Un Mas Dos – Straylight Run

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Straylight Run is a band in a transitional period. With co-lead vocalist/instrumentalist Michelle DaRosa leaving the band to purse a solo career, the group has lost the most interesting aspect of its sound. After her departure the band has released the EP Un Mas Dos, which finds Straylight Run having morphed into a straightforward rock band, with fairly archetypal tunes.

Un Mas Dos doesn’t tread much new ground. The lyrical ground is so familiar as is the music that backs it up. The one thing Straylight Run clearly still has going for it is lead singer John Nolan’s vocal; which are as emotive as they come. This allows the group to be better than the run of the mill rock group. While “Wait and Watch” is an overly typical tune of alienation, “Try” is an interesting autobiographical tune, finding Nolan fighting to find importance in the musician’s life. The final track, “Ten Ton Shoes,” is the good type of electronic rock song; a bit over the top in it’s lo-fi aesthetic.

While Un Mas Dos is nothing to write home about, it does show that Straylight Run isn’t a lost cause without DeRosa. There’s enough solid rock here to be hopeful about the band’s future endeavors.

Review Score: 5.8

3 Balloons – Stephen Lynch

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A disappointing album most often comes when a work seems uninspired and substantially less creative than previous works. They seem like the artist isn’t invested and is just putting out more music because, well, that’s what they are supposed to do. Stephen Lynch’s newest, 3 Balloons, is the textbook example of this.

Lynch has been the best singing stand-up comedian for some time, but nothing about this album matches anything previous albums have brought. Lynch’s humor has always been a stripped down blend of devilishly clever things that should should probably never be said in public and bizarre observational humor in lyrical form.

And while this, I suppose, is still the core of 3 Balloons, it’s a very hollow core. Part of this is due to the bigger sound of this album. Arrangements include violin, keys, and other instruments, but this some how makes Lynch and his guitar seems distant and less important. It causes the tunes to feel like they’re lacking comedic grit, for lack of a better way to put it. It takes away bluntness that so much of Lynch’s humor relies on.
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Now We Can See – The Thermals

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It’s evolution baby.

Now We Can See, the latest album by The Thermals, is all about evolution. It’s not only a key theme that the songs address; the band itself evolves into a new sort of beast on this record. The Thermals become sonically lighter, poppier, slower, and more of a traditional rock band on the album. This leads to a variance of results.

When the band goes for pure pop rock it’s a mixed bag. The songwriting duo of guitarist/vocalist Hutch Harris and bassist/recording drummer Kathy Foster know how to write a catchy hook, but it’s tough to combine that with some of their rougher lyrics. For example, “We Were Sick” is full on pop goodness, so the line, “Never gave a day away, never give a damn,” fails to work. The rest of the package is too sweet for those words to effectively register.
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The Body, The Blood, The Machine – The Thermals

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When an album feels like it’s kicking your ass, you’re in for a good time. When it touches you emotionally or makes you sing along at the top of your lungs, you will be sure to remember it for a long time. When it makes you question the world around you, then it’s been impactful. Lots of classic records are able to touch one, maybe two, of these facets. The Thermals’ 2006 release, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, encapsulates them all and does so in flying colors.

The Body, The Blood, The Machine “tells the story of a young couple who must flee a United States governed by fascist faux-Christians.” I quote the band there, because really, it couldn’t be put better. Though the “story” may not be a coherent set of events, the album still retains the feel of connectivity, which is all that really matters.

So much of the album’s success comes from lead singer/guitarist Harris’s lyrical work. He is, for my money, the best simple lyricist in music today. He tackles his ideas not only with clever precision, but also with a sense of knowledgeable punk’s sense brevity. His observations about God and His followers are emphatically straight-shooting and to the point, but touch on some really interesting and complex ideas. Yet even in the darkest moments there’s always a faint tinge of hope that propels the ideas forward.
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Music’s Strive to Thrive in Spokane

The Cretin Hop

The Cretin Hop

Music breeds passion for many, and when a passion is threatened, people become defensive. So when those in the Spokane music scene heard that their concert-going freedom might be severely restricted by new city law, a sense of dread began to rise.

While the situation now seems to be nearing an agreeable resolution for both those in music scene and law enforcement, it was not easy to get to such a point.

When news broke in January that an amendment was being considered to tighten up the Spokane’s municipal code with regard to cabaret licensing and all-ages venues, many in the local music scene were up in arms. The suggested changes included age restrictions and other measures that could potentially force clubs out of business. The fear was that City Hall was trying to ruin the local music scene in Spokane.

The issues in question dealt with changing Chapter 10.23 of Spokane’s municipal code, which deals with amusement facilities. The code covers teen clubs and cabarets, the two categories that concert venues fall under. The main proposal called for an age restriction for all-ages shows. It would prohibit those under the age of 16 from attending shows without a parent and would also mandate an ID check to enforce it. This proposal would cut off the target audience of many venues.

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Mean Everything To Nothing – Manchester Orchestra

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Andy Hull is incredibly talented. The frontman and creative force behind Manchester Orchestra isn’t even old enough to rent a car, but already has one great album (2006’s I’m Like a Virgin Losing a Child), and a fair share of side projects under his belt. With that in mind, Manchester Orchestra’s new LP, Mean Everything To Nothing, just doesn’t seem to be able to pull everything together and be as good as it could be. All the pieces are there, they just don’t seem to be fitting together tightly.

If every song on the album was as good as the opener, “The Only One,” than Mean Everything To Nothing would be the clear favorite for album of the year in 2009. The track gets the album into full swing in a matter of seconds with sliding guitar and frantic clapping. The lyrics ring sharp; an angry rant from the son of a pastor. The track is as hard as any Manchester Orchestra track to date, but is only the beginning of a heavy shift.
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