August 03, 2021

Dark Sun Riders ft. Brother J - Seeds of Evolution (Promo CD) (1996)

 
*Promotional disc. 
Contains 22 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: 314-524 159-2
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© 1996 Island Records
AllMusic Review by Daevid Jehnzen
Former X-clan member Brother J leads Dark Sun Riders, a hip-hop group that isn't is militant as his former outfit. That doesn't mean he's abandoned politics, however -- he's just become more skillful and subtle with his lyrics. His new-found maturity is evident throughout Dark Sun Riders' debut album, Seeds of Evolution. A raw, funky and soulful collection, the album has its weak spots, but it delivers enough deep grooves and inventive rhymes to make it a satisfying listen.

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tags: dark sun riders, brother j, seeds of evolution, 1996, flac, promo,

The Pharcyde - Drop: Maxi Single (Promo CD) (1996)

 
*Promotional single issued in a generic jewel case 
with no inserts, album cover/artwork. 
Contains 5 tracks total. 
A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: DPRO-11210
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© 1996 Delicious Vinyl
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

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tags: the pharcyde, drop, maxi single, promo cd, 1996, flac,

An Emotional Fish - An Emotional Fish (1990)

 
*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 7 82150-2

© 1990 Atlantic Records
The disappearance of An Emotional Fish was one of the great disappointments of the 1990s. Released in September of 1990, An Emotional Fish likely was a victim of the Rattle and Hum era U2 backlash. Though released through Atlantic, the band's first singles were on U2's Mother Records label. That, and their Dublin roots, made the band an easy target for critics. But the album was filled with some wonderful melodic rock songs. "Blue," "Lace Virginia," "Celebrate," and "Julian" were strong songs. The CD version included one extra track, "Move On." Sadly, the band's music changed after their debut (possibly as a reaction to a critical backlash). A great debut album from a band that never again reached such heights. Perhaps a testament to its quality is how incredibly hard to find An Emotional Fish is, meaning fans are unwilling to part with it, even years later. Well worth the search.

tags: an emotional fish, an emotional fish album, 1990, flac,

Nada Surf - The Proximity Effect (1998)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 7559-62207-2 

© 1998 Elektra
On their second album of amiable alterna-pop, New York trio Nada Surf casually stroll through a thick catalog of various post-grunge styles to suitable, but uninteresting, effect. Producer Fred Maher brings a more rounded, and heftier, wall of sound to Nada Surf's delicately balanced tales of life in the superficial and wishy-washy '90s than Ric Ocasek did on their 1996 debut, High/Low, but it's all ultimately disposable and utterly forgettable. While there are times where The Proximity Effect tries to break out of the limiting corner of the alt-rock universe it's staked for itself (like the power pop rave-up "Why Are You So Mean to Me?"), more often than not it returns to the familiar, and assumingly comforting, haven of angst-free pop. Nothing really wrong with that concept, but it's certainly one that will keep Nada Surf marked and suppressed with hyphenated labels.

tags: nada surf, the proximity effect, 1998, flac,

Nada Surf - The Stars Are Indifferent To Astronomy (2012)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: BARK122

© 2012 Barsuk Records
Nada Surf celebrate their 20th anniversary with The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy, the band's seventh studio album and first collection of original material since 2008's Lucky. "Every birthday candle that ever got blown out is one more year of someone trying to figure it all out," Matthew Caws sings in "Looking Through," a song about aging gracefully and holding onto one's youth. Most of the other tunes follow suit; "No Snow on the Mountain" finds its narrator coming to grips with the real world after leaving academia, and "Teenage Dreams" deals with... well, teenage dreams. Now in his mid-forties, Caws is old enough to be cynical about all this heart-on-your-sleeve stuff, but Astronomy sounds as timeless and wide-eyed as any Nada Surf album, taking its cues from 1960s Merseybeat, '80s college rock, and 21st century power pop in equal measure. Those influences are rolled into ten sparkling guitar pop tunes, which Caws and his bandmates -- bassist Daniel Lorca, drummer Ira Elliot, and guest guitarist Doug Gillard -- drench with vocal harmonies and candied hooks. "When I Was Young" is the only track to substitute acoustic guitar arpeggios for electric power chords, but even that song builds itself into a lush, midtempo power ballad after the two-minute mark, as though the bandmates simply couldn't contain their optimism any longer. Like the title suggests, Stars burns bright and fast.

