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Indie Takeover: One CD and Two seven-inchers

Aloud
Exile
Lemon Merchant Records
www.allthingsaloud.com
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

What to make of Aloud? Hmm…it’s not your everyday pop-rock-hip/hop-emo-nu-metal CD but a horse of an entirely different color. More oriented toward hippie groovin’, folkified, laid back mellowness, Exile, their newest release has some interesting routes less traveled in the average music of today.
Aloud consists of two principals: Jen de la Osa and Henry Beguiristain. Jen sings, plays guitar, piano, organ, synths, percussion, glockenspiel and “additional production” while Henry also sings, plays guitar, bass, mandolin, piano, synths, percussion and “additional production”. Also helping out on Exile is Daniel Daskivich, who, besides producing the disc, also played drums on the CD as well as the bass on “Exile in the Eight”. Besides these three, there are also a handful of other friends and acquaintances that helped out here and there on one track or another.
The opening cut, “Burning Bright” has a little bit of Elliott Smith’s melancholy to it, but then the next song, “Broken Hearts”, sung by Jen is a darkly sentimental reflection on what could be any one of a million disappointments, but is probably about one in particular. “Exile in the Eight” brings things up a little, with a more upbeat and rock steady beat to it.
All the varied instruments the duo experiments with really do come together well to present a unique backdrop to these two’s articulate vocalizing and the more you listen to it, the more involved it gets, starting out from a very simple acoustic folkiness to a more country-rock style a la The Flying Burrito Brothers/Gram Parsons, not that whiny depressing head-in-your-beer country, but the more hippy idealism that peaked in the late 60s. But Aloud are nothing if not an original sounding band: there’s nothing “retro” about them, even if they use regular instruments for the most part and don’t create all the sounds with a computer program they still crank out some fresh, new material that stands up on its own. -KM

Japandroids
Heavenward Grand Prix (7”)
Polyvinyl Records
www.polyvinylrecords.com
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

This new seven-inch for the new single, “Heavenward Grand Prix”, by Vancouver’s Japandroids, an electrifying, dynamic duo that makes indie rock with guitars, bass and drums and some synth-pops here and there for texture – all the sounds that make “Rock” “Rock”, serves up two new tracks – the aforementioned single and one “B-side”: “Shame”.
Of the two cuts, I have to say, I really find “Heavenward Grand Prix” very catchy, with an infectious groove to it and an “uber”, sensible, realization of musical fantasies and that is why it’s no doubt the “A-side” (well, there aren’t any “sides” anymore, but you get it). That isn’t to say “Shame” isn’t also a great new tune – it starts out flailing its arms a little and struggling for balance, but “Shame” quickly catches its wind and pulls together a tight, crisp, head-bobbing rock song. The subject of said song isn’t anything deep, just a ditty about how one guy feels “shame”, regret and whatever, over the girl he lost and probably the way he lost her…it could be autobiographical, or it could be some sort of really complicated metaphor, which I doubt, so I’d have to guess autobio. or a fictionalized sketch.
Listening to my favorite of the two songs, “Heavenward Grand Prix”, the subject is ore “girl dumps sensitive, poetic guy” to a song about a blissed out relationship, “You and I/High…” is one of the repeated choruses; that and “We don’t have to be like they are/In our Heavenward Grand Prix” – that, to me, sounds like this couple have a chemical bond to one another – in more than one way (?) Not being sure if it’s metaphorical or not, I don’t know if he means that this girl is the best and he only wants to get high with her or if it’s a little deeper, meaning that when they’re together they both get a symbiotic, synethesic high. Either way, it’s unique in that it isn’t overtly cynical, angry or filled with faux (teen) angst.
One can only hope that this isn’t just a one-off single issue and that it is only a preview of a new album in the works, as I was (and still am) into Post Nothing, their latest release. But I think we’re about due for a new one – “we”, as in their “anxiously awaiting public”.
You could check out Polyvinyl Records excellent website, www.polyvinylrecords.com or check out Japandroids on www.MySpace.com/Japandroids or www.japandroids.com for more information and a convenient way to buy it. -KM

Joan of Arc
Meaningful Work
Polyvinyl Records
www.polyvinylrecords.com or www.joanfrc.com [sic]
Reviewed by Kent Manthie

Just out from our friends at Polyvinyl Records, out of Chi-town, the lovely and talented Joan of Arc have just released a seven inch with two new songs on it: “Meaningful Work”, the “title track” of the seven inch, backed with “The Thing in Things”.
My favorite is the former (“Meaningful Things”): it is just a typical, catchy JOA tune with wry lyrics, hip, contagious melodies and that jaded, skeptical attitude all intact. That isn’t to take away anything from the second tune, “The Thing in Things”- it isn’t some throwaway B-side, but rather another new Joan of Arc song.
One thing, though, that I noticed about these new songs is how they recall a little of the “older” JOA stuff – and by “older”, I’m talking stuff from the mid-90s to the mid-2000s, up to and including Boo Human! It’s not that I didn’t like Flowers, the release after Boo…, but it’s just that that CD seemed to mark a little bit of a change and that isn’t surprising, given the sort of “open-door” policy, wherein they’ve had several different lineups in their illustrious career and if that’s not confusing enough most of all them play in other bands as well, which is what last year’s Joan of Arc Presents: Don’t Mind Control, a CD compilation of solo tracks from different solo artists that play in or have played in JOA, like Cale Parks, Jeremy Boyle, Mike “Owen” Kinsella and some of the other bands that have interchangeable members with JOA and others, like Euphone, Ghosts & Vodka, Cairo Gang and Pillars & Tongues, just to name a few. To tell the truth, after that came out I was a little worried that maybe that release was spelling the end of JOA (oh no!) – but my spirits were elated to see that they’re still at it and hopefully this seven inch is only something to tide us over until the next big Joan of Arc production comes out (and I can hardly wait!) – KM

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