Albums of the Week

November 25-December 1

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In this edition: Spacecamp, Holmes, Kate Bush and Russian Circles.

Dennis’ Pick of the Week:
Spacecamp: Alibi EP (Modern Records)

Five cuts are all it takes to figure out Spacecamp has a special spark. Their intensely infectious sound is newfangled power pop with injections of African High Life swivel and glossy Cars/Peter Gabriel-esque modernity. That’s the music, and the lyrics ooze cheeky cleverness and worldly awareness, bedroom and international politics both fair game, which can be a mess and no fun at all but not with Spacecamp (sample: “My birthday’s only seven days away/ But she’s still giving all my chemicals away/ We’ve taken shelter in a government truck/ When all you needed was a friendly fuck”). Like any good EP, Alibi (released November 22) leaves one wanting more, curious about what else they’re capable of, especially if this is what they managed “huddled in a basement at Saltlands Studio in Dumbo, Brooklyn.” In a better world, Get What You Want and the title track would be the benchmark for radio play, and both Red Finger and Teen Idol could pass as Outlandos d’Amour or Reggatta de Blanc outtakes. As they used to say in the old days, these kids have pizzazz. (Dennis Cook)

Latest tracks by SPACECAMP

Dennis’ Runner-Up of the Week:
Holmes: Covers (Groove Gravy Records)

Not everyone could make Ice Cube’s It Was A Good Day sound like it was a Ben Folds Five ditty but Holmes nails it as the opening number on the cheerful, almost guiltily enjoyable Covers (released November 1). This works the same side of the blue-eyed soul-meets-hipster-nostalgia street as Mayer Hawthorne, which isn’t a dig against either young musician who respects the craftsmanship and quality in what’s come before as they attempt to build something solid of their own – plus both guys have covered ELO’s “Mr. Blue Sky this year. This all-covers set shows which giants’ shoulders Holmes wants to stand on, and he equates himself well on beloved nuggets from Yaz (Don’t Go), Queen (Bicycle Race), The Gap Band (You Dropped A Bomb On Me), Michael Jackson (Working Day And Night), Massive Attack (Paradise Circus), Elvis Presley (Don’t Be Cruel), Genesis (That’s All) and more – notably, a howling blues reworking of Depeche Mode’s Wrong that could be fairly mistaken for The Black Keys. It’s a bit of a crazy quilt but Holmes sews it together admirably, his heartfelt versions showing affection and a post-modern archness that works for him. He can sing his ass off and his arranging gifts are obvious, doing just what a good cover should – reminding us why we liked a song in the first place while adding a lil’ something – and doing it 13 times over here. (DC)

Ron’s Pick of the Week:
Kate Bush: 50 Words for Snow (Anti-)

Over a half decade following the release of her double-length magnum opus, 2005’s Aerial, English ingenue Kate Bush returns with her sixth LP in 30 years, the magnificent 50 Words for Snow (released November 21). Though the album title sounds like something conjured up by a cocaine-obsessed rapper like Young Jeezy or Ghostface Killah for his next mixtape banger, it serves as a fitting description for the thematic direction of Kate’s label debut on the Anti- imprint. These seven epic compositions explore the sensual tundra of winter’s effects on the heart, mind and loins. With the help of a small but elite group of prolific pals, including longtime Roger Waters sideman Andy Fairweather-Low, acclaimed British actor Stephen Fry on the pulsing, electronically enhanced title cut, and on the LP’s impact track Snowed In At Wheeler Street, Elton John, who almost (I repeat almost) seems as though he is channeling his inner closet hetero while exchanging verses with Bush as though she was the one that got away from him. There are indeed no words to truly describe the enchanting pulchritude of 50 Words for Snow, except for hailing it as the loveliest work of Kate’s sparse but uncompromising career. (Ron Hart)

Ron’s Runner-Up of the Week:
Russian Circles: Empros (Sargent House)

In the grand tradition of the instrumental Chicago bands that precede them, Russian Circles continues to push the boundaries of the subgenre known as post-rock on their fourth studio LP. Empros (released October 25) sees the Windy City trio implementing a stronger sense of melody and clarity that breaks through the stubborn complexity of their earlier works, embellishing upon their love for old school power metal on opening cut 309, rousing indie rock style anthemia on Mladek, and even Spiritualized-esque gospel-gaze on the album’s incredible closing track Praise Be Man, which features a rare vocal turn from bassist Brian Cook. If the Circles decide to start adding more instances of warbling on future releases, it would be awesome if they stayed in the direction of Praise, a fitting end to their finest work yet. (RH)

One thought on “Albums of the Week | November 25-December 1

  1. The Holmes album is remarkable. Thanks for the link on his facebook page. This is a cool blog!

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