tags: nada surf, the stars are indifferent to astronomy, 2012, flac,

Nada Surf - You Know Who You Are (2016)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: BARK161

© 2016 Barsuk Records
Twenty years after their debut, alt-rock vets Nada Surf return with You Know Who You Are, their eighth studio LP and first set of new material since 2012's The Stars Are Indifferent to Astronomy. Less brash than its predecessor, You Know Who You Are aims for the comfort zone with power pop that distills decades, from '90s college alternative through the post-indie boom of the early aughts. Mostly, it's a happy affair, where triumphant horns ("Out of the Dark") and bright harmony ("Cold to See Clear") abound. They've cut away some of the jauntiness -- there's no "Blankest Year" here -- and are long past the bitterness of "Popular." Even the mellower moments, like "Believe You're Mine" and "Gold Sounds," soothe with their familiar tones, much like Sloan and Death Cab for Cutie. Semisonic's Dan Wilson lends his writing credits to two tracks ("Rushing" and "Victory's Yours"), a pleasant pair that floats along on breezy guitar twangs and sunny backing vocals. Frontman Matthew Caws' voice remains casual and warm, at points reminiscent of Ben Gibbard ("Friend Hospital") and even Bob Dylan ("Animal"). The album also marks the second release with former Guided by Voices member Doug Gillard, who increases the guitar richness on rollicking tunes like "New Bird" and the title track. Two decades into their careers, as a mature Nada Surf continue to channel their youthful spirit, they've recorded a wise, plaintive album that touches upon the sounds of their past while confidently looking toward the future.

tags: nada surf, you know who you are, 2016, flac,

August 02, 2021

Coolio - It Takes a Thief (1994)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: TBCD 1083
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© 1994 Tommy Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Lymangrover
Coolio's debut, It Takes a Thief, brought him immediate success, establishing his reputation as a hard-knock, gun-slinging gangster with a biting sense of humor. Maybe it was because of his appearance -- heavy eyelids and finger-in-a-light-socket hairstyle -- or maybe it was because of his laid-back vocal delivery, but he never seemed quite as menacing as other West Coast rappers spitting verses about the same thuggery. Instead of trying to incite fear in his raps, he complained that he didn't like having to live that way, and noted that there wasn't really a choice in the matter. Practically all the songs on It Takes a Thief are about one of two things: gang-banging and robbing in the ghettos while trying to make ends meet, or about hard times as a crack addict on the streets. Not exactly the most uplifting topics, but when the stories of strife are rapped smoothly over melodic funk anthems, people automatically shake their butts and overlook the darker subtext. In actuality, the content of the album is pretty similar to Marvin Gaye's What's Going On, if you can believe that, with Coolio wondering why society is so messed up and trying to find a way to make ends meet. Like Nas (who also came out with his debut in 1994), his lyrics are justifications and apologies for living the thug life in an era when most popular rappers glorified the hardcore lifestyle. Rather than hyping his toughness, he explains ghetto trials and tribulations. It's hard to imagine Snoop or 2Pac rapping about standing in the welfare line ("County Line"), or being impoverished and malnourished and eating out of a garbage can ("Can-O-Corn"), but Coolio tells these tales of woe matter-of-factly while candy-coated beats and playful melodies bounce along like P-Funk. With its infectious "Slide, slide, slippity slide" chorus, it went unnoticed that his breakthrough single, "Fantastic Voyage," was actually a song about escapism, and that "I Remember" was about the angst of getting shot by a gang member for unknowingly wearing the wrong colors, rather than a sentimental ditty about the good ol' days. Regardless of the commonly misinterpreted underlying meanings, the songs are undeniable party jams, and with future albums, the lyrics would focus more and more on the dancefloor aspect. The whole journey is a fantastic and underrated juxtaposition between good times and bad times, and ultimately, even though his second album, Gangsta's Paradise, sold more copies, this debut represents Coolio at his finest hour.

