Friday, November 7, 2008

ALBUM REVIEWS: Ratatat; Brightblack Morning Light; Anni Rossi; Tyler Devos

Ratatat – LP3 4 / 5 XL

The classification of "good walkman music" seems considerably under-discussed, at least in the shifty imprecision of the music-journo world – but Ratatat (spacey-electro/guitar-effects-focused/beat-heavy) the NY duo Mike Stroud and Evan Mast, here on their third aptly titled LP, continue (and excel-in) crafting beautiful, intriguing, hooky, dancey music with spindly video game bravado electronics and an overall tight groove that just makes you feel cool when you're walking down the street with it…Essentially, good walkman music is like soundtrack music, but never impersonal, with an addictive air to adopt these bobbing tunes and roundhouse dance ditties as personal theme songs to facilitate your travels. ("Shempi" sounds like it's made by Daft Punk's distinguished long-lost cousins). Well, anyway, let's go back to that phrase, soundtrack-music: with you sliding into some Tony Manero paint-can toting swagger – this music conjures cinematic magic and lends itself to readily wild imaginative montages of disco floor glory, spaceship dogfights or epic kung fu face offs – you almost create your own quick-cutting film edits in your mind as you listen – it only figures that you'd want to be moving, exploring, encountering different things every five steps to the beat of LP3, thus you put your headphones on and you head out…walkman music!

Tyler Devos – Post U 3 / 5 self

Post U is a bit rugged Americana with earnest solitary teardrop singer/songwriter reflections spread across rousing alt-country drives and boot-tapping last-call-at-the-saloon ballads that sway brokenhearted to the woozy pedal steels wafting over the orange-sunset-glowing horizons – Tyler Devos has brought this plaintive, earthy pop/rock closer to the rustbelt, having recently transplanted from Maine into the more folk-friendlier milieu of Ann Arbor. Drawing from early Wilco, Big Star and Neko Case, Devos captures nicely the blending of smooth glistening alt-pop, country twang and heart-shredding lovelorn troubadour inflections – the song structures fall into either a straight, steady pop rock bopper, or more acoustic/pedal-steel led waltz; be warned that lyrically it certainly does tug on those heartstrings…close to the breaking point.

Anni Rossi – Afton 3.5 / 5 4AD

All wishy washy topsy turvy, wavy whirling ker-plunkety snip-snap and smoooooooth, saw that viola down to a nice groove then trill that strange beautiful voice upwards and growl out a throaty expressive chorus – flavorful! This is quirky, arty, punchy, wild VIOLA pop and it's weird and maybe not so easy to take at first, but Anni Rossi, a 23-year-old classically trained multi-instrumentalist, is able to draw you in with aggressive viola leads and wild Joanna Newsome/Bjork recalling vocal styles that are flamboyant but stirring, showcasing mad plucking skills and simultaneously rapping her finger board or stomping her feet for percussion. Immmpulses! Recorded (and fleshed out) with Steve Albini, Afton heralds Rossi's arrival for 09.

Brightblack Morning Light - Motion to Rejoin 3 / 5 Matador

Autumn…in many ways an all too ideal time for a Brightblack Morning Light record -things are finally slowing down, nature reflects a collective descent, a retreat into warmer meditative states; the soggy splendors of rainy day window gazing lend themselves to the soothing somber tones of a Rhodes and the hazy, effected vocals drift around you, indeterminate but ever-present, like the wind. Cerebral and atmospheric, but at times to a fault, the brazen weight, length and sometimes uneventful hovering groove-ballads carve out a niche (or trap) that the more fidgety listeners will cast as background music. The listener is like a muddy bank as the album's songs waft and wash delicately upon you like the ripples of a small pond.

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