You Call These Platters? Locals Only

Some offerings of whimsy, sludge, cluelessness, gimmickry, disco and brilliant mediocrity Doug Shock's still the king of glam; Christina Horn transcends technique; and Arrison Kirby takes us to wonder



Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge)

On Spoon's latest album, frontman Brit Daniel describes the girl he's diggingâ" She never been to Texas/ Never heard of King Kong â"and you figure, like most of Daniel's tongue-in-cheek lyrics, he's kidding about the latter.

All joking aside, though, try asking 10 people on the street if they've heard of Spoon, and you'll probably receive about a 50/50 response. But play them the killer bass line of â“I Turn My Camera Onâ” or the toe-tapping, piano-laced beat of â“The Way We Get By,â” and the frequency of head nods will increase dramatically.

Since forming in 1994, Spoon has always found a way to pull us in to the rest of its experimentation with that one catchy single. Kill the Moonlight had â“The Way We Get By,â” Gimme Fiction had â“I Turn My Camera Onâ” and even Series of Sneaks had â“Car Radio.â” But besides â“The Underdog,â” which Spoon played for Letterman last week, the Austin, Tex.-based band's sixth album seems rather distant from its signature hook-heavy, reconstructed '60s pop.

The album is a â“growerâ” in the strictest sense. Diehard fans will be unsettled at first by the lack of a quickening backbeat on â“The Ghost of You Lingersâ” and â“My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,â” so skip to the rhythmic pop constructs of â“You Got Yr. Cherry Bombâ” or â“Don't Make Me a Target,â” which is the most delectable and vintage Spoon track.

Just give it a week. Ga will eventually become the earworm you expected, and you'll remember why you thought these guys were the Beatles incarnate. â"LaRue Cook


Given to the Rising (Neurot Recordings)

The ninth studio album from Oakland, Calif.'s seminal sludge rockers Neurosis finds the band taking leave of the more ruminative post-metal passages that marked its '04 release The Eye of the Storm , in favor of the sort of monolithic riff-based approach that characterized its best-loved albums. As has been the case with other pioneering post-metal outfits, the Neurots have taken heat from the purists as they've delved further into unchartedâ"at least in heavy rockâ"realms of ambient sound and textural diversity. But the criticism has been mostly undeserved; The Eye of the Storm was a fine record, filled with more ideas and more vivid dynamics than its latest release. But what Given to the Rising lacks in invention it more than makes up for in visceral thrust. The album-opening title track sets the tone, lumbering forward like an angry titan on a mission of vengeance, leaving little more than crushed bones and scorched earth in its wake. And even when set on Kill mode, Neurosis is still a damned sight more interesting than most any other sludge/doom outfit working today. Turn the volume knob up to â“11.â” â" Mike Gibson


Grow Up and Blow Away (Last Gang Records)

As another entrant in the category of new music that isn't exactly new, Emily Haines and her Metric brohams have dusted off their overlooked, out-of-print 1999 debut, Grow Up and Blow Away , complete with the usual repackaging, re-mastering, and remixes.

Unlike most indie rock archeological digs, however, these ancient songs don't showcase the established band in a state of adorable cluelessness. Instead, Grow Up and Blow Away sounds like a band that already has its shit together, with a smart, slick style that compares favorably to Metric's later power-pop material, while also hinting at the darker avenues that Haines eventually explored on her 2006 solo album.  

If there's a strange twist, it might be found in tracks like the appropriately named â“The Twistâ” and â“Raw Sugar,â” which induce dancing more in an old school Nelly Furtado sort of way than a Yeah Yeah Yeahs sort of way. In truth, the whole album does bear a bit of a blue-eyed R&B aesthetic, with Haines' piano playing and fluttery soprano adding depth to the synthy club rhythms around her. It's a dynamic quite remindful of that underappreciated Swedish outfit The Cardigans, but in the context of Metric's later developments, the comparison feels more like a coincidence.

