Music

New Sounds

Carolyn Mark and the New Best Friends The Pros and Cons of Collaboration
(Mint) There’s not a single singer/songwriter on the planet who can
capture the feel of a party better than Carolyn Mark. Not necessarily wild,
drunken orgies, either—although “Hangover,” from her new
disc The Pros and Cons of Collaboration, does a pretty great job of
describing the head-pounding aftermath of a night-long drinking binge.
(“Oh the pain!” she moans, all but clutching her head in agony.
“Oh the pain! Oh the horror and pain!”) Instead, some of the best
tunes on Collaboration consist of Mark’s rambling, funny evocations of
smaller dinnertime get-togethers and nights out on the town. On
“Chantal and Leroy,” Mark goes barhopping with two of her friends
(the owners of a “sublet love nest”), and her account of their
activities is so lively you can’t help but wish you’d been asked
along: “While I found a place to ditch my glass/Chantal pissed under
the underpass/And Leroy he was pouting so we grabbed his shadow’s
ass.” And on “Yanksgiving,” Mark talks about spending
American Thanksgiving with some buddies in Washington—when Toby Keith
performs the halftime show during a televised football game, Mark exclaims to
her host, “Oh my God, Jon, can you believe this shit?” Mark has
one of the most appealing personalities in all of Canadian music: the
down-to-earth, fun-loving gal whose only fault is that she drinks a bit too
much—if you’re uptight enough to consider that a fault. Her
lyrics are always fresh, funny and completely free of bullshit:
“Baby’s got one big regret/One big regret, it’s true/More
in love with this cigarette/Than I’ll ever be with you,” she
sings on “2 Days Smug and Sober.” Who can resist a woman who
croons wistfully about “totally dreaming about Vincent Gallo
again” or confesses to lifting the best line in one of her songs from a
Charles Portis novel or concludes a disc with a hilarious “closing
credits” track that announces that the album was brought to you by
“Bin 555 and beaver-flavoured chips”? Short answer: nobody. SSSS
—Paul Matwychuk Various Artists The OC: Mix 1 (Warner Sunset) If
there’s anything journalism teaches you, it’s never to presume. A
glance at the tracklist for this tie-in for the Fox-TV prime-time sudser
might make you think the show is actually worth watching. Here you’ve
got leftfield gems like South’s acoustic epic “Paint the
Silence,” the Doves masterpiece “Caught by the River” and
Turin Brakes’s “Rain City.” In fact, it’s a pretty
tight package of sophisticated pop, a rather savvy mixtape made by a cool
friend who’s uncovered some pretty tunes by Finley Quaye
(“Dice”), Spoon (“The Way We Get By”) and the 88
(“How Good It Can Be”). How bad could the show be? Well, it was
enough to make me tune in last week and shudder at the horrifically wooden
acting and utterly implausible situations that make Beverly Hills 90210 look
like Glengarry Glen Ross. In fact, the show sort of cheapens the good taste
of whoever compiled this disc, leaving you to wonder whether they’ve
compromised themselves. But that would be presumptuous. SSS —Dave
Johnston Minus Story The Captain Is Dead Let the Drum Corpse Dance
(Jagjaguwar) There’s something awfully playful and infectious about
this Lawrence, Kansas foursome. Despite their attempts to dress up their
music with as many layers of guitars, keyboards and studio trickery as
possible, the charm of Minus Story is that each and every track on their
third album is simply another stab at joyous cacophony. Nick Christus
clatters away at the drum set like a three-year-old banging away on pots and
pans, and the vocals of Jordan Geiger and Andy Byers sound as though
they’re reinventing schoolyard rhymes with a rock edge. Sure, all the
precious caterwauling will undoubtedly inspire the too-cool-for-school set to
foist the dreaded “post-rock” tag on Minus Story. But truthfully,
the music would be strong enough to stand on its own merits even if all the
bells and whistles were taken away. Cohesion is obviously not a worry, but in
the end it really doesn’t seem to matter. Minus Story are all about
bringing the noise—and I say turn it up! SSSS —Steven Sandor
Various Artists Urban Beat Reggae: Dancehall Massive Culture (Heartbeat)
After eight years, Heartbeat Records has finally released a follow-up to
their first Urban Beat Reggae compilation. Was it worth the wait? Well, maybe
not eight years’ worth, but it’s still a solid collection that
seems interested primarily in bridge-building and bringing more people to the
sound. To this end, the album includes such top-selling crossover Jamaican
artists as Sean Paul, Beenie Man, Beres Hammond, Lady Saw and Dawn Penn, as
well as top-level artists like Tony Rebel and Anthony B—all in all, an
expectation-raising lineup. But while it’s a well-produced anthology
that will help move any party along, it might be a little too polished for
the hardcore dancehall crowd whose allegiance will already be tested by the
presence of so many club-oriented remixes. In fact, this whole album lacks
rawness and deep groove, perhaps because of its desire to appeal to a more
urban American audience. It should have no problem accomplishing
that—most of these tracks could easily slip into the repertoire of any
enterprising dance club DJ. SSSs —James Elford Richard X Back to Mine
(DMC) The electroclash movement plundered the ’80s by updating the shit
out of it in a series of nearly apologetic remixes, as if the era were
something to be embarrassed about. Richard X shows no such shame—he
seems to like the funny little decade just fine. Classic and unaltered
numbers like Animotion’s “Obsession,” a favourite of
Fashion Television, and Trans X’s “Living on Video” sit
prettily in his eclectic installment of the Back to Mine chillout series even
though both would still kick ass on any dance floor. But it’s the blend
of old and new stuff that really gives Mr. X’s mix a timeless appeal.
Any mix that can time travel between the eerie soundtrack work of John
Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” to modern tunes from
crazy divas like Kelis (with “Young Fresh ’n’ New”)
and Goldfrapp’s dusky “Black Cherry” while also channeling
Heaven 17’s “Let Me Go” warrants respect. And the inclusion
of Jona Lewis’s goofily self-explanatory “You’ll Always
Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties” prove that in spite of his obvious
tastes, Richard X doesn’t take himself too seriously. SSSS —Yuri
Wuensch Gary Jules Trading Snakeoil for Wolftickets (Universal) If it
weren’t for Donnie Darko, it’s likely San Diego singer/songwriter
Gary Jules would have continued toiling away in coffee shops. Instead, thanks
to the overwhelming popularity of Jules’s cover of Tears for
Fears’s “Mad World,” coffee shops around the world will now
percolate and steam your latte to the rhythm of the spare melodies of Trading
Snakeoil for Wolftickets. It’s not an awful record by any stretch,
though—there’s a meditative, hypnotic quality to Jules’s
performances which never spills over into self-importance. His ode to the
City of Angels, “DTLA,” is a clap-happy ditty, and probably the
most propulsive bit of work on the whole album; most everything else is
brought close to the mic, the words sighed rather than roared. It’s a
nice patio record, that’s for sure. And it’s not nearly as freaky
as Donnie Darko. SSSs —Dave Johnston

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