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tags: coloio, it takes a thief, 1994, flac,

Coolio - My Soul (1997)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: TBCD 1180
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© 1997 Tommy Boy Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Coolio's third album, My Soul, follows the same formula as its two predecessors, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Where others have failed as pop-rappers, Coolio succeeds because of his love of melody, message, and funky beats. My Soul lacks anything as monolithic as "Gangsta's Paradise," yet it has a more elaborate production, boasting obscure samples, violins, sound bites and guitars. It also is remarkably consistent, delivering very few subpar cuts over the course of the album. That would be enough to distinguish it from the ranks of overstuffed gangsta rappers, but what makes My Soul another winner is how Coolio is unafraid to be both serious and funny, catchy and funky. It's a small, subtle difference, but it's what makes My Soul a thoroughly enjoyable record, no matter if you're going out or staying in.

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tags: coolio, my soul, 1997, flac,

Coolio - The Return of The Gangsta (2006)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 0174032ERE
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© 2006 Subside/Edel Records
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason
With each passing year, Coolio's soundtrack-derived success with "Gangsta's Paradise" looks more and more like a one-hit-wonder fluke. Popping up every couple of years on a different small indie no one has ever heard of, Coolio isn't a pop-culture punch line on the level of Vanilla Ice or Hammer, but there's nothing on The Return of the Gangsta that's going to put the Compton native anywhere within sniffing distance of the charts. Indeed, the thin and primarily electronic production not only lacks the smooth '70s funk bounce of Coolio's early sound, its brittle sparseness inadvertently showcases Coolio's weaknesses as an MC. The rhymes are lazy and predictable, and the topics are played out. (Were you aware that Coolio is a gangsta? Never fear, he reminds us of this factoid roughly every second verse.) Even Snoop Dogg's cameo sounds phoned in on the single "Gangsta Walk." Far from a return to form, this is just further evidence of the diminution of a once-promising talent.

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tags: coolio, the return of the gangsta, 2006, flac,

Kid Frost - Hispanic Causing Panic (1990)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Language: English, Spanish (Español)
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Chicano Rap
Label Number: 0777 7 86169 2 4

© 1990 Virgin Records America, Inc.
Hispanic Causing Panic was an early landmark of Latin hip-hop, simply by virtue of the fact that Kid Frost was one of the first Latino MCs to release an album. Of course, it also doesn't hurt to have a groundbreaking lead single on the order of "La Raza," a smoky, laid-back Latin funk groove with anthemic Spanglish lyrics about being brown and proud. It's an utterly distinctive, original sound (and miles better than anything Gerardo ever tried). Unfortunately, it isn't explored very much over the rest of Hispanic Causing Panic. Kid Frost spends most of his time rhyming in English, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but he doesn't make as strong a musical statement as he might have if he'd played with the Latin foundations of "La Raza" on more of his additional material. Instead, he sticks with a fairly typical golden-age production style for much of the album, which is accessible without being overly pop-friendly. What's more, his rapping style largely abandons the sly purr of "La Raza," sounding more like your average East Coast MC of the time (with Big Daddy Kane a particular influence). It's as though he wants to prove he can make it on others' terms as well as his own. There are exceptions, of course: "Ya Estuvo (That's It)" puts on a bilingual clinic in MC skills, and the chilling street narratives "Come Together" and "Homicide" return to the ice-cool delivery that marks Frost at his most distinctive. They're good enough to make the remainder of Hispanic Causing Panic frustrating -- it's good, but it doesn't have enough of what makes Kid Frost so unique.

