Thursday, June 30, 2011



I’m Gay

* * * * 1/2


Kim Gordon once said people go to concerts to watch other people believe in themselves, and nobody has created a greater cult of personality based on unstoppable confidence, or swag, than Lil B. But Lil B doesn’t say the word “swag” until about ten minutes into this album. He doesn't need to tell you how much swag he has anymore, especially when he comes roaring out of the gate with as much power as he does on his latest album, I'm Gay. No, the Based God still can’t rap very well, but he’s full of stamina, and he sounds more genuinely happy, or gay, than any musician I’ve heard on record in the past year. This is a man with the freedom not only to say he’s gay but to genuinely be gay and make others feel that way as well (including myself). In addition to how flat-out fierce Lil B sounds, the often esoteric beats are nearly impeccable. High points include the beat on “Gon Be Okay,” which samples Joe Hisaishi's excellent soundtrack from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, and the truly queeny beat that lifts up “Get It While It’s Good.” So fierce. So swaggin’. Everything about this album left me with a massive smile on my face, and after I finished listening to it, I took the BART to Oakland, gave my friend a huge hug, ran back to the city naked across the Bay Bridge, and came home in time for breakfast.

Get Romantic


“Luvn It”

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Romance of Thieves’ slightly left-field R&B has always been a yin-yang mix of warmth and darkness, but on the new single “Luvn It,” Nick Martin and company live a teenage fantasy, reveling in all of life’s glories. “Luvn It,” a collaboration with frequent co-conspirator EaSWay, is a bright major-key homage to Top 40 cuddle-hop, complete with all its defining characteristics--an agreeable chord progression, a smooth rap, a sexy R&B chorus sung by Martin, and a “summer anthem” disclaimer (in case you weren’t sure). While EaSWay’s rap isn’t lyrically brilliant, its rhythm and relentlessly positive lyrics mix with the background of shimmering guitars and electronics to create an ambiance of pure escapist fun. While Martin’s skill at balancing light and darkness has always been a key part of what makes his music so alluring and intriguing, “Luvn It” shows he’s not afraid to step out in the sunlight.

Monday, June 20, 2011

90th Post


“For What It’s Worth”

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The lead single from June, Miles Atkins’ debut release as Eyes Like Oceans (formerly The Secret Show), is his most human song by far. While Atkins has always been candid with his portrayal of emotions, no song of his so far has been able to dig into the meat of the human soul quite like this one. Over his trademark background of harsh strumming (enhanced by a lonely, achingly beautiful vamp), Atkins pours out his soul to a girl with the same mix of confidence and hesitance (note the off-beat rhythm guitar) as one who has resolved to take a leap of faith. After the second chorus, we hear that gorgeous riff ride onwards into the sunset and wonder how Atkins will resolve the situation. Finally, he drops the question: “Your place or mine?”


Goodbye Bread

* * 1/2

By Ty Segall standards, this album is really fucking slow. There are no garage-punk freakouts here, just a guy who used to be a manic one-man band trying his hand at some sensitive singer-songwritery shit. Unfortunately, Segall knows how to write exactly one singer-song. Most of these songs have the same backbeat, which isn’t necessarily a problem--for the first seven tracks. Then the beat marches out of your brain into the blue. Goodbye Bread’s thirty-three minutes actually feel like thirty-three minutes--with Segall, time usually flies by much faster.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Journey, Ty Segall



* * 1/2

Eclipse is undoubtedly a Journey album, but it’s not the Journey album any of the band’s fair-weather fans (i.e., the ones who like “Don’t Stop Believin’” and might have heard “Open Arms” or “Faithfully” on the radio) wanted. Eclipse retains much of the massive stadium-pop sound of hit albums such as Captured and Escape, but at its core, it’s a return to Journey’s progressive days. The mix of the two is a new sound for Journey: one that is nowhere near as warm and anthemic as the band’s hits (au contraire, it is much more cold and dystopian), but is no less dynamic and energetic. Sadly, the energy dies down after about eight or nine tracks, despite being revived briefly on the anthemic “Someone.” In addition, on-and-off singer Arnel Pineda is unfortunately all too right when he sings, “What I’m missing is true emotion.” The same could be said for the whole album--it sounds good, and musically it’s quite impressive, but this is an iceberg without much beneath the surface.

