Oh, Canada

Canadian art rockers rip it up, and American machismo falls flaccid


The Old Soul

The Old Soul (Hand of God Records/Universal)

The Old Soul, a Canadian band fronted by Luca Maoloni, has delivered one of the more interesting retro-hybrid records to come along in a while. Its self-titled debut disc pays homage to, lifts from, and pokes fun at, every pseudo-sophisticated classic rock format, from '60s psychedelia to '70s art-rock, and does so with style.

A couple cuts of note include a quirky little ditty currently tearing up the indie-airwaves titled â“Nectar of The Nitwitâ” and â“Vegetables,â” a cover plucked from the once obscure Brian Wilson solo project Smile . Van Dyke Parks , who penned the lyrics to the original, digs the track. Says Maoloni, â“He loves new musicâ Van Dyke Parks is a fan.â”

Maoloni, who writes all of the band's material and plays multiple instruments, is just another of a growing list of contemporary artists that cite the ex-Beach Boy's work as a huge influence. And no wonder. With so much sameness in the post-grunge hangover that has become progressive-alternative, these are sonic paths that have rarely been trod over the past three decades.

The record oozes nostalgia. Layered sounds that frequented the O.A.R. era pour out in abundance. Maoloni orchestrates with keen virtuosity a blend of horns, strings, synths and even banjos, generously injected with ample musical hooks. With so many tools at its disposal, The Old Soul delivers infectious melodic morphings, recalling pop giants from Genesis to ELO to Wings. It's refreshing stuff for souls old and new alike.

â" Brad Case


The Reminder (Cherry Tree/Interscope)

Whether you met her through Canadian indie-rock supergroup Broken Social Scene or got sucked in via her solo career, it's near impossible not to be enamored by Leslie Feist. Her voice is as multi-dimensional as it is versatile, as comfortable breezing through a French jazz-pop composition (see 2005's Let It Die ) as it is careening alongside nichier artistic ventures (check out BSS's 2002 masterpiece You Forgot It in People ). So it's no surprise that her latest album, The Reminder , spins Feist's talent in yet another direction.

Recorded in a 200-year-old manor house on the outskirts of Paris, the album takes on the essence of its environsâ"hardwood floors, birds chirping outside on the old stone patio, instruments crammed into every nook and cranny. Beautiful, desolate, piano-driven songs like â“The Waterâ” are nothing short of haunting, proving once again that, in music, minimalism can pack a greater punch than density. At other moments, the album rebounds with a carefree nonchalance that is summertime personified, all upbeat vocals and plucky guitars and melodies that resonate well beyond their expiration.

But while the territory each song explores varies, a common thread serves to string the album together. It's a kind of honesty, laid bare without the makeup that over-instrumentation can sometimes be, allowing Feist's stream-of-consciousness poetry to speak for itself: Oh, I'll be the one who'll break my heart ,/ I'll be the one to hope/ I'll end it, though you started it/ The truth, the lies.  

â" Leslie Wylie

Young Jeezy

U.S.D.A.: â“Cold Summerâ” (Def Jam)

Just how many ways can one man describe the beautiful rain of dollars bills over a young, nubile stripper? For Young Jeezy, well, misogyny has become an art, whether he's slinging cocaine or just reveling in his own machismo. You know I got my eyes on that money , Young Jeezy sings on â“Focus.â” Survive anywhere, 'cause we came from the streets .

As usual, Jeezy combines simplistic, wannabe angry rhymes with even simpler music, which usually sounds more like a marching band's halftime performance than a raw, dirty beat. Sometimes, like on â“Check,â” sheer enthusiasm makes up for a lack of substance, but the thrill of pure sleaze only feels fresh for a short time.

U.S.D.A. is a tour through the underworld, painting a picture of young thugs who carve their own destinies by slinging rock. We've heard it before. What else do you have to tell us? Hey, Jeezy, remember when you did â“Soul Survivorâ”? You said: At night I can't sleep/ We living in hell/ First they give us the work then they throw us in jail . I thought that almost meant something, maybe, if it came out 10 years earlier. Now you brag about being able to please your lover so fast that you'll even leave [your] Nikes on . Sounds like you've gotten lazy on us.

And on â“Throw This,â” you tell us that you're, once again, spending money at the strip club. Yeah, we know it's fun, but we smoked crack and saw a bunch of naked chicks last time.

â" Kevin Crowe


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