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tags: kid frost, Hispanic causing panic, 1990, flac,

Gatsbys American Dream - Why We Fight (2002)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: RSR1003

© 2002 RocketStar Recordings
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: gatsbys american dream, why we fight, 2002, flac,

Gatsbys American Dream - Ribbons & Sugar (2006)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: RSR.1006

© 2003 Rocketstar Recordings
*No professional reviews are available for this release.

tags: gatsbys american dream, ribbons and sugar, 2006, flac,

Gatsbys American Dream - Gatsbys American Dream (2006)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Punk Rock
Style: Pop Punk
Label Number: FRL-30090-2

© 2006 Fearless Records
Gatsbys American Dream are pissed -- not at their ex-girlfriends, not at Mom and Dad, not at the government. For their self-titled fourth album, they've got a giant bone to pick with the music industry. OK, it's not like this idea hasn't been explored before, but seriously, 11 tracks later and it's a marvel GAD still want to play their instruments. Not only do they stick a giant middle finger to the players behind the scene -- labels, radio execs, promoters who screw them out of show guarantees -- but the Seattle troupe also hardly spares the feelings of the general punk/indie rock scene they spawned from. They've created a sort of cautionary and cynical music seminar for that random kid buying a T-shirt at a gig or that band just starting out with big plans for itself. Opening with a drained "I'm not mad, I'm just tired," singer Nic Newsham goes on to proclaim "I know you really want to believe/You really want to but it's so much easier to look the same and sound the same to play the game." And the guys just get more overtly sarcastic and acerbic from there. The layers of jerking guitars and tight rhythms, which scoff at usual song structures and have become their signature dynamic, are confident and charismatic. Erratic tempo changes drive the dark wall of sound that supports crashing, often mocking, piano and gang-like backing vocals. However, it's almost surprising how engaging and enjoyable the music remains, since lyrically there is overwhelming disillusionment, jadedness, and defiance. Gatsbys American Dream are obviously not so disenchanted yet -- trying to stay true to their music while watching that they don't cross someone who could later complicate career opportunities -- as to not care about their songs. Since really, they've created one of the best indie releases of 2006. And despite the cutting criticism, this album will likely not convince any kid to really shelve dreams of rock stardom. But it might delay the endeavor, as those kids might be rocking out a bit too hard to these stellar tracks in their bedrooms to remember to go to their band practice.

tags: gatsbys american dream, gatsbys american dream album, 2006, flac,

Sleeper - Smart (1995) ☠

 
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Style: Britpop
Label Number: ARCD 5825
☠: Selected by Lass
© 1995 Arista
"Inbetweener" is an intoxicating single. Fuzz guitars, light harmonies, singsong melodies and hooks keep piling up until the whole thing collapses in a heap after three minutes. Unfortunately, there's nothing that matches it on Smart, Sleeper's debut album. Occasionally, Louise Wener comes up with a memorable hook, melody, or lyric, but never can quite pull them together into something as well-crafted (and sexy) as "Inbetweener." Still, the flashes of inspiration scattered across Smart prove Sleeper has potential -- which they have already fulfilled once, with the single.

tags: sleeper, smart, 1995, flac,

Beastie Boys - Paul's Boutique (1989)

