CD Reviews

BY DI ARTS STAFF | APRIL 14, 2009 7:30 AM

mp3 sample: Papercuts

"Future Primitive"

Papercuts’ latest needs more sunlight

Papercuts: You Can Have What You Want
*** out of *****

The theme of sun and shadow frequently appears throughout Papercuts’ third album, You Can Have What You Want. This motif is also evident in the contrast between the upbeat melodies and somber vocals which makes the CD distinct overall. Yet the album struggles to find the right balance between light and dark.

“The Machine Will Tell Us So” and “A Peculiar Hallelujah” are perfect examples of one thing: When both the tune and vocals are solemn, the songs are dull and melancholy. It takes around 30 seconds to even realize that the first song is over and the next one has begun.

If You Can Have What You Want was a road trip, “The Machine Will Tell Us So” is a major detour. The song is almost six minutes of boredom. It falters halfway through and then drags on for another three minutes making it seemingly endless, just like road work. “A Perfect Hallelujah” is Nebraska – flat, dreary, and monotonous. Both songs are perfect lullabies because they induce sleep and actually make it challenging to stay awake.

You Can Have What You Want is meant to be listened to somewhere quiet because the differences between songs are subtle, and listeners must hear the album numerous times in order to appreciate it.

“A Dictator’s Lament” and “Future Primitive” set themselves apart from the rest of the tracks. “A Dictator’s Lament” starts out sounding like elevator music but in a good way. It’s the kind of elevator music that’s perfect for interrupting strangers’ awkward silences. The melody is upbeat, the song builds, and the lyrics tell an compelling story.

“Future Primitive” starts out strong with a marching beat and the words, “I am a soldier in the world …” The vocals greatly enhance the beat, making this song shine. It is light, fun, and cheerful.

The lyrics are another asset. They seem simplistic, but it takes time to dig deeper and make meaning out of them almost like an enigma that needs to be solved. The lyrics are open which allows listeners to come up with their own interpretations. While Papercuts fails to get the ratio right, the light parts of You Can Have What You Want are definitely what listeners should crave.

Jenna’s picks: “Once We Walked In The Sunlight,” “A Dictator’s Lament,” “Future Primitive”

Fastball, flying straight at you

Fastball: Little White Lies
**** out of *****

Fastball first came into public consciousness with its 1998 release All the Pain Money Can Buy. Since the band’s glory days basking in the popularity of alt-pop/rock more than 10 years ago, the Texas trio has for the most part, fallen out of the limelight.

Little White Lies is Fastball’s first album since 2004, and it appears that the band is back with just as much fervor and musical prowess as ever. Hopefully, with a batch of new material, the group is ready to stage a comeback.

This album finds Fastball at a point where, just from listening to the record, you can tell the musicians are comfortable with what they do. The mostly upbeat, relaxed feel of Little White Lies is what makes this album accessible to all types of music fans. The overall refreshed sound is just different enough to attract new listeners, but it stays true to what longtime fans have become accustomed.

One thing that stands out is the band’s incredible ear for vocal harmonies. It is almost reminiscent of another time — think Beach Boys, the Beatles, and the like. This, paired with the light, poppier sound of tracks like “Mono to Stereo,” “She’s Got the Rain,” and “White Noise” make for a radio-friendly mix.

Certainly, Fastball is far from a nostalgia act. The group has managed to update its sound while still maintaining the fundamental elements that made the trio a sensation in the first place. One may expect a band that hasn’t been in the mainstream for such a long time to cave to what is trendy. However, for the sake of music fans everywhere, Fastball has done nothing of the sort.

Rebecca’s Picks: “All I Was Looking for Was You,” “Mono to Stereo”

Begone Dull Music

Junior Boys: Begone Dull Care
** out of *****

It might not have been a good idea to put the word “dull” in the title of an album, because that is the first word that popped into my mind listening to Canadian duo Junior Boys’ third album, Begone Dull Care. It put me to sleep. Literally.

Jeremy Greenspan and Matt Didemus have a hyper-melancholy electro-pop style all of their own. But it doesn’t seem to be working well on Begone Dull Care. It’s a B-O-R-E, a 58-minute blur of noise and whispers.

