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Here are a few new releases to whet your palate:

Aloha
Home Acres
Polyvinyl Records, 2009
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Well this is a nice surprise. Aloha has finally come into their own, so to speak. Home Acres is the third CD I’ve reviewed, which is when I got hip to the band. On previous CDs, Aloha seemed to be searching for a niche, a subgenre they could settle into and call their own. On Light Works, for instance, they have a great cross-section of indie delights, a scattered but cohesive formula for great music.
Home Acres is actually their 6th full length CD and 7th album, if you count their first release, the Nonbelievers EP. All I can really talk about is the last few CDs, their newest one, Home Acres, Light Works and Some Echoes, all of which are fine, fine albums. The former two are a bit flowery and poppish (better than foppish!), with jingle-jangle rhythms and spacey atmospherics that make for great stoner music. Although, I’m not sure that’s what main man Tony Cavallario had in mind, but then again, that’s how life, in general is: when you’re striving on purpose to make something sound or look or feel like a certain je ne sais quois it almost never happens – at least not at first try; if you are perfectionistically, anally intent on capturing whatever spirit you’re after you can try a zillion takes until you find it. But in the end it isn’t going to be that satisfying. Writing or almost any other art form is the same way – it must come to you through a sub- or un-conscious (despite what Sartre says about the unconscious) method.
Back to the music – Home Acres really blew my mind when I first listened to it – the percussion, rhythm, keyboards, guitars all seemed to coalesce together in a way that wasn’t superfluous and actually turned out to be the perfect follow-up to my listening to Tarkus that particular day. Now, of course, that kind of perfect juxtaposition could probably never happen again between those two albums, but that essence, that perfect balance that took place there was like Krishnamurti’s pontification about meditiation: that you can’t just go looking for it or sit in a lotus position and expect it to come, it has to arrive on its own, when you’re mind and body are ready for it.
Besides Tony Cavallario on vocals and guitars, the current line up also includes: TJ Lipple, who dabbles on the Mellotron, marimba and percussion, Matthew Gengler, who plays bass and our friend Cale Parks – the Cale Parks that’s made some cool solo records and who also plays in the incredibly awesome Joan of Arc, more of a collective than just a band. Parks plays drums and piano in Aloha.
I can’t really pick any one or two cuts that I think are above the others, since the whole album is a real treat. This time around Aloha has a edgier, louder beat, less ethereality and more of a driven, up-tempo kind of vibe going, but I will say that the song that starts off Home Acres, “Building a Fire” is the perfect way to start off a record – it’s catchy, it has a softness that is building up to something grand, which will make itself evident on the next cut, “Moonless March” a song with a kickin’ rhythmic percussive quality and that fuzzy bass as well as a carousel-like (Ray Manzarek, anyone?) keyboard sound to it. But one other good thing about the first couple tracks is that it isn’t that breathtaking that it drains away the effectiveness of the rest of the album. In looking for other cuts to make mention of, I would posit: “White Wind”, “Blackout” and “I’m In Trouble” as being worth mentioning. “Ruins” has a great effectiveness in closing off the album; just one more instance of the high quality of not only the songs but the continuity that ensues in the way they are laid out.
After all these CDs and the busy-ness of members with other projects, Aloha has managed to stay afloat lo these many years, probably due to the perseverance of Tony Cavallario, who writes the bulk of the songs. But it’s the whole that make up the greatness of the band, a team effort, if you will. With that I’m going to let you go listen for yourselves and make up your own minds – they will get blown! – KM

