Sweet sounds of silence

Colleen, Everyone Alive Wants Answers

This album is my current obsession. Daily, it weaves into my environment and accompanies me on the bus ride to school, and once there, in between my classes. Oddly enough, public transportation was one of Colleen’s major influences. The songs "A Swimming Pool Down the Track" and "In the Train With No Lights" both stem from the countless hours she spent on subways and buses, observing the world inside and outside of herself.

Colleen is 27, and grew up about 100 kilometers from Paris in what she considers a boring town. She played guitar, studied English, listened to My Bloody Valentine and had little computer sensibility. She performed in a noisy pop band and experimented with a four-track recorder that enabled her to slow down instruments and sounds to almost unrecognizable speeds. Then, thankfully, she got bored with guitar and quit playing and even listening to music for a while. It was because of this boredom that she eventually sought out new approaches to music making, and in the process created a truly mesmerizing debut album, Everyone Alive Wants Answers.

Along with her bus pass, Colleen had a library card. This allowed her to check out records and take them home, where her dinosaur of a computer sat fairly uselessly. Then a friend gave her something that would change all that, a CDR drive with easy-to-use music software called Acid. This software enabled her to sample records and transform them from scratched up pieces of dusty vinyl into a beautiful, dreamy collection of songs. The deceptive minimalism of her work allows for repeated listening, while its warmth ensures it. Little percussion exists amongst the 13 tracks, and when it does make a brief appearance it’s in the form of plucked violin strings or acoustic noise, which when sampled form strange rhythmic patterns. Undisguised or glossed over, these "scratches" add a sort of musical thumbprint, which creates a unique personality amongst the busy and somewhat faceless streets of the electronic music community. But is this even electronic music? According to the most important source, Colleen, it’s not.

Colleen said of her work: "I think the album is pretty much of its own kind, it’s not really electronica, it’s not ambient, it’s not pop, it’s acoustic and yet it’s purely made of samples taken from other records. But what confuses people even more is when they see me on stage with all sorts of instruments, because then they start to believe I played everything on the record."

Colleen realized, after its release, that the music of Everyone Alive… couldn’t be performed without hitting a "play button," which she wasn’t willing to do, so she did the next best thing and wrote a slew of new songs using only acoustic instruments. Live, these instruments are fed through loop pedals and layered one on top of the other. The results, apparently, are strikingly similar to her now fairly famous debut. If it is true that everyone alive wants answers, then everyone must also have questions. I recommend that while asking these to yourself or perhaps others, you listen to Colleen. Who knows, maybe she’ll answer some of them for you. -Nathan McKee

American Hi-Fi

I saw an ad for American Hi-Fi on VH1 and they looked like a vomitous West Coast version of the Strokes. How bad do you have to be to be a lame version of a lame band? Later I learned that they were the same band that did that one song that goes, "HE’S TOO STONED! NINTENDO!" What’s even worse is that their drummer was in Letters to Cleo and Veruca Salt, two very disgusting alterna-pop acts from the ’90s that should’ve died from cocaine overdose. I knew I was headed to Puketown when I got their promotional EP with a picture of these four egotistical morons posing, well, like morons, and they all have silly haircuts (one of the fellows even has a Rachel). Believe it or not, I listened to the whole thing, and thankfully didn’t go into a seizure, though a second listen almost gave me a panic attack. They are a band that I wish I would’ve not known existed; this quote from their website says it all: "American Hi-Fi has been called a pop band, a pop-punk band, a pop metal band, but it’s all just rock n’ roll to me." I advise anyone suffering from depression to avoid this record at all costs. -Tage Savage

Olivia The Band, Self Titled

I went to Hawaii this last Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the warm weather and the landscape was beautiful, but I must say that if I were forced to live there I’d be bored out of my mind. I was only there for a week but it was quite evident that nothing cool was going down in America’s youngest state. This self-titled debut by Hawaiian surfer dudes Olivia makes me glad I’m back on the mainland. It features "Shut It Out," which reached No. 16 on the National Christian Radio charts. In my humble opinion, the record would certainly make my dearest homeboy Jesus quite sad. I think even if I was a Christian I would still wish this band eternal hellfire. I mean I know if I died for the sins of the world I wouldn’t want my followers making shitty music, would you? They just sound like a really bad version of Pennywise (and don’t even get me started on them) only without the sneery vocals and with songs about the king o’ kings. God forbid that this damnable garbage ever takes the place of my Catholic Discipline CD again. Let’s pray that they all drown in surfing accidents. Praise the lord! -Tage Savage

