Dividing Blue from Blue
These kids have got it down: that 'ethereal sound' and the whimpering lyrics both marching beneath the agonized flag of indie rock, Northwest style. The well-executed, sincerely worded songs tinker with an eerie glow, betraying a debt to the Cure's influence. It is a quality that sets Woke Up Falling a little bit apart from its overpopulated peer group, a distinction that leaves the nail-biting music world to ponder the impasse of an era in which a Cure comparison can be considered pushing the envelope. It's as gorgeous as it is tired.
A Story in White
The new one from Anglo-emo band Aereogramme is light as a feather and stiff as a board. Resplendent with sky-filling symphonic strains, rumbles and shrieks of guitar brutality and sensitive (sometimes screaming) vocals, this album always surprises and never compromises. But despite its wide range of emotion, 'White' is a single cohesive work, iced into a musical confection by rhythmic sheets of noise and tinkling piano. Dichotomous, engaging and ultimately satisfying, 'A Story in White' is a blizzard of wonderful.
Our Constant Concern
There are many things about San Francisco's Mates of State that seem like they shouldn't work in a rock band context. Comprising husband and wife team Jason Hammel and Kori Gardner, this melodious duo dish up clever pop songs about relationship peaks and valleys. Hammel and Gardner sing together, usually happy in their embrace of the same lyrics. There are other times, as in 'Hoarding it for Home,' when they fling phrases at each other as if locked in a musical argument with tight, sunny harmonies. Propping up this arrangement are legions of chipper and cheap-sounding keyboards bounding off in all directions paced by strategic drums. The overall effect of songs such as 'Quit Doin' It' and 'As Night as Now' suggests intimate moments from a marriage counseling session as enacted with childlike instruments and marvelous singing. After a few listens, the whole business proves exciting and groove-worthy. Fans of local heroes Quasi should be utterly charmed.
Mates of State play at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 23, Meow Meow, 527 S.E. Pine St.
The Battle of Electricity
More off-kilter charm from down Athens, Ga., way. The Gerbils are a passel of knowledgeable instrumental cats who have lent their talents to twitchy recordings by Neutral Milk Hotel and Olivia Tremor Control. There is some similarity to those groups found on 'The Battle of Electricity,' with its organic, awkward trippiness casting a happily disorienting glow over each song. 'The Air We Share' has a comfy, back porch feel to it, with low voices joined together in a spiritual mutter. 'The Lucky Girl' has an ambling melody bumped along by acoustic guitars and lowing horns resulting in something like an impromptu collaboration between Brian Wilson and They Might Be Giants. 'Meteoroid from the Sun Strikes a Dead Weirdo' and 'A Song of Love' are head-imploding jolts of fuzz rock fixed at Tilt-A-Whirl tempos. With their woozy horns, keyboard squiggles and unpretentious singing leading the way, the Gerbils have stumbled upon and somehow assembled something lively and invigorating: Salvation Army jug band garage music? It's much better than it sounds. (JC)
Flying Side Kick
The Home Alive group came into being after the murder of Gits' singer Mia Zapata, and its aim is to promote self-defense for women. The danger in releasing a politically motivated compilation is that the band's contributions are often so zealously appropriate that the message is overkilled, alienating the listener. 'Kick É' threatens, then thwarts such threats, quickly relaxing into a commendably well-rounded collection of modern rock. Standing far out from the crowd is a sweet, sad contribution from Carissa's Wierd and a blessedly un-Stonesy sonic shred of honesty from the Makers.
One of the most unfairly forgotten personalities from the '60s pop scene was producer-songwriter Curt Boettcher, who gained early fame as a whiz kid producer and arranger for hit songs by the Association ('Cherish,' 'Along Comes Mary') and Tommy Roe ('Sweet Pea'). This three-CD set chronicles his work with folk-harmony group the Ballroom and most importantly features a great deal of music from the Millennium, a group formed by Boettcher and several other Los Angeles musicians as a studio band that could create sophisticated, orchestral pop in the style of the Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds.' Yet there are moments on 'Magic Time' that stand just as tall (if not taller) than anything that came from Brian Wilson's sonic sandbox. True, there are some unfashionably 'groovy' lyrical excursions, but Boettcher's talent for painstaking vocal arrangements and the meticulous layering of instruments is breathtaking. (JC)