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Thursday January 20th

Kittie Exudes Savage Girl Rock; Cold Sides Utilize Sounds of Silence

Cold Sides
Cold Sides

Finally, a band that knows when to shut up.

Bringing listeners a series of haunting experiments with resonant sounds and refreshing silence, local band Cold Sides establishes its innovative talent on its self-titled debut.

Choosing to mix driving rhythms with melodic guitar interludes, the band's complex songs are minimalist. A touch of Radiohead, a stab at a darker side of Cake, the band incorporates the timeless with the experimental for a sound that's both daring and comforting.

"City From a Plane" starts the album in focused, deliberate silence, slowly plucking notes from the air. They mold and craft this meager beginning into a tension-filled build to its chorus. When the chorus finally arrives, the musical landscape is flooded with spoken voices, combatively splashing against the chorus' underside.

But let's talk about vocals. Robert Biggers' layered vocals have a slack, unanimated quality that directly clash with the band's tight and innovative instrumentals. This is irritating not because the vocals are subpar but because they'd be so easy to fix or simply eradicate completely. They just stick out like a shirt tag somebody won't tuck in.

Beyond this, the album shows amazing creative potential, drawing from a mature range of styles. Playing with complex key changes, the band explores these at length, abandoning any sort of formulaic structure.

But Cold Sides is at its most impressive when it works with silence.

The last track works toward the thoughtful quiet from which the album was initially born; "Empty Canoe," is a beautiful instrumental journey through delicate melodies and ambient sounds.

Sliding away and naturally fading, the song drifts into nothing, just too beautiful to stay any longer.

And that's what makes the Cold Sides so engaging. Its masterful blend of minimal rock and complex songwriting are a plus, but it's the band's way with silence that proves it deserves to be heard.

By Brooks Firth

Kittie
Oracle
4 Stars

Angry and enchanting, Kittie captures raucous rage and feminine beauty with bewitching power.

With the premiere of its sophomore LP, Oracle, Kittie shows how much it has matured since debut, Spit. Boasting more than teenage angst, the band's second attempt manifests the same fury yet shines because it does not solely rely on it. Oracle is instead a journey of despair and pain with a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel.

The band's lead vocalist and guitarist, Morgan Lander, alone captures the balance that characterizes Oracle. With an angelic singing voice and a roar with more force than most male voices, Lander creates a hypnotic juxtaposition between anger and beauty -- heaven and hell.

Her wickedly versatile wails are supported by Talena Atfield (bass) and Mercedes Lander (drums), both equally talented and forceful. Though the chords sometimes border on monotony, Atfield cranks out crunching rhythms that bleed into Lander's bustling riffs to create a driving pulse. Often turning frenetic energy into a lack of rhythm, Lander disappoints at times, merely banging on the cymbals in a frenzy.

Each track brims with heavy metal distortion and pro-feminist anger, throbbing with energy. The dangerous "Oracle" and the pumping "Mouthful of Poison" both exhibit the fervor the band plays with while the haunting "What I Always Wanted" displays the band's depth.

Only a few cuts, like "Severed," with horribly indiscernible lyrics and ridiculous distortion, weaken the album, painting Kittie as a shallow band of girls trying to be tough.

But filled with passion and fervor, the band is a refreshing exception in a generally bland field.

A mix between Deftones and Dellinger Escape Plan with a shot of Courtney Love thrown in for fun, Kittie is rough and haunting -- girls with a lot to say and determined to make you listen.

By Nick Parker

Sarah Dougher
The Bluff
4 Stars

Sarah Dougher has built an impressive record out of songs you feel you've heard before in some elusive dream.

The Bluff, the singer/songwriter's third album, flows seamlessly.

Dougher uses quick drum rhythms and air-filled electric guitar in a funky permutation of folk. Combining such music with her astonishingly smooth, syrupy voice, Dougher has created often ethereal and somehow familiar album.

Collaborating with friend Jon Nikki and Sleater-Kinney percussionist Janet Weiss, Dougher formed an instrumental conglomeration which includes both acoustic and electric guitar, keyboards, piano, organ, drums and marxiphone.

All these blend in a soft introspection on one track and in a sock-hopping, swinging sound on the next. And it's Dougher's easing between the melancholic and the classic sound of the early '60s which yields the listener's sense of deja vu.

"My Kingdom" has definite folk feel with its simple, downplayed accompaniment to Dougher's wispy vocal stylings.

The echoing lilt of the title track evokes the antiqued feel of a Colors of the Day-era Judy Collins, as does Dougher's phrasing on "Turn Myself."

But the dispersed electric guitar, particularly on "Turn Myself," is like something from Coldplay's Parachutes, and Weiss' expert percussion adds an exotic yet natural flair.

In a reincarnation of an oft-overlooked but familiar sound, Dougher layers classic instrumentals with her personal twists.

Each element of her music, when dissected, can be allied or compared to the sound of someone or something else -- but the finished product is anything but recycled.

By Michelle Jarboe

Enrique Iglesias
Escape
2 Stars

If Enrique Iglesias wanted his latest album to help shed his Latin lover image, he probably shouldn't have tried so hard.

On Escape, the Spanish pop star makes an overly ambitious attempt to fill the roles of songwriter, producer and performer.

For pop music, Iglesias didn't do too badly with his self-penned lyrics. Each track examines some aspect of a romantic relationship, from one-night stands to true love to the singer's own sexual prowess.

But a too-frequent use of clever sexual innuendoes makes Iglesias look less like a tender balladeer and more like a, well, Latin lover.

"Don't Turn Off the Lights," a seemingly palatable pop tune with stadium rock flavor, features Iglesias' trademark breathy half-spoken vocals. But things quickly turn obnoxious, with his constant pronunciation of "lights" as "lie-eetz."

And one has to wonder if someone suddenly poured hot wax on the singer when he launches into a yelping of the refrain at the end of the song.

Iglesias gets a little more creative in "Love to See You Cry," mixing a techno rhythm with Spanish-style guitar riffs.

But there's something disturbingly sadistic about hearing him sing in a pleading voice, "The sweetest pleasure is pain/I don't know why/But I love to see you cry."

As a producer, Iglesias must have gone a little slap-happy at the studio mixing board. Escape is riddled with synthesized sound effects and warbled vocal arrangements.

The only track that somehow managed to escape the over-produced sound is "Hero."

Iglesias' passionate vocals combined with a subtle acoustic guitar make it a touching, romantic ballad. Other such songs on the album lack the sincerity and tenderness of "Hero" because of offbeat rhythms and out-of-place electric guitar solos.

In a press release, Iglesias described Escape as "the album that is the most like me." Maybe he and his listeners would be better off as strangers.

By Harmony Johnson

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