Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March 15 Album Releases

Welcome back to ACRN’s Drop It Like It’s Hot. I’ll be your captain this evening (or afternoon, or whenever you’re reading this). It’s my first time at the helm, so have your barf bag ready and expect some turbulence as I attempt to guide you through this week’s album releases.

Our first stop is in sunny San Francisco, where we can do some exotic bird-watching. Bay area natives The Dodos are release their fourth album, titled No Color.

I am personally a huge fan of the duo’s second album, Visiter. The band’s sound is so tight and concentrated, and drummer Logan Kroeber’s playing style gives the record a great pace. It’s like the two members are competing for the spotlight. Who can play louder? Who can play faster? These songs probably made for an energetic and sweaty live show.

With that said, I couldn’t have been more disappointed by their next album, 2009’s Time to Die. It seems like the two musicians are just taking turns showing off instead of working together to create something greater than the sum of its parts.

So I’m very intrigued by what No Color has to offer. The album is streaming in its entirety over at NPR first listen and after some time with it, I am pleased. The album has a cameo by Neko Case and takes another subtle step in a different direction as the band moves away slightly from its organic sound. Kroeber keeps his mallets on the skins and mostly away from the rims of his drum-kit. Guitarist Meric Long goes more electric than ever before, and overall it sounds like a deviation away from their folk sound and more towards general indie-rock. Bob Dylan went electric once, it seemed to work out for him alright.

Next stop is to one of my favorite cities, Chicago. Chicago is the home to popular punk band Rise Against. I think I’ve had these guys pinned as someone else for like two years. I was sure this was a pop-punk outfit, real whiny and disagreeable to anyone removed from the teenage angst phase of their life. Their first single off their new album, Endgame, is available on their website. To my surprise, there are plenty of power chords, screaming vocals and there’s nothing poppy about it at all. They’re described as a hardcore-punk band, but I’d take that term ‘hardcore’ pretty lightly.

But you, reader, you seem pretty hardcore to me, and I don’t want to disappoint you. That’s why were taking a detour to Salem, New Hampshire for our third stop to look at the new release from Trap Them.

Salem is, of course, famous for its witch trials that occurred in the 17th century, and Trap Them’s music is about as frightening as living in that time sounds. They're described as hardcore-grindcore-metal duo. I didn’t have a clue what grindcore meant, so I looked it up. Apparently, “Grindcore is a fast, extreme style of music that fuses crust punk with extreme metal. Songs are high-tempo, short, with low-tuned guitars and blastbeats. The guitar style tends to have punkier scuzzy chord riffing than the cleaner, more technical and precise death metal-grindcore/deathgrind fusion that came later” at least according to Wikipedia. Now, I just need to look up what "crust punk" is. Have I lost all my hardcore cred yet?

What we can expect from the duo’s third album, Darker Handcraft, is fast, heavy and intricate guitar work, along with equally fast, powerful drumming, and somebody screaming the lyrics with the growl of a beast from Tartarus. Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse has gotten me to soften up to some "brutal" bands that I wouldn’t otherwise listen to, and sonically these guys have the goods if you can get over the singer screaming bloody murder.

The only suitable place to go after Salem, New Hampshire is back out west, this time to Los Angeles. Here, we find Travis Barker, former member of Blink-182 and one of the most famous drummers (and canvases) of the last 10 years. He is releasing his first solo record, but there is nothing solo about it. Barker’s never been a singer, and he won’t have to on his debut Give The Drummer Some, as some of the biggest rappers and hip-hop artists around have joined him.

I had no idea this was going to be a hip-hop record, and I’m actually pretty excited to hear some of these songs. Opener “Give the Drummer Some” features Lil Wayne, Rick Ross, and Game (haven’t heard his name in a while), and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The third track “Carry It” has two of my favorite Wu-Tang members; RZA and Raekwon, and features Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello as well. I could go on and on, but I won’t, so if you want to see the whole list of acts of the album, click here.

