Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I slept With Joey Ramone
A Family Memoir
Mickey Leigh with Legs McNeil
Touchstone 2009

This wonderful, sweet, poignant, loving and, at times, funny memoir is written by Joey Ramone’s younger brother, Mickey, with help from Legs McNeil. It is the story of two brothers, told with much love, even when Mickey was estranged from his brother.

Jeffery Hyman, Joey’s real name, grew up in Queens. He and his brother found salvation in music, a way of making sense of their world. Since this was the 60s, the brothers became hippies. Jeffery even went to Woodstock.

Mickey recounts Jeffery’s childhood and young adulthood with both sadness and affection. He tried to help his brother as much as he could, all the while making a life for himself.

The Ramones’ rise to icon status is told from Mickey’s the point of view, including how Johnny, Tommy and Dee Dee joined the band. The band was in the right place at the right time, just the way New York punk rock was, and while Joey was an unlikely frontman, he was unmistakable, for his size, glasses, and voice. Mickey also played with Lester Bangs in Birdland and his own bands including The Rattlers, and STOP.

Joey’s diagnoses of lymphoma is the most heartbreaking part of the book., and how he deals with it. Mickey is a great writer--sharp, clear, direct, handling even the most delicate and disturbing events with ease and grace. Reading this book is to read about the man behind the icon. It celebrate Joey’s accomplishments, personal and musical, and mourns his passing. It is a must read for Ramones fans, and for anyone who ever loved rock and roll.

Andrea Weiss

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cold Cave
Love Comes Close

The music sounds like a cross between Erasure and Joy Division. The lyrics, all about relationships, are friendly. They sing with a wary note in their voices, as though they are uneasy with the thought of getting in too deep with whoever they want to go out with. Love Comes Close is a good album for an iPod, nice music to walk to, as well as to dance to, in a club. It’s a strong debut from this New York/Philadelphia band, and a great one. [www.myspace.com/coldcave]
Andrea Weiss

Friends on Fire
Dale Whisman
AWOC Books

The book begins in Vietnam. Davis is looking for something in Saigon, winds up getting kidnapped, but escapes. What was he looking for and why is it so important that he was kidnapped and marked as a criminal?

Thirty-five years later, Davis is still on the run. Why does his son think he’s innocent? Meanwhile, fires have been set in Tulsa, OK. Is there a connection between these fires and Davis, and if there is, why are people being killed because of it? And how is main character P.I. Carl Jacobs involved?

This well-plotted mystery, with characters that are very real, is told in clear, direct, matter-of-fact prose. What adds to the suspense is that the book is narrated in omnipresent third person, which allows for the bad guys to be seen as well as the good guys. Both sides have a story to tell.

Friends on Fire is a thrilling book, with many wonderful twists and turns, yet wraps things up in a splendid way. Whisman’s excellent writing makes this book a must read, and another winner just the way his last book, Friends and Other Perishables was. [www.awocbooks.com] [www.myspace.com/hookersmovie]
Andrea Weiss

Friday, October 23, 2009

Elvis Perkins in Deerland
Doomsday EP
XL Recordings

This EP revolves around a song from this band’s self-titled album that was released earlier this year. There are two versions of the tile track, one the album version, and a new slow version, with two traditional folk songs, and two new originals.

Perkins and his band play, write and sing very well. However, the songs on the EP, like the full length album, sound like a less experimental Michael Penn, with lyrics that try to shoulder the weight of the world on them. Perkins sings like Michael Penn, and without Penn’s caustic air. The title tracks are meant to be ironically lighthearted, but in the end sound pretentious. Michael Penn continues to turn out better music than this, and there is no reason Penn should be replaced by Perkins.
Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Spiral Stairs
The Real Feel
Matador Records

This is Bob “Spiral Stairs” Kannberg’s first true solo album, and the first record from him since Preston School of Industry’s 2004 album "Monsoon." Kannberg was also a founding member of Pavement.

