Tag: 2005

Stellastarr* – Harmonies for the Haunted

ARTIST: Stellastarr*

TITLE: Harmonies for the Haunted

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #12 Heatseeker

SINGLES: Sweet Troubled Soul (#37 Dance)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: None

LINEUP: Arthur Kremer, Shawn Christensen, Amanda Tannen, Michael Jurin

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from NY band finds them in a more dance-oriented mood rhythmically, but still has a foot into the alt-rock scene.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Perhaps taking a nod from the trends in NYC happening at the time (with Interpol and the Rapture), Stellastarr moved themselves toward a dance-oriented rhythm, while still blasting guitars out to the fore, and singer Shawn Christensen still over-singing a bit. His enunciation on the pre-chorus to “The Diver” is cringe-worthy for sure.

What this album has is “Sweet Troubled Soul”, an all-timer of a track and head-and-shoulders above everything on this record. The other tracks are OK, but without that track the album would just be a trend-hopping exercise by a band that never really knew what it wanted to be anyway.

Still, “Sweet Troubled Soul” is worthwhile and the other tracks are decent enough to keep. So, one track saves the day.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This album was first issued with the blasted Media Max software that kept legit buyers from ripping a copy for their iPod.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No, but the copies streaming now don’t have the hidden track. So an anti-deluxe?

GRADE B+: It’s really a regression with one track pumping the grade up two notches.

The Fiery Furnaces – EP

ARTIST: Fiery Furnaces                                 

TITLE: EP

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Single Again, Tropical Ice-Land

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nah

LINEUP: Matthew Friedberger, Eleanor Friedberger with others on drums

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A stop gap release with singles and b-sides

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The UK wanted something to play on the radio, so the Fiery Furnaces recorded “Single Again”, a modern take on folk songs (which was chilling and gave me a lot of pause), then released this full of B-sides and new tracks. It’s called EP, but it’s really 41 minutes, so that’s a misnomer.

Always challenging and inventive, the songs aren’t just tossed off B-sides and extras, but well-crafted and musically challenging songs, with the siblings working together and Matthew even singing a few cuts as well.

The songs mostly link together, which is good, but a little frustrating for mix-tape or playlist makers. But as a stop-gap, this works well, and allowed the Furnaces to create challenging works later.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I’m counting this as a 2005 release since the singles were new enough and the album cohered enough to be a contemporary release.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

 GRADE A-: “Single Again” gives me chills. The rest are good examples of the tuneful oddness of the Furnaces.

The Mars Volta – Frances the Mute

ARTIST: The Mars Volta                   220px-Frances_the_Mute

TITLE: Frances the Mute

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #4 US, #23 UK

SINGLES: The Widow (#95 US, #7 Alternative, #25 Mainstream), L’Via L’Viaquez (#53 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: If you bought it only…

LINEUP: Omar Rodriguez Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala, Jonb Theodore, Ikey Owens, Jaun Aldrete de la Pena, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez. Also Lenny Castro, Flea, John Frusciante, Larry Harlow and others.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Impressive, yet ultimately overwhelming, concept album.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The second record by the Mars Volta is a concept supposedly finding one’s birth parents, but it’s not as straight forward as you think. The story gets a bit lost as you listen to the staggeringly complex tracks.

Only one of the five tracks is under 10 minutes (“The Widow” at 5:50) and “Cassandra Gemini” is 32 ½ minutes long! Now, long songs don’t necessarily mean something is boring, pretentious, or indulgent, yet these tracks seem to verge upon being too much for anyone to take all at once, even with the great sounds and riffs. frances mute single

There’s also sound effect and found sounds through the record that disturb the flow (at least to may ears) and while they may be necessary for the ‘story’ I could do without.

I love the sound and idea of the story, it’s just way way too indulgent.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title track was left off the album for time, so it was released as a B-side and streams separately.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

 GRADE C+: Maybe I need to spend more time with it, but it’s such a slog that the great parts are obfuscated by the breadth of the tracks.

 

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

ARTIST: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah     Clap_Your_Hands_Say_Yeah_(Front_Cover)

TITLE:  Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #16 US Indie, #26 UK

SINGLES: Is This Love (#74 UK), In This Home on Ice (#68 UK), The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth (#149 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Maybe if you were tuned into indie or college stations.

LINEUP: Alex Ounsworth, Sean Greenhaigh, Robbie Guertin, Lee Sargent, Tyler Sargent..

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Indie rock sensations in 2005, in retrospect it’s a lot of whiny stuff.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you were a whiny skinny white boy, then 2005 was the year for you. In the UK, and over here, bands like Clap Your Hands Say Yeah got airplay and noticed.

