The Weekly Jive

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Posted February 18, 2009 in Music

The Marches—4 a.m. is the new midnight (Satellite Star)

Aligning its sweeping musical tastes to “the times of iPod shuffle,” The Marches prove an identity truism—when your goal is to be about everything, you end up being about nothing. No individual song is egregiously bad—in fact, some are sort of fun—but as a whole it’s as if they threw things up against the wall to see what sticks (answer: everything, apparently). Underpinning nearly the entire disc is that lazy man’s haven of electro-dance, while the surface runs amuck through shades of Motown (“Need Me Back”), classical interludes (“The Trouble With Heart Murmurs”), boogie, drunken Kumbaya (‘End of the Album pt. 2”), the worst chic elements of The Arc, robotulation (title track) and one swinging number, “Don’t Love With Your Eyes,” which would rival Janet Klein if only its heartbeat were real. The instrumental jingle with the rap beat “Ghost of a Chance” gets uncomfortably close to oily elevator jazz, and they’d have you believe that’s just more “range.” Show-offs. But here’s the problem with a concept like new midnight: the diversity in today’s human family still boils down to a matter of personal taste and choice, the formula is not absolute. Cobbling styles is a personal experience only to the Marches, who boast of recording all tracks in the various members’ houses for added grassroots appeal. Dunno, maybe The Marches are closet parlor pinks to pull this off, but even that seems like too big a commitment for their unedited whims. (Chuck Mindenhall)

 

Various ArtistsWar Child presents “Heroes” (Astralwerks)   

Whenever War Child assembles a new charity album, you can bet it’ll be worth your dough. The international organization focuses on reducing poverty, education and human rights for children in war-torn areas of the world. The Help Album (1995) featured an all-star Britpop lineup. 1 Love (2002) sported cover songs. Help!: A Day in the Life (2005), with another crop of original British tunes, set a U.K. digital download record. Heroes has a cool concept: 16 music legends selected one of their compositions and nominated a younger artist to do a modern-day version. Beck puts a brilliant eclectic spin on Dylan’s “Leopard Skin Pill Box Hat”; The Hold Steady prove perfect for Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”; Lily Allen nabs The Clash’s Mick Jones on that band’s “Straight to Hell” and does an ace job at reinventing the tune. Same goes for Hot Chip’s spacey, electro-leaning “Transmission” by Joy Division and Duffy’s luxuriously retro treatment of Paul McCartney & Wings’ “Live and Let Die.” Scissor Sisters take Roxy Music’s “Do the Strand” in a fun, Giorgio Moroder/dance direction and TV on the Radio—the clear standout—make “Heroes” by David Bowie even more icy and detached. Rufus Wainwright, Estelle, Peaches, Franz Ferdinand and Yeah Yeah Yeahs are among the other contributors. For more info, www.warchild.us. (George A. Paul)

 

The Appleseed Cast—Sagarmatha (The Militia Group)

Almost every expression on Sagarmatha, The Appleseed Cast’s mostly instrumental sixth studio effort, is opaque and oblique, as these indie vets move away from their Sunny Day Real Estate-ish emo beginnings and into a decidedly post-rock (but still rather sunny) present. More like a soundtrack than a traditional song-based album, Sagarmatha (Nepalese for Mount Everest, don’t ‘cha know) is a brave, headphone—and 420-friendly piece of work where traditional rock instruments—guitar, bass, drums (and lots of effects pedals)—intertwine in drowsy, rather non-rock ways and Christopher Crisci’s occasional vocals are kept tantalizingly out of reach behind a glassy pane of reverb. There are certainly purposeful passages—the ending of opener “As The Little Things Go”; the My Bloody Valentine-indebted “South Col”—but for the most part Sagarmatha is a disc which takes its own sweet time and rewards patience in the listener. Delicate yet determined; frustrating yet admirably finessed. (Paul Rogers)

 

Odawas—The Blue Depths (Jagjaguwar)

For music this programmed, processed and synthesized, the third release from Michael Tapscott and Isaac Edwards is remarkably holistic. A significant step up for Odawas, Tapscott laser-focuses his songwriting here and better integrates Edwards’ dreamy, ultra-textured arrangements and programmed beats. The Blue Depths may trade in some previous grandeur (think “Alleluia” from Raven & the White Night) for more straightforward psych-folk, but that doesn’t make it any less mysterious or seductive. On “Swan Song of the Humpback Angler,” Tapscott sounds like Neil Young fronting some lost cut from Mercury Rev’s Deserter’s Songs, and on “The Sound of Lies,” the reverb-coated vocals could be At Dawn-era Jim James run slo-mo through a Warp band’s chop-shop. “Our Gentle Life Together” simply floats off into ether like a lost balloon, but mostly the acoustic guitars, cello, and Tapscott’s lonesome harmonica keep an orchestra of synths and treated keys tethered to the real world; still, the ethereal is always a delicious possibility with Odawas. Tapscott’s still penning sad-sack couplets like “Life just wears me down/and what I want I do not have” from opener “The Case of the Great Irish Elk,” but these textures offer constant comfort, solace, and, yes, even happiness. (John Schacht)

 

 

 

 

 

 


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