Regina Spektor

begin to Hope

By: Steve Marovitch

I first stumbled upon Regina Spektor a couple of years ago when my younger sister got her album Soviet Kitsch. At the time I was turned off by Spektor’s disoriented singing style and dreary piano accompaniment but her newest album, Begin to Hope, is actually pretty enjoyable. This album, released by Sire Records, provides much more complex and nuanced anti-folk fare than her previous effort. Her bizarre and sometimes spastic singing style is actually supported decently on this album, thanks to catchy piano lines.

Still, this album isn’t without fault. It seems Spektor’s attempt to branch out on this album, by incorporating new sounds into her songs, may have been too ambitious. Unlike The Postal Service, Spektor’s vocal style and instrumental accompaniments fail to meld with the electronic drums. Tracks like “Hotel Song” are simply ruined by comically bad synth drum grooves. Some songs sound fantastic under the influence of unusual instruments, such as “Field Below,” which incorporates a very subdued Asian Er Hu into the mix.

Overall, this album is really enjoyable. Spektor’s lyrics are captivating, at times funny and at times sad but always interesting. Her singing style shows signs of influence by Bjork quite prominently on a few songs, especially “20 Years of Snow,” a really cool mellow track with a great bell synth lead that morphs into a piano arpeggiation. This album is much more mainstream in sound than Spektor’s last release, which is probably a good thing. Where her last album failed in providing cohesive backing music for her bouncy vocals, this album succeeds. For any fan of female vocalists like Fiona Apple, Bjork or even Janis Joplin, this may be a good artist to explore.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes

love their country

By: Amy Meyer

Popular bands often cover tracks that sometimes make it as a single on the radio or a hidden track on a record, but rarely do popular bands make covering music into side projects. Me First and the Gimme Gimmes may have started as a joke or nothing more than a fun hobby, but the band continues to release cover albums every few years and occasionally go on tour.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes consists of various members of different bands, including NOFX’s Fat Mike, Swingin’ Utters’ Spike Slawson, Foo Fighters’ Chris Shiflett and Lagwagon’s Joey Cape and Dave Raum. Every few years the band releases a new album with a different theme, and this one, Love Their Country, is all about having a honky-tonk time.

The album starts out slow with Johnny Cash’s “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).” The song starts out like the original Cash hit but a minute into the song the tempo speeds up and the Gimme Gimmes give the tune a new punk spin.

The second track on the record, “(Ghost) Riders in the Sky,” another song by Cash, is among the best tracks on the album. The song is fast, upbeat and almost sounds like it was made to be a punk rock tune.

The album features cover tracks of artists including John Denver, the Dixie Chicks and Kenny Rogers. The best tracks on the record besides the Cash covers are “Desperado,” “On the Road Again,” “Jolene” and “East Bound and Down.” The twelve songs only play out to about 25 minutes of music, but the assortment of music is good and the tracks are likeable even to the least likely of country fans. The album closes out with “Sunday Morning Coming Down on Me,” another Cash cover.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes is a fun and enjoyable cover band. Other albums worth checking out include Take a Break and Blow in the Wind.

Ultramagnetic Mcs

the best kept secret

By: Steve Marvotich

The back of Ultramagnetic MCs’ new album reads, “This album was made by Ultramagnetic, for Ultramagnetic …” I completely agree with that statement, because the truth of the matter is they’re probably the only people who could enjoy this album. These dudes may present an ultra-slick image, but they’re about as smooth as a shot of Skol. Not only is this album extravagantly boring, it’s just plain bad. Half the tracks on The Best Kept Secret sound like those tacky demo songs you find on cheap keyboards. The lyrics sound like they were taken off the walls of a bathroom stall. For more information on this check out the song “Porno Star (Part 2).” With a title like that you would expect something a little racy, but you have no idea.

Ultramagnetic MCs have been around since the mid-’80s and actually achieved a lot of recognition and fame early in their career. Popular electronic artists like The Prodigy have sampled many of their early singles. Sadly, the group must have lost their recipe for success sometime during the 1990s, not to mention all their money and production skills, and their comeback album illustrates this. I know this isn’t a comedy record, but it really is funny. When people take themselves too seriously and try so intensely to fit into an image they don’t necessarily embody, it shows. Check out the YouTube video to Ultramagnetic’s “Party Started,” the first single of this album, for a horrifying illustration.

To enjoy this CD you have to be one of two things: not listening to it at all or truly lacking in musical taste. The tracks on this album drone on and on, using the same two measure loops over their entire durations. If you like boring songs without energy or character, without a hint of climax or instrumental evolution, by all means go out and buy this CD immediately. To put it simply, the Best Kept Secret is one of the worst new albums I have heard in a long time. But don’t take my word for it, watch that hilarious YouTube music video and decide for yourself.

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