Alex Ounsworth is the brains behind the band, and he has a good knack for melodies and arrangements, mostly. But my goodness, his voice. He’s got a natural whine, and not in a good way. It’s high pitched, pleading, and grating at times.

Mind you, there is some decent stuff on here, if you can forget the voice. I really can’t, but I’m keeping some anyway. Going forward, I’m forgetting their other records.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This record was self-released and sold by the band here in the US before it was released in the UK on a proper label.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No. 

GRADE: C+: There’s some material that Ounsworth’s voice doesn’t take away from, but it’s a detriment on many, and I can’t deal. Those songs are exiled.

Metric – Live It Out

ARTIST: Metric                             220px-Live_it_Out_-_Cover

TITLE:  Live It Out

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #37 Heatseekers, #44 Independent

SINGLES: Poster of a Girl, Monster Hospital (#55 UK), Empty

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here

LINEUP: Emily Haines, James Shaw, Joshua Winstead, Joules Scott-Key

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Straddling new wave, indie rock, and alternative rock, the Canadian band’s second release utilizes the strengths of vocalist Emily Haines and producer / guitarist James Shaw.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Around this time, there was a movement of bands emulating some of the post-punk bands from the UK, and it may be tempting to throw Metric on that pile, but their mix has more to do with the US new wave crossed with grungy guitars than anything else.

Shaw and Haines, also part of Broken Social Scene, move Metric into a unique direction here, with the sound building on their earlier work with more synth work and colorful production. Haines vocals belie her sound. Even though she sings in a high range and can sound delicate, her vocals are powerful and carry a lot of the songs messages through.

This release got them notice outside of Canada, and grew their touring base past Ontario. It’s well worth multiple spins – it holds up.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Haines was born in India, but she grew up in Ontario.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Japan, Germany, and France. 

GRADE: A-: Not really revivalism, but a mix of 80’s and 90’s sounds into something unique.

Paramore – All We Know Is Falling

ARTIST: Paramore                                        220px-Paramore-all_we_know_is_falling

TITLE: All We Know Is Falling

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: #30 Heatseekers, #51 UK

SINGLES: Pressure, Emergency, All We Know

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Here We Go Again

LINEUP: Hayley Williams, Josh Farro, Zac Farro, Jason Bynum, Lucio Rubino.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut record for the Florida band positions them for their eventual breakout.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Featuring a radio-ready sound, and some charisma in vocalist Hayley Williams, the debut for Paramore was ready-made for teens who were eating up melodic pop / punk at the time.

Hayley Williams’ vocals are the star here. She rises above the at-times generic sounding music with her charisma and range. Everything else seems a bit generic, though (angsty lyrics, heavy guitar riffs with dynamic changes between slow and fast, loud and quiet – it’s like emo punk 101).

The one thing that bothers me about rock from this era is the compressed sound. Everything was made for the digital music revolution, which pinches everything into mid-range and treble for the most part, and that doesn’t allow for a lot of sonic distance, and the drums seem very tinny (to my ears). But that’s not limited to Paramore; it’s just really noticeable here.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The drummer, Zac Farro, was only 15. Also, this record was written about former (and future) bassist Jeremy Davis, who split the band right before recording.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, In Japan, they always have bonus tracks, and there were iTunes tracks and anniversary tracks and such.

GRADE: B: It’s a good representation for what was going on in that era, and while it wasn’t a hit it definitely got them buzz in the right places.

Kylesa – To Walk a Middle Course

ARTIST: Kylesa                                        220px-To_Walk_a_Middle_Course

TITLE: To Walk a Middle Course

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: None

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Only the metalheads know, unfortunately.

LINEUP: Phillip Cope, Laura Pleasants, Corey Barhorst, Brandon Baltzley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Second album from sludge-alt-new-whatever metal combo melts some damn faces off.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Sure, they shout instead of singing (for the most part), which could lessen its appeal to the wimpier, but dang it, this cooks.

Adding Laura Pleasants’ voice into the yowl by Phillip Cope (or Corey Barhorst) helps break up the monotony and adds tension. The star here though are the riffs, and the feel. Cope and Pleasants rip through riffs, and the production adding quieter parts and samples also bring balance.

Yeah, it’s still a bit monotonous – all of those killer riffs can run together – but in small-to-medium doses, your face will melt.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Between their debut and this, they released a few very limited edition 7” singles.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: B+:  I can’t quite get there with an A-, because of some of the monotony, but for metal heads wanting something powerful and non-generic, this is a good one.