His theme is his divorce from his first wife, and the emotional devastation that followed, from which he emerged as a happier, healthier person. The lyrics are dark, but not gloomy, they recount the darkness he felt, and what it took to bring him back into the light. He’s positive that music will hold him together, even though there were times he felt he could not make music anymore. This is all accomplished without making the lyrics or the theme a clichĂ©. That’s not easy to do, but he makes it look easy.

Musically, this album is mix and match, some Rumors/Tusk era Fleetwood Mac, some Dylan circa Blood on the Tracks/Desire, the deep blues of Nick Cave, the plainspoken honesty of the Go-Betweens, and Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights. Stairs has managed to blend these very different sounds and bands together very well, with the help of bassist Matt Harris, drummer Darius Minwalla, the Posies Jon Auer, and his friends in Australia. Australia will also be his home from now on, because he has a fiancĂ© there.

The Real Feel is an album rich with musical and lyrical detail. It feels real. It’s his world. Welcome to a great album. [www.myspace.com/prestonschool]
Andrea Weiss

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Deflowered: My Life in Pansy Division
The Inside Story of the First Openly Gay Pop-Punk Band
Jon Ginoli
Cleis Press, 2009

This out and proud memoir starts out as a coming out/coming of age story. Ginoli was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois, came out to himself as a teen, and got into 70s punk rock, especially Tom Robinson, the UK's first out punk rocker. He moved to Champaign to attend college, and found himself more comfortable in Champaign's underground music scene than the gay club scene. He started a band named The Outnumbered, which had some success, and signed with Homestead records. Ginoli wasn't out publicly at the time, his lyrics were closeted, with no-gender specific pronouns, and nothing that could be construed as openly gay.

Ginoli moved to L.A. after graduation to work at a music store, and later at Rough Trade. He didn't like L.A. and moved to San Francisco, where he got involved with ACT-UP, and occasionally rallies and demonstrations with Queer Nation. He got the idea to form a gay pop-punk band from the wonderful lesbian folk/punk band Two Nice Girls, who, along with Phranc, predated Melissa Etheridge and were a lot more out than she and other out musicians who followed.

Ginoli wanted to put into song what he got from performance artist Karen Finley, a woman who celbrated feminism and denounced sexism in very radical terms and Two Nice Girls. He wanted rock with a clear, direct, and fun viewpoint about being out and gay. Ginoli wrote funny and dirty songs about sex that were personal and political statements. "ANTHEM" from the first Pansy Division album, has lyrics about disliking Judy Garland, who is a gay icon. Garland's status was based on rumors that she was gay friendly. A new generation of out musicians was coming to the fore who wanted an alternative to standard gay male and lesbian culture.

Pansy Division is a play on words and a protest on the Panzer Division, a WW 2 German army unit that sent l/b/g/t people to the camps, too. It was the right name at the right time. “Homocore” or “queercore” (the terms were interchangeable) was just starting as a trend, and the band got lumped in with that scene, even though they didn’t like hardcore. But the trend got them signed with Lookout Records, where they met Green Day.

Green Day had been Lookout Records' biggest seller, who eventually signed with Warner Brothers. Their first album was a huge hit, and the band decided to mess with their newfound jock audience by taking Pansy Division on tour with them. Suddenly Pansy Division had a taste of the mainstream, liked it, and had loads of fun. The women who went to the Green Day shows became the biggest fans of Pansy Division on that tour. They liked Pansy Division's music and their message that some guys, no matter if they're gay or straight, can be jerks. There was much homophobia, though, from other, mostly male fans, and people in the industry. There were times when Green Day refused to play if Pansy Division couldn’t play. Green Day won those points.

The lesson from touring with Green Day was that Pansy Division found what worked and what didn’t work musically. They remained on Lookout and toured all over the world. There was still lots of homophobia, even from out musicians, and many people found their viewpoint a little too extreme. Dustin, a neurotic drummer whose problems caused much tension within the band, eventually was asked to leave the band. And the scene which had spawned feminist and out punk rock bands slowly faded.

