Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cranes - "Cranes" CD

For nearly 20 years now, British group Cranes, fronted by helium-voiced pixie Alison Shaw, have delighted, charmed, and baffled audiences, all the while making some curiously progressive records that spanned the gap between industrial, ethereal, and indie rock. This self-titled, and self-released 2008 gem signals a bit of a transformation for the band. Beginning as a dark and visceral, almost gothy guitar group in the late 80's, 'Cranes' shows the band embracing fully the more soothing ambient electronic sound they hinted at with their previous release. And it gels perfectly. 'Worlds' is hopeful and airily introspective - just a lovely track that actually recalls their earlier work (the acoustic guitars), but with stronger songwriting. The rest of the album floats along in a similar way. 'Panorama', performed in French, is a haunting piece that elegantly hints at a darker undertone. 'Sleepwalking' is a particularly stunning arctic classical/ambient piece that's of proper soundtrack quality, and the closer, 'High And Low', is a delicate pop song that sums up the unique and surreal mood that Cranes have excelled at for so long. I think this is their best work in years, and anyone interested in beautiful and mature ambient pop would do well to seek this out. (Dadaphonic)

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Young Widows - "Old Wounds" CD

Louisville has a thriving music scene, and Young Widows are a product of that particularly fertile ground. Consisting of former members of several punk and hardcore groups, Young Widows create a harsh, noisy, and angular post-punk sound that's akin to acts like the Melvins or Jesus Lizard. Evan Patterson's throat-scraping vocals wail and teeter just to the south of sanity, while the group behind him produce an energetic and feisty set of thunderous rock grooves with an element of ramshackle abandon. 'The Guitar' lets up with a bit of storytelling amidst the chaos, but then it's back to the crushingly dense din of 'Lucky And Hardheaded'. Kurt Ballou's engineering and mixing sounds a lot like Steve Albini's trademark -- dry and raw, and this only helps to present Young Widows as a road-weary but tight noise/rock unit for fans of the old 90's Amphetamine Reptile or Touch & Go days. Righteous. (Temporary Residence)

Young Widows site

Megadeth - "Anthology: Set The World Afire" 2xCD

Surviving for almost 25 years now, ex-Metallica axeman Dave Mustaine has seen his share of ups and downs. This double-CD assembles a reasonably concise history of Megadeth's life and times, from the very early thrash/speed metal of stuff like 'Rattlehead' to the heavier and more melodic anthems like 'Peace Sells', with it's instantly recognizable bassline. And though I've never much followed the band's work through the years, it's remarkable how well this stuff has aged. 'Anarchy In The U.K.' does the Sex Pistols justice, and songs like 'Set The World Afire' are as thick, taut, and intense as can be. Megadeth were definitely not of the party-metal ilk, no sir. The blatant social critiques of songs like 'Sweating Bullets' show an awareness that was/is rare among Megadeth's peers, and it all serves to prove that Megadeth were leaders of their time, rather than followers. There are 35 songs here, too, so it's a big bang for your buck. Go geddit, I say. (major label)

Megadeth website

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

various artists - "Godhead - Non-Stop Ride" CD

On this 2004 release, Jason Miller of nth-generation industrial rockers Godhead mixes together (and that's putting it loosely) a selection of mostly re-hashed cuts from the catalog of recycling masters Cleocraptra Records. It's not so much a showcase of the artists' top songs, but more-or-less a commercial/promo for Cleo's waning back catalogue of covers albums and licensees. A solid (if unremarkable) track by Funker Vogt ('Narayan') opens things with aplomb, but what follows shortly thereafter is a subpar effort by the normally talented Haujobb ('Smack My Bitch Up' - yes, that one), who did this track for quick cash, I'm convinced, as it seems to be a throwaway that displays none of the complexity and texture that Mr. Meier (cheers, Daniel!) is capable of. Beyond that, there's a lot of very average songs by X Marks The Pedwalk ('I See You'), VNV Nation's technofied Front 242 cover ('DMSO'), a brief snippet of the mighty Pig's 'Rope', a short edit of Ogre and Mark Walk's cover of Madonna's 'Borderline', 80's one-hit wonders Sigue Sigue Sputnik doing KMFDM's 'Virus', some Razed In Black, Pigface, Die Krupps, etc. You get the picture. The whole glorious mess ends with Godhead themselves covering 3 classic 80's goth-rock staples, with some pretty horrendous results. 'Bela Lugosi's Dead', 'Fascination Street', and 'This Corrosion' are rendered pale shadows (appropriate, I suppose) of their former glory. Wow. I am really seriously disappointed. (Cleopatra)

Godhead site

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Susanna - "Flower Of Evil" CD

Norwegian pianist/vocalist Susanna Karolina Wallumrød has, with only her second solo album, re-interpreted a series of unlikely rock songs as beautifully melancholic modern folk/torch tracks. Songs by Thin Lizzy, ('Jailbreak'), Sandy Denny ('Who Knows Where The Time Goes'), Lou Reed ('Vicious'), Nico ('Janitor Of Lunacy'), Black Sabbath ('Changes'), Tom Petty ('Don't Come Around Here No More'), Abba ('Lay All Your Love On Me') and others are transformed into near-mystical, intimate, and sublimely personal laments. Wallumrød's crystalline, sparse vocals are remarkably pure and natural, sounding like a cross between Cat Power, P.J. Harvey, and Marketa Irglova (of the 'Once' soundtrack). Louisville's own Will Oldham himself lends his guest vocals to 2 songs here, and finds himself covered as well ('Joy And Jubilee'). His duet with Susanna, on Prince's 'Without You', is either one of his finest, most heart-rending performances ever, or one his most overdramatic. I still can't decide which. Nonetheless, it's something to behold. Susanna's 2 originals here are lonely, understated, and just beautiful in a stark, unadorned way. An incredible singer and one to chase down, for sure. (Rune Grammofon)

Susanna's website

Here's a promo video for Susanna's melancholic rendition of Joy Division's classic 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'...