 
*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 15 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: CDP 7 91743 2
☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1989 Capitol Records
Such was the power of Licensed to Ill that everybody, from fans to critics, thought that not only could the Beastie Boys not top the record, but that they were destined to be a one-shot wonder. These feelings were only amplified by their messy, litigious departure from Def Jam and their flight from their beloved New York to Los Angeles, since it appeared that the Beasties had completely lost the plot. Many critics in fact thought that Paul's Boutique was a muddled mess upon its summer release in 1989, but that's the nature of the record -- it's so dense, it's bewildering at first, revealing its considerable charms with each play. To put it mildly, it's a considerable change from the hard rock of Licensed to Ill, shifting to layers of samples and beats so intertwined they move beyond psychedelic; it's a painting with sound. Paul's Boutique is a record that only could have been made in a specific time and place. Like the Rolling Stones in 1972, the Beastie Boys were in exile and pining for their home, so they made a love letter to downtown New York -- which they could not have done without the Dust Brothers, a Los Angeles-based production duo who helped redefine what sampling could be with this record. Sadly, after Paul's Boutique sampling on the level of what's heard here would disappear; due to a series of lawsuits, most notably Gilbert O'Sullivan's suit against Biz Markie, the entire enterprise too cost-prohibitive and risky to perform on such a grand scale. Which is really a shame, because if ever a record could be used as incontrovertible proof that sampling is its own art form, it's Paul's Boutique. Snatches of familiar music are scattered throughout the record -- anything from Curtis Mayfield's "Superfly" and Sly Stone's "Loose Booty" to Loggins & Messina's "Your Mama Don't Dance" and the Ramones' "Suzy Is a Headbanger" -- but never once are they presented in lazy, predictable ways. The Dust Brothers and Beasties weave a crazy-quilt of samples, beats, loops, and tricks, which creates a hyper-surreal alternate reality -- a romanticized, funhouse reflection of New York where all pop music and culture exist on the same strata, feeding off each other, mocking each other, evolving into a wholly unique record, unlike anything that came before or after. It very well could be that its density is what alienated listeners and critics at the time; there is so much information in the music and words that it can seem impenetrable at first, but upon repeated spins it opens up slowly, assuredly, revealing more every listen. Musically, few hip-hop records have ever been so rich; it's not just the recontextulations of familiar music via samples, it's the flow of each song and the album as a whole, culminating in the widescreen suite that closes the record. Lyrically, the Beasties have never been better -- not just because their jokes are razor-sharp, but because they construct full-bodied narratives and evocative portraits of characters and places. Few pop records offer this much to savor, and if Paul's Boutique only made a modest impact upon its initial release, over time its influence could be heard through pop and rap, yet no matter how its influence was felt, it stands alone as a record of stunning vision, maturity, and accomplishment. Plus, it's a hell of a lot of fun, no matter how many times you've heard it.

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tags: beastie boys, pauls boutique, 1989, flac,

Beastie Boys - Check Your Head (1992) ☠

 
*U.S. first pressing. 
Contains 20 tracks total.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Label Number: CDP 7 98938 2
☠: Selected by Buccaneer
© 1992 Capitol/Grand Royal Records
Check Your Head brought the Beastie Boys crashing back into the charts and into public consciousness, but that was only partially due to the album itself -- much of its initial success was due to the cult audience that Paul's Boutique cultivated in the years since its initial flop release, a group of fans whose minds were so thoroughly blown by that record, they couldn't wait to see what came next, and this helped the record debut in the Top Ten upon its April 1992 release. This audience, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly, was a collegiate Gen-X audience raised on Licensed to Ill and ready for the Beastie Boys to guide them through college. As it happened, the Beasties had repositioned themselves as a lo-fi, alt-rock groove band. They had not abandoned rap, but it was no longer the foundation of their music, it was simply the most prominent in a thick pop-culture gumbo where old school rap sat comfortably with soul-jazz, hardcore punk, white-trash metal, arena rock, Bob Dylan, bossa nova, spacy pop, and hard, dirty funk. What they did abandon was the psychedelic samples of Paul's Boutique, turning toward primitive grooves they played themselves, augmented by keyboardist Money Mark and co-producer Mario Caldato, Jr.. This all means that music was the message and the rhymes, which had been pushed toward the forefront on both Licensed to Ill and Paul's Boutique, have been considerably de-emphasized (only four songs -- "Jimmy James," "Pass the Mic," "Finger Lickin' Good," and "So What'cha Want" -- could hold their own lyrically among their previous work). This is not a detriment, because the focus is not on the words, it's on the music, mood, and even the newfound neo-hippie political consciousness. And Check Your Head is certainly a record that's greater than the sum of its parts -- individually, nearly all the tracks are good (the instrumentals sound good on their subsequent soul-jazz collection, The in Sound From Way Out), but it's the context and variety of styles that give Check Your Head its identity. It's how the old school raps give way to fuzz-toned rockers, furious punk, and cheerfully gritty, jazzy jams. As much as Paul's Boutique, this is a whirlwind tour through the Beasties' pop-culture obsessions, but instead of spinning into Technicolor fantasies, it's earth-bound D.I.Y. that makes it all seem equally accessible -- which is a big reason why it turned out to be an alt-rock touchstone of the '90s, something that both set trends and predicted them.

