The Inner Banks
The Inner Banks is orchestral rock with a folksy twist. It claims to be perfect road trip music, but I find it necessary to qualify that. This is good road trip music if you are the passenger and wearing headphones. I see this as potentially good MAX-riding music, especially apt for staring out windows at the Portland fog. Gently propelling, pensive, and smooth, The Inner Banks is not rockin’ and is not sing-along music. The point being, it may not keep you awake. Once it gets going, “Electric" sounds remarkably like the theme from the PBS series Globe Trekker. “Glittering Sky" sounds a little like Enya meets a soft whispering ’80s girl band. “Siberia" reminds me of the background music of a video game I used to play that required solving puzzles in a haunted house. Having been to Russia, “Siberia" doesn’t conjure up anything that I heard there. It’s only similarity to things Russian is possibly that it was written in a minor key. “Buried West" employs Smashing Pumpkins-type bells in the beginning, which led to a wasted afternoon rummaging through my CD collection looking for the Smashing Pumpkins. There may be a slight Wilco influence in this track as well. All in all, if you would like to be lulled into a trance-like state, The Inner Banks may be for you. The CD’s release date is scheduled for Dec. 5.
The Hidden Cameras
The Hidden Cameras play the Doug Fir on Dec. 1.
Remember that episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 when they watch “Gamera," that Godzilla knockoff about a giant flying turtle? And then Crow says, “It’s Gamera! Get the camera!" That was a great episode. Instead of listening to this bad album, go re-watch that episode of MST3K. Weak melodies, bad mixing and terrible lyrics all join forces to make this a wholly unenjoyable album. It’s hard to believe that this is the seventh album from this Canadian band. They have some musical similarities to Magnetic Fields and The Polyphonic Spree, but none of the appeal of those bands. Some sample lyrics from the winner of the One-Irritating-Note Melody for Three Minutes award, a song called “Lollipop": “-with a skip and/ a hop, what a bim what a bop, what a bim what a bop what a bim, what a bop, bop, pop/ Lollipop Lollipop Lollipop Lollipop." It’s awful, it’s irritating, and if you can listen to that entire song without wanting to tear your eyeballs out, then you might be able to tolerate this whole debacle. Recommended for fans of terrible lyrics, irritating melodies and nothing interesting.
Close to Me
The Comfies are a Nashville-based power-pop quartet and this seven-song EP displays all the earmarks of finely played power pop. Tight, close harmonies? Check. Guitar hook on every song? Check. Guitar, bass, drums and some occasional piano, organ or synth? Check. Songs about love and girls? Check. The song “In Your Room" is a standout due to the female harmonies, propelling acoustic guitar and the harpsichord solo, but most important, as in most power pop, is the vocal melody, which takes all kinds of turns that you don’t expect, and leaves you wanting more. The next track, “Your Sunshine," has some occasionally distracting beat boxing, but other than that maintains this EP’s standard of Spoon meets Posies meets New Pornographers rock. It’s good – if you like those bands, you should like this.
Atlanta’s Mastodon have been slowly polishing and developing their own brand of literary prog-metal over the course of three albums, with their newest, Blood Mountain, being the pinnacle of songwriting success for the band. Blood Mountain is the band’s most polished material (it is their major-label debut), featuring legitimately catchy hooks, as well as guest appearances by “mainstream artists" like Cedric from the Mars Volta and Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. However, Blood Mountain also marks Mastodon’s most technical and original moments on record as well. The spacious prog tendencies that were only hinted at in their previous work are now on full display. Combined with the maturity that comes with being practiced songwriters, Mastodon has achieved the best of both worlds, trailblazing originality with the esteemed quality of “listenability."
For fans of: Slayer, Rush, and Queens of the Stone Age.
Best Track: “Colony of Birchman."
You know what’s awesome? Classic rock. Is there anything better than the songs that Led Zeppelin wrote or the guitar tone that Tony Iommi got on Black Sabbath’s debut album? The answer for most people is no, and that certainly seems to be the case for Priestess. Hello Master mines the fields that Black Sabbath plowed in a very direct and simple way. Priestess sound familiar – and that is a testament to their skills as songwriters. It might not be original, but in the music landscape of the last few years, simple, fun songs are still a blast of fresh air.
For fans of: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin.
Black Label Society
Shot to Hell
Zakk Wylde is a man widely known for his guitar virtuoso status, at least more so than his music in Black Label Society. This is for a good reason. He is unequivocally good at playing guitar, but not really so great at writing songs. This is demonstrated on his band’s latest album, Shot to Hell. Nothing in his music sticks out as noticeable or unique. He relies on pinch harmonics to an annoying degree to move his songs forward. Which illustrates the main problem with all Black Label Society’s albums – a notable lack of musical substance. Shot to Hell is no different.
For fans of: Black Label Society (I really can’t see anyone else liking this).