Vast Countenance groove to the heart of the Kinks, the Beatles

March 5, 2008 at 6:58 pm (Alternative Rock, Indie Rock) (, , , , , , )

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Vast Countenance

Album: As We Please

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.vastcountenance.nl

Written by Derek Jensen

Opening the indie-rock scene to blatant fan-worship of the ’60s, Vast Countenance breathe new air into an increasingly stale climate. These Dutch rockers embrace the Woodstock generation with giddy open arms and actually do not humiliate themselves. Their taste for retro rock is real and intelligently and coolly shaped into prime slices of garage-band nostalgia and British Invasion power pop. “Easyride” takes a look back at the Beatles’ ringing-guitar majesty without the bland coyness that often informs such efforts in the indie-rock world. “Clay” finds Vast Countenance investigating psychedelia while “Trumpet Slide” takes a walk on the wild, er, dark side of the rock groove.

Is there anything original here? My answer to that is: Does it matter? Rock & roll is so old now (more than 50 years, kids!) that all we can do now is recycle the same parts in different ways. If Vast Countenance want to take a time machine to the glory days of the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, they certainly do so with youthful vigor and an inspired spirit. And they write attention-grabbing tunes with the crisp kick of an angry stallion. Fasten your seatbelts when the guitars take off on “This Year’s Fall,” making most of the post-punk wanna-be’s (they know who they are) look like wimps. Even VC’s mellow touches such as “Finelines” and “Telephone Line” are ethereal and pretty, making me long for the late, lamented Straitjacket Fits.

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Christian band the Day Of rocks with infectious passion

February 28, 2008 at 8:00 am (Adult Album Alternative, Alternative Rock, Contemporary Christian) (, , , , , , )

 

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Day Of

Album: Awaiting Take Off

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.thedayofband.com

Written by Derek Jensen

I don’t think the Day Of will have to await taking off for very long. This is certainly one of the most polished and nicely packaged unsigned Christian alternative groups today. I sincerely doubt that this band, if they decide to stick together for the long haul, will remain unknown for that much longer. Rockers like “It Should Have Been Me” and the Coldplay-like “You Don’t Have to Do This” present a group that is on the verge of busting out of the gates – and they know it. You can hear the confidence in Nick Hickman’s voice; his passion is infectious, making you hum nearly every chorus on this CD no matter what your spiritual background is. 

This is a band that is aware of what they’re doing and capable of. Too many rock groups these attempt the clash of hip-hop and rock and fail miserably, humiliating themselves. (I won’t name names.) But the Day Of do not stumble in that regard, tossing in raps on “Be With You” and “You Don’t Have to Do This” with skill and style. There are some moving mellow moments, too, such as “The God You Are to Me.” 

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New 2 the Brain predict the future of music and politics on mysterious debut

February 26, 2008 at 4:45 am (Adult Album Alternative) (, , , , )

 

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: New 2 the Brain

Album: New 2 the Brain

Rating: 10/10

Official Website: http://www.new2thebrain.com

Written by Derek Jensen

Recorded last year, there’d be no way New 2 the Brain could’ve predicted the odd shapes that the race for the presidential election has taken. Yet here is the mysteriously named vocalist/producer Wa and songwriter Lawrence Stoller describing “Politics Un Usual,” which aptly mirrors the confusion of voters caught between the excitement of promised changes and the comfort of experience. “The race is on/Going nowhere fast/The parade marches by/But what’s gonna last?” Wa sings as the track continues to dip into caustic commentary. Probably what’s most effective about “Politics Un Usual,” lyrically speaking, is that it doesn’t take the side of either liberal or conservative; it seems to have distrust of both parties and the campaign machines in general. With its funky bass and Steely Dan-ish vocals, “Politics Un Usual” is no stale CNN soundbite; it has a punchy groove with a Beatles-esque appreciation for dramatic tempo shifts.

New 2 the Brain are named perfectly. They do not resemble much of today’s alternative acts. They glue pieces of Peter Gabriel-ish English pop, world music, Genesis-styled progressive rock, and Steely Dan’s sleek jazzy rhythms and give birth to a quirky yet accessible sound that is totally their own. “We’re All in This Together” and “Born Naked” are the catchiest tunes here and will probably taste the sweetest initially for unenlightened listeners. But it’s New 2 the Brain’s more ambitious tracks that’ll eventually floor them.  

