Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Gram Rabbit, Ambulance LTD, Gomez, The Presets, The BellRays, and The Best Fish Fry In New York State.

I found myself taking a road trip to Syracuse earlier this week. The four-hour drive is just long enough to make me nuts, and the only way I can cope with this boring drive is to entertain myself with music. Thankfully, the combination of a handful of new releases and a hundred-fifty Sirius channels made the roadwork fly by.

Before I get yakkin' about the tunes, let me give props to the fine people rockin' the deep-fryers at Doug's Fish Fry in Cortland, New York. Anytime I have to make that God-forsaken trip North, I pray for enough time in the schedule to pull off Route 81 to hit this joint. Insanely delicious fried fish sandwiches, crazy good onion rings, and cheap cups of beer to wash it all down with insure a full belly for the rest of the ride back to the real world. And to prove how wacky a world it is up there, check out this sign from a truckstop window in Carlisle, PA, not far from the New York border:

That's right...if you need to know how prepared you should be in case of terrorist attack, go inside and ask the lady behind the Slim Jim rack. I guess the color code for this week is "clear".

Here's what rocked me the most on the trip:

Gram Rabbit - Cultivation
I love it when I find an album that I've heard very little about, yet hits me hard on first listen. This is one of those albums. Recorded in both Joshua Tree and Silverlake, you can almost hear the blend of SoCal hi-desert and hipster LA suburbia swirling into a rockin' blend of sonic sweetness. Singer Jesika von Rabbit sounds a lot like the girl from Len who sang on "Steal My Sunshine" (You Tube) backed by Ween...and that's a good thing. A glammy, bizarre, groovy record.

Gram Rabbit - "Bloody Bunnies" mp3 buy

The Presets - Beams
These two Australian electronic maestros explore every possible blip and bleep pattern, creating an album that sounds at times like a dancier The Faint, a Soft Cell with fancier instruments, or a Depeche Mode with less concern for radio play.
Tempos are all over the place on this album, taking the listener on a rollercoaster of moods, beats, and emotions, and the record ends with the title track, a classical composition that not only showcases the enormous range of talent these guys have, but also shows a willingness to take chances in a marketplace full of biters and copycats.
This one of those rare records ideal for both Friday night wilding and Sunday afternoon couch-jockeying.

The Presets - "Are You the One" mp3 buy

The BellRays - Have A Little Faith
Ever wonder what would happen if Soundgarden and Zero 7 joined forces to make a the world's first "Heavy Chill" album? It might sound a lot like this album.
Singer Lisa Kekaula is equally at home cooing smoothly over Cali-jazz or belting hardcore over her bandmates' metallic bashing, sometimes within the same song. The record is totally compelling, and I found myself amazed at how great the fast-slow/start-stop/jazz-rock dichotomies kept me sucked in from first song to last. I've not seen The BellRays live, but have heard that they are amazing.

The BellRays - Maniac Blues mp3 buy
The BellRays - Third Time's The Charm mp3

Ambulance LTD - New English EP

If you were to ask me to name my favorite bands from NYC, Ambulance LTD would easily make the top tier of that list. Their debut album is one of my most-spun discs of the new millennium. While waiting for their next full-length platter, this new EP of demos, a Pink Floyd cover, and other what-not is a nice diversion. That's right, I said a Pink Floyd cover. It's a great live interpretation of The Floyd's "Fearless", sounding more Lennon than Waters. Hear it for yourself:

Ambulance LTD - Fearless (Live) mp3 buy

Gomez - How We Operate

I can't lie to ya'...Gomez has always been one of those bands to me that I just "didn't get". Yeah, I could tell they were talented...and different...and right up everyone's alley but mine. And since more than a few friends of mine are REALLY into them, I've tried extra hard to get them, but to no avail. When this one showed up, I figured I'd do what I always do when confronted with a new Gomez disc. Put it on, listen to the first 15 seconds or so of each track, then hand the disc off to a buddy with a "here ya go - I gave it a shot...".

However...the band, the songs, and particularly the singer (Tom Gray) sound fuller, heavier, and just more interesting on this disc than what I'd heard before. Sure enough, I found out that this is the first record of theirs to use an outside-the-band producer, the pretty-damn-fine Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters, Morningwood). And now I "get" Gomez. On this disc, Norton helps the band find a nice balance between roots-rock and pop that I never saw them combine well enough to catch my ears properly. And this is not to say that "How We Operate" is some sort of shiny attempt at radio play, but rather a realization of sounds they probably have been making all along but hadn't quite been captured and arranged properly. At least that's my take on it. This one comes out May 2nd.

Gomez - See The World mp3 buy
"How We Operate" Quicktime Video
Gomez Podcast on iTunes is here.

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