Foo Fighters
Echoes Silence Patience & Graces
[RCA]
Grade: B-
-Josh Fisher

The new Foo Fighters album hit stores last week, amid the hype of its single, “The Pretender,” and the success of their amazing double album, In Your Honor. IYH featured an electric disc and an acoustic disc, which were powerful musical statements by Dave Grohl and his band. Naturally, this created high expectations for Echoes Silence Patience & Grace. Unfortunately, ESPG doesn’t deliver a supreme performance like IYH.

The album starts with “The Pretender” pretending to be a soft song. However, the song shifts gears to a pulsing, staccato guitar riff with a heavy beat. This song is a fantastic single and sets the bar high. Unfortunately, the album drags often. When they increased tempo with “Cheer Up Boys,” they missed the mark with an annoying bridge and an equally annoying chorus. The song lacked lyrical passion compared to the subsequent “Summer’s End.”

The album’s showstopper is the acoustic stomp, “Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners,” written by Grohl for two trapped Tasmanian miners. Guitar virtuoso Kaki King makes a guest appearance and lends her lightning fast finger-tapping skills to Grohl’s bouncy instrumental. If you saw her perform at W2W Take Two, you’ll want to hear this excellent track.

As thoroughly excited as I was for the release, I now have a love-hate relationship with the album. The disparity of song quality was the main problem. It could have been a more cohesive album, like the decade-old The Colour and the Shape.

The New Pornographers
Challengers
[Matador]
Grade:B-
-Tom Cyrs

Since The New Pornographer’s latest album leaked early this summer, blogs and RSS feeds have been buzzing with phrases like “a melancholy album” or “generally low key.” And although this may come as a disappointment to some, these statements are pretty much right on the mark.

You won’t find the catchy hooks and power pop climaxes that filled 2005’s Twin Cinema on Challengers. Gripping in a different way, energetic melodies are replaced by unwavering sonic calm. The album’s title track meanders dreamily with twangy guitar and Neko Case’s gorgeous vocals, as layers of percussion and mandolin are patiently added on. The slightly more upbeat “All the Old Showstoppers,” will get your feet tapping with peppy verses bridged by a stunning string bass melody and “Adventures in Solitude” perfectly captures the general feeling of sadness with A.C. Newman and Kathryn Calder’s dual vocals weaving in and out of each other.

The New Pornos dislike being pegged as a “super group” and this album seems to make that perfectly clear. Challengers is not a mammoth pop album spawned from the collaboration of Canada’s biggest indie stars. Instead, it seems that the songwriters took a backseat as one artist at a time took the reigns. The result, unfortunately, is that each track sounds like a stripped-down version of its respective writer’s full sound.

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