The Zang Tuum Tumb 25th Anniversary tribute podcast I did for Book's Music had taken up my time two weeks ago, and I decided to take a makeshift Thanksgiving break last week, thus the reason for the gap between this column and the last. I am back, and now I'm a bit backed up so for this week the column will be brief.
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Also, each review features links to the artist's home page or MySpace page, so if you want to hear them, you can do so easily. Links are also provided to make a vinyl, CD, or digital purchase, since your local mall probably doesn't have most of these titles. If you would like to buy the compact disc, click the icon that looks like this:
If you wish to make a digital MP3 purchase, you can click the digital player icon that looks like this:
If a particular release does come out on vinyl, I of course will make a vinyl icon.
Now, the column.
A Block Of Yellow are very pop friendly, and their bio asks "tired of faux emo? Gloomy retros down you down?", to suggest that they are a slight throwback to the eclectic pop sounds of yesteryear. I think they are very modern, and Do I Do (Around Sounds) shows they know how to be very much in the vein of The Violent Femmes or Let's Active but most of the time they get stuck in that cutesy retroness and fail to challenge themselves and escape for a breather.
If anything, one of the guys in the band looks like Sean Lennon with meat on his face. If you have ever wanted a band to salute the theme to The Courtship Of Eddie's Father, A Block Of Yellow are you gentlemen, but they're just too gentle for me. That could be a good or bad thing, I'll leave it to your interpretation.
The Secret History is a group created by former My Favorite member Michael Grace Jr., but the heart of the songs on the Desolation Town EP (Le Grand Magistery) belong to its primary vocalist, Lisa Ronson. The group play the kind of aggressive pop that pulls your heartstrings when it matters without dipping into the sappiness of most pop music. It's aggressive for a reason but does so with a spirit I know I haven't heard in awhile. Either pop music has become a bland Disney nightmare or more American Idol crap and The Secret History is neither. Comparisons to The Smiths, Roxy Music, and The Patti Smith Group. have been made, but one could also feel free to add Concrete Blonde, The Smithereens, and The Replacements to that list.
Favorite songs include "Our Lady Of Pompeii", "Mark & John (Bring On The Glitter Kids)", and "Our Lady Of Palermo".
My Dear Disco seems like a cool enough name with a possible decent concept, that is until I hear the great voice of vocalist Michelle Chamuel ruined with Auto-Tune. That kept me from wanting to listen to this CD seriously, and all I could do was cringe in disgust. Their cover of Stevie Wonder's "All I Do" will bring them a small bit of attention, and Chamuel pulls it off with a great vocal performance with limited Auto-Tune use. If the entire album sounded like this, I'd be alright with it.
Maybe it's best if she just went solo so we could hear her voice without anyone else's idea of what she sould sound like.
Oh yeah, the album is called Dancethink, but you'd be better off just buying one track.
Knitting By Twilight have been around for years, and each releases always reveals something new, interesting, and unique. An Evening Out Of Town (it's Twilight Time) is a mixture of different styles and genres, where you'd not sure where you'll be headed but you're always pleased to reach each song's destination. The core of Knitting By Twilight has always been multi-instrumentalist John Orsi, and he goes at it by creating mostly-instrumental pieces that could be anything and everything from jazz to new age, light electronic music, folk, to sounds that show a possible classical influence. "Soothing Stars" is Orsi and Orsi only, and the backdrop sounds like something you might find on a Tangerine Dream album. The percussion on "Evelyn's Glen" could easily fit on any world music playlist, but the interesting about Knitting By Twilight is that it's hard to say which world or territory they're rooted in. In other words, the territories they represent as a collective may be as different as their backgrounds and influences. While those cores are somewhat represented, it seems once again that this group iare more about the creation of a new borderless territory where there is no final resting place, kind of like how Duke Ellington always ended his music without a proper ending. Each piece sounds like it could continue into the next phase, with Mike Marando's guitar work becoming a call for an answer that never comes to fruition, or Manny Silva's ebow guitar in "Oblivion's Poppied Slope" that helps the listener get locked into an alternate universe that the listener wishes they could explore.
It's simple in its complexity, and it's complex in its simplicity, which means they pull their music in every direction in order to find new things in their creative minds. Even when a discovery is made, they set off on the next journey, and that is what makes listening to Knitting By Twilight an enjoyable experience.