Friday, October 31, 2008

R Is for Reviews

H Is for Hellgate, Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Val-
, self-released

It’s a hex, at best, that I’ll never rest / and I don’t have time for
such a pretty, pretty princess.

-- "Pretty, Pretty Princess"

If Laura Veirs were to crank the volume up—way up—she might morph into a parallel-world version of H Is for Hellgate, i.e. front woman Jamie Henkensiefken and band. Before listening
to their second full-length, their publicist informed me that
they put a feminist spin on math-rock (the band's bio contri-
butes the descriptor "indie-prog"), which sounds about right.

And when Henkensiefken talk-sings, they're at their best (the brief male counterpoint on "Be Prepared to Die Alone" sounds out of place). Consider Come for the Peaks, Stay for the Valleys jam rock for the brainy set...or brainy rock for the jam set.

Joel Plaskett Emergency, Ashtray
Rock, MapleMusic Recordings

Like Mott the Hoople, this Canadian trio occupies the sweet spot between David Bowie and the Hold Steady, i.e. they have a glam-pub rock thing going on.

While Plaskett's guitar playing evokes
Spider from Mars Mick Ronson, his—
and guest Ian McLagan's—ivory tick-
ling would fit right in with the the Faces or the E Street Band
(from whom the Hold Steady have borrowed a few moves).

With Dave Marsh on drums and Chris Pennell on bass, Plas-
kett builds a bridge between the '70s and the '00s with ease.

The Kindness Kind, self-titled, Don't Be a Lout [11/18/08]

Imagine that Holland's Shocking Blue emerged in the 2000s
instead of the '60s, and you might conjure up something similar
to Seattle's the Kindness Kind. In other words, euphonious-
ly-named front woman Alessandra Rose recalls Mariska Veres,
and her breathy, yet powerful pipes dominate the proceedings.

If there's nothing as catchy here as the Blue's iconic "Ven-
us" ("She's got it / yeah baby, she's got it"), their sopho-
more release presents a pleasing mix of soaring vocals,
expressive piano playing, and persuasive percussion.

Scarlet Blonde, Bedroom Super-
stars EP, HyperMEDIA Recordings

Sheffield duo DawnyVic (Dawn Firth) and Ditch (Richard
Godbehere) comes across as forward and backward-looking at
the same time. The samplers and sci-fi synths are in full effect,
but the electro-pop/modern rock acts they resemble most—Yaz, Curve, and Garbage—made their bones in the 1980s and '90s
(the twosome augment their beats with bass and guitar). If Firth doesn't have the range of Alison Moyet, she has the attitude of Shirley Manson, which goes a long way with this sort of thing.

TAT, Soho Lights, Sony/Red

TAT: n. rubbish, trash, "an old load of tat" (orig. unkn.)
-- Press kit definition

I can't imagine why anyone would name their band TAT, but
far worse names abound and their lead singer just happens to
bear the name Tatiana DeMaria, so this London trio gets a free pass. (Dogs Die in Hot Cars, however, don't.) On their debut, the
threesome combines alt-rock, metal, and the kind of explicit
language that goes down better on the stage than on the radio,
despite the commercial sheen. Hard rock for the iPod generation.

Endnote: The record release party for H Is for Hellgate
takes place at the High Dive on 12/5; the Kindness Kind
holds theirs at the Tractor Tavern on 11/20. For more infor-
mation about the latter, please click here or here; for the
Joel Plaskett Emergency
, here or here; for Scarlet
, here or here; and for TAT, here. Images from
H Is for Hellgate, Planetary Group, and SummerSet Artists.

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