In later years, Pansy Division found their niche, with a solid audience, and are still together today. Their songs also became more relationship-oriented.

Ginoli is a good writer, wry, honest, and has a light touch on some of the little wrinkles about being gay and liking rock. That he tells his story so well made this book a must read, a window on an alternative that was needed then, and is needed now.
Andrea Weiss

Monday, October 12, 2009

Alela and Alina
Alela and Alina
Rough Trade

Alela Diane is a 25 year old folk singer from Portland OR, and Alina Harding is a friend of hers. This 6 song EP is a companion piece to Diane’s terrific To Be Still, released in February of this year on Rough Trade.

To be Still is a wonderful mix and match of 70s, 90s and 21st folk: “Diamonds and Rust” era Joan Baez, early Kate and Anna McGarrigle crossed with Katryna Nields
and Beth Orton vocally. Diane draws on Joanna Newsom for lyrics. Diane's lyrics are even quirkier than Newsome’s but the meanings are easier to understand. In lesser hands this album would have been a mess, but Diane’s sure vision keeps all three elements together seamlessly.

The Alela and Alina EP has the sound of To Be still, with Harding’s voice adding Katryna's sister Nerissa , or a second Beth Orton. The first four songs are new, and all are excellent, both women harmonize very well, like on “Bowling Green” where they wish they were in that town and with their lover. The Child Ballad, “Matty Groves”, made famous by Fairport Convention, with its stark, bare bones updating, fits into the folk tradition of learning songs to pass them on expertly, and gracefully. Rounding things out is a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s “Rake” which ends a great EP on a sad, wistful note, but one with a sense of uplift through tragedy. [www.myspace.com/alelamusic]
Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Kurt Vile
Childish Prodigy

On Vile’s first album on Matador, he sounds as if he’s trying to imitate Iggy Pop, if Iggy was a folk singer. Vile is very good at that too, he has Iggy down pretty well, and he is an excellent amplified acoustic guitar player who uses various effects such as reverb nicely. It is just Vile and a guitar on most of these tracks.

The two best tracks are the ones where he is himself, and not Iggy. “Blackberry Song” is with a full band, and is a true pop song with a hummable melody and drums that skip along to the music happily. Vile sings without affect, a relief. The album’s one big flaw is that he mumbles his lyrucs.

“Inside Looking Out” is a true folk song. Vile sounds like himself here, too, it's also the best of the one man band songs. To sum up, two great songs, the rest good, and an album that hints at much good music to be made in the future. [www.myspace.com/kurtvileofphilly]
Andrea Weiss

The Mountain Goats
The Life of the World to Come
4 AD Records

The nicely melodic, sometimes happy folk pop of this album is at odds with the grim lyrics about losing faith, death, being too depressed about not having faith, and wanting escape from a dull, meaningless life. But is John Darnielle writing about his own life, or creating fiction?

Darnielle keeps his cards close to his vest on the answer to this question, which is good, as it opens up the lyrics to interpretation. These songs are named after various Bible verses, trying to match the verses to the songs provides little clarity. The music is good to hum to, the music sticks around long after the album is finished, and lyrics to ponder.
Andrea Weiss

The XX
XXYoung Turk/XL Recordings

This soft-spoken, fragile, slow indie rock collapses under it’s own weight, which is light, by the end of the album. Lyrically, it’s a couple trying desperately to decide if they want to become romantically involved. In the end, this is melodramatic silliness, which is more than enough of a reason to skip this album. [www.myspace.com/thexx]
Andrea Weiss

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is a music blog. If you like what you read, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com

True Panther/Matador

Christopher Owens is the lead singer and songwriter of this band. He has a quirky voice and can sing the high and low end at the same time. His lyrics seem to describe confusion and frustration as a way of life, until he realizes at the end of the album that he doesn't have to live like this. Musically, this is sweet sunny, loopy pop, and it's the music that makes this album so much fun to listen to. He's never angry or bitter, but just wonders what's going on, and trying to get a handle on the women he wants to date. This is an album to think by, or with the windows open on a warm spring day. [www.myspace.com/girlssanfran]
Andrea Weiss

Regina Spektor
Sire Records

Spektor’s piano playing is fun, quirky, and light but not light weight. Her lyrics are thoughtful, smart, and a little odd whether she is singing something sad, like “Eat,” happy like “Human of the Year,” sweet and whimsical like “Folding Chair,” or strange like “Genius Next Door.”

