Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Complex Returns


* * * *


The Yellow Dress make happy music. This is the kind of band that names their second full-length album Humblebees, hates writing about themselves in the third person, and will send you a personal letter of thanks, including a drawing of a cat, if you pre-order their cassette. And they’ve never sounded happier than they do on Humblebees. George Rosenthal’s production lifts the band out of the lo-fi territory of their earlier releases and into a realm of mid-budget production that gives the band as big a sound as they likely always wanted (and needed)--it now sounds like the band is hugging the entire world rather than merely the listener. The amazing thing is how much emotion they can pack into music as relentlessly positive as this. There are sad songs, but they are neither depressing nor sugar-coated--you can merely listen to them and feel good at the same time. “Won’t Go Back” is basically the closest equivalent twee-pop has so far to David Bowie’s “Heroes” in terms of a cathartic rock n’ roll anthem. And when you get to any of the three ends of “Heavy Beekeeping,” you feel like you’ve had as much fun in the last 45 minutes as the band must have making the album.


Images EP

* * 1/2

Space Among Many is the union of Tano Brock (vocals, production) and Jack Gorlin (vocals, guitar), two teenage San Francisco musicians who have both released some excellent home recordings in the last year. Another way of looking at this is that Space Among Many are a couple of guys in a room, and none of these recordings sound like the work of more than two people (except maybe the one where they booked a cello player). The two work with what they have--presumably a few instruments and a computer with Logic Pro--and leave Brock to fill out the space, with mixed results. The tinny virtual piano that is the EP’s dominant sound grates on the ear after a while, and Brock’s digital horns and organs sound rudimentary, as if they are little more than placeholders for what would eventually become live instruments. The group often feels restrained by their lack of resources, much like tUnE-yArDs on her debut album. But with the exception of “Images,” an embarrassing attempt at heavy-handed power-balladry, these are all well-crafted alt-pop songs that, if refined, could potentially crash alternative radio. Standout tracks include the disco anthem “What I Want” and the dubby “I Won’t Forget You.”


Comodo Complex EP

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Another recent addition to George Rosenthal’s Complex contingent, Comodo Complex are basically a psybient rock band. Their copious use of graphics that wouldn’t be out of place on an Earthdance poster says it all--the San Francisco quartet is much more interested in creating psychedelic good-trip textures than anything particularly catchy or memorable. There’s honestly not too much to say about this album, as it’s not easy to give it a comprehensive listen--these are songs that fade to the back of the mind rather than penetrate its center. But these are attractive sounds, and the aesthetic, subtle beauty of these songs (and the concept of a rock band playing ambient trip music) is enough to make this album a worthwhile listen.

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