Plants and Animals – Parc Avenue

Plants and Animals – Parc Avenue Secret City Records – 4 Stars Ladies and gentlemen, by now you should be familiar with the fruit of Montreal’s scene: Islands, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the mighty Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, et al. But you don’t know Montreal. No, until now the scene has lacked a unifying voice, … Continue reading

Animal Collective – Water Curses EP

Animal Collective – Water Curses (EP) Domino – 4 stars Picking up where the dense digistry of last fall’s Strawberry Jam left off, Water Curses finds America’s favorite animals tracking an uncharacteristically spare, wild territory.  While the tracks, which were recorded during the sessions for Strawberry Jam, retain the frenetic programming and glitchy percussion of … Continue reading

R’n’r Confessional: Ironing it Out

I recently spent a week or so in Grand Rapids, Michigan, at the Calvin College Festival of Faith and Writing.  Calvin is a Reformed Christian school that prides itself on thoughtful engagement of the arts from a Christian perspective, as well as its open-mindedness in such matters.  In keeping with their long-standing tradition of inviting … Continue reading

R’n’r Confessional: Rock is Dead

Philosophy undergraduate and future critic Richard Meltzer wrote a book in 1967 called The Aesthetics of Rock that looked at the genre inquisitively, critiquing the various social and philosophical concerns of everyone from Martha and the Vandellas to the Beatles.  This was the year that Sgt. Pepper’s forced people to take rock seriously as an … Continue reading

Evangelicals – The Evening Descends

Evangelicals – The Evening Descends Dead Oceans; 3 ½ Stars The Evening Descends opens with all of the drama of a Max Fischer play.  Guitars chime like harps, a few scene-setting sounds echo about, and one can mentally see the cheap curtain being raised on a still-drying set.  But unlike the Rushmore character (and perhaps … Continue reading

Constance: Delicate Burdens

Constance: Delicate Burdens If you don’t know someone – I mean really know them in the sense that you’ve made some emotional connection with them, gone out drinking with them, had that mystical one-night stand with them, sat on a back porch playing guitar with them, even if only once – if you haven’t warmed … Continue reading

Blitzen Trapper [Spanish Moon, March 12, 2008]

Sometimes there’s a lot to be said for having little to say.  So goes the theory, at least, with Portland’s Blitzen Trapper, whose Wild Mountain Nation barnstomps across genres – stoner country, junk-pop, experimental noise – with little message but large footprints.  Wild Mountain Nation, the group’s third self-released record, was picked up and distributed … Continue reading

R’n’r Confessional: Animal Magnetism

Rock ‘n’ Roll Confessional Perhaps it’s time I started treating this column more like its namesake. I have a confession to make. If you read my last posting back in December, you may remember me demanding to know whether Animal Collective has any fans.  To me they’ve always been one of those bands that people … Continue reading

Built to Spill [Howlin’ Wolf, March 3, 2008]

In 1997, Boise, ID, guitar-stretchers Built to Spill released Perfect From Now On, a sprawling record that patches together bits of Neil Young guitar, Pink Floyd atmospherics, and singer Doug Martsch’s star-gazing lyrics with melodies to match.  Though they had already released a couple of well-received indie pop records on Up that caught the ear … Continue reading

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark

Drive-By Truckers – Brighter Than Creation’s Dark New West Records; 4.5 Stars Despite their reputation for being the South’s most lovable drunks on stage, the Drive-By Truckers have always found their home on record. Never has this been more true than on Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, the Athens five-piece’s latest record. Despite losing the brilliant … Continue reading