Friday, June 20, 2008

Picks from the pile

This morning I picked out three CDs at random from the pile of promos I’ve received over the last several weeks, and now I’m going to listen to them once and write down some general impressions. I am, of course, far more likely to pitch reviews of albums I’ve actually listened to, so if I like stuff, there’s a good chance I might spend more time on it and write a formal review (Though editors play a role in this, and they can always say no or at the very least, “It’s not a priority.”)

I’m going to try to do this once a week or so, because the piles are hella big and who knows, there might be some good stuff in there. Here we go:

Jay Brannan Goddamned (Great Expressions)
Soft, clever pop, artfully embellished with strings, guitars, piano, but eccentric enough not to cloy. For instance, right now, the guy is singing “I wanna be a housewife/What’s so wrong with that?” in his high smooth tenor, a gender switch that is all the more unsettling because it’s hard to tell from listening whether the singer is a boy or a girl. My favorite cut is “American Idol”, with the memorable line “American Idol/get the hell off my TV.” Yeah, who says you can’t be gentle and melodic and pissed off at the same time? Brannan is frequently a dead ringer for Sufjan Stevens, so if you like him, head over to the MySpace for more:

Or Jay’s website:

And here’s a video of the title track, “Goddamned”

The Weeks, The Weeks (Esperanza Plantation)
The cover blurb promises Southern boogie a la the Black Keys, Kings of Leon, but the first song (“Comeback Cadillac”) is more of a post-punker frenzy, with these giant stop-start riffs and not a mustache or southern accent in sight. Not bad, not quite a sale…let’s hear some more…ah, song two, “Teary-Eyed Woman” is all acoustic guitar and glockenspiel, more of a country thing? Nope, now there’s that razory punk riff and straight-up beat…this I kind of like, though it’s all over the place with at least three fundamentally different kinds of songs slapped together. You could pogo to it, no doubt, though, and that is a good thing. The all-important song #3 (have you noticed how many times the third song is the single?) “Altar Girl” is a bit simpler and more conventional, but not bad at all. I’m thinking American Princes as a reference point, a band that’s Southern by origin and occasionally lets it show, but is mostly a straight up rock-punk-garage kind of experience. Here’s the MySpace:

Drunk Stuntmen, State Fair
Okay, here’s the Southern Boogie we were looking for, that heel rockin’, back-leaning country blues beat. This band has been around forever and sets up its tents in Northampton, MA. I’m pretty sure we saw them one year at First Night, but this album is still kind of a surprise, way better than you’d expect from a plain label, self-release out of a band that no one seems to have heard of. I am really liking the instrumental break in “Every Third Thing,” a long sidewinding guitar solo, leading into some sort of electric piano boogie, and then a groove-repetitive vocal chorus a la Little Feat. This is my pick out of the three. There are all kinds of Drunk Stuntmen downloads and streams here:

And here’s the MySpace


The Time Machine said...


I too am surrounded by promos and I'm often overwhelmed by the amount of releases that arrive in the mail on a daily basis. There must be close to two thousand unlistened to albums as we roll past the middle of June. Yikes! Ever year the number gets higher and higher as indies kick the majors but it's difficult to find the time to listen to everything. For this reason alone, I appreciate you taking the time to crank out these quick reviews (or quick intial impressions).

The music of Jay Brannan is really good and I'm going to delve into the piles to see if it's here. If's off to the music store.

Have an awesome weekend!


The Time Machine said...

I can't believe that I forgot the commas. What kind of writer am I? *lol

The opening sentence should have read "I, too, am surrounded by..."


jenniferpkelly said...

Time Machine...I probably use so many unnecessary commas that if you skip them once in a while it balances out. I'm glad you're liking the Jay. I'll try to do this fairly often. It was sort of fun.