Album Reviews

The Last Kiss, soundtrack

A review by Caitlin Cremer

As a follow-up to the previous sensation of the
Garden State soundtrack, Zach Braff has successfully compiled a new list of mellow songs in The Last Kiss soundtrack. Slightly more uplifting than his last, The Last Kiss is a compilation of a few American artists, as well as several UK artists, such as Snow Patrol.

After gaining my trust with his previous effort, Braff definitely drew me into his ability to create first-rate albums by picking a few of my personal favorites (Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and Ray LaMontagne). Braff effectively draws attention to these well deserving artists as well as many others who may be considered under the radar.

In particular, I now consider the band Athlete to be a new favorite of mine. Their song “El Salvador” stands out as a highlight of the album.

Not only is Braff able to find great music, but he is also able to organize them in a way that enables the songs to feed off each others’ genius. Rachael Yamagata’s song “Reason Why” is a beautiful song. The piano mixed with her incredibly soft, mellow voice sets the feeling for the following chilling track on the album by Ray LaMontagne. In a similar manner, LaMontagne’s soft rock sets the stage for the following band to distinguish themselves on the album. And in such a way, the album progresses.

On a whole, The Last Kiss is great. I can’t imagine skipping over any song (except for maybe the one electronic song … but that’s just not my thing) on this well-crafted album brought to you by the highly esteemed Zach Braff.

Band of Horses’ Everything All the Time

A review by Steve Marovitch

Band of Horses’ first feature album, Everything All the Time, is nothing short of Indie gold. The band, signed to the Seattle-based Sub Pop label (the same that signed Nirvana), consists of five members, with Ben Bridwell on vocals and guitar. Bridwell’s vocals lend an interesting touch to the rest of the band’s sound, a mix of catchy bass lines and guitar riffs with classic rock and folk influences.

Bridwell’s passionate, sometimes heavy lyrics, are best revealed in the song “The Funeral,” a single the band recently played on The Late Show with David Letterman. The song is, for me, the highlight of the album. It has both melancholy and joyful sides to it that keep the listener entranced. It begins softly enough, with the familiar nasally vocals heard on previous tracks, but bursts forth in the chorus with intense distorted guitar and splashy drums. Everything about this track is memorable.

Other songs on Everything All the Time do not cease to captivate the listener. Very rarely does an album come along that can be listened to and enjoyed from beginning to end, but Band of Horses’ full-length debut comes impressively close. With the exception of a couple duds like “Monsters,” which might be good somewhere else but don’t seem to fit with the rest of the album, it is a phenomenal first offering. I look forward to more from this band in the future.

Conveniens’ Conveniens

A review by Steve Marovitch

Recently Conveniens, a Chicago-based band comprised of drummer John Maz and keyboardist/synthesist Sterling Smith, independently re-released their 1984 self-titled album. After listening to its polysynth melodies from start to finish, it is safe to say this is definitely a period piece, straight out of the era that made synth-pop listenable. There’s no bass and no real guitar, the album is comprised only of studio drums and bizarre piano and synthesizer melodies that don’t constrain them to any definable genre of music. Many of the songs have a free-flowing sound as if they were improvised in the studio during recording.

The sounds on this album range from classical and jazz-driven to space age. The drumming style varies from jazz to rock and every place in between. On the song “Barney Klark,” the duo even makes an attempt at what appears to be experimental reggae. Having only limited experience with the music of the ’80s, I cannot say for sure what kind of audience Conveniens would have attracted, but they sound too experimental to be considered pop and the lack of information on the band leads me to believe they were less than mainstream.

The cheesiness of formulaic keyboard songs, like “Regular Grind”, is countered by fascinating jazz-inspired piano pieces toward the end of the album, like “Afrisha’nki”. The lack of formality in many of the songs creates some interesting little melodies, but more often than not ends up producing a non-cohesive, unrefined product that confuses the listener more than it satisfies.

For audiences of this generation, Conveniens leaves something to be desired. It is a niche album that during the ’80s would have had more mass appeal than it does now. Synth heads would probably enjoy the sounds of the classic poly and monosynths used on the album, but other than that this music is most likely lost to the current generation.

Rhett Miller’s The Believer

A review by Kevin Wombacher

Rhett Miller is best known as the charismatic front man for Old 97’s, but with his sophomore album, The Believer, he continues to establish himself as a viable solo artist. The Believer contains a mix of new songs, duets, covers and even a few songs that Old 97’s fans may recognize. This album is a testament to Miller’s ability to write pop songs that are both intelligent and personal.

The album kicks off with “My Valentine,” a catchy song which urges listeners to “smoke some grass” and shake their asses. “My Valentine” is a perfect example of Miller’s knack for writing catchy pop songs that still feel personal and accessible. Other stand-out songs include “Singular Girl,” a rerecording of an Old 97’s rarity, and “Fireflies,” a duet with Rachel Yamagata.

Miller strikes a precarious balance between old and new, and fast and slow. Ballads like “The Believer,” “Fireflies” and “Meteor Shower” are complemented by up-tempo songs like, “I’m With Her,” “My Valentine” and “Ain’t That Strange.” Old 97’s fans will be pleased to see “Singular Girl” and “Question” mixed in with the new material.

On the whole, Miller’s sophomore solo album is a success. The Believer shows that Miller can stand on his own, but that he hasn’t forgotten the fans and music that got him to where he is. My only complaint with this album is the incredibly creepy album cover, which features Miller dressed in a purple suit, lounging on a couch near what appears to be some sort of tribal mask and a snow globe. However, those brave enough to get past the cover will be rewarded with an intelligent and well written album.

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