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The Giraffes: Prime Motivator (Crustacean)
If you somehow haven’t found your way to a Giraffes show, make the time. This Brooklyn band is all about rock ’n’ roll like it should be: loud, unruly, drunk, and heart-attack-inducing (literally). And this new album shows them fully in control of their seamy, riff-laden ways. Prime Motivator is a dirty, down-in-the-gutter record. While the CD (its title loosely inspired by the ongoing cardiac saga of the band’s singer, and featuring songs like “Allergic to Magnets,” “Sickness,” and “Medicaid Benefit Applique”) might not be as raw as their first, it’s still chock-full of bad-boy, bass-crunching, hide-your-daughter swagger. Their surf-metal style has matured (is that an insult for a band like this?) into a confident, unapologetic sound that offers up wicked guitar licks, heavy bass, pounding drums, and vocals from a sleazy demon. The Giraffes continue to put out music that aims to save the rotten, beleaguered heart of rock ’n’ roll; Prime Motivator acts as a defibrillator to today’s stagnant indie-gone-mainstream scene.
The End of the World: French Exit (Pretty Activity)
This Brooklyn-based band reminds me a lot of the French Kicks (specifically their Trial of the Century album). However, French Exit left me wanting more from a band with such an apocalyptic-sounding name—and such an uneventful album. To be honest, I got bored, and the singer’s raspy croon got old pretty quickly. The band is also a bit schizophrenic on French Exit (a phrase meaning “leaving without saying goodbye,” which is kind of how you feel after listening to this album), veering from the flowing French Kicks style to downright plodding songs without a semblance of melody. If this is how the end times are going to sound, please don’t wake me.
Dead Meadow: Old Growth (Matador)
If you’re looking for a nice, slow-burning stoner-rock album, Old Growth should keep your buzz going. Heavy fuzz guitars coupled with a nice drone are the hallmarks here. Dead Meadow are adept at bluesy psychedelic-tinged rock that doesn’t go anywhere fast, yet follows the jam-band blueprint of slowly building before your eyes (and ears) into a swirling, rhythmic monster. There’s not much posturing here, and the lead singer’s vocals come across mumbled and muttered half the time, but that just adds to their overall aesthetic. Dead Meadow doesn’t make uplifting music (in fact, it’s got a dark, simmering undertone to it), but you probably could have guessed that from both their band and album name—though they add in a few low-fi “gentler” numbers and a song or two with a beat that provide nice counterbalance. There’s no doubt that Old Growth is a powerful record, and will easily help you while away many a Saturday afternoon.
Pigeon Detectives: This Is an Emergency EP (Dance to the Radio)
First off, their name is absolutely horrendous. But there’s more trouble here than that. This U.K. band comes out swinging with synth, persistent beats, and catchy choruses that musically seem to have no connection to the rest of the song: Welcome to Britpop at its best/worst. I’ve heard a spate of bands in recent years looking to be the next Killers, riding that wave of boring keyboard-laden songs with catchy singalong choruses. While the originals have cemented their footnote in musical history, the imitators that follow (including this band) don’t bring anything new or remotely interesting to the table. If you’ve heard one dance-rock chorus, you’ve heard them all.
Monade: Monstre Comic (Too Pure)
This French band emphasizes the joys of veering away from traditional rock. The band’s name comes from a psychological term to describe the infant brain before it splinters into ego, super ego, and id. And fittingly enough, a sense of abstract playfulness is key to this music. The songs are hard to pin down, but “French fantasy-movie soundtrack” is a good place to start with this disc, which feels more art project than rock band. The band seems earnest in their endeavor, and while the music might strike some as overly angular and disconcordant, it also maintains an element of elegance—thanks in large part to the singer’s sweet French lilt, reminiscent of Astrud Gilberto. And for fans of Portishead and Stereolab (whose singer Laetitia Sadier founded this group), Monstre Comic might sound just right.
The Jealous Girlfriends: The Jealous Girlfriends (Last Gang)
This is a “grower” album: I’ve been listening to it for the last few months, and falling in love with it more and more every time I hear it. The music is textured and atmospheric—full of swirling guitars and unobtrusive melodies—but without the usual shoegazer malaise. The band makes great use of two vocal leads (the girl’s sultry and rich à la Beth Orton and Fiona Apple, the guy’s deep and luxurious) that play off each other effortlessly. This disc is full of indie-rock goodness; the songs sound fresh and fully formed. The result is a great album; as a matter of fact, it might be one of the best records of 2008.
Grant Moser is an art writer and frequent contributing writer for the Brooklyn Rail.