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tags: beastie boys, check your head, 1992, flac,

August 01, 2021

Brownside - Eastside Drama (1997)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: G-Funk, Gangsta Rap
Label Number: 51242-2
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© 1997 East Town Records
AllMusic Review by Leo Stanley
Brownside's second album Eastside Drama finds an intriguing balance between edgy hardcore rap and funky Latino hip-hop. Although the group's lyrics are occasionally perfunctory, the music is vital and energetic, making such weaknesses a little easier to overlook. Eastisde Drama remains an imperfect album, but it is much more interesting than many of Brownside's contemporaries, and that alone is worth something.

tags: brownside, eastside drama, 1997, flac,

Kevin Salem - Ecstatic (2002)

 
*U.S. pressing. 
Contains 11 tracks total
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Indie Rock
Label Number: 493226913
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© 2002 Future Farmer Recordings
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
There was a lengthy five years between Kevin Salem's previous solo album and this third outing. Much of that time was spent playing on and producing albums by the likes of Giant Sand and Chocolate Genius as well as working and reworking Ecstatic, adding, removing, and rewriting songs in an effort to find a niche in a '90s pop universe that seemed to put less of a premium on pure songwriting, more on style. Luckily, the artist did not cow to the pressures of radio and allowed the music to find its own bearings, for his songwriting certainly bore unimpeachable fruits that have little to do with trend and everything to do with that nexus where emotion and craft cross paths with chance and experimentation. Although it is certainly timely (New Orleans rapper Michael Jackson, for instance, inhabits half of "It's Only Life"), the album also has the timeless quality that marks all the most outstanding works, namely exquisitely nuanced melodies and knotty lyrics that bypass the quick fix for something much more evolving and emotionally intense. There is no shortage of high-power assistance (Vicki Peterson, Donovan Leitch, Alice Temple, Barry Reynolds, Lydia Kavanaugh, and jazz keyboardist Rob Arthur), but Salem's songs are the true attraction here: the jazzy, early morning verses of "1000 Smiles" that break into glowing choruses; the tough but replenishing "The Medicine Down"; the harrowing "Home Again" and "End of the Addiction," the latter originally envisioned as a vehicle for Marianne Faithfull; the gritty, Tom Waitsian undertones of "Deep Dark Love." Ecstatic is a gorgeous, eclectic effort, flawlessly executed and etched with a singular imagination. If Rolling Stone hadn't already christened Salem as one of the finest new songwriters on the rock scene following 1994's Soma City, the songs on this album would certainly drive home the point with emphasis. It's his finest album to this point and one of the finest of the year.

tags: kevin salem, ecstatic, 2002, flac,

Pipas - A Cat Escaped (2002)