The record's true highlight remains its lost gem of a title track, which features Haines' chilly delivery of the line, If this is the life, why does it feel so good to die today? Oddly enough, this song first saw the light of day six years ago in a TV commercial for Polaroid. Are you taking notes, Bishop Allen? â" Andrew Clayman

Bishop Allen

The Broken String (Dead Oceans)

To their credit, Brooklyn-based popsters Bishop Allen succeeded in their goal of releasing one new EP every month in 2006. Now, as a welcome relief to the fans who simply couldn't hitch themselves to that gimmicky wagon train, a Cliff's Notes version of the monthly project has arrived in the form of The Broken String â"the band's first full-length since 2003's Charm School .  

Nine of The Broken String 's 12 tracks are carryovers from the EPs, albeit rerecorded and smoothed out around the edges. The resulting mix feels impressively cohesive, with songwriters Christian Rudder and Justin Rice nestling nicely into the sort of folk-pop environment typically associated with sad bastards like Bright Eyes, M. Ward, and the Mountain Goats. Interestingly enough, though, The Broken String isn't a particularly sad record at all. In fact, songs like â“Rainâ” and â“Middle Managementâ” bounce around like the Gummi Bears, and â“Click Click Click Clickâ” just might be the most insidiously catchy single of the year. Take another picture with your click click click click camera! , Rice sings amid playfully plucked guitars and ting-ing bells. He is practically inviting Kodak and Fuji to duel for his commercial heart, so be warned. â" A.C.


Fancy Footwork (Vice)

The ever-shifting sands of hipster consciousness have brought us to a terrible place, the place where it is cool to like disco musicâ"unabashed disco that is delivered without a hint of irony. With angst as a prime commodity of most pop music, perhaps a bit of unfettered good times and rump-shaking is necessary in order to clear the bad vibes? Actually, the newfound focus on dance for dance's sake ain't such a bad thing.

Chromeo's latest opus, Fancy Footwork , is a joyful call to the discothÃque that is difficult to ignore. Mixing the sound of late 80s electro with the funk of The Bar-Kays and the gooey dance/pop schmaltz of the DeFranco Family or even Kid Creole and The Coconuts, the duo is leading a dance revolution with Justice, LCD Sound System, and the Ed Bangers bunch trailing close behind.

So, if you're willing to ditch the prefab â“seriousnessâ” of all that is modern rock, a good time awaits with Fancy Footwork . The album's banging beats, effortless funk, and endlessly catchy melodies are memorable and pure fun. Having no pretense of deep meaning or high art, Chromeo is what it is, and that's entertaining summer music with an edge. Are we so jaded that disco is the new punk? Maybe so, for this week anyway. â" John Sewell

Ryan Adams

Easy Tiger (Lost Highway)

For those who have kept up with Ryan Adams' ridiculously prolific career, his latest, Easy Tiger , is going to come as a shock. After all, we've been following Adams along a bumpy road for the last few years. We expect a Ryan Adams album to come with its share of duds, but also with its share of diamonds, equal parts brilliance and mediocrity, but always with enough bright spots to make it all worthwhile.

Easy Tiger is not the best Ryan Adams album. But it is the most consistent. Here we're introduced to a sober Adams. He's a man who's turned 32, grown out of his mercurial alter ego, and started making music the masses can appreciate, including Stephen King, who wrote a piece on Adams' iTunes page. This album, Adams' ninth, sounds nearly corporate. It sounds radio friendly. If not for the distinctive sound of Adams' voice, it might sound like someone else.

And, while previous Ryan Adams albums have leaned heavily toward one genre or another à Jacksonville City Nights being the twangiest, Rock n Roll the heaviest, Love is Hell the moodiest à this one is the least classifiable. It's as an album should be, the hard hitting mixed with the loose, and the melancholy crossed with the raucous. There are excellent tracks here. There's the hilarious and rollicking â“Halloween Head,â” the powerful â“Off Broadwayâ”, and the devastating final track â“I Taught Myself to Grow Oldâ”. But overall, true fans might find these tracks a little short, the lyrics a little contrived, and this new Ryan Adams a little too settled. â" Lisa Slade

Doug Shock Band

Floodwater (Blackpug Records)

Trivia: What local rock'n'roll group swept Metro Pulse 's first-ever Best Of awards back in 1992? Hint: They won Best Male Vocalist, Best Rock Band, and a showmanship award. Give up? That would be Sage, a straight-up hairband that saw its heyday back in the early '90s.