In the album’s opener, “Parallel Lines,” the boys ask: “If you found the words, would you really say them?” Well, boys, I think I found the words to describe how I feel about the new work. It sucks.
Yes, the duo’s style is innovative and means well. But if you want to experience a valiant effort, its sophomore album, So This is Goodbye, would be a better gauge. Begone Dull Care lacks the fun, diverse selection of songs found in previous work. If Goodbye was the party, Begone is the next-day hangover.

The slow steady beat of the album never ceases; there is no gusto. And if you can get past every track’s minute-long intro, you might find something you like in a song or two.

But if you like a funk-tastic song about baby-making and body parts, I direct you to track three, “Bits and Pieces.” Although there are some strange burping sounds in the background, who doesn’t like a song with such lyrics as, “I see it better when the lights are on” and a surprise saxophone solo in the middle?

“Dull to Pause” stands out with an exotic cutesy-intro. But annoying still is the breathless whisper of a voice so typical of the duo. I suggest taking a break between jogging and recording from now on.

Junior Boys’ sound may be one of a kind, but the duo didn’t do much with it on this album. Bring me back to Goodbye

Courtney’s picks: “Dull to Pause”, “Bits and Pieces”

Lady Sovereign Needs Help Putting Together Her Pieces

Lady Sovereign: Jigsaw
*1/2 out of *****

When listeners have to refer to a track’s title to know what an artist is singing about, it’s a bad sign. And of the 11 tracks that make up Lady Sovereign’s new album, Jigsaw, I needed help figuring out the words to nine of them.

In addition to the way she borders on being unintelligible — which is no doubt the unfortunate byproduct of pairing the blazing speed of rap with a heavy British accent — Lady Sov’s beats are far from spectacular because of their overwhelming senses of familiarity.

In “I Got You Dancing,” she repeats the same phrase so many times I began to question if my track was damaged. In “So Human,” the upbeat repetition of the same four synthesized sounds take us back to the day when we first heard “Girlfriend,” sung by that punky Canadian chick who had pink streaks in her hair and wore men’s ties. In “Food Play,” the voice of the Lady bears a striking resemblance to the underpants gnomes we have come to know and love on “South Park.”

Jigsaw is also disappointing because of how similar it is to Lady Sovereign’s previous album, Public Warning. On Jigsaw, we get the same curses and insults directed at obnoxious blokes, the same hard-core and street-savvy swagger, and we are asked to relive the same details of late nights at open bars as we did the first time around. It seems like it’s too much to ask of the Lady —a self-proclaimed “top-notch bitch” — to take her rhymes to the next level.

Even though I want to like Lady Sovereign because of how hard she tries to implant herself in a male-dominated music genre and because of how empowered she appears to be, her erratic and finicky sounds are better suited for movie montages, where we can still listen to them without actually having to pay attention.

From a forest comes rock

Metric: Fantasies
*** out of *****

When first listening to Metric’s new album, Fantasies, there is a noticeable similarity to other girl/guy rock groups such as No Doubt. But with its collection of pop melodies infused with a rock edge and experimental sound, Metric offers its own fresh take on pop-rock.

The Canada-based quartet wrote most of Fantasies while secluded deep in a forest near Seattle. After taking time off for individual endeavors, the band members wanted to become better acquainted while writing its album and therefore immersed themselves in nature. Despite Fantasies being a product of isolated development, the album is anything but calm and soft.

The first track, “Help I’m Alive,” is repetitive lyrically but gives listeners a good introduction to the album’s experimental-pop sound.

Of Fantasies’ 10 tracks, Metric rarely ventures into slower, ballad-esque songs, which works to the band’s advantage. “Collect Call,” falling in the middle of the album, starts sluggishly and quickly takes away energy Metric built up through previous tracks. As the song continues, the chorus attempts to pick up the tempo, but it doesn’t quite get there.

From the vocals to the melody, “Sick Muse” is probably the album’s biggest success. It’s one of the poppier tracks but still encompasses Metric’s distinct edgy sound. The track also shows the band’s ability to distinguish between Emily Haines’ vocals and the instruments, allowing each to complement the other instead of becoming overbearing. Although Haines doesn’t stand out on any particular track, her range improves as the album progresses.

Metric’s Fantasies may not be brilliant, but it’s filled with catchy, sometimes dark tracks that are worth a listen.

Kelly’s Picks: “Sick Muse” and “Gimme Sympathy”

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