Quick Hits 2 | 06.06



Down to This: EP (Versatile)

RIYL: Chevelle, Breaking Benjamin, Audiovent

On Down to This’ self-titled EP, the Washington, D.C. quartet displays some pretty impressive musicianship. The album is just a taste of things to come from the band, including plenty of hard-rocking beats and soaring guitar runs. Their music is fresh and unpretentious, filled with textured vocals and a nice dose of hook-laden rhythms. On standout track “Funeral,” lead singer Gyom proves that he and his band have the skills needed to rock out with the best. While EPs normally annoy me, this particular EP was so impressive it has whetted my appetite for more. Be on the lookout for the band’s full-length album this summer. | Jim Campbell

Joy: Devil’s Blues (Shrimper)

It’s simple, crisp with deep undertones. It’s unfiltered and hoppy. No, not a wheat beer, it’s Joy’s Devil’s Blues. This delightful little ensemble of diddies will have you stepping lightly.

I have to admit, though, I was bored at first listen. It was sluggish with airy vocals, and I found it difficult to get involved with the slow twang grove of the album. But then the leaves grew, the flowers bloomed, and Devil’s Blues made me feel as though I was floating. I was sitting on my oak porch in my rocking chair, with hay between my teeth, looking out on my crop, and content. (OK, this is all in my head, but the music transported me!)

It’s not going to impress everybody. It’s not going to be on the radio. But give this album a chance; it’s good for the soul. | Katie Bordner

Various Artists: Punk Goes ’90s (Fearless)

RIYL: Nirvana, Björk, Marilyn Manson—all on punk rock karaoke night

Fearless Records’ latest release, Punk Goes ’90s is a fantastic look at hits from the ’90s interpreted by current bands. Like previous albums in this series (i.e., Punk Goes ’80s, Punk Goes Metal), there are some triumphs as well as disappointments. Where Mae’s take on Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs” bored me to tears, Copeland’s sensitive spin on Soundgarden’s “Black Hole Sun” blew me away. Scary Kids Scaring Kids gave REM’s “Losing My Religion” is nice kick in the ass, as did So They Say with their amped-up version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom.” The track that surprised me the most was Bleeding Through’s rendition of Hum’s 1993 sleeper hit “Stars.” Overall, the album is more fun than not, breathing new life into some pretty overexposed rock hits from the past. | Jim Campbell

Regina Spector: Begin to Hope (Sire/London/Rhino)

Begin to Hope, the new album from Regina Spektor, pops with infectiously over-synthesized instrumentals and head-bop–inducing beats. Much like Natalie Portman’s character in the recent Garden State (the Urban Outfitters imitation of independent filmmaking), Spektor’s aural makeover has reduced her quirky vocals and unexpected lyrics to the point of cutesiness. Bubblegum tunes such as “Fidelity” and “On the Radio,” showcased on the Sunday night favorite Grey’s Anatomy, finds Spektor humming along happily and snapping as she croons of both love and loss with enthusiasm and perkiness. The liberal use of the synthesizer works well for “Hotel Song,” which, with its references to “a little bag of cocaine,” is slightly reminiscent of a ’70s disco tune, while the rest simply seem to echo pop king Ben Folds. Has Spektor, too, joined the ranks of the once respected in a hypocritical search for radio play? Or perhaps, if we give her the benefit of the doubt, is Begin to Hope a self-referential mockery? All pretension aside, however, the album is thoroughly enjoyable and fun, albeit a little disappointing for her longstanding fans. | Emily Shaw

Retisonic: Levittown EP (Ascetic/Modern City)

RIYL: Bluetip, Washington, D.C. post-punk

Clocking in at 17 minutes, Retisonic’s six-cut follow up to 2004’s LP Return to Me isn’t a proper EP in the traditional sense—meaning that it doesn’t contain all new material—but a disc that feels as if it was hastily patched together. While Levittown has quality trackage in “!Curses!,” “In a Mean Town,” and “Switch It Up [Let It Go],” it also is weighted down by its snoozer of a title track and the inclusion of an acoustic version of “Absolutely You,” which was last heard electrified on Return to Me. Levittown isn’t a bad disc when judged on its musical merits, yet when gauged with what they’ve down in the past, it’s something of a minor disappointment. As with most EPs, Levittown serves as a tease for their forthcoming LP; however, unlike Rye Coalition’s abysmal Chariots on Fire EP—which preceded the equally abysmal Curses LPLevittown shouldn’t trigger any worries that Jason Farrell & Co. are prepping the world for something awful. True, this disc is a misstep. But they’re still Retisonic. | David Lichius

The Lovemakers: Times of Romance (Interscope)

RIYL: Duran Duran, Human League, Leg Warmers

Are the ’80s making a comeback? If the Lovemakers have anything to say about it, the answer is a definitive yes! On their latest release, Times of Romance, the band seems to be channeling both Duran Duran and Human League. Lisa Light and Scott Blonde share the vocals, while Jason Proctor and Josh Kilbourn round out a pretty nifty rhythm section. The band's sound is undeniably ’80s synth-pop with a modern dance sensibility. Just when I thought the album was getting into a rut, the band whips out something completely different with “Shake That Ass,” a fun and frisky song that, in fact, made me shake it. | Jim Campbell


The All American Rejects: Move Along (Interscope)

Does it really matter if this CD is no good? That’s the question you have to ask yourself after hearing the All American Rejects’ radio hit “Dirty Little Secret.” This Okalahoma four-piece has written a great guitar pop hit that quite possibly will become a classic. The hook is catchy, the melody stays with you, and the song just has that special something that makes it worth listening to over and over again. With a song like this, it’s worth owning the CD just so you can come back to it years later when it isn’t being overplayed. As for the rest of the CD, which attempts to continue with the guitar-pop sound, it really doesn’t live up to the single. Singer/bassist Tyson Ritter may have pulled off a strong vocal performance once, but he’s hard to listen to on the rest of the recording. His vocals are nothing short of annoying and come across a bit like nasally yelling, especially on tracks like “Move Along” and “11:11 pm” The guitar parts are painfully dull, even when the band brings acoustic guitar into the mix, and while the tracks are not very memorable, it’s almost a blessing not to have one of those songs in your head throughout the day. | John Kujawski 

Bullets and Octane: In the Mouth of the Young (RCA)

RIYL: Social Distortion, Brides of Destruction

This a high-energy, in-your-face rush of punk-influenced hard rock. They have ties to St. Louis yet have managed to stave off any lingering apathy by putting it out there full throttle. | Derek Lauer

Van Hunt: On the Jungle Floor (Capitol)

RIYL: Prince, Seal

The interns made the comment that this would be great music to make love to. Well, I just had to put that to a test. Let me tell you: Oh yeah, baby. A smooth voice combined with a huge production. Very nice. | Derek Lauer


Where Nothing Painted Blue | Taste The Flavor (Shrimper)

This disc wouldn’t be so bad…if it weren’t for the music, vocals, and lyrics. | Tyson Blanquart


Dredg: Catch Without Arms (Interscope)


What an incredible difference it makes to have a creative and capable rhythm section involved in the songwriting. This album is well recorded and diverse; I would expect to hear a lot more of these guys. | Derek Lauer



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