I get a lot of CDs in the mail to review and I have little time to get to all of them. Plus, I really don’t like reviewing things. (Yes, it’s sort-of part of my job. Whatever.) So when I can, I’m going to try to do quick round-ups of the latest music releases to come my way. These are opinion-filled and may actually skirt the actual reviewing of an album, so, um, deal.
The Library E.P.: The publicist for this band tried to sell me on it by promoting the fact that Mark Needham, who worked on a few Killers albums, “produced” the Library’s debut E.P. Well, first, he’s an engineer, not a producer, and second: So what? The Library sounds like Under the Influence of Giants kinda mashed up with Terence Trent D’Arby. I like both those artists. I do not like The Library. It’s uninspired disco-pop with vocals that annoyingly veer into the falsetto range. I can do without.
The Staxx Brothers – We Are The Blaxstonz: I first saw this Seattle-based funk/hip-hop/classic rock ensemble live at Bumbershoot last year and really dug their sound, performance and delivery. After briefly reviewing their set on a music website I used to run, they dropped their self-released first album, 12th Street Blues, on me. I dug it. So I had pretty high expectations for We Are The Blaxstonz.
The new album continues with the blend of bluesy rock riffs, soul singing and rap flow that defines The Staxx Brothers sound, with lead vocals traded off between band leader Davin Michael Stedman and MC Decurrian. But for the first half of the album, the songs miss the mark a bit. While the riff in “1992” is catchy, the rap in the middle section is clunky. “Almost Got Shot in North Minneapolis” is tight, but its gangsta-land storyline feels out of place. And “Oh Carolina” changes things up with its slow-burn, Southern-fried soul, but still feels lackluster.
However, the band picks things up with the upbeat, irreverent, head-bob-inducing “Name Dropper” and “Game Recognize Game,” which, despite its (presumably tongue-in-cheek) refrain of “money, cash, hos,” is just the kind of funky jam that got my notice on that sunny day in Seattle last year. Your best bet is to see the eight-piece band live, where your biggest concern will be how hard your ass is shaking — and that’s really the only thing that matters.
Silversun Pickups – Swoon: There’s not a sophomore slump in sight for this Los Angeles-spawned, shoegazey, alterna-rock band. On its second album, the quartet comes on strong with more of its signature quiet-to-loud, rasp-to-wail sound. And that’s not a bad thing. Let’s face it: This is what we all wished Smashing Pumpkins still sounded like: Dreamy, lush, full of youthful yearning — not selling cars.
Silversun is all about subtleties and nuances on Swoon: layered guitars, keyboard flourishes, those everpresent, machine-like drums. From the jaunty, buzzing opener, “There’s No Secrets This Year,” to the hypnotic, chilly “Growing Old is Getting Old,” Silversun reminds us that there is some joy left in alternative rock, even if there’s not much originality. The frantic lead single, “Panic Switch,” deserves a permanent spot on rock radio. A great band both on record and live, I highly recommend picking up this disc and checking out Silversun Pickups if they come through your neck of the woods.