These all-star lineups on each song can make for good hype, but the problem becomes living up to the hype you’ve generated, and for Barker, it could be a daunting task. The album is also being released in a deluxe format. I really dislike the idea behind a deluxe version of an album because it shows a lack of artistry on the musician’s part. Think about Dark Side of the Moon having a deluxe version, ridiculous right? So to me, this isn’t an album, just a collection of singles.

Last but not least, our tour takes us not only back across the country, but also back in time to 1970’s New York. As long as we don’t see the Son of Sam, we should be fine, but I couldn’t miss out on a new album from the New York Dolls .

For those who are unfamiliar, the New York Dolls are one of, if the not the original glam band. Forming in 1971, these guys were monumental in their influence. Musically, they influenced everyone from the Ramones to the Talking Heads, but where they really made their mark was with the band’s aesthetic. The band’s style was the lynch pin for the androgynous style that lived on in every '80s stadium-rock band from Bon Jovi to White Snake. The comedic value of that alone makes their upcoming album, Dancing Backwards in High Heels, their third since reuniting in 2004, worth checking out.

The rest of what’s coming out this week includes J Mascis’ (of Dinosaur Jr.) Several Shades of Why, The Joy Formidable’s The Big Roar, The Death Set with Michel Poiccard, Hediecker & Wood with Starting From Nowhere, and Eleventh Dream Day with Riot Now!

Keep your eyes glued to ACRN.com for extensive and eloquent reviews of these albums and more. Happy Listening and thanks for riding Drop It Like It’s Hot. I had fun and I hope you did too.

--Scott Smith, Album Reviews Editor

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

March 8 Album Releases

Hey all!I am new to the "Drop It Like It’s Hot tradition at ACRN," but I will do my best to give you the scoop on the new releases for the second week of March, 2011.

First up, Chicago MC Lupe Fiasco releases Lasers, his much-anticipated, third studio album that was severely delayed due to a battle with Atlantic Records and the incarceration of his manager. Now, Lupe can finally relax and enjoy promoting the project—this week, he will be on BET’s “106 & Park” and “Lopez Tonight.” The album has already yielded singles “The Show Must Go On” and “Words I Never Said.” Fans may find a bit of a dichotomy in the album, as Lupe told the Chicago Sun-Times that he had to appease the record label by delivering a commercial product, while trying not to compromise his artistic expression.

Now, let’s move on to Starfucker’s new album, Reptilians.I am not familiar with the electronica, Portland, Oregon band, but its dreamy, danceable sound has piqued my curiosity. The group members are promoting their third record with a string of performances in California, but they will make their way to Columbus, OH’s Skully’s Music Diner with Champagne on April 11.

Veteran rock group R.E.M. is also dropping an album. Collapse into Now is the band’s 15th record, and frontman Michael Stipe gave Rolling Stone some insight into its making: “The three of us were communicating in a really great way," he said. The new project seems significant, if only in a visual sense—the group recruited a variety of directors to film a video for each track. Let’s hope the album’s sound lives up to that ambition.

While Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-ers R.E.M. arguably have nothing left to prove, singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch is still fairly new in terms of releasing L.P.s—this week’s Towards the Sun is the artist’s second full-length album.Apparently, Murdoch wrote the basic tracks for the album during a single night on a tour stop in 2009. Fans can expect a primarily-acoustic record from the singer, whose music has been featured in countless television shows and films.

Last but not least, experimental/noise rock group Parts and Labor has a few more albums under its belt. The band’s new release, Constant Future, seems like a fun, electronic journey into an alternate universe. I am making this judgment solely from the title track, which caught my attention, though the group had me with what I think is one of the best band names ever. The Village Voice commended Parts and Labor for its ability to “create unlikely hooks from a chaos.” From the little that I heard, that seems about right

Other noteworthy new albums include Wye Oak’s Civilian, Kurt Vile’s Smoke Ring for my Halo, A Hawk and a Hacksaw’s Cervantine, Carol Bui’s Red Ship, Dinosaur Bone’s My Divider, Grails’ Deep Politics and Western Hymn’s Out of the Way.

Happy listening!

--Erica Thompson, News and Live Reviews Editor