Quick Hits 2 | 07.06

Books About UFOs: Let the Bridges Ignite (Sickboy)
RIYL: The Hives, Rye Coalition, The (International) Noise Conspiracy
When the well of band names has finally gone dry, what better place to go digging than stealing a song title from your favorite band? The logic, I assume, is that fans of said band will recognize your tip of the hat and check you out, but that would assume your band actually sounds like the band you’re referencing. Salt Lake City’s Books About UFOs bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Hüsker Dü song from which they steal their name, instead alternating between sounding like the Hives and sounding like the Hives as fronted by Fugazi’s Guy Picciotto. The band’s “saltcore” (their term, not mine) sound on the punched-up title track or the full-tilt rave-up “Architecture Won’t Save You” will turn the heads of garage rock fans, but there’s not enough new or memorable here to stand out to the uninitiated. There’s fun to be had here—especially on the hidden track, a white-hot take on Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge”—but Let the Bridges Ignite is probably best left in the hands of those already worshipping at the garage rock altar. | Jason Green

Bril: Airless Alarm (Kirtland)
Damn, if Bril vocalist/guitarist Dave Starr doesn’t have a serious set of pipes (not to mention that just-out-of-bed tousled hair look…). Despite a solid if unremarkable opening slot on Blue October’s recent tour, Bril proves itself a modern rock force with its debut album, Airless Alarm. These 11 songs are catchy, well performed, and thoroughly enjoyable. True, the band—including Kris Winrich on guitar, Scott Nelson on bass, and Kelly Winrich on drums—is tight and polished, but it’s the vocals I keep coming back to. Starr’s got that perfect mix of nasal-whine and falsetto that gets me every time. You feel his longing on the aching, heartfelt “Whenever You’re Gone,” while the falsetto on “Love Suicide” reaches near-Coldplay proportions. Other highlights include the rocking (and rhyming) “Masquerade Parade,” the stripped down title track, and the dreamscape-y “Lush.” Airless Alarm will slip easily onto the airwaves and into your summer soundtrack. | Laura Hamlett

Susan Cagle | The Subway Recordings (Lefthook/Columbia)
RIYL: Ashlee Simpson, Kelly Osbourne, Avril Levine
Susan Cagle’s debut album, The Subway Recordings, is a risky venture. Seeing how the pop singer got her start while singing in the subway stations of New York, it probably made sense to make her first disc a live one. Splicing together performances from shows at Times Square and Grand Central stations, the album showcases the singer in her natural habitat. However, recording her debut disc with ambient train noises in the background caused the singer’s voice to sound washed out. Musically, Cagle excels by writing solid lyrics mixed with hooky pop, R&B, and soul overtones. Ultimately, it Cagle’s undeniable passion and infectious spirit made me want to yell, “All aboard!” | Jim Campbell

DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince | We Are the ‘80s (Legacy/Jive)
RIYL: Young MC, Tone Loc
Back in the day, rap music used to fun and playful, MCs battling with words rather than guns. Right in the middle of the so called “golden era” of rap, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince started to get their collective groove on. From the goofy “Parents Just Don’t Understand” to the slick “Summertime,” this duo knew how to deliver the goods without having to resort to using profanity or cheap theatrics to please their fans. The collection’s high point is the last track, a live version of “I Wanna Rock” wherein Jeff shows off how just how jazzy he was on the turntables. Overall, the 14-song retrospective is a fun romp down memory lane when rap was fun and high-top fades were actually in style. | Jim Campbell

Escape the Fate: There’s No Sympathy for the Dead (Epitaph)
RIYL: Atreyu, Taking Back Sunday, and Story of the Year
Las Vegas has many great attractions, including casinos, rollercoasters, and magic shows. The city is also the hometown of Escape the Fate, a young, five-member band with an appealing sound that makes good use of both metal and indie rock influences. While, on paper, this may sound like a bit of a gamble, with this five song EP, they certainly have created a winner. Not only the fact that the guitar riffs and the drum parts are so well played, but the vocals are exceptionally strong. Lead singer Ronnie Radke sounds great over the well-layered, two-guitar sound. He has the ultimate rock ’n’ roll voice and puts everything he can into his performance. The background vocals tend to be more like screams, but Radke carries a solid melody consistently. Songs like “The Ransom” and “As You’re Falling Down” are great examples of Radke’s passionate vocals; musically, there are enough great melodies and hard-hitting rhythms to keep a listener hooked from start to finish. | John Kujawski

