The Weekly Jive

Posted October 9, 2008 in Music

Juana Molina—Un Dia (Domino Records) 
Probably due to language xenophobia, Argentina’s Juana Molina remains an over-looked artist on the post-folk scene, though there are few better at rearranging the music’s building blocks into compelling new shapes. Armed with an acoustic guitar and an intimidating bank of synths, keys and her vital looping machine, Molina picks out high- and low-end patterns on guitar and synths, then creates boundless layers from those and her own voice, harmonizing the latter—singing jazz scat and repetitive phrases—into intricate webs while cross-thatching the former into drone-like foundations. The closest thing to it might be some of Bjork’s experimental forays, or Andrew Bird’s solo loops run through Four Tet’s beats chop-shop. On Un Dia, the audio architect brings her percussive elements all the way to the front of the mix, stretching beats (made via guitar, synths and voice) into rubbery surfaces upon which her voice floats, alone or in waves of cross-harmonies, like seagulls buffeted by hale winds. It’s so dizzying at first your ear yearns for more familiar footholds—an old-fashioned chorus, horn-blast or hook to land on. But their absence doesn’t linger, because taking Molina on her own terms is just too rewarding. (John Schacht)

Attack! Attack!—Attack! Attack! (Rock Ridge Music)
Welsh rockers Attack! Attack! deftly straddle a line in rock that often divides the harsh, gruff and aggressive from the bubble-gum, happy-go-lucky, teeny-bop pop. It’s a tall order, but they’ve managed to accomplish recording a credible set of alt-rock cuts without any residual aftertaste. Foo Fighters-esque elements abound on this eponymous debut, including the punchy guitar riffs coupled with easy-to-memorize choruses and darker, more dissonant transitions and bridges. However, the line in the sand’s drawn at the vocals, where Dave Grohl’s gruff, forceful hollering is more commonly traded for clean, sharp delivery throughout the 10-track disc, courtesy of frontman Neil Starr. Starr’s high-octave belting often aligns the foursome closer to Jimmy Eat World or Fall Out Boy in such instances. The songs themselves are well-crafted, neatly recorded, without much of the production fuss and nonsensical detailing that often pervade bands of this ilk. Keep it simple, keep it strong, keep it rocking. (Waleed Rashidi)

Lucinda Williams—Little Honey (Lost Highway)
Some people refer to themselves as “mavericks” just to further their careers (John McCain immediately comes to mind). Others, like acclaimed singer/songwriter Lucinda Williams, are the real deal. Early on, the Louisiana native straddled genres and helped define what became known as alt-country music. She baffled (and battled) record companies for nearly 20 years before the stars finally aligned for 1998’s excellent, Grammy-winning Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. Clocking in at 65 minutes, ninth studio disc Little Honey is more rambunctious than 2007’s darkly captivating West. Williams’ engagement obviously had a positive effect on the happier-than-usual lyrics, especially a subtle “Knowing,” driving “Real Love,” solo acoustic “Plan to Marry” and slow soulful blues of “Tears of Joy.” Check out the smoking “Honey Bee,” with an energy equal to the live version played at Stagecoach ’07 and a Stonesy  cover of AC/DC’s “It’s a Long Way to the Top.” “Jailhouse Tears” is a humorous trad-country sparring session with Elvis Costello (imagine a profane Tammy Wynette and George Jones). Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs provide supple backing harmonies on key tracks like the dramatic, chamber pop standout “Little Rock Star” (about self destructive musicians Ryan Adams and Pete Doherty). Subtle brass arrangements even color her tunes for the first time (“Knowing,” “Rarity”). Seasoned touring band Buick 6—anchored by onetime eels drummer Butch Norton—sounds tight throughout. (George A. Paul)


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