 
Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Indie Pop
Label Number: MATCD 21
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© 2002 Matinée Recordings
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
Mark Powell and Lupe Nuñez-Fernandez are Pipas. The U.K. duo plays simple indie pop tunes, sweetly sung by Fernandez in an unaffected and charmingly amateur style. The music consists of drum-machine rhythms, gently strummed acoustic guitars, and lots of synthesizer coloring. The lyrical content is cute and mostly innocuous, except for the song about killing Bob Dylan. The songs that stick in the mind most are the up-tempo numbers like "Rock and/or Roll," which does neither, instead bouncing along happily, bolstered by some great electric piano and chiming synths; "Emblematic," which features Powell on vocals, a nifty marimba part, and some electronic gimmickry; and "The Conversation," which features the loudest guitars to be found on the record. There are bands who do this kind of thing better (Call & Response, Club 8), but Pipas' The Cat Escaped is a nice addition to any collection that needs more happy, chirpy indie pop.

tags: pipas, a cat escaped, 2002, flac,

July 31, 2021

Abandoned Pools - Humanistic (2002)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: 9 48106-2
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© 2001 Extasy Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
The Warner-distributed debut by Tommy Walter's alter ego, Abandoned Pools (he wrote, sang, and played almost everything here), is a curious culmination of ghostlike voices from the rock & roll ether. Walter sounds a lot like a harder-rock version of Tommy Gnosis, the character from Hedwig and the Angry Inch: vulnerable, lost, and wanting desperately to put it all into terms that are rock & roll enough to make him stand out from the crowd. But there's also the tenderness and the deep desire to write love song hooks like John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls. And as if this weren't enough, this Woodland Hills, CA, kid is as pissed off as Kurt Cobain and obviously worships that trait among many others in his idol. What that adds up to is: Who is Tommy Walter? He's certainly encompassed all of the strands that create a musical persona, but do they make a personality? The songs themselves -- especially the dark, hooky "Mercy Kiss" (the single), the overdriven guitar-crunching refrain and bridge in "Monster," and the highly textured shifty-shuffle rock of "Sunny Day" -- hint that this kid's got something to say. And then there's the souled-out girl chorus-sounding backing on "Ruin Your Life," a shimmering reflection on desolation and the possibilities in its aftermath. "Seed"'s electronic hard rock and elongated riffs push the needle into the red and offer this kid's jaded view as a way out, a way toward something else. Perhaps listeners will discover what that is on the next disc. The ace production of Paul Q. Kolderie and Sean Slade handled the boards with great sensitivity and flair, erecting a dynamic, fluid alt-rock monolith. By he sound of this, Walter has more -- and better -- recordings in him as he emerges from behind his wall of identities, but this is an auspicious debut nonetheless.

tags: abandoned pools, humanistic, 2002, flac,

Abandoned Pools - Armed To The Teeth (2005)

 
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label Number: B0005269-02
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© 2005 Universal Records
AllMusic Review by Johnny Loftus
Tommy Walter made one of the more overlooked alt-rock albums in recent memory with Humanistic, his 2001 debut as Abandoned Pools. Of course it was overlooked -- by the turn of the 21st century, "alternative" wasn't really anything anymore, having fragmented into post-grunge, rap-rock, safe-sounding AAA, and a host of other subgenres. But there are still common twinges to all those records released on labels like DGC and American in the mid-'90s wake of Nevermind and Pablo Honey, and that's the sound Abandoned Pools continues to mine with 2005's Armed to the Teeth. At first Walter's falsetto resembles the wail of an overstimulated emo kid. But he's much too talented a songwriter to fall into that trap, and the rich late-album ballad "Maybe Then Someday" even beats that whole scene at its own game. Most of the songs on Armed to the Teeth are guided by strong guitar melodies that pay off in big choruses, particularly on "Catalyst" and "Lethal Killers," and the layers of strings, brass, keyboards, and programming in tracks like "Tighter Noose" and "Renegade" add intriguing depth. Abandoned Pools often suggests a less baroque version of VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater), the ongoing one-man project of fellow '90s alt-rock devotee Jon Crosby.

tags: abandoned pools, armed to the teeth, 2005, flac,