Apr 282010

The Shondes, My Dear One

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Artist: The Shondes
Album: My Dear One
Label: Fanatic Records
Release Date: Tueday, 2010.5.4
Score: 9.5/10

I’ve often harped on the importance of Sophomore albums. They’re easily important as first and last albums, and perhaps even more so if the band wants to have any sort of longevity. So it’s my pleasure to say that the second album from The Shondes is good. Really damned good.

Loyal readers (there have to be at least a few of you) will remember that The Shondes released one of my favorite albums of 2008. That debut (Red Sea) was one of the most original and important albums of the year. It was also awesomely fun and rocked pretty damned hard.

Well, The Shondes’ sophomore effort is about to hit the market and, thanks to the good folks at Fanatic Records, I’m happy to report that I’ve gotten my hot little hands on a copy. And it’s flat-out awesome. It’s every bit as excellent as their first album.

The instrumentation and pacing of the new album are much as they were in the last one. Energetic, mid-tempo rock songs with a lyrical focus and plenty of tasty instrumental hooks. (For the record, the violin/guitar/bass/drums instrumentation works far better than I would ever have imagined.)

The Shondes themselves claim that it’s a break up album. But I genuinely think it’s more than that. I think it speaks to a deeper, more visceral human experience. While most of the songs are framed in terms of the end of a relationship, I think that it’s really more of a heartbreak album. Heartbreak is a more universal human experience, and I think it’s one that My Dear One speaks to well extremely well. Songs like “Nothing Glows” powerfully evoke the sick, sad greying effect of heartbreak. The notion that one’s “bruises don’t turn black and blue” is a particularly effective image for the fact that it shows just how dulling heartbreak can be.

The lyrical focus of the Shondes’ sound lends itself particularly well to this album. Songs like “You Ought to Be Ashamed” profit from my lyrical breaks and a melody that’s carried (or at least matched) in the vocals. This is largely to the credit of Louisa Rachel Solomon, who provides most of the album’s vocals and whose dusky, dextrous voice is powerful and expressive throughout the entire album. (Though for a particularly good example, give a listen to “Miami”.) Also notable are the vocals that Elijah Olberman contributes to the album (“The Coming Night” and “All the Good Things”). Olberman’s smooth, expressive voice has a wonderfully androgynous quality.

As in the first album, Temim Fruchter’s drumming is rock solid. Fruchter reminds me of some of the best jazz drummers I’ve heard, adding energy and style to a song while never stealing the show. (Cf. “Fire Again” and Fruchter’s rambling, snare-heavy lines.) Solomon’s bass work is similarly solid and unobtrusive.

The only lineup change since the first album is the replacement of Ian Brannigan with an artist named Fureigh. Fureigh’s style is remarkably similar to Brannigan’s, and meshes well with the rest of the band.

My only major complaints about the album are with regards to the production quality. The whole album seems to have a flat, muted sound to it. This saps it of some of the energy it would otherwise have. This is particularly noticeable (unfortunately) on the lead title track. While this sound grew on me somewhat, I feel like the album could have profited from a brighter, cleaner sound and less post-production sophistry.

My Dear One is great rock album. It’s raw, emotional, and gutsy as hell. Songs like “Let’s Make It Beautiful” show how well the Shondes can take classic Rock forms and give them a unique sound and form to create something new and interesting. This album is well worth the price, both for fans of the first Shondes album and for people who love rock and want to hear something that’s genuinely new.

Apr 262010

Quote of the Day

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“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side. ” – Hunter S. Thompson

Apr 192010

“They overtook me down in Juarez, Mexico”

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So I have a few posts lined up, including reviews of the new HIM and the new Shondes. Alas, work’s got me on the ropes this week. So in the meantime, here’s a great cover of a Johnny Cash classic. This is Dr. Noise’s version of “Cocaine Blues”:

Apr 132010

Who Shot Bambi?

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I have to confess, I’ve always had a gutteral dislike for Malcolm McLaren. But I suppose his recent passing does warrant some comment. Perhaps the best comment, though, is not any direct hagiography or corpse-kicking, but rather a reflection on some small, bizarre part of his life and career. Roger Ebert, who once collaborated with McLaren on an unfilmed Sex Pistols movie, offers this great explication of the project.

Quote:

“Malcolm McLaren appeared with Russ in my room at the Marquis. He was a ginger-haired, wiry man in his 30s, who wore a “Destroy” T-shirt and leather pants equipped with buckles and straps. These were, I learned, the infamous Bondage Pants he introduced at SEX, the celebrated Kings Road boutique he ran with his romantic partner Vivienne Westwood. The T-shirt was also hers. The pants offered the ultimate on bondage convenience. When the mood struck, you didn’t have to rummage about for belts and braces; all your needs were built in. On his feet he wore what Russ approvingly noted were Brothel Creepers.”

Definitely read the whole thing.

Apr 102010

Need a break? Want a break? Neither need one nor want one but compulsively click on any hyperlink you come across? Great! Then check out this slick little step sequencer. The rows each represent a different note, the columns represent 16th notes in a measure.

You can also save any given one-measure frame by right-clicking on the sequencer and selecting copy. This pushes a comma-separated string to your clipboard. You can load them again by copying that same string, right clicking on the sequencer and selecting paste.

Here’s one of my favorites that I’ve bashed together in the way-too-long I’ve spent playing with this thing in the past couple of days:

2,81924,8,41536,288,41104,81992,41216,2048,1024,41472,256,41474,1024,33284,65794

On a somewhat related note (read: not really related at all), here’s a video of British artist Little Boots playing her single “Meddle”.

For a drum machine, she uses the coolest and most interesting sequencer on the market today, Yamaha’s Tenori-On. (The Tenori-On can also function as a synthesizer and a midi controller. I want one with a fierceness.) She also uses a Stylophone, which is another neat little instrument that I’m keen on getting my hands on.

So go have fun with that sequencer, make some awesome loops with it, and feel free to share them in the comments. And if anyone has an extra Tenori-On and/or Stylophone they want to give me, my birthday’s coming up in about a week.

…Just sayin’ is all.

Update: Apparently I fail at embedding YouTube videos. Video embed fixed.

Apr 052010

New Meat Loaf Single

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Meat Loaf’s releasing a new album (his 11th) in April. Here’s the lead single off of it, called “Los Angeloser”. The songs fun in the campy way that only artists like Meat Loaf can get away with. As for for the video? I really have no clue what’s going on there. It seems like he had about four different videos he wanted to shoot and, unable to make up his mind, shot them all and mashed them together:

The album’s called Hang Cool Teddy Bear and it’s due out April 19th.

Apr 042010

“She goes ‘boom swagger swagger boom boom swagger boom boom boom'”

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Murder City Devils. ‘Nuff said.