The Age of Rockets,
No Music [9/23/08]
Like Death Cab for Cutie or the Postal Service (both featuring Seattle singer/songwriter Ben Gibbard), Andrew Futral's New York trio Age of Rockets serves up glitchy pop with little-
boy-lost vocals. It may not be completely original, but if you're down with Gibbard and other soft-spoken gentleman of the indie-rock persuasion, their second platter offers abundant appeal.
As for Gibbard, I don't mean to sell him short; he's good at what he
does, and I don't doubt his sincerity. His brand of music isn't quite
my cup of tea, but I've never understood the hate certain people
harbor towards it (as if he were Dick Cheney's more evil twin).
It doesn't make a man weak or effeminate because he wears his heart on his sleeve; on the contrary, exposure takes risk. Plus, anyone who uses a harmonium (see Age of Rockets multi-in-
strumentalist Saul Simon Macwilliams) is all right in my book.
The Dirty Hearts, Pigs, Socyermom Records [7/22/08]
At first listen, Austin's Dirty Hearts rock out like Social Distortion with more funk in their step, i.e. brass-punctuated punk. But that was just the opening track ("Record Store").
Altogether, their sophomore disc plays more like the Replace-
ments or Elvis Costello & the Attractions (the keyboard playing recalls Steve Nieve). They aren't ripping off their forebears and they aren't devoid of style, but the Hearts splice together sever- al genres—new wave, post-punk, etc.—with a harder edge. Other than some daft lyrics ("I'm alone like the bitches in heat" and "I'm thinking t-bone/you're thinking tofu spread"), Pigs isn't half bad.
Falcon, Falcon EP, Friends of
the American Songbook [7/22/08]
Falcon is not a tribute band.
Falcon plays all new material.
-- From the Falcon press kit
Anyone who dislikes this EP will surely feel like a heel, since the material springs from the pen of a musical prodigy who succumbed to spinal meningitis in 1988 at the age of 14. Two of his Petaluma Junior High friends formed
a band and, with his family's blessing, they intend to draw exclusively from Jared Falcon's 336-song repertoire
(the Brooklyn quartet includes Longwave guitarist
Shannon Ferguson and drummer Jason Molina).
If I wanted to pick nits, I'd say that Neil Rosen's voice
squeaks too much and that "Listen In" is a mite repet-
etive, but all five tracks put most teenage scribbles to
shame, and the gentle arrangements showcase Fal-
con's introspective lyrics with affection and respect.
Mar, The Sound, Ring Road Records [9/07/08]
After spinning Mar's fol-
low-up to The Silence three times now, I still can't think
of anything interesting to
say about it. Like a less agitated My Bloody Val-
entine (or Spain without
all those jazzy embellish-
ments), singer/Rhodes player Kyle Reidy's Arkan-
sas outfit offers up perfectly pretty dream-pop.
Just as their Iceland-recorded debut featured contributions
from Jimmy LaValle (the Album Leaf, Black Heart Procession)
and Gunnar Tynes (MúM), the new CD features violinist Anton Patzner (Bright Eyes) and cellist Zoe Keating (Imogen Heap).
As background music, Mar (a reference to Reidy's mother) gets the job done, and never distracted me from the project I was im-
mersed in at the time—but when it was over, I forgot all about
it. Consider The Sound a work aid...rather than a sleep aid.
Natalie Portman's Shaved Head,
Glistening Pleasure, Team Swan
Do you wanna see Shamu with me? Yes, I do. I love Shamu!
-- "Sophisticated Side Ponytail"
The name screams "novel-
ty act," but it's the music
that counts, and this Seat-
tle quartet's first full-len-
gth is a bundle of fun.
I mean, if you aren't in-
to electro-pop or elect-
roclash or whatever the kids are calling it these days, Glis-
tening Pleasure might not rock your world, but they
manage to capture the high spirits of CSS, the Go! Team,
and United State of Electronica without actually aping any
of those combos (for one thing, their lyrics are a lot sillier).
If anything, Natalie Portman's Shaved Head are more deep-
ly rooted in the 1980s, even if these 18-20 year olds were pre-
natal during the new wave era, making me—at least—a decade
older than their target audience. What the hell, let's dance!
Note: NPSH are on tour with CSS through
August (click band name above for dates).
Endnote: Images from Falcon (Mayumi Nashida), the Age
of Rockets (Jenny O.), Mar (Brandon Jennings and Red Bal-
loon Pictorials), and Natalie Portman's Shaved Head.