“Always the Bridesmaid”
3.5 stars out of 5
Indie rock fans can breathe a sigh of relief. The Decemberists are back. After canceling scores of tour dates in late 2007, the band went on a brief sabbatical. But the stir caused by the recent election got the band back on the road and in the studio, performing at President-elect Barack Obama’s rallies and releasing singles that have been compiled in this recent EP.
Featuring singles and their respective B-sides, “Bridesmaid” is a musical tour through everything that has made this collective one of the decade’s most likable indie acts. There’s vibrant, horn-backed pop in the vein of “Sixteen Military Wives” with the likable “Valerie Plame,” the more standard, yet equally alluring “Days of Elaine” and “O New England,” along with the theatrical “I’m Sticking with You,” like the male-female conversational vocals of “Yankee Bayonet.”
The remainder of this short-player is rounded out by the more sedate “Record Year” and “Raincoat Song,” which, despite being slightly less memorable, close out the affair in true Decemberists fashion.
Songwriter Colin Meloy and his band are right back on track, and not at the expense of any musical reinventions or overblown drama. Their highly literate indie folk is as good as ever, making the April 24 arrival of their forthcoming Capitol Records full-length even more alluring.
Key tracks: “Valerie Plame,” “Days of Elaine,” “I’m Sticking with You”
Eagles of Death Metal
4 stars out of 5
Joshua Homme, best known as the man behind Queens of the Stone Age, returns with a third album from Eagles of Death Metal. Accompanying lifelong friend, Jesse Hughes, he crafts some great hard-rock songs with a distinct blues-driven Americana edge.
The fuzzed-out bass lines and sharp guitar riffs are occasionally reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age, yet they are also able to expand into Rolling Stones-esque R&B. The two songwriters collaborate for a cohesive sound.
Homme and Hughes are clearly having a lot of fun here. The songwriting is a shade more serious than their past efforts, but as the title suggests, they haven’t lost their sense of humor. Their maturity is apparent on “Now I’m a Fool,” a surprisingly effective song of lost love, perfect for soundtracking a lonely roadside bar.
The album suffers from a slight energy drop on the final tracks, but it’s not enough to detract from it as a whole. The rest of the songs move by at a breakneck speed, cramming decades worth of America’s musical heartland into a slickly produced, rapid-firing package worth listening to more than once.
Key Tracks: “Now I’m a Fool,” “Anything ‘Cept the Truth,” “Secret Plans”