“Wallet” is a tale of a woman who finds a wallet, and takes it to the nearest Blockbuster so that it can be returned to it’s owner anonymously, is the happy, sweet, and oddball side of Spektor. “Laughing With” is sad, smart, thoughtful, and brims over with emotion. The song is about the reasons why people turn to God.

An album with such heartfelt emotion, direct clear lyrics, music that grabs and holds throughout the album is different. It's like having a conversation with a close friend. Far is an album to cheer for. It’s warm, giving, and caring, and for me personally, the album of the year. [www.myspace.com/reginaspektor]
Andrea Weiss

The Big Pink
A Brief History of Love
4 AD Records

The Big Pink are a digital hardcore band, and this album is their debut. But they aren’t harsh, noisy, fast, or angry. They sound more like a softer, quieter, more streamlined Nine Inch Nails with lovelorn lyrics. This is not to criticize them. Their album is excellent, even if the lyrics to “Dominos,” their single, are sexist. The music flows very well, with electric guitars meshing nicely with the synths. This is a good album to spark the imagination, and also to dream to.
Andrea Weiss

Times New Viking
Born Again Revisited
Matador Records

Fifteen songs in the thirty-one minutes of this album fly by joyfully, good and noisy. A wonderful clamor. Lyrics and singing are almost beside the point on these lo-fi, minimalist, experimental pop songs. They add to the fun by being unintelligible. These songs are meant to be played at maximum volume, and you'll have a great time doing so.
Andrea Weiss

Thursday, September 17, 2009

This is a music blog. If you like what you read and hear, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com.

This is a track from Basia Bulat's upcoming January 26 2010 release HEART OF MY OWN . The album is thefollow-up to 2007's Oh, My Darling.

Sid n Susie
Under the Covers Vol. 2
Shout Factory

Susanna Hoffs and Mathew Sweet have made another covers album that focuses on the 70s. The covers are diverse-- everyone from Yes to Big Star, Carly Simon to Tom Petty. Yet there is a good flow to the song selection, Hoffs and Sweet made these songs fit together smoothly.

The album as a whole is somewhat uneven. Some of these covers work better than others, such as Yes’s “I’ve Seen All Good People.: Your Move/All Good People.” Even Steve Howe’s playing can’t save the song from being played and sung by rote. And the songs played by the numbers are what mars the album the most. It’s too bad Sweet and Hoff’s didn’t take more liberties with these songs.

There are four covers though that make this album worth it, Sweet shines vocally on Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” and as this song is a tribute to Gay Liberation, which was a widely used term back then, the gay sub-text is emphasized. Hoff brings out the bitterness, anger and hurt of Carly Simon’s “You’re so Vain.” The song is interpreted as a tribute to Women’s Liberation, which was another way of saying feminist back then.

Sweet brings a gentle anger to Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News,” with Lindsey Buckingham re-creating his guitar work on the song. Hoffs poses as bi on Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May,” and sounds very convincing.

With albums like this it’s tempting to ask why this band or not that band was chosen, but the 70s was so diverse musically that no one album can do that decade justice. That someone tried is amazing enough, and even as the album doesn’t work overall, the parts are better than the whole. [www.myspace.com/sidnsusie]
Andrea Weiss

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hello. This is a music blog. If you like what you read here, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com.

