Reviewer Spotlight: Calexico – Spoke

Originally published in Punk Planet May/June 2007 Knowing that this Tucson ensemble’s loyal following tend to break into fits of breathless poetry about desert horizons or sand-choked nights could lead the uninitiated to believe Joey Burns and John Convertino stepped fully formed out of some Arizona mirage one summer afternoon. Spoke, released before the incredible…

Review: Tuxedomoon – Bardo Hotel Soundtrack

Originally published in Punk Planet May/June 2007 This is a soundtrack less in the sense of Ennio Morricone, perhaps, than Rachel’s Systems/Layers or Gastr del Sol’s Harp Factory on Lake Street, where bridges create phantom-images and the space between the notes provides its own imagined narratives. You don’t need to see Bardo Hotel, the Tuxedomoon/George…

Review: The Stay Lows – The Red Budget

Originally published in Punk Planet May/June 2007 It figures I’d find a record like this only after compiling all those obligatory year-ending top 10 lists. Where have these guys been hiding? This majestic seven-song EP is everything you could ask for from a young post-rock quintet and then some. The album-opening “We’ll Give Them Their…

Review: Skyscraper Frontier – Moonlit Behavior

Originally published in Punk Planet May/June 2007 The first track from this LA quintet’s debut might be the most deceiving introduction to a record you’ll hear this year. Held together with a canned sample of electronic percussion, the album-opening “I Just Need You” revolves around swirling electronics, soaring guitar leads, and studio-scrubbed vocal – precisely…

Review: At Dusk – “You Can Know Danger”

The third record from this Portland trio aims for the stars but, ultimately, the whole package comes off more as a series of passing curiosities than a cohesifve collection of carefully crafted songs. That’s a shame, because these childhood friends clearly share an interesting musical language – one that blurs the lines between poppy ear…

Reviewer Spotlight: The Melvins – Gluey Porch Treatments

Originally published in Punk Planet March/April 2007 I was, admittedly, in grade school in 1986 when Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and Matt Lukin drove from Washington to California to record their first full-length record. By the time I did hear it, some five or six years later, the group was being courted by the majors…

Review: Vopat – Sometimes It Will

Originally published in Punk Planet March/April 2007 This somewhat-anonymous act shows no love for boundaries on a 10-song outing that refuses to adhere to genre formulas or even the conventional borders of a CD track. Spare ambient asides bleed into soaring, Mogwai-inspired refrains before reverting to quiet, shimmering bits of pop rock. And none of…

Review: The Sea, Like Lead/Belegost – S/T

Originally published in Punk Planet March/April 2007 So, guess who’s been holed up in basements studying old Godspped You! Black Emperor and Silver Mt. Zion records? Two guitar-driven East Coast acts split a three-song set by crafting sometimes-mournful, sometimes-furious prog-rock epics worth of their forebears. Pittsburgh’s The Sea, Like Lead follows up its recently released…

Review: Modwheelmod – “Enemies & Immigrants”

The packaging for this six-song disc provides an image familiar to many aspiring home-recorded acts: a God’s-eye-view photo of the duo, apparently mid-recording, surrounded by a gaggle of wired gadgets, guitar effects pedals, and waiting synthesizers. What’s surprising is how the resulting records sounds little like a basement-captured affair. The production – from electronic-assisted beats…

Review: Knurl – “Sycamine”

The latest offering from noisemaker Alan Bloor takes an interesting premise – that an instrument forged from found stainless steel can shatter eardrums as readily as amp-fueled hardcore – beyond its logical conclusions. So, alongside the highly distorted but still percussive claptrap of metal-on-metal, we get the buzz and wail of aching speakers and the…