CD Reviews – April – 2007

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Kings of Leon

Because of the Times

RCA Records

4.5 out of 5

This is what a follow-up album should be.

Kings of Leon’s newest release Because of the Times, according to the band, takes what people expect from their sound and “throws them for a loop.”

But the truth is, that Because of the Times actually throws no loops but continues doing what Kings of Leon have become known for — but that’s not a bad thing.

In the press release that accompanied the CD — the band’s third full LP — it states “It would have been easy for Kings of Leon to make Aha Shake Heartbreak Part II and call it a day … But instead of resting on their rep, the guys chose to challenge themselves.”

Yes, there are differences betweenAha and Because of the Times. Yes, the new album shows some growth, but, no, it doesn’t take the band out of its comfort zone.

Because of the Times is just as full of fuzzed-out rock anthems as its predecessors and, again, that is a very good thing.

Kings of Leon have found the proper formula for the modern version of late-’70s-era rock/punk and it would had been a shame if they had changed it up too much.

If Aha Shake Heartbreak got stuck in your CD player for as long as it did ours, then Because of the Times is going to be your summer album of choice. It’s excellent and moving but, alas, it is not a heavy departure for the band.

   Brian F. Johnson

 

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Storytyme

Patchwork Quilt

Independent

3.5 out of 5

Boulder-based retro rockers Storytyme restructured their sound in the last year and their first release since the revamp, Patchwork Quilt, is an over-the-top example of their growth.

Recorded in Sony Super Audio, the album pops with their new rock sounds and vocals reminiscent of The Cult.

The production of the album is incredibly strong, but it also should be, as drummer Tony Lewis is a sound engineer at IMMERSIVETM Studios inBoulder, where the album was recorded. Adding to that production quality is the fact that the band recorded much of the album live (not in concert, but together, without isolating different instruments, which is the “standard” way albums are recorded).

In addition to the previously mentioned Cult reference, the band’s sound weaves from almost jammy (more in the Gomez-like pop sense of the word) with the song “Walkin’ Upstream”, to the KBCO-esque pop-rock sound of “Good Look Around.”

If ever there was a band that is setting itself up for radio play, Storytyme is definitely it, but it may be their follow-up to Patchwork that will get them there.

While Patchwork Quilt is the band’s best effort to date, some of the tracks seem to struggle with an identity crisis. Their desire to be all things to all fans leaves them straddling jam, pop and rock genres and while they nail it on some tracks, others leave you wondering what kind of band you’re listening to.

— Brian F. Johnson

 

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Wendy Woo Trio

Luxury

Independent

3.5 out of 5

Wendy Woo has released six, count ’em six, CDs since 1997, but the most recent release from the Woo camp is a debut for her newest project, the Wendy Woo Trio.

With a fuller, darker and edgier sound than her previous solo releases, Luxury shines with power-pop collaborations and shows a different side of Woo, the mother-to-be, who has grown into one of the Front Range’s dearest sweethearts.

Heavy subject matter abounds on the new CD, with songs that touch on the dangers of wealth, and the abuses in Darfur, but Woo’s lighter side is also prevalent with feel-good tracks that see the collective glass as more-than-half-full.

Joined by multi-instrumentalists Mitch DeZwarte (Ten Tiers) and Chris Maestas (Mean OldMan), Woo’s normally stripped-down sound  becomes thick on Luxury without taking away from the singer/songwriter sound she has become known for. It’s not like the Trio has completely transformed her sound, but it has added a depth that has been lacking in some of her previous work.

 

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Bassnectar

Underground Communication

OM Records

3.5 out of 5

Following on the heals of 2005’s double-disc release Mesmerizing the Ultra, Bassnectar’s new release Underground Communication takes another step toward his “modern listening music” genre.

Underground Communication explores hip-hop with scores of MCs atop a heavy, driving range of tempo and throbbing bass lines.

The album is listener friendly and accessible art for the ears, steeped in the hip-hop/dancehall fun.

 

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El-P

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead

Definitive Jux

3 out of 5

The guest artists alone are reason enough to pick up this album, but luckily the spots without the  appearances by Trent Reznor, Mars Volta, Cat Power  and AesopRock, to name a few, are as strong as the guest list.

I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead, El-P’s first album in four years, is an urgent documentary about today’s world and represents the struggle faced by those living in a rapidly changing society.

It’s pretty heavy stuff, not light background stuff, but worth every be
at.

 

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The Stinos

Alchemy & Apathy

Independent

3 out of 5

The Denver-based quartet known as The Stinos have released an incredibly strong debut with Alchemy  & Apathy. The pop-rock group says that they’re a blend of Matchbox 20 and Sublime, and this first CD certainly showcases that comparison.

With catchy, radio-friendly driving songs and ska-laden stompers, the band comes across as mature beyond its years, partially due to the traditional training and street performing roots of its members.

 

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Michael Cole

All My Words

Independent

2 out of 5

Lyrically, Michael Cole’s debut album All My Words is a great snapshot of today’s world, as the tracks take on relevant and important issues facing society, but something is lacking in the overall presentation of the songs.

It’s a decent singer/songwriter album, but it fails to deliver any punch, except through the vocals. Musically, the songs run into one another with little variety in range or color. That lack of variety translates to the later tracks feeling stale. Again, it’s not bad, but something needs to be done to up the passion and depth.

 

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Dinosaur, Jr.

Live in the Middle East

Image Entertainment

4 out of 5

The lords of loud, Dinosaur, Jr. are getting set to release  their first album with the original line-up in more than 15 years, and as a little taste of things to come, the consummate post-punk trio has released its first DVD, Live in the Middle East. The DVD, which was filmed at Boston’s Middle East and New York’s Iriving Plaza, showcases the band during its December, 2005 tour, with material coming from all three Dino albums.

Special features include interviews with a slew of who’s who, but the magic of this DVD is that even if you turn your volume down low, it’ll still blow you off the couch. It’s like you’re sitting right in front of J. Mascis’ Marshall stack.

 

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The Exies

A Modern Way of Living with the Truth

Eleven Seven Music

An unsettling blast of alt-rock with a sacrilegious cover version of The Talking Heads staple “Once in a Lifetime.”

 

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Run-DMC

Live at Montreux 2001 DVD

Eagle Eye Media

Recorded shortly before the murder of Jam-Master Jay, this concert firmly cements Run-DMC as the “Godfathers of Rap.”

 

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Mullets Rock

Mullets in Love

LegacyRecords

An 18 track collection of ’70s and ’80s “love songs” as diverse as Bonnie Tyler’s tear-jerker “Total Eclipse of the Heart” to Ted Nugent’s ode to trim “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang.”

 

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Akimbo

Harshing Your Mellow

Alternative Tentacles

It’s exactly what you’d expect from the title. Akimbo’s re-release of it’s 2001 album, from the label founded by Boulder’s own JelloBiafra, is an over-the-top assault of powertrio hard rock, a collision of guitar, bass and drums with equally raucous vocals.

 

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James Apollo

Hide Your Heart in a Hive

No Alternative Records

Wow! This is pretty heavy stuff. With a twisted take on American roots music, James Apollo’s newest CD is a boozy, haunting, TomWaits-esque time machine to the past, when songs  dripped in emotion and depth.

 

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Ian Hunter

Shrunken Heads

YepRoc Records

The same guy who brought us “All the Young Dudes” now brings us an awesome collection of tracks that have one foot in the singer/songwriter genre and the other in rock and roll. There’s cool guests too.

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