Striker Bill's New Notable Releases: Week of 7/21/09

New Releases

New Notable Releases for the week of 7/21/09

  • Aspects of Physics – Marginalized Information Forms 3: Other (Imputor? Records)
  • Bad Veins – Bad Veins (Dangerbird)
  • Blue Roses – Blue Roses (XL Recordings)
  • The Fiery Furnaces – I’m Going Away (Thrill Jockey)
  • Bill Frisell – Disfarmer (Nonesuch)
  • Ian Hunter – Man Overboard (New West)
  • Magnolia Electric Co. – Josephine (Secretly Canadian)
  • Megafaun – Gather, Form & Fly (Hometapes)
  • Our Lady Peace – Burn Burn (ILG/Warner)
  • Portugal the Man – The Satanic Satanist (Approaching AIRballoons)
  • Set Your Goals – This Will Be The Death of Us (Epitaph)

All of these are generally available in stores or online through such outlets as iTunes or Amazon as it would be, so be sure to check them out and help support all the bands and artists who continue to create interesting new music.

Yet more great stuff coming out in the near future, so be sure to check back next week and every week.

Quick Strike – The Silent Years

So yeah, we’ve talked about these guys a couple of times here at Striker Bill, and why not?  Their stellar new EP Let Go was released last Tuesday, and to help raise awareness to it you can download the song “Taking Drugs at the Amusement Park” for the unbeatable price of zero dollars.  Personally I would recommend downloading the song and then buying the EP, but as the old adage can be paraphrased, I can lead the horse to water, but I can’t make ’em drink.

To download the free offering from the Motown quintet, just follow the link below.

Free MP3: The Silent Years – Taking Drugs at the Amusement Park

Order Let Go here

The Silent Years Online

The Dead Weather – Horehound

Dead Weather - Horehound

In my opinion, the whole “supergroup” phenomenon has gotten a little bit passe in recent years.  It used to be that you would see one of this so-called groups appear every year or two, which would cause a big fuss in the music industry and amongst music fans for a period of time.  But more often than not, these collaborations would fizzle out and die before they ever had to chance to reach their full potential, littering used CD stores with the dried up fruits of an experiment gone astray.

But we’re not talking about just any supergroup this time, we’re talking about one featuring Jack White.  If there is anybody in rock music who can, in the minds of the media and listeners alike, do no wrong, it’s him.  Between the White Stripes and the Raconteurs he’s created a whole heap of buzz and sold a whole heap of plastic over the course of the past ten years.  He may also be the most overrated musician to come out of the last ten years as well, not due to any lack of talent but rather due to the almost crushing amount of praise that he has been rendered over the years.

So for his third major project he’s recruited an interesting coterie of players: the Kills Allison Mosshart on lead vocals, Queen of the Stone Age’s Dean Fertita on guitar, and Greenhorne and fellow Raconteur Jack Lawrence on bass.  Oh, and Jack White is on drums, which to some might seem like a shock and a big deal even though they were the first instrument that he ever learned to play.  So in some ways his moving behind the kit is more of a homecoming than a departure.  What is certain is that White is dictating the direction that this collaboration will follow as the Dead Weather’s sound compares with facets of the White Stripes and the Raconteurs.  White’s frenetic drumming style provides the backbone while Fertita and Lawrence mix druggy, sludgy guitar lines and slinky, synth pedal aided bass lines underneath the caterwauling of Mosshart.  While Jack White does mix in vocals of his own here and there, the focus is clearly on Mosshart in that department.  Stylisticly, Horehound follows the thick, bluesy rock n’ roll mold that White has been purveying for years, but travels down some darker sonic paths than his other bands ever have while also mixing in hints of country (“Will There Be Enough Water”) and reggae (“I Cut Like a Buffalo”).

The results of all these different pieces and stylistic nuances is mixed.  This is an album with some big, memorable highs and some middling, blase lows.  Ultimately, the best two songs on the album are the two singles, “Hang You From the Heavens” and “Treat Me Like Your Mother,” the latter of which is arguably the one true album standout with its shifting dynamics and bombastic song structure.  Others like “I Cut Like a Buffalo” and “Bone House” are solid, enjoyable tunes.  But by the same measure there are moments on this album where the energy and the life just aren’t there.  Opener “60 Feet Tall” is an overly long, boring bluesy affair that only begins to build up some steam once the 3 minute mark has been reached.  And the album’s one cover, Bob Dylan’s “New Pony” would probably have been best left uncovered in the long run.

In the end, there’s enough going on here to warrant the listener giving this set of songs a couple of spins, and that stands true if the Jack White involvement wasn’t enough to initially pique their interest.  As I said, the albums bright spots really do stand out as such and will sneak into your head for the rest of the day if you’re not careful.  If you can stand some of the albums less than stellar and less than promising moments, then there is a sonic reward in here somewhere for you.