Brakes – Give Blood

ARTIST: Brakes                                  220px-Give_Blood_(Brakes_album)

TITLE:  Give Blood

YEAR RELEASED: 2005

CHART ACTION: None

SINGLES: Pick Up the Phone (#82 UK), All Night Disco Party (#76 UK), Ring a Ding (#86 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They cover Jackson

LINEUP: Eamon Hamilton, Marc Beatty, Thomas White, Alex White

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A super-group of sorts with members from Electric Soft Parade and British Sea Power that’s a raw-ish throwback to earlier punk times.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Veterans of two independent-minded bands in the UK come together to form a loud, rattly punkish band with short songs and long attitudes.

It’s a nice throwback, tribute, whatever, with some very short songs. The whole thing is over in less than a half hour. It sounded like a blast to record and write .To listen, I don’t know really.

There are glimpses of things, but it’s a little too unfocused and clattery to me. They loved it in the UK press, but I’m going to hedge on it for a while.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: They recorded this in a week with very little overdubs.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No

GRADE: C+: I’m not convinced. It may take a while for me to get through the clatter.

Babyshambles – Down in Albion

ARTIST: Babyshambles 220px-Downinalbion
TITLE: Down in Albion
YEAR RELEASED: 2005
CHART ACTION: #10 UK
SINGLES: Kilimangrio (#8 UK), Fuck Forever (#4 UK), Albion (#8 UK)
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Not here, no.
LINEUP: Peter Doherty, Patrick Walden, Adam Ficek, Drew McConnell
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Libertines frontman, more famous for being a drunken drugged out bastard than a musician, forms another band and it’s a bloody train wreck, mate.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The Libertines were kind of exciting, especially in a time where it seemed everything was sterile and bland. That band could rip out tuneful chaotic rock anthems with the best of them, and soon they got really big in the UK and cult favorites here in the US.

The music press was all OVER Pete Doherty, though usually in a bad way. He was a total wreck when it came to the sex and drugs part of the holy rock-and-roll trio. It got SO bad that Doherty was actually put away for burglary and kicked out of the band twice for drug abuse. The press ate it up and in the US he was more famous for that, and his relationships with Kate Moss and Amy Winehouse, than anything else.

Undaunted, he formed Babyshambles, which is pretty much onomatopoeia. Their first album isn’t cohesive at all – not just song by song but within songs. Good rock puts you at the ragged edge and pulls you back. This band just puts you over the guardrail without much redeeming qualities. The guitar work is sloppy. Doherty is a loose cannon, and not in a pleasant way. The best songs sound like reheated Libertines. The worst are just shambling mounds of sound.

This was a hit, but it wasn’t good. Some songs are OK, but, on the whole, it’s really a chore to listen to.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: “Albion” was actually a Libertines song that Doherty appropriated for his band.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: C-: It’s kind of a disaster, much like Doherty. EXILED without a second thought.

Silversun Pickups – Pikul

ARTIST: Silversun Pickups 220px-Silversun_Pickups_-_Pikul-EP-
TITLE: Pikul
YEAR RELEASED: 2005
CHART ACTION: None
SINGLES: It was an EP
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They made videos for Kissing Families and Comeback Kid
LINEUP: Brian Aubert, Nikki Monninger, Joe Leter, Christopher Guanlao
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Debut EP from the Silver Lake (a neighborhood of LA), California band sets the stage for their career, though it is a bit uneven.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Somewhat distorted guitars, high pitched vocals, female bass player, are they aping the Smashing Pumpkins? No, not really. The guitar sound is similar but the songwriting and songs are different.

This debut EP from Silversun Pickups shows how well-formed the bands sound and vision was already before walking into the studio. The lead two cuts (“Kissing Families” and “Comeback Kid”) are a bit retro-90’s with some modern flourishes, and that’s right where this band sweet spot is. The guitars sound familiar, yet the songs have a quiet, hushed tone at times thanks to Aubert’s vocals (a little shoegaze in there as well).

The band was together as this unit since 2002, which gave them time to work everything out and put their best foot forward as a group. Some songs, the slower ones, aren’t as essential and vital as the lead cuts, and one (“Creation Lake”) stops the record dead in its tracks. But it’s a good debut EP and their next album would show how vital of a group they are.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The title is pronounced “Pie-kull”. The CD version had a bunch of silent tracks from track six to the ‘hidden’ track.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: No.

GRADE: B+: Two great songs, the rest good except for one, and that one track knocks it down a peg. Harsh, but true.