CD Review – February – 2008

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Radiohead - In Rainbows
(TBD Records)

3.5 out of 5

Anyone who was even half-heartedly listening to the industry buzz last fall heard about Radiohead’s crazy idea to offer their newest album, In Rainbows, as a pay-what-you-think-it’s-worth-price download in October, months before the official release was to hit the streets.

The hype was so frantic (and loud) that we chose to wait on giving our take until the official release dropped, which it did on Jan. 1, 2008, to incredible success. It debuted at #1 in North America, and is the fifth consecutive Radiohead album to go to #1 in the U.K.


Now that we’ve waited though, we’re disappointed. The music we were enthralled with in the fall is a passing blip now, still worth a listen, but we feel it was the excitement of the release, and not the release itself that originally made us put this on repeat.

The music is very good, and as Rolling Stone raved, “Radiohead haven’t sounded this aggressive and infuriated — so rock and roll — since OK Computer.” The album received (and arguably deserves) four- and five-star reviews from Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, the L.A. Times, Picthfork Media and NME.

But when all is said and done, as great as an album as In Rainbows is, ultimately, it was the hype that was so worthy of all the accolades.

When it comes down to it, In Rainbows is a really, really good album, but it’s not the mind-blowing piece of musical work that everyone has hailed it as.

Several reviewers have commented that while Radiohead is well known for building to a climax and rewarding their audiences with massive payoffs once that climax is reached, In Rainbows feels like a big build with little orgasmic reward in the end.

Even as the songs grow on you, as we’ve had the chance to allow them to do for several months now, it’s still not an album that we’re reaching for on a daily basis. Yeah, sure, if the shuffle in iTunes picks it up, I won’t skip over it, but I’m also not seeking it out — which brings me to my point about In Rainbows. But in all honesty, it’s not my point, it’s actually the aforementioned Tiny Mix Tapes’s reviewer Mr. P. He wrote, and I agree wholeheartedly, that “any aesthetic critiques of the album will be surely overshadowed by what it will represent culturally 10 years down the line.”

A lot of folks were very quick to predict that by doing an early pay-what-you-want on-line release, Radiohead had made the new model for a music industry without record labels; that releases done this way would be the new way of doing things across the board.
I think Radiohead did an amazing thing here and I hope it sets the groundwork for things to come in the future, but the fact of the matter is that very few bands in the world have the clout or the resources (and most importantly, the fan base) to pull this model off. What Radiohead has done, however, will be remembered for years to come, as the industry still fights to find its footing amidst a new way of doing things. It’s tremendous, a glimmer of hope, and just downright fun, but it’s the release idea that are all of these things, not the album itself, and that’s where the disappointment lies.

A few other artists have tried (some successfully, others not so) to pull off this type of record industry coup. Wilco did something remotely similar with Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Years later, though, when I stand in front of my CD rack, I grab that album because the music really was the most amazing thing about the release. So I hope the story on In Rainbows continues to be told over and over, because it is awesome. But I’m afraid that when people forget about the release hype, they may also forget about this release.
— Brian F. Johnson

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Kort McCumber
Lickskillet Road
Lucky Nugget Records
4 out of 5

Kort McCumber is one of those guys on the local music scene that is, simply put, one hell of a nice guy. So it’s no wonder that when he sat down to record his latest album, Lickskillet Road, that he had a ton of fellow Front Range musicians who offered their help.
McCumber is joined by Danny Shafer, Greg Schochet, Sally Van Meter, and other Coloradoans, but McCumber also goes a little Nashville with the help of Vince Gill, who plays on a couple tracks on the album.

McCumber presented the CD at a release party in early January at the Boulder Theater to a packed house, and once you get the album on your stereo, it’s no wonder that so many folks showed up for the release.

Ten years ago this album would have been labeled straight country, but these days, the more discerning palette can easily detect the Americana, bluegrass, folk, singer/songwriter and, yes, country influences that permeate the entire album. It’s not like McCumber has a song from each genre. He has found a way to blend them into one, and does so with an effortlessness that’s truly amazing.
— Brian F. Johnson

:: Kort McCumber :: St. Julien ::
:: February 6 ::

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Gashead
The Isolationist
FistMusic/Hapi Skratch Records
3.5 out of 5

Since 2003, GasHead has set the standards for instrumental speed metal, but with this latest release, Gashead has finally added something to their band that they’ve never had before, in the studio or on a stage — a mic stand.

The Isolationist is the band’s first full-length vocal album, produced by long-time Front Range guitar bad-ass Dave Beegle. Three of the vocal cuts are completed by local singer, James Brennan, while GasHead lead vocalist Josh Purdy holds down the majority of the tracks.
The addition of vocals has been carefully handled by the band. They add a lot without taking away from the hard-driving Satriani-style guitarwork that has always been the band’s cornerstone. It’s a slippery slope that so far the band has traversed miraculously. If the lyrics continue to be as strong in the future as the ones on The Isolationist, the band will have hit a stride that could carry them for some time.

— Brian F. Johnson

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Kristina Ingham
The Sun I Built In You
Independent
3 out of 5

Kristina Ingham is a singer/songwriter, but her newest CD The Sun I Built In You has this hard-to-describe edge to it, that goes way beyond the aforementioned singer/songwriter genre. A good part of that sound may come from Boulder producer/musician Todd Ayers, who always manages to add extreme depth to the recordings he works on. But take away the sonic soundscape that Ayers adds and The Sun I Built In You stands on its own as some really strong, even aggressive acoustic music that is deep without being depressing and light-hearted without being flaky.

— Brian F. Johnson

:: Kristina Ingham ::
:: Hatch Cover :: February 7 ::
:: Crown Hill taphouse :: February 9 ::
:: Hatch Cover :: February 14 ::
:: Niwot Tavern :: February 16 ::
:: Hatch Cover :: February 21 ::
:: Waterloo Icehouse :: February 24 ::

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Carbon Choir
EP
Independent
4 out of 5

Boulder’s own answer to Radiohead, Carbon Choir, has just released its debut EP, which was recorded at Coupe Studios in Boulder and engineered by John McVey.

The EP is excellent, there’s only one problem with it: It’s just an EP and not a full album. Otherwise, the three tracks that are on it are excellent, melodic indie rock.
— Brian F. Johnson

:: Carbon Choir ::
:: Toad Tavern :: February 7 ::
:: Hi-Dive:: February 21 ::

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Ominous Words
Kill The Static
Independent
3.5 out of 5

Ominous Words has been around for several years in California, but with Kill The Static, Ominous Words throws its hat in the ring with other articulate and intelligent rappers like Sage Francis, Aesop Rock and others who are bringing brains into the rap game.
Ominous Words is Steve Caprio, and on this album Caprio preaches about the wrongs and the rights of our country. He even gives a huge plug to the marijuana lobby NORML and its founder, Keith Stroup, who I’ve met and is worthy of more plugs on more albums.
— Brian F. Johnson

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