Halifax: The Inevitability of a Strange World (Drive-Thru)
RIYL: Jimmy Eat World, Thrice, Fall Out Boy
Lots of emo bands wear their Get Up Kids and Promise Ring influences on their sleeves, but few rep for hair metal as flagrantly as Halifax does on “Our Revolution,” the second song on their debut album The Inevitability of a Strange World, where the blazing guitar intro and shouted chorus are lifted wholesale from Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.” Guitarists Christ Brandt and Adam Charles can shred with the best of them, but unfortunately, that’s about all this album has to offer. With the explosion of pop-punk groups in recent years, a band needs something original to stand out, and the best Halifax has to offer is bland emo stylings over guitar wankery, as if the main thing missing from Jimmy Eat World was Dave “the Snake” Sabo. Unlike the Academy Is… or Panic! At the Disco, there are no witty lyrics, and unlike Fall Out Boy or the All-American Rejects, there are no big catchy melodies, just big guitars and not much else. | Jason Green

Marvin Sease: Candy Licker: The Sex & Soul of Marvin Sease (Jive/Legacy)
RIYL: Bobby Rush, Clarence Carter, Johnnie Taylor
Marvin Sease knows just how to please a woman, and if song titles like “Do You Need a Licker?” and “I Ate You for My Breakfast” don’t give you some idea what his technique might be, well, you need to get out more. Candy Licker plucks songs from the singer’s recent work for Jive in lieu of his earlier, more popular work—his lone hit single, the over-the-top title track, only appears in a live version. The dirtiest of the dirty bluesmen, Sease spends a bit too much time concentrating on cunnilingus, and the chintzy synths and drum machines on songs like the egregiously bad, 2Pac-aping “Hoochie Momma” make Sease sound like Billy Ocean’s perverted uncle. His tales of cheating and heartbreak, however, fare much better. Sease has a better-than-average voice, and he can tear it up on some old-school, Otis Redding–style soul, as he amply proves on the blues-y “I’m Sinkin’ Down” and the killer “Don’t Forget to Tell on You,” where Sease reminds his lover—his wife’s best friend—that if she’s going to tattle on him, she better tattle on herself, too. The raunch may scare off some soul fans, but there’s still plenty here to like. | Jason Green

Sensations: Listen to My Shapes (Camera)
RIYL: The Kinks, Sloan, The Mother Hips
Sensations is a side project for Greg Loiacono of the are-they-broken-up-or-aren’t-they Bay area underground band the Mother Hips. Though the Hips just recently reunited for an EP last year and are in the midst of recording their first full-length LP in five years, Loiacono, Hips bassist Paul Hoaglin, and ex-Cake drummer Todd Roper got together to record this quickie album under the name Sensations. A throwback to classic ’60s pop, Sensations try to capture the sound and scope of the Kinks and, on some songs, they wildly succeed, like the semi-psychedelic pop opener “Incredible Man,” the rollicking country of “Slow to Show,” and the stomping garage rocker “He’s So Brave.” “This All According to You” is another standout, an interesting blend that sounds like Tom Petty covering the Velvet Underground. Other songs, however, feature massive missteps, such as the Middle Ages minstrelsy of “Winds of Emotion”—the way Loiacono rhymes “Algernon” with an over-pronounced “emo-she-yon” will make you wince—and the bland Simon & Garfunkel rip “Avery (I Hear You)” may put you to sleep. Still, Listen to My Shapes is a largely enjoyable affair, a throwback to the ’60s sound without the modern flourishes an Elephant 6 band might have added. | Jason Green

