Quick Hits 1 | 06.06

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This album is simple, melodic rock ’n’ roll that you can really feel. The lead singer’s vocals rival Freddie Mercury’s, and the tunes are just as motivational. These Los Angeles natives have the classic rock equation down to perfection. Let me tell you why this album shouldn’t be regarded as unoriginal or cliché: because there’s that special sauce that glues the tunes to your head in a catchy step you can’t ignore. They’ve obviously hit some popular nerve (or slept with many producers), with their music appearing on a plethora of MTV and WB shows, and the gold medal of television series with four appearances on The O.C. Suggested listening includes “Everybody Loves Me” and “All ’Cause of You.” | Katie Bordner


Blend the buzzsaw punk of Hüsker Dü with a dash of the boy/girl pop of the Vaselines, and the result would sound an awful lot like the Chambermaids. The Hüskers are a very obvious starting point for this Minneapolis power trio, with Neil Weir shredding out lightning-fast, distorted guitar licks over his sister Martha’s deep, throbbing bass and Colin Johnson’s steady, unadorned drums in what sounds like an attempt to recreate their hometown heroes’ brilliant 1985 album New Day Rising and, surprisingly, doing a damn good job of it. The Chambermaids are at their best when blazing through the album’s many two-minute thrashers, including an excellent cover of the Wipers’ “Mystery,” though the longer songs tend to drag, especially the nearly seven-minute shoegazer dirge “Sleeper.” The vocals are buried far too deep in the mix, the din obscuring the Weirs’ pleasantly complementary voices—although, to be fair, all this does is make the band’s sound even closer to the desperately-in-need-of-a-good-remastering early-’80s punk records they’re trying to emulate. With their self-titled debut, the Chambermaids have created a fun, enjoyable throwback perfect for all punkers convinced that they just don’t make records like they used to. | Jason Green


While the Forecast’s formula of emo-twinged punk with alternating guy/gal vocals has been done before, there’s just something likable about this band and its second long player, In the Shadow of Two Gunmen. Fronted by guitarist/vocalist Dustin Addis and bassist/vocalist Shannon Burns, this Peoria, Ill., quartet is at its best when they keep things soaring and upbeat. Starting with “And We All Return to Our Roots” through “It’s a Long Drive,” In the Shadow… is slowed only by the transitional title track and—despite the deeply personal nature of its lyrics—closing track “Welcome Home.” Suffice it to say, if the aforementioned bands are at all up your alley, then you’ve got some really good odds that In the Shadow of Two Gunmen will hit its target in your CD case. | David Lichius


If the vocals on Souls were immediately fetching or aesthetically pleasing, Chicago’s the Gunshy would easily have a larger following than they do. However, the Gunshy does not have this option, making this disc far more rewarding. Resembling a kinder or gentler Tom Waits, Matt Arbogast is in essence a solo performer who enlists accompanying musicians when deemed necessary. It is these accompanying musicians and their instruments that fill Arbogast’s songs with life and essence. While there are a few tunes that are less than inspiring, when Souls is on its game, it touts a number of excellent bursts of restrained yet inspired folky, indie rock. With trumpet, mandolin, flute, and violin, as well as the ubiquitous guitar, drums, and bass—both regular and standup—the finer tracks on Souls include “Last Songs,” Call Me Home,” “Remember These Chords in the Morning,” the rollicking “Stop Singing,” as well as the record’s title track. Whether his vocal style floats your boat or not, it’s high time to take notice of the Gunshy; Souls is excellent place to start. | David Lichius


Zeroes and Ones, Eleventh Dream Day’s first CD since 2000’s Stalled Parade, is a stunning combination of post-punk, post–new wave, and post–prog rock that is at once infectious and introspective. Former spouses Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean (of Freakwater fame) wrap the listener in surreal vocal harmonies as they churn their way through jaunty power chord–infused melodies and poignant lyrics replete with self-examination. For those who dig crunching guitars, indie rock à la Sonic Youth, and experimentation, Zeroes and Ones is a must. | Tracy M. Rogers


Prompts/Miscues works best when splitting the difference between Pavement and Broken Social Scene. Not a bad compromise overall, but not as promising as it seems. It is casually experimental and quietly catchy, but arty indie-rock is difficult to perfect, and if it isn’t perfect, the audiences tend to wander in and out with no conviction. There is much to like about the Foundry Field Recordings, but little to love. I will listen to the album now and then, but I will probably never tell a friend about them (unless you count). Good publicity is, well, good. So is bad publicity, as the argument goes, but what about apathetic publicity? |James McAnally


I would love to read some more informed observer’s explanation of the sudden phenomenon of unhinged teenage cheer-pop. Gwen Stefani in the pop realm, Sufjan for the folkies, the Go! Team for the indie kids. No one expected Toni Basil to emerge as a musical touchstone 20 years after she first grated the nerves of an unsuspecting generation. Maybe “I Love the ’80s XIV” will feature a mash-up of “Mickey” and “Huddle Formation.” The Go! Team should be easy to dismiss. Seriously, who listens to adults staging a tweener cheerleader talent show? I mean, other than myself. And who can be credited for me being able to admit liking this and it be kinda hip? For one, Kevin Shields lent his formidable skills to remix “Huddle Flash,” which closes this compilation of college radio best-of cuts. Stick with the original album, though. This one’s just for fans. Even Mr. Shields couldn’t save it from the 99-cent bin. | James McAnally