More than 15 years (and much less hair) later, lead singer Doug Shock (who worked in MP sales some 10 years after his Best Of triumph, but has since moved on) reemerges with his debut solo album Floodwater . True to history, this record maintains all the elements that characterize monster ballads and no-frills rock anthems: electric guitar runs; steady, uncomplicated drums; well-placed, gospel-like keys; and tight harmonies. In fact, the sultry back-up vocals of Lesley Lamb and Evelyn Jack are so powerful, they sometimes sound more like costars, rather than supporting characters.

What separates this record from its predecessors though is, according to Shock, the vulnerability of its lyrical content. â“Sage, man, those songs were all about getting fucked up and chasing women,â” he explains. â“ Floodwater is about honesty. I'm opening up a lot of personal stuff, and putting it to song. It was a very rewarding experience. These songs are about real stuffâ"things that have happened to meâ"not bubblegum rock crap. This is a real rock'n'roll record.â”

â“Fatherâ”, for example, is an open letter from Shock to his dad, about their deteriorating relationship. Check â“Day in the Lifeâ” and â“Angelâ” for more uptempo, balls-to-the-wall fare. The 10-track album also holds a bluesy instrumental called â“Sandpaper.â”

Look for a Floodwater CD release show around the end of July/ beginning of August, though the songs are already on sale at . Shock's next album shouldn't be far behind; it's already been written. â"Leah E. Willis

Hudson K

Safety Line (self-released)

The opening bars of Safety Line 's title track unfurl like a handful of piano keys tossed from an upper-story window, the crash of disjointed chords followed by a spiraling melodic descent. Christina Horn's haunting voice trails closely behind, at times defying gravity, at times pooling at the bottom of itself. As a classically trained pianist, the local musician's dedication to technique is evident, but there's a transcendence of academia at work here as wellâ"maybe a realization that classical music, so often considered an end in and of itself, can also function as a beginning.

With the assistance of Laura Bost on velvety backup vocals and Nathan Barrett on crisp percussion, Safety Line pushes past Horn's mastery of technique into the realm of intuition. The songs are as organic as they are works of musical architecture, calculated and preordained. If Horn's voice comprises the frame, her fingers lay the bricks that fill in the gaps in between, leaving just enough airspace for the compositions to breathe and expand. They say the eyes are the window of the soul; for Hudson K, it's the music.

Hear Hudson K live at its CD release party on Friday, July 27, 9 p.m. at the World Grotto. For a preview, the band is slated to play the WDVX Blue Plate Special on Thursday, July 19, at noon. The band's got one more Knoxville show on the books for Friday, Aug. 3, 8 p.m., at The Basement Gallery. â" Leslie Wylie

Arrison Kirby

Part 3 (El Deth)

El Deth's signature musical multi-talent, Arrison Kirby, has just cut a new album that eschews any notion of thematic consistency, diving headfirst into the arbitrary space of subconscious meanderings. It's a walkabout, a journey through the psyche, filled with magical MIDI squeaks and raucous guitarwork. There's even a languid meow echoing in the last moments of â“Nagano Return,â” an introspective downtempo piano melody. But what's most impressive is that Kirby makes each diversionâ"from grimy post-rock mania to jangle pop to exquisite fuzzboxâ"flow seamlessly into one another. It's the product of a mind that's never afraid to test the multifarious sonic topography, as the sounds overlap, bleeding into one another as the album progresses.

The opening song, â“Going Away,â” treks across a placid soundscape, building into shimmering, beautiful fuzz. If the plane goes down I'll die , Kirby sings, Without a question as to why . That about sums up the album, which is, as a whole, a cultic interpretation of neo-dada, bouncing merrily through Kirby's repertoire, finding inspiration at any given moment. There's meaning in the middle , he singsâ. All in vain .

But the real sweet spot can be found on â“Goodbye Again,â” with its seemingly out-of-place oompha beats and plenty of electric pops and whistles to fill the slack spaces. Intense introspection can be a bitch, but it sure makes for good music. â" Kevin Crowe


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