Albums of the Week

May 18-May 24

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In this edition: Gold-Bears, The Cars, About Group and Alvarius B.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Gold-Bears: Are You Falling In Love? (Slumberland)

Such a perfect title for this Atlanta pop outfit’s full-length debut! Young love’s rush of hormones and emotions is captured beautifully in their befuzzed, punk-wise, radio-savvy sound, a giddy collision of exuberant noise and heartfelt emotion that also kicks up the dirt to reveal all the snarled roots and dank stuff below amour’s heady swoon. One encounters the same overflowing energy and abundant promise on Are You Falling In Love? (released May 17) as leaps out at the listener on Belle & Sebastian’s Tigermilk, Velvet Crush’s In the Presence of Greatness and XTC’s White Music. And while gut instinct says there’s LOTS of great music to come from Gold-Bears, these eleven breathlessly delivered tunes possess both instant, visceral charm and a songwriting and production undertow worth spelunking. Despite being Americans, there’s a vocal quality and lyrical bent that recalls great Brits like Aztec Camera’s Roddy Frame and Prefab Sprout’s Paddy McAloon, where humor and the heart vie for dominance and everything sounds vaguely arch, even the nicest kisses colored by cynicism’s darkening shade. This is a cocktail of fizzy lifting drink and breakup booze that burns and brightens as it goes down – seriously intoxicating stuff. (Dennis Cook)

Gold-Bears – Record Store by Slumberland Records

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
The Cars: Move Like This (Hear Music)

24 years is a hell of a stretch between albums but press play on Move Like This (released May 10) and it’s as if no time at all has passed. It’s all here – the dry, cool vocals and slashing rhythm guitar of Ric Ocasek, the tightly wound, razor sharp guitars of Elliot Easton, the honest-to-god synthesizer wildin’ of Greg Hawkes and the crisp, clomping drums of David Robinson – and lordy is it satisfying. Whatever inspired Ocasek to rejoin his mates for the first time since 1988, we’re the lucky ones since Move Like This actually harks back to the of street grit and head-nodding chic of the band’s classic self-titled debut (1978) and follow-up Candy-O (1979) melded with more modern arrangements and studio tweaks. ‘Lean’ and ‘clean’ are the words that spring to mind as the ten cuts here reclaim a sound that bands have been borrowing, sometimes wholesale, from for decades, something co-producer Jacknife Lee understands after working with Cars acolytes like Weezer and Bloc Party. Ballads Soon and Take Another Look make one wistful at the absence of bassist-singer Ben Orr, who passed away in 2000 due to pancreatic cancer. Try as he might to be a noveau crooner, Ocasek can’t help sounding a bit arch or cynical, a voice that rings with contemporary ennui and chill, but the sincerity of the performances and gorgeous settings, particularly Hawkes’ lush keys, ultimately sell even these parts on Move Like This. Six albums always seemed a little light for a group as collectively talented as The Cars, and this seventh installment is a rock solid testament to that impression. More, please. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
About Group: Start and Complete (Domino)

Alexis Taylor might be chiefly known for crafting some of the hottest grooves in indie dance music as the primary member of London’s Hot Chip. But those who’ve come to appreciate his activity beyond the widespread burning of UK club floors are fully cognizant of Taylor’s strengths as a pop songwriter and performer, exemplified on his quirky, artful 2008 solo debut Rubbed Out and the more abstract downtempo moments with the Chip, namely their excellent collaborative EP with Robert Wyatt and Geese, Made In The Dark. And as the chief principle of the experimental pop outfit About Group, Taylor continues to highlight his refusal to be pigeonholed to any one form of ear candy. Rounded out by This Heat’s Charles Hayward, John Coxon of Spring Hell Jack and Spiritualized fame and venerated avant-garde sideman Pat Thomas, who has worked with the likes of Derek Bailey and Tony Oxley, this quality quartet originally came together in 2009 to create an album of improvised music for the tiny Treader imprint after only one day of being together. After spending the last year and change congealing their cohesion as a unit via a series of performances at such renowned festivals as Ornette Coleman’s Meltdown Fest and Glastonbury, the band reconvened in 2010 to craft this haunting, gorgeous album of abstract pop songs. Recorded in just one day at Abbey Road Studios and mixed on Krautrock great Conny Plank’s old desk, Start and Complete (released April 26) is a triumph of improvisational record making, working off an arsenal of songs written by Taylor over the last few years. However, only a selection of those songs were given to the other players just a few days before entering the studio in order to prevent anybody from becoming too familiar with the material, thus sealing the intended off-the-cuff nature of the project. The final draft of this labor of quickie love is an illuminating fusion of organic and electronic textures that recalls elements of All Things Must Pass-era George Harrison, vintage Altantic Records R&B and classic Kosmiche, which yielded quite an extraordinary cache of tunes highlighted by the Rhodes-driven charmer Don’t Worry and an eleven-minute soul reworking of You’re No Good that falls smack dab in the center of both NYC Latin jazz legend Harvey Averne’s lost soul original and minimalist composer Terry Riley’s 1967 tape loop deconstruction of the song with seamless aplomb. Perhaps one of these days Alexis Taylor will create an album as equally beguiling and challenging with Hot Chip as he’s generated with this exceptionally ad-hoc ensemble, but for now, long may the About Group run. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Alvarius B.: Baroque Primitiva (Abduction)

Originally a vinyl-only set released in 2010 on the tiny Poon Village label in a miniscule run, the sixth-odd album from the melodic half of the late, great Sun City Girls with brother Sir Richard Bishop and the dearly departed Charles Gocher gets a masterfully intricate CD issue from Abduction Records. Encased in a hardbound 32-page book that expands upon the full-frontal beauty of its album art (think Playboy meets the cover of Archie Shepp’s The Way Ahead), Baroque Primitiva (released May 10) is Alvarius B. (nee Alan Bishop) at his most ear-friendly. Here, he staves off the caustic nature of his previous solo work in favor of a set that is far more accessible to the general listening public than anything else he has done in his 30 years in the biz. Recorded primarily by Bishop with avant-jazz violinist Eyvind Kang appearing sporadically throughout the set, these 11 tracks were captured at a variety of sessions through the years and reflects upon the artist’s deep appreciation of the melodic structures of The Beatles and Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, albeit in a lo-fi, art-damaged sense. Among the highlights here are the otherworldly Mussolini’s Exit and an intriguing pair of covers in John Barry’s Nancy Sinatra-sung theme to the 1967 Bond film You Only Live Twice and a total deconstruction of The Beach Boys’ God Only Knows, here retooled as God Only Be Without You. If you are a fan of SCG or the Brothers Bishop, do yourself a favor and seek out Baroque Primitiva. Just make sure the pervert in your family doesn’t try to sneak into the bathroom with the case for it! (RH)

One thought on “Albums of the Week |May 18-May 24

  1. I’m lovin’ the new Cars album. The show in Oakland last Friday was great fun!

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