This disc might be the five-song EP that could. With only a few songs to really capture Greenwheel’s sound, Bridges for Burning certainly does so flawlessly. “Trigger” opens with confidence, utilizing a real sense of truth rather than fabricating this feeling with useless screaming. It’s real. The following songs are a bit more mellow, but poignant. The fourth song, “Knife,” also stands out as a strong track. Overall, this band sounds like they are going to really grow and get even better with time. Definitely worth the wait since their last official release four years ago. | Janelle Greenwood


Jolie Holland’s voice takes some getting used to—equal parts Billie Holiday, Lucinda Williams, and Maybelle Carter, with a certain something else thrown in that is ineffable and strangely timeless. The music on her latest release, Springtime Can Kill You, is equally indescribable—a mixture of ethereal jazz and bucolic country-folk that is as enchanting as it is unique. A collection of melancholic reflections on lost love and hard living, Springtime Can Kill You moseys along like a mid-day jaunt down a country road, employing experimental arrangements with ease. Springtime Can Kill You is essential listening for fans of offbeat Americana. | Tracy M. Rogers


Difficult to pin down—despite its MySpace description of “hyphy/ghettotech/freestyle”—St. Paul, Minn.’s Malachi Constant takes a lo-fi/less-is-more approach on their new LP Pride. Strange as it may sound, on Pride, their third LP, Malachi Constant pulls off the mighty trick of subtlety resembling other groups—Trans Am, early Stereolab, Electrelane—yet not so overtly that it’s plainly obvious. The septet kicks things off with “Quid Pro Quo (or) Class Action”—a song with an insanely catchy guitar riff that will surely induce knuckle gnawing for hours on end—followed by the low-key “Coquette on Horse” and the infectious, slow building “Blueshammer.” Other tracks of note include “Sex Fantasy” and “Immortality.” As an added bonus, if you’re a Dead Milkmen fan, “Keith on All Fours” should elicit a chuckle or two. Pride isn’t a record that’s going to rumble and vibrate off your turntable’s platter, yet it’s a satisfying and fulfilling album nonetheless. |David Lichius


Bluegrass and country music have a long history of exploring the dichotomy of Saturday night’s rabble rousing followed by a Sunday morning in church. As you’d expect from one of the world’s top bluegrass bands, the Del McCoury Band does a bang-up job on the technical parts of this bluegrass-gospel disc. Praises to the lord and Bible stories worked into bluegrass lyrics are a natural fit. But over time, the lack of contrast in themes leaves them choiring to the preacher. | Al Kunz


Talk about fascination; Monsters Are Waiting is entrancing. This debut full-length is sweet yet edgy pop-rock, with enough ice cream and groove to rouse an instant block party. The band proves early they are capable of crafting an obvious hit but equally as interested in the fringe-chic. “Last Goodbye” exudes butterflies more like a first hello, and “Fascination” and “Ha-Ha” are equally special. The simple, hook-ish guitar lines are juxtaposed with rich amp noise. The vocal melodies are often doubled with angled guitar or a rich, surfing synth tone. The band balance is just right, with Annalee Fery delivering divine breathy sweetness. They are indeed monsters, though lovable, waiting for you to listen. | Nate Dewart


House music legend Paul Oakenfold tapped some pretty impressive talent for his latest album, including rap legendokenfold1_mark-van-lengen.jpg Grandmaster Flash, Pharrell Williams, and a surprisingly fresh track from actress Brittany Murphy. Murphy impressed me the most with her sexually charged vocals on “Faster Kill Pussycat.” Oakenfold has also once again achieved trance bliss on his instrumental tracks “Amsterdam” and “Praise the Lord.” The entire album is a fun journey into the world of house music filled with hypnotic beats and catchy hooks. Just be sure to keep a healthy stock of glow sticks and glitter handy, as this album could cause a rave to instantly break out in your car. | Jim Campbell


Michael ONeill’s soul is from the Lone Star State. His latest seamlessly slides from singer-songwriter, to country crooner, and on to rocked-up country with a detour into Cajun country for his cover of Little Feat’s “Dixie Chicken.” That’s something you’d expect from a three-named Texas singer, not a songwriter from the Pacific Northwest. Highlights are “96 Tears” (which isn’t a ? and the Mysterians cover) and a road trip report, “Austin,” that captures the spirit of that city the same way that Marc Cohn’s hit “Walking in Memphis” took you to the River City. | Al Kunz


There are two ostensibly distinct, yet implausibly coexistent, sides to Anjani Thomas’ voice. The first is a lilting soprano quality reminiscent of Ella Fitzgerald in her heyday; the second is a husky, textured alto undertone that evokes smoky jazz clubs and fine Kentucky bourbon. That she produces sleek, sublime jazz-pop seems perfectly natural. Thomas’ latest, Blue Alert, features dreamy, romantic piano fare that is smoldering and sensual at its best, a bit too languid at its worst. But it is this slow burn that makes the bulk of Blue Alert the ideal accompaniment for those sultry Southern summer nights. | Tracy M. Rogers


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