Hercules and Love Affair: Hercules and Love Affair

It may sound like the ultimate insult to call an album a dance record for people who don’t dance anymore, but let’s face it; most of the people who went club hopping in the late ‘80s simply don’t dance anymore, but they’re going to love Hercules and Love Affair, the collective effort by Andrew Butler and a small army of friends. Ranging from Inner City-style house (“You Belong”) to brooding, Shriekback-ish dark grooves (“Easy”), the album has both Thievery Corporation cool and traditional dance pop sensibilities. “Blind” goes back even further in time, rocking a full-on disco groove, and the sincerity of the performance is as convincing an argument for the awesomeness of early disco as you’ll ever hear. Hercules and Love Affair is, quite literally, groovy stuff. More, please. (Mute)

Hercules and Love Affair MySpace page

Golden Animals: Free Your Mind and Win a Pony

How you feel about Golden Animals – and their debut full-length album, Free Your Mind and Win a Pony — will likely have everything to do with how you feel about Jim Morrison and the Doors. Are you a Morrison fan? Well, then Pony will hit you like a peyote button at a desert campfire. If, on the other hand, you regard the Doors as possibly the most overrated band in rock & roll history, then Golden Animals will sound a lot like the low rumble of a slowly opening hellmouth. (And if you’re Ian Astbury, you’re about to spend several months memorizing the words to these songs and waiting for singer Tommy Eisner to quit the band so you can take his place.) Either way, Pony does everything it can to live up to the label’s promises of a “sun-bleached, spare and deeply California desert sound” – and at 11 songs and barely 30 minutes in length, it’s hard to accuse the album of overstaying its welcome. There isn’t an original thought from start to finish – even the artwork strains to evoke the Laurel Canyon wonder years – but that won’t stop a rabid throng of critics from wanking all over it this summer. That these knuckleheads don’t have a scrap of mojo worth rising between them doesn’t matter in the least. (Happy Parts 2008)

Golden Animals MySpace page

Walter Meego: Voyager

You’d be hard pressed to find a genre with a greater POF (Poseur Overload Factor) than the Nouveaux Wave scene, where the majority of the bands equate squawky synths with detached, ironic hipster cool, as if the world needs more detached, ironic hipster cool. (It doesn’t, by the way.) Huzzah, then, to Chicago duo Walter Meego – neither of whom is named Walter or Meego – for putting the song first and going from there. Their debut, Voyager, takes Daft Punk’s poppiest work to its logical next step, matching the bubbliest of pop songs with “Aerodynamic”-style keytar riffs. “Girls” is the clear standout, which a guitar hook the size of an anchor, while the ode to voyeurism that is “Keyhole” has a tribute of sorts to “Aerodynamic” in the solo. If you’re looking for a frothy, fun summer album, look no further. (Almost Gold)

Walter Meego MySpace page

Jason Falkner: Bedtime with the Beatles Part Two

Long before there were albums offering lullaby versions of songs by Nine Inch Nails and Metallica, there was Jason Falkner’s Bedtime with the Beatles, a wonderful little collection of gently delivered instrumental takes on Fab Four classics such as “Blackbird,” “In My Life,” and “The Long and Winding Road.” Sony somehow managed to avoid turning the album into a hit, but it’s continued to enjoy strong sales on the used market since going out of print – and now Falkner brings us a second volume, adding “Norwegian Wood,” “I Will,” and “Hey Jude,” among others, to the list of bedtime-y Beatles tunes in his catalog. If you’ve heard the first volume, you know exactly what to expect; if you haven’t, get yourself to your nearest online music outlet and order up both of these ASAP. Kids’ albums that advertise themselves as “fun for the whole family” are as common as the rain, but Falkner’s actually delivers – and it boasts an endorsement from none other than Sir Paul McCartney, who offers the strongest possible recommendation: “It puts me to sleep.” (Record Collection 2008)

Jason Falkner MySpace page

Calvin Richardson: When Love Comes

A C-list neo-soul singer whose greatest claim is either childhood friendships with K-Ci and JoJo or a duet with Angie Stone – take your pick – Calvin Richardson has stumbled his way through two lost record deals in the space of a decade, so the release of When Love Comes (holy crap, Shanachie Entertainment is still around?) should be a source of great expectations for no one outside Richardson’s immediate family. The hokey cover artwork, and the back cover’s ridiculous promise that the album is “the true story of an urban romance…from The Soul Prince!” may very well have you rolling on the floor before you hear a note, but wonders never cease: When Love Comes does not suck. It’s slick modern R&B, with all the silly boasting (“Holla at You”), baby mama drama (“Daddy to My Kids”), and machine-driven arrangements that go with the territory – but for what it is, this is a surprisingly solid collection, smartly produced and topped off with generous helpings of Richardson’s elastic vocals. Nothing new here, certainly – but still probably one of the best downmarket R&B releases you’re likely to hear this year. (Shanachie 2008)

Calvin Richardson MySpace page

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