Yo La Tengo
Popular Songs
Matador Records

The overall mood of this album is contemplative: living a good, full life, loving all it has to offer, as part of a couple in a long time marriage. Ira Kaplan and Georgia Huxley, are the performers, he being the singer and guitarist for Tengo, Georgia is the other singer, and the drummer. They seem to be taking stock of their lives and their relationship, with grace, gentle wit, and a bit of wonder that they've lasted as long as they have, a bit of worry over how to make what they have keep going, and a sense of bliss that they are so happy and in love.

The music is just as meditative. Even as most of these songs are short, they fit the moods of the lyrics. They pull off all this very well. There is no irony here, musically and lyrically. This is straight emotion, and honest as well.

The two jams that close the album, "The Fireside" and "And the Glitter is Gone" run counterpoint to one another. "The Fireside" is all whispering accoustic guitars, with just a few mumbled words for lyrics. It is eleven minutes long, and a beautiful piece of music.

"And the Glitter is Gone" is fifteen minutes long, and mostly Ira's famous fuzz, feedback and melodies taking the place of lyrics. Georgia's deft, fluid, and flowing drumming alongside a galloping bass makes for sonic regret, some sadness, but also a fierce determination to bring the glitter back someday. It is a smashing way to close out a great album, and a worthy addition to their canon. [www.yolatengo.com]
Andrea Weiss

Taken By trees
East of Eden
Rough Trade

Victoria(no last name given) and her guitarist Andres Soderstorm traveled to Pakistan to make this album with musicians from Pakistan. They were male musicians, Victoria wanted women, but was told that it was too dangerous for them to travel from north to south Pakistan. None of the musicians spoke English, except the Trees host. Victoria used other means, too, like singing what she wanted the musicians to play. Teaching the musicians to play wearing headphones, and playing at times out side the studio, which was harder than when they were in the studio.

So what did they come up with? Ambient, atmospheric slow music, Victoria’s whispered singing, and quietly powerful guitar playing. These are relationship songs, mostly romantic, except for a re-working of Animal Collective’s “My Girl” re-titled “My Boys.” That remake is the loudest song on the album, and fits into the other songs very well.

The concept is interesting, the music is great, and Victoria’s singing fits the mysterious mood of the songs. It’s different, a nice album for quiet times. [www.myspace.com/takenbytreesmusic]

Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Hello, this is a music blog. If you like what you read, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com.

Golden Silvers’
True Romance

XL Recordings

This band is at its best when they keep things light, bouncy and for the dance floor. When they try to make pronouncements about love and life, they preach, and the music falls flat. Unfortunately, the bad outweighs the good here, and even though in the end this isn’t a bad album, it’s also not good enough to recommend. [http://www.myspace.com/thegoldensilvers]
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

New Reviews


This is a music blog. If you like what you read, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com

The Cave Singers
Welcome Joy
Matador Records

Imagine the Sadies as a folk band, quieter musically, but like the Sadies, their lyrics deal with hard times and hard living. That’s The Cave Singers, a trio from Seattle, and this album is their debut. It is a very good album, with hushed vocals, gently strummed guitars, and drums that whisper, all meant for quiet times, and for a great late night nightcap. [www.myspace.com/thecavesingers]
Andrea Weiss

Jack Pinate
Everything is New
XL Recordings

The laid back groove Pinate has on his new album is only marginally better than the jittery new wave singer/songwriter sound he had on his debut Matinee. At least with a smooth shimmy the fact that he has nothing to say or play goes down easy. When he wants to make a meaningful statement it's embarrassingly lightweight: the refrain of “out of the womb, and into the tomb, let’s all die.” Skip it and live.

Jay Reatard
Watch Me Fall
Matador Records

Reatard follows up his acclamed 2006 singles compilation Blood Visions with his first proper full-length album Watch Me Fall. The sound of the album is the speedy punk of the Buzzcocks combined with the melodic roar of Husker Du in their prime.

Lyrically, the words are a blur, as they race along with the music. In general, they seem to be about panic, paranoia, and bad times. He also throws in a couple of songs about succeeding against the odds no matter what.

