Monday, December 17, 2012

New Ty Segall, Cartoon Bar Fight, Eager Eyes

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Twins, Ty Segall’s third record of the year (and the first one credited solely to Ty Segall) will sound instantly familiar to anyone who’s followed the San Francisco garage-punk savant for even a few albums.  There are elements of Melted’s spastic monkeying, Goodbye Bread’s deliberation, and Slaughterhouse’s bad-trip cacophony; it would not be an overstatement to say that there’s not one song here that would be out of place on at least one of his other records.  But what distinguishes Twins from any other record Segall’s done is its consistency.  Twins has the fewest skippable tracks of any Segall record, as well as the catchiest hooks (I’ve had “You’re The Doctor” stuck in my head for about thirty-six hours as of this writing) and the all-around best songs.  It’s unlikely that this album will be perceived as his mission statement--he’s probably got at least six or seven good albums left in him, and he still sounds like he’s developing and refining his sound.  But if you’re trying to find an entry point into the man’s ever-expanding catalogue--or just trying to get a clear picture of what he’s all about--Twins is probably your best bet.  

* * * 1/2

On their debut full-length Reincarnate, San Jose five-piece Cartoon Bar Fight take familiar folk-pop sounds and glaze them with a thick coating of goth atmosphere; think Ingrid Michaelson as possessed by the spirit of Disintegration-era Robert Smith.  The best moments on Reincarnate come when the omnipresent gloom almost threatens to envelop the music but is just barely kept at bay; this is exemplified by “Fox And The Grapes,” where a gorgeous “if I were you” refrain is smeared black and left in the late-afternoon sun to dry.  Occasionally, the band wanders a bit too far into the clouds, particularly on “Hymn” and “The Valley”--both fine songs but underwhelming given that the seven preceding songs create largely the same mood.  Yet on the surreal title track, the band finds its way back into the light and ends the album on a high (and highly promising) note.  

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It’s hard to imagine Eager Eyes’ sound filling up a stadium, but it’s just as difficult to imagine them stranded on the local circuit forever.  On both their debut EP and their newest offering, the three-song sampler Waterfront, they’ve eschewed the arena-ready anthemization that made their buddies Finish Ticket a fixture of the Bay Area rock scene; instead, they specialize in humble and unpretentious indie pop.  The tunes on Waterfront are largely cut from the same cloth as those on their first EP, but they’re more subdued and atmospheric; even the fast-based “Natalie” sounds more like a brisk walk than a determined leap forward.  While the band’s understated sound is a major part of their appeal, they’re almost a bit too modest on Waterfront--there’s nothing on here with the same starry-eyed determination that made earlier tracks like “First Impressions” and “Alarms” so likeable.  Yet it’s impossible to make any assessments about their progress or future direction on Waterfront--they’re just three songs waiting to be played and enjoyed.  

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