Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rio En Medio, Justin Moyer in drag and some decent power pop

An unusual amount of web activity, today...something for everybody, I hope.

Rio En Medio
Manimal Vinyl

Rio En Medio's Danielle Stech-Homsy has one of pop music's most wispy and delicate voices, a thread of melody that slips into and under gossamer textures of guitar, synthetic blips and field recordings. Her first album, The Bride of Dynamite in 2007, set her ethereal template, with dreamlike lyrics wrapped in crinkled tissue layers of sound. With Frontier, she has turned a shade more electronic, a bit less faerie-magic folky, with the blurts and wheeze of synthesizer percolating under clear currents of song.



I had a couple of other reviews up this week at PopMatters. Some of you might remember Antelope, Justin Moyer’s very jittery, minimalist post-punk project, which I liked very much. He’s got another band, sort of an alter-ego really, called Edie Sedgwick. The music is not very different from Antelope, but I had some problems with the celebrity oriented lyrics…Anyway, here’s the last paragraph of the review:

“Moyer is, obviously, a provocateur, throwing musical Molotov cocktails to see people jump. He’s good at what he does, clever with the lines, cuttingly funny, and skilled at the minimalist, rhythmically compelling arrangements that frame his satire. Perhaps there is some larger agenda at work, a critique of celebrity, a use of outrageousness as a tool to get people thinking. But you can’t help but wish Moyer would focus his considerable intelligence and musical ability on something more serious. (There is one political song, “Bambi/G.W. Bush”, but it doesn’t go very deep.) I mean, really, after you’ve punctured the cult of Rob Lowe, made fun of Mary-Kate’s stick legs, and called Angelina on her self-promoting philanthropy, what’s next? The dark side of Zac Efron? The terrible absurdity of Miley Cyrus? These kinds of celebrities are caricatures already. Why waste time satirizing them?”

“Sissy Spacek”

And then there was another really pretty solid power pop record from Transit of Venus (who also have Julie Ocean and the Trolleyvox on their roster)…this one from Like a Fox. My review from today’s PopMatters:

Like A Fox, Where’s My Golden Arm (Transit of Venus)
Philly’s Transit of Venus has become sort of a hub for 1960s-loving power pop, first with the Trolleyvox, later Julie Ocean, and now Like a Fox. This latest band follows the crunchy guitars and catchy melodies trajectory of the other two, with a big dose of Beatlemania. You can hear a dash of 1990s lo-fi, even Elephant 6 fantasy in the skewed acoustic strums that open “A Feeling that Launched a Thousand Wars”, as songwriter Jay Laughlin sings through a cracked mic cable. “Happiness is so elusive”, he ventures in the brief pause before the song picks up a beat and starts to swagger. When the electric guitar comes in, it has the rich, 1970s bravadoccio of Cheap Trick or Queen. But it’s a sweet-ish sort of power pop, the kind that undercuts its sugary harmonies with minor key choruses and disturbing thoughts. “Internal/External”, the album’s best cut, comes on like a Guided by Voices fragment, all aggressive slanting guitars, but it breaks into a big trippy psych interlude with “Lucy in the Sky” overtones. “Oh yeah, it comes on like a tickle / Oh yeah, it leaves you like a cripple”, sings Laughlin, neatly summing up the seemingly ephemeral, but actually quite durable appeal of power pop bands like these. Laughlin relies on Dave Grubb, from his old band Lenola, to add the hyper-colored, harpsichord-ish keyboards that turn simple songs into 1960s baroque overtures. There are also some grand, expansive Pink Floydish moments late in the album, particularly in the closer “Just a Light Hit”. Not exactly revolutionary, but consistently solid and engaging. [Amazon ]


My year-end is supposedly running on Monday at Dusted, so that’ll be that for 2008.

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