This album is a lot of fun to listen to. The energy of these songs is infectious. Reatard doesn’t take himself too seriously, and that’s good, otherwise this album could have been one long whine. It’s recommended for these reasons. Speed doesn’t kill here, it’s uplifting. [www.myspace.com/jayreatard]
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Hello. This is a music blog. If you like what you read, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com

Julian Plenti
Julian Plenti is…Skyscraper
Matador Records

Plenti, AKA Paul Banks, lead singer for Interpol, wrote and performed under this name starting in 1996 to 2001. Banks then put Plenti on the back burner until 2006, when he learned how to make music with the software Logic Pro. That program freed him up to compose songs more than any other program he had tried. In 2008 he entered the Seaside Lounge recording studio to finish the songs with engineer Charles Burst, and Skyscraper was the final result.

The music and lyrics sound Interpol like in terms of the melodies and song structure, and Plenti is still trying to make sense of confusing situations lyrically, much like he does in Interpol. There are some big differences though. The music is lighter, less sharp edged, and while there are electric guitars used throughout the album, the overall sound leans towards indie folk, in the sense that these songs were acoustic songs to begin with, then electrified for Skyscraper. Banks sings without a snarl and softer than with Interpol, and the lyrics, while not exactly cheery, have none of the doom and gloom or sardonic humor that are in Interpol’s songs. In the end, this is a really good album, an album to think to, and a good companion piece to any Interpol album. [www.myspace.com/julianplentinyc]
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to All Around Records, a music blog. If you like what you read, I have more reviews at www.toneandgroove.com.

Blue Roses
Blue Roses
XL Recordings

Laura Groves has fashioned a sound that recalls Stevie Nicks, the softer, quieter side of Nicks. Think “Landslide”, with a little bit of early Kate Bush thrown in for lyrical and musical color. It is a good sound, light, airy, mysterious, yet grounded in earthiness. Groves’ singing has a trace of wide-eyed wonder to it, as if she can barely believe what she’s hearing, feeling, and seeing, and is also delighted by it. This delight is reflected in her lyrics, which are filled with fascination for what the world has to offer. In short, a very good, and sweet debut, by a very likeable folksinger. [www.myspace.com/musicofblueroses]
Andrea Weiss

Jarvis Cocker

New, and good remix of You're In My Eyes (Discosong) from his curent album Further Complcations



Thursday, July 9, 2009

Welcome. This is a music blog. If you want to read more of my reviews, go to www.toneandgroove.com.

Broken Records
Until the Earth Begins to part
4AD Records

Broken Records formed in Edinburgh in 2006. They put out a debut EP in 2006, and three singles in the UK in 2008 that caught fire with the British press.

On the best tracks on the album, the band fulfills their intent to be an indie rock orchestra. The band wants instruments like a trumpet or glockenspiel to be as loud as an electric guitar, and that does happen on tracks like “Nearly Home” and “Ghosts.” The overall sound is smoothly symphonic, but with the grit of a rock band. Lyrically these songs are relationship songs, except for “If the News Makes You Sad, Don’t Watch it,” which is political and social commentary.

The concept goes awry on songs like “Wolves” where the orchestra sounds out of tune and out of step, Jamie Sutherland over emotes with his singing. Nevertheless, the good tracks make up for the bad ones, and the concept as a whole is interesting. This is an album to try, to hear thoughtful words set to thoughtful music and to hear a different take on a rock orchestra. [www.myspace.com/brokenrecordsedinburgh]
Andrea Weiss

XL Recordings

Discovery is a super duo. Wes Miles from Ra Ra Riot, and Rostam Batmanglij from Vampire Weekend have created an album of shimmering, summery, light toned, danceable synth pop. There are no snare drums. Handclaps processed to sound like snare drums take their place. Rostam sings one half of the songs, Wes the other. Both are good singers, modest and likeable. Ezra Noening of Vampire Weekend, and Angel Deradoorian from the Dirty Projectors do some guest vocals,

