The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Thursday October 21st

Music shorts

Stereolab Chemical Chords pop 4 Stars Though George Harrison gets most of the street cred, it wouldn't be hard to argue that Paul McCartney is the underrated Beatle. Though overshadowed by the martyrdom of John Lennon, McCartney had greater mass appeal, blending bright '60s melodies with grand, orchestral instrumentation into one of the most successful and influential sounds of the '70s. On its new full-length, krautrocking Beatle-heads Stereolab mine the material of McCartney and his Wings with great success. Combining morsels of modern-sounding keyboards with irresistible pop melodies and opulent, string-and-horn-filled arrangements, Stereolab creates a sound as rich as candy and as much fun as a child's trip to the confectioner. Though the whole album rollicks with ecstatically vibrant joy, moments such as the horn-driven, sugar-coated catharsis of "Self Portrait with 'Electric Brain'" and the irreverent ragtime bliss of "Daisy Click Clack" achieve true pop transcendence. Riding on the wings of McCartney, Stereolab has created a record so pervasively fun that it would be hard to see underrating it as a problem. -Jordan Lawrence The Walkmen You & Me rock 3.5 Stars Born out of the same New York band cycle as relative megastars The Strokes and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Walkmen have long teetered perilously on the edge of greatness and forgettable mediocrity. After the strength of 2006's Bows and Arrows, the band seemed ready to take the next step, but '07's One Hundred Miles Off was a decided step backwards. So, it isn't a stretch to say that the band's latest, You & Me, was a must-win type of situation. The pressure was on to deliver the type of record that would put The Walkmen back on the path that it was back when it started out. Back when they were young, drunk and full of promise. And, luckily, The Walkmen faced the pressure and delivered the strongest collection of its career. Foregoing the drunken rambunctiousness of its previous releases for a clearer approach, The Walkmen finally seem content to let the raspy voice of vocalist Hamilton Leithauser take the lead. And given the strength of much of the writing, this has proven to be an incredible move. "Seven years of holidays, cafes, bars and sunny days/We've run around and banged our heads/I hope we find our place soon," Leithauser sings on "Seven Years of Holidays (For Stretch)," conceivably commenting on his own band's career trajectory up to this point. You & Me proves that The Walkmen has found that place, finally falling off the tipping point where it was perilously perched, landing firmly on the path toward greatness. -Jamie Williams Bloc Party Intimacy rock 3 Stars Given the lukewarm response that Bloc Party's last album received, one would assume that the British band would take its time working on its next effort. But quickly after finishing its third LP, Bloc Party decided to put out Intimacy for digital download. But lead single "Mercury" doesn't suggest any haste. Using an electronic dance beat as a base, the band explores digitally altered vocals and layers of synth that take the band out of its comfort zone. Given the band's technically amazing drummer, Matt Tong, it seems like a waste to replace him with programmed drums on Intimacy's more electronic tracks. Another problem with those electro-infused tracks is that, aside from "Intimacy," they are subtle, quiet songs in direct contrast with Bloc Party's strengths. The band excels at loud, angular guitar riffs paired with Tong's frenetic drumming style, but most of the album's second half is composed of calm, soothing ballads that build but never satisfy. The rest of the album is vintage Bloc Party with no progress at all from its old sound. It's infectious, noisy and fun. And given how good it is, it really makes one wish the band had just stuck with what works. -Luis Torres Adventure Adventure electronic/dance 3 Stars I'm going to assume that most people out there don't drag out the Sega Genesis and throw on "Sonic the Hedgehog" when they want to hear some jams. I know I certainly don't. But after listening to Adventure, the vehicle of Baltimore video-game-sound aficionado Benny Boeldt, it's hard not to take the idea more seriously. On his self-titled debut, he uses incredibly reverent renderings of the processed clicks and squeals of early video games to create exuberant dance music. And though the concept sometimes tends toward monotony, Boeldt's knack for pop melody and all-consuming video game nostalgia provides several moments of buoyant pop joy. On the best track, "Battle Cat," he layers a tension-laden theme, ready-made for a Mario boss battle on top of a macabre melody perfect for cavern exploration. The union creates an unsettling dual feeling of accomplishment and confusion. But don't worry, "Battle Cat," like the other album standouts, is so much fun that knowledge of Nintendo lore is not a prerequisite for enjoying it. -Jordan Lawrence Giant Sand Provisions folk 2.5 Stars In many ways, ProVISIONS is the definition of a slow burner. Starting with a spoken-word verse by Giant Sand's principle player, Howe Gelb, the record is the type of folk entry that varies greatly throughout. Unfortunately, the changes don't materialize in any concrete way until the final few tracks of the record. Up to that point, Gelb sort of idles, dragging his feet through standard country/blues guitar licks and lyrics that leave more than a few things to be desired. For one thing, more attention to detail would go a long way toward making ProVISIONS a more memorable listen. Sonically, an easy comparison can be drawn to Neil Young in his current state as crotchety old folkie and even Silver Jews, but the guitar work of Young and the brilliant lyricism of Silver Jews make both of those artists far superior. However, the final third of the record goes a long way to make up for the shortcomings of the rest. The instrumentation is more varied. The level of experimentation rises exponentially, and Gelb's voice becomes clearer and more focused. It's clear that the entire record is building to that point, but in the end, it just takes far too long to get there. -Jamie Williams Jennifer O'connor Here With Me folk/rock 2 Stars Nobody likes a clinger. When a significant other begins to clench around the neck, it is the instinct of most partners to run away. On Jennifer O'Connor's latest LP, Here With Me, is the confession of such a jilted dependent. And though O'Connor brings a lot of positive things to her interpretation, it ultimately falls flat. Her clear, honest voice pierces the audience with an almost uncomfortable intimacy. It's as though the listener can feel the drag she's trying to put on her former lover, giving the album an almost claustrophobic feeling. It's not all bad though, the bouncier numbers such as "Daylight Out" and the title track transform O'Connor's desperation into genuinely touching sentiment. These tracks and the fact that O'Connor accepts she's been left for good by the end of the album help make it tolerable, but it's not enough to save it. Because, in the end, when confronted with someone as dead set on a love affair as O'Connor, it's difficult to not want to run away too. -Jordan Lawrence


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