“You Make The Sun Fry”

* * * 1/2

Though best-known for his spastic, abrasive garage-punk assault, prolific rocker Ty Segall has expressed his desires to mellow down and focus more on songwriting on his upcoming Goodbye Bread LP. “You Make The Sun Fry” is hardly a Leonard Cohen song--his lyrics and music are still simple and to the point. Though the awesome blues riff never quite explodes like it seems to want to do, Segall keeps the energy going with his heated, raspy vocals and relentless slamming against that goddamn guitar. Does it sound like a singer-songwriter? No. Does it sound great? Yes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

AB & the Sees' Army


Don’t Be A Dick

* * *

Upon listening to Green Day’s early work, it’s easy to see why such a band might explode and veer off into more musically eclectic territory--their pop chops are obvious, and their apathy about trying to be aesthetically "punk" seems to work to their advantage. However, the Billie Joe Armstrong-produced debut by teen East Bay pop-punk band Emily’s Army (which also happens to feature Armstrong’s son Joey on drums) gives the future fairly little thought and seems content to stay in its two-minute, three-chord wonderworld. Don’t Be A Dick comes across like an album from the days when punk bands had to make records--none of the songs stand out or are particularly unique, but the formula works great to sustain the album. It’s a good pop-punk record, and it doesn’t try to be anything more--which comes as a great relief in an era in which taking oneself much too seriously is the norm.



* * * *

Most musicians only wish they could go this crazy without sounding like shit, alienating their audience, or any of those unfortunate consequences. Castlemania, roughly the 238,402,395th release by Thee Oh Sees, is basically 40 minutes of mainman John Dwyer going absolutely apeshit, and it sounds fantastic. Telephone-booth distortion, Dwyer’s Peter Griffin-meets-Johnny Rotten vocals, and what sounds like a chimpanzee being strangled in the background are the dominant sounds on this record. Yet what makes Castlemania so interesting and engaging is that Dwyer generally sounds like he’s having a blast and not giving a shit about impressing the hipsters or the critics or any of those other sticks-in-the-mud. And in the end, that’s what garage rock has always been about. (Oh yeah, and there’s a song called “Idea for Rubber Dog”).


“In The Sunshine”

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It’s the beginning of summer, so what better way to kick it off than a new AB & the Sea song? The most instantly noticeable thing about “In The Sunshine” is just how much it sounds like a Top 40 hit--the whoosh-enhanced dance-pop beat, the earworm chorus, and the steadily climbing outro wouldn’t sound out of place on a Dr. Luke production. Is this AB & the Sea’s much-needed California Gurl moment? We’re willing to bet that it is, and if it doesn’t melt your Popsicle, you must have kept it in the freezer for way too long.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fever Charm Is Back On The Scene



* * * 1/2

Fever Charm are strangely ageless. Their drummer is a freshman in college and the rest are seniors, but they’re not going to tell you that. They certainly don’t look or sound like seniors, and Ari Berl could be the youngest singer ever to actually sound younger than he is. So it’s only appropriate that Fever Charm should call their first recorded anything on over a year “Youth” and jam through it like a really awesome high school rock band. Over a vintage garage-rock 1-4-5 riff, the band members go apeshit: Ari Berl yells louder than he’s ever yelled before, Theo Quayle rips a massive guitar solo that sounds uncannily like the one in L7’s “Shove,” and for some bizarre reason a trumpet comes in towards the end. Scott Llamas’ production retains the clear but unpolished feel of their self-produced early singles. The lyrics are a bit vague, but there’s no denying the power in that “Wild Thing” riff. It seems that no matter how many diplomas they receive or how many levels of the educational system they go through, they will remain forever young and ready to take on the world.