Blitzen Trapper, Field Rexx

Trapper play kind of a neo-country rock in the Meat Puppets/Camper Van Beethoven vein. To retain hipster credibility they have a synthesizer that surprisingly does add a bonus psychedelic dimension. I would’ve liked this second release by these local hippiesters (or hipsterippies), but unfortunately they suffer from a bad case of Indie-voice. Indie-voice is an affliction that has affected various singers since about the mid-’90s. Bands suffering from this terrible disease include Built to Spill, Modest Mouse, and Ani Difranco. Symptoms include cheesy melodies with a whiny high-pitched delivery. It is related to Alterna-voice, which is similar but tends more to overemphasize the letter "r." What makes Indie-voice even more irritating is that walkie-talkie effect that got popular around the time the Breeders went big with "Cannonball." The effect is also featured on this record. If you know anyone in a band that suffers from Indie-voice, tell them to go to a vocal coach immediately. -Tage Savage

*Choncy steps in*

Blitzen Trapper’s Field Rexx is a swirling joyful mess owing as much to bands like Beechwood Sparks, Jellyfish and the (gasp) Grateful Dead as they do to Pavement or Sebadoh. This album is blissful, sweet and really fucking fun. While I agree Indie-voice is a terrible thing, I find myself lost in this dustbowl trip-out. It’s like listening to Gram Parsons and the International Submarine Band through the filter of "Range Life." Tage, brother, let’s eat some mushrooms and find a porch someplace to give this fellow a second chance. I’ll bring the rocking chairs.

SeepeopleS, The Corn Syrup Conspiracy

A knack for genre-blending and palpable, endearing energy make this, the second album from Maine pop-electronica group SeepeopleS, a good choice for those who appreciated Beck’s Mutations or Helio Sequence.

A mix of psychedelic guitars and oft-similar drum patterns creates a swirling mix of sounds appropriate for any pot-smoke-choked room but fails to make a serious impact.

The band succeeds when they ditch this formula in favor of poppier constructions like the fast paced

"Butchers." Even these moments, however, are marred by synth washes and delay effects that seem out of place and diminish the album’s overall appeal. -Christian Gaston

M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us

M83 follows up the apocalyptic ice field freak out of Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts for a more melodic and cosmopolitan vibe, complete with dreamy, listing female vocals and Air-like synth drones. Gone is the corny (yet effective) crunch guitar and panicked analogue driving. Where Dead Cities manifested images of cities crumbling and nature rising up in epic fashion, Before the Dawn is more like driving through Paris at night listening to Erasure. Just sort of…tired.

Apparently Nicolas Fromageau has left M83, leaving Anthony Gonzalez and his band of chic European collaborators to hold down the fort. The album still revels in unabashed synthesizer corniness without giving itself over entirely and maintains an overall feeling of urgency (particularly "Car Chase Terror!"), but on the whole it feels considerably more pedestrian than its predecessor.

That said, I’m willing to bet this thing goes huge. It’s sparkly, pristine and dramatic. It tugs heartstrings and as I said before feels atmospherically cosmopolitan. Imagine Ryan on "The O.C," staring out to sea, brooding and beautiful, trying to choose between the bony girl and the brainy girl to the longing piano line and whispered vocals of "Safe." It’s only a matter of time. -Choncy Jones

Music from the WB television series One Tree Hill

Gavin DeGraw, The Wreckers, Jimmy Eats World, Travis, the Get Up Kids, Rock ‘n’ Roll Soldiers, Tyler Hilton, 22-20s, Story Of The Year, Keane, Butch Walker, Sheryl Crow, Trespassers Willaim.

This could be the worst CD I’ve ever heard. And I’ve listened to Bright Eyes. Twice. Put this on to end a party, break up with Shorty, or kill yourself to. "One Tree Hill," you’re not qualified to wash "The O.C’s" windshield. To bag "The O.C.’s" groceries or walk the "O.C’s" dog. WB sucks! Fox forever! – Choncy Jones