Bruce Springsteen: We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions (Sony)
RIYL: Lead Belly, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Woody Guthrie
Pete Seeger. The name speaks different meanings to different generations, perhaps only faintly. An ardent Leftist, he carried on and popularized the music that Woody Guthrie, Lead Belly, and others from the Depression’s counterculture brought to the fore. This combination of political awareness and entertainment would blossom in the ’60s. Seeger, though, offered his thoughts during a time when certain comments could get you pulled before a Senate inquiry (as he was). Seeger’s political legacy is common among many musicians today, with varying degrees of success. His musical legacy, the engine that transported the message, also deserves review.
Thanks to Bruce Springsteen’s We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions, it receives that review and Springsteen proves to the ideal interpreter. He follows not only the songbook, but the spirit that Seeger eschewed. With 13 songs spanning Seeger’s career, Springsteen gathered a dozen-plus musicians and recorded the album live over several days. Springsteen breathes new life into the songs while remaining true to their original intent and emotion. They speak of struggle, the futility of war, and righting wrongs. The songs, as unfortunately relevant today as they were decades ago, offer Springsteen the opportunity to show the thread on which he travels. With The Seeger Sessions, Springsteen honors Seeger (who turned 87 this May) and carries the torch to a new generation who will, hopefully, pay attention. | Jim Dunn

The Walkmen:  A Hundred Miles Off (Record Collection)
RIYL: The Pogues, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown
Listening to this album was analogous to eating an ice cream sandwich, but instead of ice cream, it’s ten layers of sandpaper. Top and bottom: splendid. Middle: ouch, ouch, ouch. First, the chocolate layer: “Louisiana.” It has a delightful Caribbean sway, with horns—a brilliant tribute to a place that I would have loved to visit once upon a time. Then it becomes apparent that the Walkmen recorded and mixed this album slightly different than their previous ones. The tremendous character of Hamilton Leithauser’s voice that makes for an enriching trajectory is overdone: too much tension. With very little depth, breadth, or volume in the instrumentation, the composite is a floating concrete wall. The drums, which previously made songs like “Wake Up” (from Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone) a ballsy anthem are meek. Times this ten. So on to the closing layer of glee. “Another One Goes By” is back to the Latin vibe, again with horns, where the vocals are more carefree. If you appreciate the niche that the Walkmen have carved out, then there is a chance you’d like this album, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. | Nate Dewart

Zonk: Half Human (Harmony Machine)
RIYL: Dee-Lite, Portishead, De La Soul
This is a summer suggestion: If you are going to be human, choose the half that grooves. San Francisco’s Zonk offers a sound that falls in between Dee-Lite and Portishead…and does so comfortably. The quartet of Nic McFiendish, Dave L, Uncle Bergie, and DJ Red5 present a slow, groove-infested seven-song EP with compact beats, breathy vocals, and cool jams. It is that cool breeze that blows through a hot summer night: gentle, but moving. Especially check out the jazzy “Audio Caffeine” and the butt-shaker “Sold It for a Song.” The band has a full-length coming out in the near future; the groove in our hearts (and butts) waits in anticipation. | Jim Dunn

Nick Colionne: Keepin’ It Cool (Narada Jazz)
RIYL: George Benson, Russ Freeman
Nick Colionne is a smooth jazz guitar player with a beautiful feel for melody and phrasing. A high quality recording with some fine songwriting. | Derek Lauer

Eric Darius: Just Getting Started (Narada Jazz)
RIYL: David Sanborn, Bob Berg, Marcus Miller
This is a top-notch modern jazz saxophone album reminiscent of the work David Sanborn did with Marcus Miller. Darius has surrounded himself with the finest players and meticulously crafted a collection of songs that are widely palatable to more than just a jazz audience. | Derek Lauer

Charlie Musselwhite: Delta Hardware (Narada Jazz)
RIYL: Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Buddy Guy
This is an authentic-sounding blues album—and it should be, considering that Charlie Musselwhite had played in his earlier days with the likes of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters. He paints raw portrait drawing from his years of experience with both the Mississippi Delta and Chicago style sounds. | Derek Lauer


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About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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