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Grunge veterans 99 Burning unleash the ’90s again

February 10, 2008 at 10:20 pm (Grunge)

 

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: 99 Burning

Album: Midnight in America

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.99burning.com

Written by Derek Jensen

99 Burning are actually not new and, quite frankly, they’re nothing new, either. And while I am not in this field to commend artists who aren’t recording material that is fresh or original, I have to applaud 99 Burning for doing the alternative metal sound so well. The easiest comparison to make would be Stone Temple Pilots’ “Sex Type Thing.” What made “Sex Type Thing” so immensely popular in 1993 was how it took the black-coffee bitterness of grunge and gave it a sinfully tempting metallic beat. 99 Burning pretty much do the same, taking the rage and fatalism of grunge and funking it up. This is most personified by “She’s My Addiction,” “TV Child,” “Cat,” and “Lonely Skies,” four tracks that really burn the carpet with sizzling guitar heroics.

The pummeling “She’s My Nightmare” comes the closest to what grunge actually was, producing a big, loud cloud of guitar shrapnel that chokes the speakers. The creepily titled “7 Devils” is actually more melodic than it suggests, opening relatively softly then picking up tempo. Overall, I enjoyed this trip down memory lane, and for all those cynics out there who think that 99 Burning are merely trying to unleash ’90s nostalgia – you’re wrong. 99 Burning have been around for nearly two decades.

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Aether resurrect the shoegazer sound with rocking results

January 30, 2008 at 8:43 am (Shoegazer)

 

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: Aether

Album: Aethersound

Rating: 9/10

Official Website: http://www.aethersound.com

Written by Derek Jensen

One word name, murky album cover, dreamlike riffs. There’s no doubt it: Aether have a yen for the shoegazer movement that rattled the U.K. underground the same time that grunge was pushing through college radio stateside. For those who weren’t born yet or too young at the time (late ’80s-early ’90s), the shoegazer bands basically took the ethereal guitars of the Cocteau Twins, cranked up the volume a few notches so you have a wall of sound, and frosted mostly incomprehensible and sometimes whispered vocals on top. It ended up being too weird for the mainstream; however, groups such as My Bloody Valentine helped inspire the alternative rock to follow, namely bands like the Smashing Pumpkins and Catherine Wheel.

Aether are nowhere near as commercial as the Smashing Pumpkins, preferring to stick to their uncompromising independent roots, at least on this CD. “Milk” has that My Bloody Valentine-styled disoriented groove while “Hours” aims for the transcendent space rock of Radiohead. Unlike many of the shoegazer acts that inspired them, though, Aether aren’t afraid to bring on the noise as “As We Leave the City” and “New Sound” rattle the cages with breathless abandon. It’s all pretty and rocking at the same time.

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The Knockarounds outdo Weezer on energetic, smart-ass EP

January 30, 2008 at 6:49 am (Power Pop)

Derek’s New Music Bin

Artist: The Knockarounds

Album: The Hurt Stays (EP)

Rating: 8/10

Official Website: http://www.theknockarounds.com

Written by Derek Jensen

Before I bestow my praise upon the Knockarounds, I just want to welcome all of the readers who have followed me here from my days blasting or applauding the various print weeklies I had once slaved for. Yes, my friends, it was time to split from such archaic vehicles. And what better way to celebrate it than with the Knockarounds, a Los Angeles-based power-pop combo with the smart-ass wit of Superdrag and the pedal-to-the-floor guitar hooks of the Killers.

However, despite the Killers comparison and a tune dedicated to Goth rock royalty Siouxsie Sioux (“Siouxsie Is My Goth Queen”), the Knockarounds are not some dark group. Rather, the Knockarounds have energy to burn and hummable, if sometimes subversive (listen to “On Your Back”), lyrics. The band is more melodic and upbeat than any of the emo acts out now, unafraid of sounding adolescent but steps away from being obnoxious. The title track will remind you of Weezer when they were still worth checking out. Ouch. I’m sure that pained a couple of you out there; however, it’s true. At only five cuts, the Knockarounds make you wish for a full platter but that just means I’ll chew on this candy much longer.

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