Japandroids
Post-Nothing
Polyvinyl Records 2009
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that at first, even though I was immediately turned on by Post-Nothing, the new CD by Japandroids, I couldn’t help feeling that “Emo” vibe, even though the music is much edgier and more like a Jane’s Addiction without the dope fiends and the fake nihilism. But, I do have to say that the lyrics are a bit, uh, sophomoric on some cuts (“Let’s go to France/So we can French-kiss some French girls…” for instance).
Lyrics be damned, though, I still love this album. Before I received it from the great guys at Polyvinyl, Seth Hubbard in particular, I saw it at the public library and noticed that it was a Polyvinyl release but some dummy put it in the shelves even though it had 8 holds on it – that’s right – I put my own hold on it so that would’ve meant that I’d have to wait for 8 other people to come check it out and hope that any or all of them don’t keep it for more than the one week allotted time frame or steal it altogether. But when I received the CD from Polyvinyl I was relieved. Somehow, just looking at the CD and knowing what label it was on made me like it already – even though I hadn’t yet heard it and when I did, I wasn’t surprised that I did like it – a lot.
Despite the aforementioned teeny-bopper-aimed lyrics, their music is bombastic: it’s loud, it has rough, raw guitars, heavy beats and a booming bass anchoring it all up. Each track has something to offer – catchy hooks, cathartic rock and roll that verges on the hard, but sticks to its indie roots, meaning it’s not Neolithic sludge bombs but rather smart, hook-laden, steely rock with smart time changes that make you want to jump up and down or at least tap your feet if your on the bus or subway. I’d say, mix together, in a blender, 1 part Jane’s Addiction, 1 part Helmet and sprinkle some Red Hot Chili Peppers on top, to make it less puritanically “hard-rock“.
Best songs on Post Nothing? The ones I found the most drawn in by at least by the first couple of listens, were “The Boys Are Leaving Town”, the opening cut, which always leaves an imprint of what your mind expects will follow or sound like. If the rest of the songs were all really slow, acoustic guitar-and-vocals-only, folkie songs that would totally bring the record to a continuity discord that would have just too much separation from the opening that one would feel ripped off in way when, after buying it he finds out that other than the one or maybe two really bitchin’ tunes that he’d heard on the radio, the rest of the album was all slow folk ballads with just an acoustic guitar and a harmonica here and there: it just would never work. So when an album starts off with a good tune, especially a medium-length, upbeat or at least concept-setting of the rest of the record, almost an overture in some cases. But as far as other good songs, “Wet Hair”, “Rockers East Vancouver”, “Crazy Forever” and the ending track, “I Quit Girls” all have a little something to them that make them stand out about this much more than the others, but, really, when it comes down to it, the whole album is pretty much worth listening to as a whole. It isn’t a concept album or anything deep like that, but it does have a groovy continuity that makes it worth checking out the next tune, then the next tune and the next one and then…on and on.
The only problem I had was what to call this stuff? I mean it was nothing deep or virtuosic, just a bunch of slick songs that had a raw edge to them and in the studio, even though it was polished up, the rawness and the slickness never wore off. I must see them live to really judge them – that’s when you can tell the real abilities of the band as a team and when they’re naked on the stage (figuratively, that is) with no re-takes allowed, meaning it must be perfect from the get-go, so, seeing them onstage would definitely let me know what their real mettle is. -KM

Love is All
Two Thousand and Ten Injuries
Polyvinyl Records, 2009
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