Lyrically, their concept was to embrace and commentary of the past decade, but the concept comes across much too subtly, making all the songs sound like troubled love songs. That’s not a bad thing. Their take on troubled love is smart, especially on the one cover on the album, the Jackson 5’s “I want You back.” This song was recorded before Michael Jackson died, making the song something of a tribute. However, the song is played for irony, so it’s hard to know how much the band takes the song seriously, and whether it was meant as a comment on Jackson, or a compliment. The processed vocals do add a good wrinkle, as the singing is almost inseparable from the music. It’s one more fun song, on a fun album of very good, intelligent synth pop. [www.myspace.com/discoverdiscovery]
Andrea Weiss

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Welcome to All Around Records


This is a music blog. All kinds of music are reviewed here. If you like what you read, I have more reviews here
http://www.toneandgroove.com/. These are my first two reviews:

Stuart Murdoch
God Help The Girl
Matador Records

Murdoch started this project in 2004, but did not finish it until 2009, since he was working with his main band, Belle and Sebastian, and trying to find singers suitable for God Help The Girl. He envisioned the songs on God, sung mostly by women, about the lives of these female characters.

The plot is a little fuzzy. It’s not a straightforward narrative, so the songs don’t quite hang together as a whole. It’s the details that make the songs work: the thoughts, feelings and the lives women are leading, and how they find their places in the larger world. Murdock articulates the thoughts and feelings of his characters so well that a woman could have written these songs with no difference in tone, voice, or content.

“Funny Little Frog” is note perfect about a woman’s crush on a guy who doesn’t know her. Likewise “Perfection of a Hipster” is a half comic, half tragic story about a woman who wants to impress a trendy guy, and she passes out on his couch, wakes up and demands to know what happened while she was unconscious.

Catherine Ireton sings lead on most of the songs. She was featured on the cover of B&S’s single White Collar Boy, and already knew the band. Two of the other voices, Brittney Stallings and Dina Bankole, were chosen after a competition on iMeem. The contest was two demos posted on iMeem that people could add vocals to. Stallings and Bankole had the best voices. Murdoch himself is on two of the songs, Neil Hannon from the Devine Comedy plays the hipster. Asya from the band Smoosh sings lead on “I Just Want His Jeans”. Stallings takes the lead on “Frog.” Anna Miles and Celia Garcia who sing harmonies, round out the singers. Everyone is wonderful; they embody their characters with heart, soul, and intelligence.

Musically, this album draws on several different sources. Broadway musicals show up in the orchestral arrangements written by Mike Cooke, and recorded by a 45 piece orchestra conducted by Rick Wentworth, the composer of Withnail and I. The orchestrations are lush, a firm foundation to build the singing and lyrics on. Another source the orchestra uses is the Brill Building when the songs call for more rock, particularly 80s indie music. The orchestra steps lively on songs like “I’ll Have To Dance With Cassie” and the title song. The other members of B&S also participated, giving the album an early Belle and Sebastian feel as well.

God Help The Girl is wonderful from start to finish. Even though the plot is somewhat confusing, listening to these women is delightful. [www.godhelpthegirl.com]
Andrea Weiss

Future of the Left
Travels with Myself and Another
4AD Records

Future of the Left is a Cardiff, Wales based trio, and this is their second album. Their first album Curses won them much acclaim. They also played well-received shows at SXSW earlier this year. The band consists of singer/guitarist Andy Falkous, Jack Egglestone on drums, formally with McLusky, and bass player Kelson Matthias, formally with Jarcrew.

The band plays solid, well-crafted, hard-edged punk rock. Falkous is, in general, a good singer, although at times he screams a little too much, which is annoying. The biggest problem, though, is that their lyrics are incomprehensible, rendering what is on the surface provocative and thought provoking a headachy bore by the end of the album. Even the best punk rock can’t work around that. In the end, no matter how good the music is, the lyrics make this album one to be skipped. [www.myspace.com/futureoftheleft]
Andrea Weiss


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