War Tapes – The Continental Divide

War Tapes - Continental Divide

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If thats the case this decade has been the wellspring of a whole lot of flattery in the arena of popular music. There was the arrival of the Hard-Fi and their heavy tips of the cap to Blur, the Johnny Cash-esque leanings of Brent Amaker & The Rodeo, and the significant Jimmy Eat World nods of a band called Number One Fan (who themselves are now models of Kings of Leon as The Wildbirds). Of course there have been many more than just those few, but they just happened to be the first three that came to mind.

And now we have War Tapes. The LA-based quartet are purveyors of big, ringing, shimmering guitars made famous by such bands as Editors, Longwave, Interpol, and even U2. I’m not kidding when I use the word big, and perhaps it doesn’t go far enough. I’m talking massively huge, arena filling, shimmering walls of guitars. There aren’t many other outfits that you’ll find today that have guitars quite as sizable and substantial as you’re going to hear on this set of songs. It’s the band’s calling card, and certainly not a bad one to have in your arsenal. Moreover, it’s absolutely essential in order to pull off the big melodies and the dark, 80s influenced post-punk song structures that are so prevalent over the course of these twelve songs. Instrumentally the group has got this game covered, as each individual part fits well with each other, from the churning bass of Becca Popkin and steady drumming of William Mohler. If there is a questionable link in here its some of the lead guitar decisions of Matt Bennett, which stylistically can be just a bit confusing. All these things come crashing together most effectively on songs such as “Dreaming of You” and “Use Me.”

All of these musical elements wouldn’t be as important without some appropriate lead vocals to cap them off. Singer Neil Popkin’s voice manages to soar (it’s obvious that he’s listened to just a little bit of Morrissey over the years) despite the fact that the subject matter that crosses his vocal chords is mostly dour in nature. You only need to look at the song titles to get a feel for the mood of this record: tracks like “She Lied,” “Mind Is Ugly,” and “Use Me” need no further explanations, but I’ll provide some anyway. “Rightfully Mine” opens with the line “I’m the one who’s struggling/In a world gone mad/I suffocate in the ocean air/Just to call this place my home,” while “Start Again” starts with the verse “Seven lies and I’ve had it with this game/I want to start again/and the world drapes it’s arms around my neck/I want to start again, start again.” Gloomy to be sure, and while it’s not the gloomiest I’ve come across during my years of music appreciation, these aren’t Tiny Tim lines either. Paired up with Popkin’s work are the vocals of his sister Becca, and whether or not it’s their sibling rivalry at play the duo work well together. Becca adds a bit of sweetness mixing in some backup vocals here and there while also providing While his vocals fit the the general timbre of these songs, there are times when he has a tendency to push the envelope and over sing things just a bit. The 2nd half of “Fast Lane” is a prime example of this.

So what we have here is an album full of big bombastic guitars and big, soaring choruses that all in all winds up being a solid effort. However, if the album does have one notable downside, it’s the fact that from start to finish the album winds up being very samey. Both the driving, uptempo numbers and the more laid back songs end up employing the same set of tools in order to craft their brand of rock, which in the end leads to very little variation over the course of this record. In turn, one song can run into the next and the unsaavy listener might not notice if he’s not careful. Still, the band is young and this is just their debut LP. I always play the part of the optimist and I believe that this can be improved upon for future releases. For now, the band has found a formula that works for them, so it’s hard to blame them for not wanting to tamper with it.

Striker Bill's Notable New Releases: Week of 7/14/09

New Releases

The middle of July is upon us, and things are slowing down a little bit as the sunshine emerges from behind the rainclouds summer begins to sink into a nice leisurely pace.  That’s all fine and good with us here at Striker Bill as it allows us to get caught up a little bit as we get back on the trolley following the unveiling of our updated site design.  Still, there’s plenty of interesting records that are hitting shelves as we speak and that includes more than just the latest foray by White Stripes/Racounteurs frontman Jack White.  So you need fear not on that front.  Anyway, here’s what we’re highlighting for this week:

New Notable Releases for the week of 7/14/09

  • Clutch – Strange Cousins from the West (Weathermaker Music)
  • Dark Knights of Camelot – Hurrication EP (Olympic Records)
  • The Dead Weather [Jack White’s latest foray] – Horehound (Third Man/Warner)
  • The Jayhawks – Music from the North Country: The Jayhawks Anthology (American)
  • Little Tybee – I Wonder Which House the Fish Will Live In (self-released)
  • David Thomas Owen IV [Former guitarist for the band Lovedrug] – Solace My King (Esperanza Plantation)
  • Project 86 – Picket Fence Cartel (Tooth & Nail)
  • The Silent Years – Let Go [EP] (Sidecho

All of these are generally available in stores or online through such outlets as iTunes or Amazon as it would be, so be sure to check them out and help support all the bands and artists who continue to create interesting new music.

Yet more great stuff coming out in the near future, so be sure to check back next week and every week.

