Ben Kweller – Sha Sha (ATO Records)
It’s easy and simplistic to make comparisons to what this album sounds like. There’s a lot of Weezer and a lot of Ben Folds. But so what? What have those guys done lately that’s made you give a shit? When I first heard “Family Tree” on Loyola’s excellent student radio station, I was more reminded of the Grateful Dead and the Beatles. Tell me that the acoustic guitar break doesn’t remind you of “I’m Only Sleeping.”
This is a solid album with several great, engaging songs. Sure, there are some dumb lyrics (“Sex reminds her of eating spaghetti” — even if that did come from Doom Generation, it’s still stupid). This is the direction Weezer should have gone in, but didn’t. And even if he hasn’t totally found his own voice yet, cut him a little slack. He’s only 20. Ben Kweller is definitely one to keep an eye on.
Neurotic Swingers – What’s Your Definition of Underground? (Shark Attack / Lollipop / Myrmecoleo Records)
These guys are French, but don’t hold that against them. The guitars on this album are pure Bollocks-era Steve Jones. The singer’s got a great, crunchy voice that Julian Casablancas would give up drinking to have. The first song, “Dead Language,” is so full of punk rock clichés you’ll want to hate it, but it’s so fucking catchy you won’t be able to. Sadly, they don’t let you hear that one on their website, but they offer Real Audio versions of three other songs. Too bad this cd loses its steam after the first song, because even though the whole thing is only 19 minutes long, by the time it’s done you’ve already had more than enough.
Aimee Mann – Lost in Space (SuperEgo Records)
The great thing about independent releases from dedicated, obsessive artists is the attention to detail. From the fantastic comic book artwork to the seamless production, Lost in Space is a pleasure for Aimee Mann fans used to being treated right.
Mann has attained that most difficult of musical attributes: she’s established a sound that is immediately identifiable as her own without rehashing melodies or themes to the point of self-parody. Like the simplicity, sadness and depth that made a George Harrison solo undeniably his, Mann has touched upon a musical style that conjures up her name upon first listen.
Subtle keyboard and slide guitar touches fill out the sound that dances around Mann’s never ending melodies. Fans of Bachelor #2 and the Magnolia Soundtrack will find plenty to explore in Lost in Space. Mann may not necessarily be breaking new musical ground on this album but she’s perfecting a sound that is damn near impossible to forget and that is worth getting lost for.
Minus the Bear – Highly Refined Pirates (Suicide Squeeze Records)
Hilarious song titles like “Hey, Wanna Throw Up,” Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo,” and “I Lost All My Money at the Cock Fights” might make you think you’ve picked up the Emo equivalent to Weird Al Yankovic. Think again. It’s more of the tried and true loud/soft dynamics and disjointed time signatures that have made Emo the Muzak of Generation Y. Not a bad record but not nearly as intriguing as the song titles.
Beck – Sea Change (DGC)
This album was covered on the main site. Read the article here.
No. 2 – What Does Good Luck Bring? (In Music We Trust)
Great stuff from Elliott Smith’s old buddy from Heatmiser. The first three songs are the strongest. Lucky for you, their label is offering all three as mp3s: A Little Confusion, More, More, and Stranger’s March. The rest of the disc is good too, but it loses some power as it goes along. Sometimes it comes across like Matthew Sweet fronting the Foo Fighters, but it’s by far the best unsolicited cd we’ve received at GLONO HQ.