by Okkervil River
* * * *
First off, I’m really not a fan of Bright Eyes. His delivery is just so forced, and he comes off pretentious. Or at least most of the musical press (I'm looking at you pitchfork) have made him into an icon of pretentiousness. I just wanted to get that out of the way before I start praising another rootsy, emotional, hyper-literate, post-modern, lyric driven indie band. Bill Boyd, the canonical KRCL radio host turned me on to Okkervil River, but also warned of their inconsistency. Like Stephen Merritt the lyrics are often funny, dense, and sad. The sound of the Austin, Texas (of course they’re from Austin) band is Birght Eyes mixed with elements of The Libertines at its best, and Art Brut at its worst. The first half of the album is great. The second may be better written, but the songs just aren’t constructed as well, and often crumble under the weight of the lyrics, which do get a little cutesy at points referencing everything from film theory to pornstars to ? and the Mysterians. Though somehow they pull off a cover of "Sloop John B," without sounding vainglorious, which is a feat in itself. In the end Bill was mostly right, but the unwieldy moments simply make this a flawed classic.
by John Vanderslice
* * * 1/2
This album starts out so effortlessly that it sounds like you’ve already been listening to the album for several tracks. Vanderslice is the singer-songwriter best known for being Spoon’s producer. And his past efforts have shown a lot of potential(Jon Brion, another wunderkind producer has suffered a similar problem), but he’s been somewhat unfocused musically, or too focused politically. Lyrically this is his best reconciliation between personal and political (the title referring both to the idea of Oz and Baghdad’s Green Zone). Vanderslice is also able to convey monumental expressions of sadness without sounding sentimental, or letting the music get bogged down in any sort of romanticism. Vanderslice, despite his hipster cred, sounds rather mainstream here, too mainstream for my tastes at times, and some of his songs, despite his nuanced rough edges, don’t quite make it to a complex sonic level.
by Broken Social Scene Presents…Kevin Drew
This is a great BSS album. Not sure how this is a solo album if it’s the lead singer with essentially the rest of the band as well as guests, but oh well, maybe Broken Social Scene’s trying to be like Animal Collective. It’s more fractured than most BSS albums, as well as a little rougher, and makes for quite an interesting listen. However, it lacks the depth and complexity of most everything else in the BSS catalogue.