffs on this album. The problem is that half of them serve as bookends or are hidden halfway into otherwise dull tracks like No One Loves Me And Neither Do I and Elephants. There are maybe five tracks that follow through with their nugget of pure rock fury. Dave Grohl is a perceptive and creative drummer, the same one that helped make a retro masterpiece of Queens Of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf. Homme’s penchant for beating a riff into the listener’s skull is refined by violent rhythmic cuts and switches, which makes the difference on many songs. Although some of his old tricks are heavily recycled, Grohl and John Paul Jones put a new atmospheric spin on it so that it’s more of an acidic regurgitation. Reptiles and Interlude With Ludes present a relatively new sound for each of the collaborators, justifying the project. The theatrics they make on the side count for a lot of the album’s appeal. Jones uses a grotesque effect on slap bass to imitate the croaking of raptors, and Homme bends his strings to breaking point in open sections of verse to twist melody askew, punctuating the lyricism appropriately.

Lyrics: There are some albums that suffer from too much talk. Homme leaves little breathing room for the music, and sometimes his words just aren’t catchy enough to flow so freely. Having said that, while the occasional cliche and smarmy self-contradicting phrase takes the swagger out of a song, dark humor and machismo keeps the mood intact. “I’m going to smother you with my love/ forever and ever. Also, forever./…/ Is my face still bleeding?/ Then what is your problem?/…/ Sometimes you break a finger/ on the other hand/ I think you got me confused for a better man/…/ I think you got me confused.”

Quick And Derivative: Suffering from some derivative approaches, there are spacey, rocket-fueled highs and miserable, puttering lows. There’s tons of material on the album, plenty worth listening to, and the group clearly has the potential to make something spectacular in the future. (♦♦♦½)

Concept: An eclectic/random assortment of compositions by a local artist.

Sound: Competent if conventional easy listening jazz progressions, choral arrangements, and a closing industrial rock track for the SJU football team. The range of vocal talent is apparent but overwrought with compositional bravado. Grace notes and tremolo ahoy.

Lyrics: Somebody kill me. Overdetermined musical-style lyricism and embarrassing airbrushed heartbreak doodles. When You Said Goodbye gets two consecutive renditions for maximum torture. The arrogant, nearly sacrilegious tone of What Will You Do, God, When I Die? is repellant.

Quick And Dirty: Musician for hire at http://www.georgemaurer.com. (♦½)

Concept: It’s a CD.

Sound: Funk rock, some bluegrass influence. It’s no stretch to give the description Incubus + Sister Hazel. Divergence, Take A Ride, and A Cup Of Love stand out as the best tracks on the album, closer to the skill and intensity of the live show.

Lyrics: …Lyrics are hard. Even the better tracks have pretty unremarkable lines. It’s not the focus anyway.

Quick And Dirty: There are some good grooves, but the album as a whole is diluted and could use more up tempo work or warm a cappella exhibitions like the ‘secret song’ at the end of the album. (♦♦♦½)

The breakdown for the night was simple, Mister opening for Sepia Tone. SJU’s local favorites had a friend in from the cities on saxophone, walking the razor’s edge after 36 hours without sleep.

Mister burned right through their set at high speed; drummer Grant Gibeau’s warmup diet of bear-related snacks had him popping along in a private war between himself and his sweatband. The band has translated well into electric. Scott Heins showed grace under pressure as a soloist, rhythm guitarist, and backing vocalist. The sax is a rock instrument, let there be no doubt, and at the end of the day a crowd just wants to hear it scream. Although Mister’s earlier work better compliments vocal harmonies than adjacent improvisation, they opened up the latter half of some songs to make the best of their setup, and the response at Brother Willie’s affirmed the choice. The show was as energetic as the band has ever been.

Sepia Tone had a bleak start with half the crowd headed for the doors and balconies and a microphone crapping out on them (later to be salvaged; I believe the credit is to Cooper Lund?). The group rose to the occasion with ‘Superstition’. Sepia Tone uses covers the right way: do the songs justice, break the ice, gain momentum. Bassist Jason Mclean was fabulous — the man knows how to find and fill a break. It became evident as the night wore on in the two hour set that the band had no weak members. Aaron Brostrom’s voice is, to be frank, hot. Both Nick Johnson and Kyle Tennis (a firm backbone for the band) can shred, and Anthony Bloch demonstrated for everyone that drum solos aren’t just about beating the bejesus out of your kit. All of them can sing. As a whole, Sepia Tone held tight and had an intuition for grooves. Anyone that stuck around can confirm that it’s a fun show; they’re welcome back any time.

Hopefully there won’t be any pyrotechnics from the speakers in the future.

Now, I’m not hanging up my hat just yet, but I think it’s safe to say the results are in for best albums of the year. While we try to avoid junk here at KJNB, that doesn’t mean we don’t get the occasional doozy, so there’s a ‘5’ for that, too. If you have any death threats you wish to express, you may direct them towards M2JOHNSON@csbsju.edu. Hope the rest of the year treats you well, Collegeville.

*****

TOP 5 ALBUMS OF 2009

5. St. Vincent – Actor

4. Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca

3. Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion

2. Zu – Carboniferous

1. Grizzly Bear – Veckatimest

(Honorable Mention: Wild Beasts – Two Dancers, Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II, DM Stith – Heavy Ghost)

*****

BOTTOM 5

5. Pearl Jam – Backspacer

4. Destroyer – Bay Of Pigs

3. Potluck – Pipe Dreams

2. Bob Dylan – Christmas In The Heart

1. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez – Despair

(Dishonorable Mention: Portugal The Man – The Satanic Satanist, Dream Theater – Black Clouds & Silver Linings, Clutch – Strange Cousins From The West, The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love)

His master's wakka-wakka-wakka.

Concept: The Strokes’ frontman holds tight to the 80’s pop aesthetic that drained the East Side punch out of the band’s third album, and tries to make it match his iconic soulless stare.

Sound: Casablancas’ talent for melody is as strong as ever, and the songs have plenty of motion to them, but believe it or not the music deeply wants more organic elements. This is probably what he was going for, since he always seems to look for the most depressing aspects of ‘feel-good music’. The songs will occasionally put out a hook, a fade out or an extra deteriorating measure, where it seems like the composer is looking desperately for a way to leave the song, finds nowhere to go, and turns back around; the impact of this is often greater than Julian’s harmonizing. The miserable and elaborate fantasies of the album deserve more investigation, and at eight standard-sized tracks this feels more like a studio-generated preview than an independent work.

Lyrics: It’s hard to say what it is, but Casablancas’ lyricism has been losing its edge since First Impressions Of Earth. There was catchy wit and a subtle poetry to the concision and small turns his narratives used to take, and in cranking out phrases for the young he used to present the listener something to lose, or at least the illusion of it, floating on a river of fatalism. There’s nothing young about the blurry, drunken lectures on this album. His favorite themes of falling back in love with Big Brother and the abyss of other people are only fleetingly present. Tokens of his old form are rare and overdrawn, like on the album’s strongest track, River Of Brakelights: “getting the hang of it/nothing is everything/timing is everything/timing the hang of it/getting is everything/getting the time of it/everything hanging is/hanging the getting of/timing the everything”. Julian never explicitly hits on a central point, but with nothing implied over most of the album it’s just a snapshot of his detachment, not ours. His mistrust of everything has made him ostentatious, although perhaps this was predictable from the start of his career.

Quick And Dirty: The music is still powerful, but the presentation and the man behind it seem weary, spiteful, and bloodless. (♦♦♦½)