“The Hardest Way to
Make an Easy Living”
3.5 out of 5 stars
Whether you realize it, Mike Skinner (aka The Streets) is the biggest rap artist in Britain right now. Period. Several different sources named his last album the top album of 2004.
His third and latest full-length album, much like his previous works, is a concept record discussing his life as a celebrity.
Skinner’s angular and original vocal delivery will definitely throw off those familiar with American-style hip-hop, but his writing style will keep you interested until the very end.
This may not be quite as good as his last record, but for those of you unfamiliar with The Streets, this is as good a starting point as any.
Sondre Lerche & The Faces
3.5 out of 5 stars
Those familiar with Sondre Lerche already know that the young Norwegian songwriter has always used a lot of jazz chords in his songs.
So it’s no real surprise that with his third LP, he has put together a jazz-pop/lounge-pop type of record.
Alternating between downtempo, lounge-singer-style songs to upbeat pop songs with heavy jazz leanings, Lerche’s smooth voice melts beautifully into the song structures. It really is one of those perfect fit situations.
Honestly, I liked his first two albums better, but this one is still very good. Play it while having dinner with your girlfriend or something like that.
“We, the Vehicles”
4 out of 5 stars
Those of you who remember the band The Promise Ring will know the name Davey von Bohlen, just as those familiar with The Dismemberment Plan will recognize the name Eric Axelrod.
Well, back in 2004, those two (and others) got together and formed the group Maritime.
Their first album was pretty good, but this one is better. “We, the Vehicles” is a record of pleasant, sunny day indie-pop that is ultra catchy, even on repeated plays.
This time around, the song subjects are more serious and the song structures are slightly darker.
The result, when all is said and done, is a very good album to get into with summer just around the corner.
“Nothing Left to Lose”
3 out of 5 stars
There are two distinct sides to Mat Kearney. One is that of a sub-major label singer/songwriter whose voice somewhat resembles an American version of Chris Martin (Coldplay).
This side can actually be pretty entertaining at times, as the vocals comfortably fit into the song structures.
Kearney’s other identity, though, is that of a white rapper – and not a good one either.
Over half the songs on the album involve his withdrawn rhyming stylings, which really make several of the songs confusing.
I know that this might be the thing that separates him from other songwriters out there, but it just doesn’t feel right. Kearney, you are talented enough as it is. Drop the rap in the future.
2.5 out of 5 stars
It’s not too hard to figure out what the boys of Wolfmother listened to when they were growing up.
Their style of rock ‘n’ roll posturing goes back years, as do nearly all of their guitar riffs. Lead singer Andrew Stockdale sounds like a combination of Robert Plant and early Ozzy Osbourne, while the band’s songs are reminiscent of Jet.
It’s not a terrible album overall, but to this humble reviewer, it’s terribly boring and clich?.
“In the City of Sleep”
2 out of 5 stars
In 2004, The Fever released its debut album “Red Bedroom,” a solid collection of frenetic, catchy dance-punk. Fast-forward almost two years, as the band returns with its follow-up record, “In the City of Sleep.”
This album, however, is not as solid. It almost sounds like the band hired Tom Waits to be its songwriter, as the songs are often avant-garde in structure and sound. No offense to Waits; I love the guy.
But this record sounds like it should be the music for a haunted carnival or something.
There are two really good songs on this album, but the rest of it is kind of blah. It’s really a shame, because the band’s last album was very good.
– Chris Kubak,
Music Director, WTSR
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Show Your Bones”
3 out of 5 stars
Zen is not the first word that comes to mind when thinking about the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. For the past five years, lead singer Karen O has ruled over the kingdom of Brooklyn art-punk with an iron fist, a dirty mouth and a bad attitude. This, it seems, has all changed.
With their latest release and second full-length album, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show signs of slowing down. Gone are the indecipherable screams of “Art Star” and “Tick,” replaced by acoustic guitar chords and soft vocals.
Ladies and gentleman, the angsty rock goddess has left the building. After a rift between O and guitarist Nick Zinner led the band to breaking point last year, O left New York and moved to Los Angeles, leaving her emotional baggage at the door.
For a band that banked heavily on raw emotion, this record feels half-hearted. Zinner’s signature riffs are still here, as are the more relied-on beats of drummer Brian Chase.
But the sound that made the Yeah Yeah Yeahs such an underground phenomenon is long gone. What is left is not so much bad as tenuous – you can feel the band’s fragile dynamic in every song they play. But with a group of musicians this talented, even a safe album is a good one.