Striker Bill Upgrades

Welcome to our new look!Hey gang! In case you haven’t noticed already, things are looking a little bit different around here these days. Myself and the ol’ site admin wanted to fill you in on all the changes that you see in front of you here at Striker Bill and give you a rundown of the new and notable features. We hope these changes will make the site more attractive, more usable, and easier to maintain and add features to over time. We’d love to hear what you think so comment. Feedback good and bad is welcome.

New overall:

  • There is a new logo courtesy of Kasey Tararuj: check out her work at http://www.kaseytararuj.com/
  • The site navigation is now on the right side of the pages.
  • News/review categories are now listed below the logo.
  • The Search box is noticeable and above the right-side navigation columns.
  • Text resize buttons are near the top-right of each page. This will increase the size of the current article’s text.

New in the side navigation:

  • We have a Countdown timer to the next Striker Bill radio show, with button to listen live online. You have no excuse now.
  • Latest articles from the Jury have their own box, as do the latest reviews.
  • Links spit into Striker Resources, Best of Striker Bill, and Links.
  • Striker Resources is where you can find out about everything Striker Bill, including how to contact us.
  • Best of Striker Bill will spotlight some of the best content on the site, updated as often as needed.

New in reviews:

  • Album rating is now also located at the top-right of each review above the “Listen Now” box.
  • Amazon song samples box is now in a “Listen Now” box at the top-right of each review.
  • Bottom of each page has a link to the next older or newer article, so if you want you can more easily go from one review to the next.

All of this adds up to a lot of change and (hopefully) improvement at here at Striker Bill. Of course, all of this means little if you don’t voice in and let us know what you think of what we’ve done. As we stated earlier, we’d love to hear any kind of feedback, whether its positively or negatively inclined. Thanks for reading and we hope you come visit us again soon and often.

Cheers,

Chris (Chief Editor) & Jason (Site Admin)

Sugarplum Fairies – Chinese Leftovers

Sugarplum Fairies - Chinese Leftovers

Apparently, Sugarplum Fairies aren’t particularly big fans of Saturday.  In fact, if their songwriting is consistent to reality then they downright hate them, which they assert exactly halfway through their fourth and latest LP.  But that’s okay, since their style of music isn’t tailor made for the Saturday scene to begin with.  Made up of the LA by way of Vienna, Austria duo of Silvia Ryder and Ben Bohm, along with their revolving coterie of musical talent, have gotten pretty good at making the hazy dream pop that they’ve been crafting for several years now.  This time around, the additional players include the talents of Joey Waronker on drums, Gus Seyffert on bass, and Jebin Bruni on keyboards, amongst many others.  I could spend the next several hours and several thousand words abstracting out from this starting point, but that would only result in me talking the long way around to come to the same result.

Constructed primarily from a base of slow chiming acoustic guitars and Ryder’s whispered, almost hypnotic lead vocals, the band keeps things down tempo and to an extent low key as well.  For me, the first listen conjured up images and memories of when Mazzy Star and Luna were on top of their game back in the 90s.   Subtlety seems to be the name of the game here, in both the composition and arrangements of the eleven tracks that make up Chinese Leftovers to the way that this album seems to sway from one song to the next.  Even in its most “bombastic” moments (and I use quotes around that word because nothing on this record can be described officially as such) such as on “First Rate Show” the horn flourishes that pepper the arrangement aren’t much more than pleasant.  They don’t quite have the energy to be considered exciting.  “I Hate Saturdays” is much the same in being defined as a pleasant piece of music, minus the horn flourishes of course, and sounds as if it would fit nicely into the soundtrack of a 1980s era buddy comedy/romantic comedy.

The rest of the album falls right in line with my aforementioned description for their brand of hazy dreampop.  “Westside” is a delicate little number centered around a core of gently strummed acoustic guitars, bells, and cellos that, when fit with Ryder’s hushed vocal stylings can sound downright beautiful at times.  “Mercy” is an upbeat (at least for this album) and moderately catchy ditty that is adorned with some pleasant accordian accents.  While they’re, for all intents and purposes, your average dreampop fare, “Head and Tail” and “Hold On To Me” are not without their charms.  And “Chinese Leftovers,” once it gets started, builds itself up rather nicely by piling the guitars and keyboards without making them sound cluttered and noisy and features some enjoying vocal harmonies from Ryder and Bohm.  However, songs like “I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine,” “Smile,” and “Polaroid” fail to develop the way I hoped they would from their outset and end up a little too sleepy for their own good.

Like all albums Chinese Leftovers has its definite ups and its downs.  At it’s high water marks the band crafts lush yet simplistic dream pop that has the strength to hang with the best of them, while at it’s low points the record has a tendency to drag and become a bit listless.  Regardless the band has put together a solid collection of songs that in many ways is a great Sunday afternoon-post-Saturday-night festivities album, but I wouldn’t recommend listening while operating heavy machinery late at night.