Brand New finally gets out of high school, while imports impress

Brand New

“The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me”

4 out of 5 stars

As is typical of Brand New, several tracks on this album end in instrumental screeches that make you wonder why the band is so intent on making fans’ ears bleed. More important though is why fans (me included) will still give the band rave reviews while wiping the blood from the sides of our faces.

“Because my bright is too slight to hold back all my dark,” Jesse Lacey sings on “Jesus Christ,” and no line could more aptly describe this album. Brand New has discovered demons that contemporary nightmare-mongers My Chemical Romance can’t even begin to fathom. Some songs on this album actually gave me the shivers.

However, the lyrics on this record aren’t as complex and detailed as most Brand New fans would be used to, and there are a few missteps. “Life is a test, and I get bad marks,” Lacey croons as he gets a bit too emo during “Degausser” with his assertion that “I’ll never say anything right.” Some verses, however, are spot on.

I must admit I was a bit nervous for the album to come when I heard the title a few weeks ago. But luckily I was proven wrong after only one full listen of the album. These songs are almost evenly split between “good” and “evil,” and even the instrumental tracks match the theme. Many songs are loaded with references to Lacey’s Catholic upbringing and heartfelt intentions, while others sound like journal entries from a disturbed teen. “I’d drown all these crying babies, if I knew that their mothers wouldn’t cry, I’d hold them down and I’d squeeze real soft, I’d let a piece of myself die.”

Key Tracks: “Jesus Christ,” “Archers Bows Have Broken”

– Candida DeFonseca,

Arts & Entertainment Editor

Damien Rice


3 out of 5 stars

Driving back home from a trip to Pennsylvania at 10:30 at night, with the tryptophan from the turkey I’d had earlier still coursing through my system, is not exactly the best time to be listening to Damien Rice. This is not a knock in any way on Mr. Rice, whose debut album, “O,” caused quite a stir in 2003.

It earned him a major-label record deal and many album sales as the Irish singer-songwriter’s hushed and emotionally charged style of guitar folk-pop captured listeners with its intelligent lyrics and sensitive arrangements.

I can’t help but feel like there are moments on this album that come across as a touch forced. Damien Rice is a wonderfully literate and aware songwriter; his lyrics on his last record back this up, as do his lyrics here. Musically though, a few of the arrangements come off as almost lethargic at times and thus lose some of their charm.

There is a subtle energy to the music of Damien Rice, one that many people can’t quite detect. Where this was a constant on his last album, it runs in spurts on this one. Despite all this, it’s still a solid record.

Key Tracks: “Dogs,” “Coconut Skins”

Lady Sovereign

“Public Warning”

3.5 out of 5 stars

It’s been quite the past year-and-a half for Lady Sovereign, the young British hip-hop maven who describes herself as the “biggest midget in the game,” but let me start out by issuing a warning to all of you out there who may not be familiar with British style hip-hop. This is nothing like your David Banners or T.I.s of the world, especially Lady Sovereign, who is a proponent of Grime Rap, which is traditionally a very fast and aggressive style of hip-hop.

Anyway, Lady Sovereign comes to us with a clever and bombastic lyrical style and a delivery that no one else I’ve heard can compare with. Plus, she has the street cred to back this all up, unlike some Mr. Van Winkles out there (she grew up in Northwest London’s notorious rough Chalkhill Estate, a public housing project). She was able to impress Jay-Z with a single freestyle, which certainly says a lot about her ability.

But the true beauty of this album lies in the fact that it catches her at an interesting phase of her career: old enough to put together some truly quick and spunky lines, yet young enough to not yet be corrupted by the music biz.

Key Tracks: “9 to 5,” “Love Me Or Hate Me,” “Those Were The Days”

Pilot Speed

“Into The West”

4 out of 5 stars

Pilot Speed is not the original name for this band. This Canadian quartet started off calling themselves Pilate, but had to change the name back in June. The reason? If they did not change their name they were going to be sued by companies outside of Canada.

This was merely a minor setback for a band with a boatload of potential. They’ve garnered a whole bunch of attention in their native land, including winning the title of “best unsigned band” at the 2002 North by Northeast music festival in Toronto. This album, their second overall, finds itself among a small group of records that is solid from beginning to end.

Musically, the band peddles a sweeping blend of melodic rock that is akin to U2 and early era Radiohead. Lead singer Todd Clark seems to be channeling Bono with a soaring vocal delivery that trembles slightly at the top of his register.

Now many have tried to cop Bono and failed in the process. I’m not saying the Clark is doing just that, but he doesn’t try to do too much or over-dramatize his delivery. The final result of all of this? A damn fine album from what is a damn fine band.

As James Queally said about the song “Knife-Grey Sea”: “That’s just so damn pretty that I almost forgot what I was doing.”

Key Tracks: “A Kind of Hope,” “Knife-Grey Sea,” “Turn The Lights On”