I really love the music on this new one from Love is All, a small CD (EP? There are only seven tracks on it, averaging about 3 minutes per song) entitled Two Thousand and Ten Injuries and released by the legendary Chicago love factory, Polyvinyl Records. It has an atmospheric, echoing/reverb background, reminiscent of Mazzy Star or Galaxy 500, songs that are sung by the little girl vocals of singer, who doesn’t come across as campy or kitsch but as a sincere singer with a great ability and a beautiful, perfectly working voice, but this is not No Doubt, so I don’t think she’s just using Love is All as her springboard to fame and fortune, to the point where she won’t plucked away from her own band not unlike Diana Ross to Bjork to Gwen Stefani and turned into a Hollywood “vamp”, most likely to end up in a terrible movie and vacillate back and forth between no-talent music career and no-talent acting career (shoulda picked a vocation and stuck with it instead of now suddenly, publicly taste-testing your antics before they’re packaged).
It’s not like that with Love is All at all; the whole band is involved here, you can tell that they all had something to provide and each member put all of themselves into this album making it a truly “band effort”.
Like I said, the songs just fly by – only seven songs that clock in at about 3 minutes each, on average, it’s a short, sharp shock of an experience. Seven great pop oddities that manage to stick in your head, for example: “The Birds Were Singing With All Their Might”, which happens to be the last cut on Two Thousand and Ten Injuries, is still going through my mind as I write, having just finished listening to it again, for more exposure, taking a listen from a “different angle” or what-have-you, maybe just jogging my memory of what they boil down to; their essence. I knew that I had liked them, I knew that from the first time I listened to them. But it took a few listens before I knew why I liked it. That turned out to be the CD’s brevity, it’s upbeat “sub-pop” (not the record label, either) sound, it’s echoing reverb that makes each track all the more haunting and jangly guitar work that does a fine job spicing up an already pick-me-up of an album. It’s not very “upbeat” itself, not, by extension, very dark or nihilistic like Joy Division or The Cure in their early work, but a melancholy, more personal reflection seen through a hazy looking glass is what I think of when trying to think of how to describe this album, boiled down to its essence(s).
A few instances of greatness that shouldn’t go unheralded should include: “Repetition”, which is anything but when stacked against the average stuff around the marketplace today. Another short but uncannily easy one to imprint on your consciousness is “Less Than Thrilled” – one in which a comparison to Bjork wouldn’t be completely inappropriate. I could comment on and on about just about every song on this gem of a CD, but I will leave it there and say that those are just some that I thought one would listen to first if completely unfamiliar and wanted to get a taste as to how they sound; those who are part of a cult-following or just moderately-fond-of fans that like to listen to their CDs, etc.

Sarah June
In Black Robes
Silber Media
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

This is one pleasantly surprising CD to come out of the normally experimental/industrial/agitpop music to come from Silber Media, but for some reason, Sarah June made it on to the Silber label and is hence, ready and waiting for your attention.
Listening to it is pure bliss. It’s pretty much an almost “pizzicato” sound to it, a lot of finger picking with strong fingers, as well as just good picking all over; that and Sarah June singing in that sing-song, little girl pitch of hers, which is so beautiful sounding as well as damn cute it just can’t be ignored. I think that the clean, crisp acoustic guitar complements the perfectly pitched but precious and brittle voice, that of Sarah June.
The music is an ominous, darkly mirrored silhouette after silhouette of the coming of something. What is what the listener must find out for themselves, by personalizing it the listener can make it their own in that way.
Some stand-outs include: “Judgment Day”, “The Reaper” and the haunting, echoing “Brand of Bitterness”, one that features some fine work on the stand-up bass-fiddle and “Motown” – her “love letter” to Detroit, MI.
One other cut which really shows off some more of that great acoustic guitar work is the penultimate song, “Fencepost”. The final cut, “’Til You Hit the Pavement” is one of the first times in years that I’ve seen the abbreviation for the word “until” written correctly, as ‘TIL not TILL, which is a noun, meaning a drawer, as in a cash drawer in a cash register. It’s also a lovely, reflective song filled, not with anger or sadness but more of a “que sera sera” kind of attitude. -KM

Aarktica
Live at KUCI 6/15/05
Silber Media
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Another new one from Brian and company is a new CD by the hardly working Aarktica, who’ve just come out with a new release already – it’s a taped live show at the studios of small college radio station KUCI – probably from the campus of UC-Irvine(?) just a guess from the call letters.
Anyway, this free-form, live show is awash in real instrumentation as well as real drums and percussion. It even has a bit of that passionate Latin spark- almost Cuban in some parts, Brazilian or West Indies in others. For example: the first two tunes “Depression Modern” but especially “OJ Guide”. From there on it stays in the same vein – dark, doomy, dirge-like bass-droning and a little bit of twangy guitar to help out in that same eerie twang-thing going on there. I know this isn’t the first Aarktica CD that I’ve come around but it looks like I am going to have to go back to the label and get some ones that I missed. But for now, take my word for it – these guys rock all over the place. -KM

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