Sunday, February 11, 2007

album reviews: The Apples In Stereo, The Trucks, Luscious Jackson, SoftLightes, Lily Allen U.S. Version

There's been a crazy amount of good music that has caught my ear's a race through some of the best stuff on my desk right now:

The Apples In Stereo - New Magnetic Wonder

Robert Schneider's gang have always been a mystery to me. On previous albums they'd knock me out with an incredibly catchy pop song, the kind of tune that can totally turn your day around for the better, only to follow it up with some densely overwrought number that would switch my mood back to bummed. Back and forth these albums would go, enough that I'd usually stop before the final track even had a chance.

On this new set, The Apples don't mess around with the heavy stuff, choosing to go right to the listener's pop funny-bone with stripped down and simple tunes, all of which will enhance your mood for the better. Though twenty-four separate tracks are listed, many of these are less-than-a-minute "sound pieces" (see download below), cleansing the aural palette between full tracks. This is the album we all wished Andy Partridge would make with XTC back when there still was an XTC.

The disc is enhanced and features bonus videos, artwork, liner notes, lyrics, and documents and midi wav files related to Schneiders' "Non-Pythagorean" 12-tone musical scale, which I'm guessing you've got to be a pretty hardcore music nerd to comprehend. There's even a certificate in the sleeve for more bonus downloads and even a free Apples ringtone. This disc not only may be the best album of the year so far, but is certainly the best value. Highly recommended.

The Apples In Stereo - "Vocoder Ba Ba" mp3 buy

The Trucks - The Trucks

This Bellingham, WA girl gang has just released an album of sneakily catchy popsongs disguised as electro-punk, and chock full of Peaches-esque sexy/silly poetry. Part Bush Tetras, part Luscious Jackson, part The Chalets, these girls are cooler than you'll ever be.

If I was a sixteen-year-old girl, I'd hitch-hike across the country to see them live and dance in front of the stage...but that's just me.

The Trucks - "Zombie" mp3 buy

Luscious Jackson - Greatest Hits

Speaking of Luscious Jackson...they've just reappeared on what I believe is their first hits compilation.

Back in the day, I remember listening to the ladies from LJ and labelmate Ben Lee and thinking, "Grand Royal is gonna be the most awesome label ever". That never happened...Grand Royal never really took off, and Luscious Jackson struggled with record label handlers who really couldn't figure how to get their NYC bouillabaisse-of-sound the notice and respect it deserved.

This package features nineteen tracks, showcasing the diversity of their sound and chronicling the maturation of their groove over the years. All the radio songs are here, including "Naked Eye", "Deep Shag", and "Ladyfingers", a couple hard-to-find tracks from movie soundtracks, and four remixes including Beastie Boy Mike D's 'Pants On Fire' remix of "Why Do I Lie?". Good stuff from ladies who deserve to be in the New York City Music Hall Of Fame, if such a thing exists.

Softlightes - Say No To Being Cool - Say Yes To Being Happy

Remember a band called The Incredible Moses Leroy from a couple years ago? Well I do. I thought they were pretty great, but they just vanished, as far as I could tell. Thankfully their frontman Ron Fountenberry (is that a sportscaster or weatherman name or what!?) has resurfaced in the SoftLightes, the first American band to be signed to the excellent Modular (Wolfmother, Klaxons, Van She) record label.

These guys are from San Diego, and the record sounds like it was recorded in the warm California sun. It's not beach music, but just bright, sunny, and laid back, just like anyone I've ever met from that area.

The disc goes from quiet to loud to quiet again, the band uses what seem like a zillion instruments, but in no way does this set sound like a hodge-podge. On the contrary, it sounds much like how I imagine Fountenberry...complex but chill, really smart but not a show-off. This album is a solid enjoyment all the way through.

SoftLightes - "The Robots In My Bedroom Were Playing Arena Rock" mp3 buy

Lily Allen - Lily Allen (U.S. Version)

Honestly...what else can be said on a music blog about this album that hasn't already been said a hundred times before. It's an amazing bunch of fun, smart, and catchy-as-hell songs that sound familiar and new all at once. Ive been listening to most of these tracks for the better part of a year now and I'm still not tired of them.

It should be noted that this version that Capitol has finally cut loose in the States features a bonus track, a Mark Ronson remix of "Smile", and some very fun software called U-MYX that allows you to remix and keep your own versions of "Smile" and "Knock 'Em Out".

Lily Allen - "Oh My God (Kaiser Chiefs cover) mp3 buy

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