Their Aim Is True
7not Records [9/16/08]
Take it from me / it's good
to be /alive and kickin'.
-- Jesse Dee
Jesse Dee sounds
like the cover of El-
vis Costello's 1977
debut, My Aim Is True,
come to life. On it, the
comes on like the new wave reincarnation of a rockabilly icon from the 1950s.
Granted, Bittersweet Batch is more of a pop-soul hybrid
than a retro-rockin' platter, but Dee revives the spirit of late-
night juke joints where the ladies flounce about in puffy skirts
and the gents sport tight trousers. He provides the Boston-
based link between Brits Amy Winehouse and Jamie Lidell.
Suffice to say there are a lot of horns on this disc.
The Boat People, Chandeliers, Shiny/Shock [import]
This Brisbane quartet fits somewhere between the Dandy Warhols and the New Pornographers on the pop spectrum. Or in strictly Antipodean terms, they occupy the sweet spot between Ben Lee and Garageland (their home town also birthed the Go-Betweens).
Chandeliers packs plenty of hooks, but nothing too fluffy
or sticky. You won't find much wheel-reinventing on their
second record (after 2005's yesyesyesyesyes), but the
Boat People keep the bright flame of power-pop alive.
Conrad Ford, Secret Army, Tarnished Records
Named after [the] big skies of western film director John Ford
and the stark characters of cinematographer Conrad Hall.
-- From the band's biography
Conrad Ford's Andy
McAllister, who doub-
les as a freelance film
editor, croons so softly
his voice barely rises ab-
ove the limpid instrumen-
tation that surrounds him
(blurry keyboards, brush-
ed drums, etc.). As his partner-in-crime, Jordan Walton (steel
guitar, banjo, trumpet), admitted to The Seattle Times last
year, "Even when we're trying to 'rock,' we're subdued."
If you can imagine a restrained, countrified version of the
Eels, you're halfway there (the Seattle quartet also cites Townes
Van Zandt as an influence). The delicate, insistent "Shadow Shade"
and Band-flavored "Breakdown" stand out from the 12-track
crowd, but no missteps mar their soft-spoken second record.
Click here to sample tracks from Secret Army
Walter Sickert & the Army of Broken Toys,
Casualty Menagerie, Death in the Family Records [9/30/08]
The rats are sick of it / the mice are joining in / revolutions
come to pass / finally at last / wiretooth animals unite!
-- "Revenge of the Rats"
Swooping, sepulchral voc-
als saturate the songs of
Walter Sickert & the
Army of Broken Toys.
As indicated by the name
and the artwork, influen-
ces include Jan Švankmaj-
er's Alice ("No Room," "Rev-
enge of the Rats") and nightmarish alleys ("Carnal Carnivale").
The Boston Herald proclaims Sickert and Edrie, "a curious blend
of mischief and morbidity," which sums up the Casualty Menag-
erie EP perfectly. If these Massachusetts mischief-makers aren't
fans of the Brothers Grimm and the Brothers Quay, I'll eat my hat.
Viarosa, Send for the Sea, Tarnished Records
Richard Neuberg and company find redemption in the midst of a
sparse, scorched landscape. Cormac McCarthy would be proud.
-- Harp magazine
There's a touch of the Tinder-
sticks to this London sextet's
dramatic sound. Viarosa sin-
ger/guitarist Richard Neuberg
carefully articulates his words over
mournful strings and spare keys.
Though he negotiates a higher register than Stuart Stap-
les, Neuberg walks a similar path. (You might find Nick
Cave skulking around that same shadowy walkway.)
Send for the Sea, their sophomore effort, may not disturb your
dreams, but it's tinged with the same kind of gothic romanticism.
In other words, it's slightly spooky rather than downright scary.
Click here to sample tracks from Send for the Sea
Endnote: For more information about the Boat People, please
click here or here; for Conrad Ford, here; for Walter Sickert
& the Army of Broken Toys, here; for Viarosa, here. Images
from the websites of Jesse Dee, WS&tAoBT, and Viarosa.