Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Notes from the inbox

We've only been semi-active this year, but if our e-mail inbox is any indication, publicists never sleep. Multiple tips and requests for reviews come in on a daily basis. I wouldn't want all these people to think they're wasting their time, since we usually just write about things we enjoy anyway, so I'll make an exception today. You want to get reviewed? You got it! Are these artists "Awesome" or are they just "Guilty"?

Mindi Abair - Soft rock with occasional touches of new country and r&b thrown in; also, lots of saxophone. I keep hearing people say that the saxophone is making a comeback in pop music. I didn't believe them, thinking they just based that opinion on the fact that Springsteen got his E-Street Band back together. Abair has proven me wrong, although I'm still far from convinced that more saxophone is a good thing. I don't think my mom would like it either, so it fails that part of the soft rock test as well. (Guilty)

Scarlett Johansson - As an actor, I've loved Scarlett Johansson ever since I saw her in Ghost World, and that feeling was cemented with her performance in Lost in Translation. Her track record has had ups and downs since then, but I've generally managed to maintain a level of respect for her. I had concerns about hearing what Johansson would do as a singer, lest it sully my image of her. Anywhere I Lay My Head is a collection of Tom Waits covers, plus one original song. "Falling Down" (which includes backing vocals by David Bowie) is available on her MySpace page, and I'm very pleasantly surprised by what I'm hearing. Her delivery is not soft or over-produced as I might have feared; it's confident and natural, and makes me want to hear more. (Awesome)

Soundside - Totally not my thing. Don't get me wrong, it's competently performed and recorded, but the hackneyed Three Doors Down/Creed/Nickelback bar-rock vibe I'm getting is almost puke-inducing. How does this sound keep finding new fans? (Guilty)

Beast From Sea - This e-mail included a link to the band's MySpace. Unfortunately the first track available there is just a sampler, with snippets of every song on the album, each of which is just a few second long (about 15 seconds). I feel kind of stupid for listening to it, actually, since I can barely get a sense of what's going on in any of these songs. I mean, one line of vocals from a song is supposed to convince me to buy this? Really? I'm hearing some interesting riffs, vocals that land somewhere between new-emo and Keane-like UK pop, but nothing terribly groundbreaking either. The band says that even if I don't like the music, I should help plug Faceless International, an awareness group they support. I did, there ya go! (Guilty? Awesome? No idea)

Barenaked Ladies - I liked the Barenaked Ladies a lot when I was 12 years old, but then they got written off as a novelty act and disappeared for a few years. Somewhere in the last decade they scored several hits again. Their popularity certainly rose, especially in the US, but I still wasn't won over. Now they've put out a children's album called Snack Time, and you know what? It actually sort of suits them. I'm not sure how much kids would actually like it, but they could certainly do much, much worse than this. It's cute, it's silly, it's the Barenaked Ladies. And really, if Bubbles is on board, so am I. (Awesome)

Red Light Company - It's peppy, but also a little generic -- a lot of the songs sound really similar. There are some catchy chords, big power pop guitars, group-sung choruses, tinkly pianos, forceful drums, and other things people like in their pop rock, but it doesn't amount to anything particularly unique or substantial; kind of like very pretty wallpaper. I might enjoy this in a bar, although I would probably end up talking to an old friend in the bathroom and forget there's a band playing once in a while. (Guilty)

Between the Trees - Falls somewhere between Lifehouse and Something Corporate, but with more piano. I'm three songs into this and I'm getting pretty bored. Lots of piano, lots of angst, lots of falsetto, I get it... (Guilty)

Fear of Music - Their bio invokes a plethora of names from the rock canon: Smashing Pumpkins, Placebo, Muse, Manic Street Preachers, Jeff Buckley, and Pixies. Frankly, I like all of those bands better than this (except maybe Muse, who I could give or take) and I barely even see the connection in some cases. The vocals are a bit overwrought and the riffs aren't all that exciting, but the band does have a tiny bit of undeniable charisma. "Better Living Through Chemistry" isn't a bad song, even if its title has already been used by a Fatboy Slim album, a Queens of the Stone Age song, and an Adema song title. All in all, you're probably better off buying a Vines album or maybe The Subways. (Guilty, but with a reduced sentence)

The Kiss Off - I was digging this until the dude started singing and kind of tore me out of the moment; his voice seems to be an acquired taste. His singing style is a bit melodramatic and alternates between David Byrne yelps and Ian Curtis lows. But hey, I was able to get into The Cure, The Rapture, Placebo and numerous other bands where people can't stand the vocals, so I wouldn't outright condemn it just based on that. I have to admit, a lot of the music is quite infectious, carrying an 80s-influenced new wave energy. The song "Amplify" shows a nice bit of restraint, while "Laying Dead" bursts in with a heavy stomp and "Mother Murderer" brings a bit of goth-pop atmosphere along the lines of Joy Division or Seventeen Seconds-era Cure. (Awesome)

Okay, so I'm getting tired now. Up is down, dogs are cats, and the line between Guilty and Awesome is getting a little blurry. Maybe I should put the whiskey away. It's been fun though, so I'll probably do this again some time. The Kiss Off were kind enough to provide some mp3s, so I'll leave you with one of those. Keep sending those e-mails!

[mp3] The Kiss Off - Mother Murderer

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