Various Artists: Going the Distance Soundtrack


RIYL: hip new indie rock, your kids

If Drew Barrymore and Justin Long make a movie together, you better believe that they are going to see to it that the soundtrack is stuffed with bands so hip it hurts, and that is exactly what Going the Distance is. Indeed, some people may view a band’s inclusion on this soundtrack as a sign that said band or artist is no longer cool, and it’s officially time to stop listening to them. If you’re friends with one of those people, do yourself a favor: stop being friends with them.

All kidding aside (Psssst! We weren’t kidding), the soundtrack plays out much like the one for “500 Days of Summer,” blending cutting-edge indie acts like the Boxer Rebellion (they’re here a whopping three times, but there’s a reason for that – they’re a key piece to the movie’s plot) with first-gen alt-rock bands like the Cure, the Pretenders and the Replacements. The end result is a more enjoyable experience than the movie itself, consistently engaging and high-brow. (Don’t get us started on the spray tanning scene.) It’s most likely to appeal to alt-rock suburbanites in their 30s and 40s, and that might sound like a death knell on paper, but here’s the thing: there are tons of people who fit that description, and while they may no longer be the hippest demographic in the world, they’re one of the most passionate groups of music fans left that actually still pay for music. And they love stuff that makes them feel cool again. Well played. (Water Tower Music 2010)

Click to buy Going the Distance from Amazon

  

Justin Currie: The Great War


RIYL: Del Amitri, The Cure, Todd Thibaud

Most of you probably do not recognize the name of Justin Currie, but you would if you heard his voice – the smoky and positive tenor that fronted Scottish pop/rock band Del Amitri for two decades. Currie is back with his second solo effort, The Great War, and it’s a solid batch of songs that showcase his way with melody, arrangements and powerful songwriting in general. The Great War is a very balanced set of music – that is, Currie doesn’t write songs that sound the same, his voice being a constant but not much else. And that’s a good thing; Currie also has an interesting way with a hook, as he does on one of the album’s best tracks, “Anywhere I’m Away From You,” which clearly jabs at an ex: “I ain’t running home / Because home is anywhere I’m away from you.” It’s straightforward, funny, and has a funky, bluesy backdrop featuring some real slick guitar work. He does the same tongue-in-cheek thing with success on “As Long as You Don’t Come Back.”

Justin_Currie_01

Other standouts are the piano ballad, “You’ll Always Walk Alone,” the Del Amitri-ish “Can’t Let Go of Her Now” and the beautifully haunting, “The Way that It Falls.” It kind of sounds like Currie is coming off a breakup, and sometimes breakups inspire the best songs. Sad, but true, and certainly we fans of good alt-pop or of Del Amitri are the lucky beneficiaries. (Rykodisc 2010)

Justin Currie MySpace Page

  

stellastarr*: Civilized

The latest from New York City based indie rock band stellastarr* (yeah, that’s how they spell it – no caps and that silly asterisk) is more of what you may have come to expect from them if you have followed them at all. The album, called Civilized and released on the band’s own Bloated Wife imprint, has the same elements of glam, new wave and punk that have lifted bands like the Cure and more recently, the Killers, to lofty heights. And while those comparisons may have black lipstick and nose-ring-wearing types to hit “download,” they should temper their expectations because these songs just don’t measure up. The band is undoubtedly talented, playing their instruments with precision and conviction, but at times lead singer Shawn Christensen just over-emotes to the point of it being like nails on a chalkboard. And most of the melodies, if you call them that, are not very memorable. The exceptions are the Cure-ish anthem “Tokyo Sky,” and “Move On,” which may remind you of another ‘80’s band, OMD. So while we’re not saying you should avoid stellastarr* like the bird flu, just don’t get your hopes up too high for this latest effort. (LABEL: Bloated Wife)

stellastarr* MySpace Page

  

Bullz-Eye’s Favorite Albums of 2008: Associate Editor Will Harris’ picks

The fact of the matter is this: by the time you read this, I will have reviewed a sum total of only nine albums which were released in 2008. It’s a little sad, really. Once upon a time, the only thing I wrote about was music, and now it’s been relegated to a distant second place. Not that I don’t love how much my gig as a TV critic has taken off in recent years, but do I miss the days when I would listen to music all the live long day? You bet. (Ed. note: So do I.) But although I no longer have the time to sit down, absorb an album, and write a lengthy treatise about it, that’s not to say that I’m not still paying attention to my favorite artists and what they’re doing these days…and once in a blue moon, I even dare to fall in love with a new artist. You will definitely, however, see a trend toward the folks to whose music has been making me happy quite a few years now. It’s true: I’m old, I’m set in my ways, and if it doesn’t sound familiar, then, frankly, I just can’t be bothered. Good thing, then, that several of my all-time favorite artists came through for me in 2008.

Top 10 Albums of 2008

1. Elvis Costello and the Imposters: Momofuku
After several not-bad albums, Elvis finally comes through and produces his first full-fledged classic in quite some time. Whether it’s because he’s been energized by the Imposters (two former Attractions and an ex-Cracker member) or enthused about having a vocal supergroup providing backing vocals (Jenny Lewis, Johnathan Rice, Dave Scher, and Jonathan Wilson), the end result is the most enjoyable EC effort in ages, and it only gets better with each listen.

2. The Fireman: Electric Arguments
There’s a very good chance that I’ll be called out for giving this record too much credit too soon, given that, as I type this sentence, my review hasn’t even gone live on the site yet, but I’m going out on a limb and listing it in my #2 spot nonetheless. It’s always easy for me to slot a Paul McCartney release in my top 10, but, really, this is a fascinating album that finds Sir Paul in a loose and freewheeling form that we haven’t heard from him in decades. I’ve spun it a dozen times in less than a month, and I foresee many more in the future.

3. Brent Cash: How Will I Know if I’m Awake
There are several surprising things about Brent Cash and his debut album. For one thing, despite how it sounds, it was not recorded in the 1960s during the height of the sunshine pop era. For another, although it was released on a label best known for putting albums by the Pearlfishers, Cash is not from Scotland but, rather, from Athens, GA. But, really, what’s most important about How Will I Know if I’m Awake is that it’s a beautifully breezy concoction of pop tunes that blends the best bits of Burt Bacharach, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Webb, and any other classic ‘60s tunesmith you care to mention.

4. Coldplay: Viva la Vida
Fuck you guys, I like Coldplay. Maybe I wouldn’t if I actually listened to the radio and had heard the title track of this record played to death, but I didn’t. As far as I’m concerned, Chris Martin writes some damned fine pop tunes, and as long as Coldplay keeps recording them, I’ll probably keep buying them.

5. Panic at the Disco: Pretty. Odd.
I know I’m not the only one on the Bullz-Eye staff to have been blindsided by just how good this record was. Who would thought a bunch of guys who were big enough tools to stick an exclamation point in the middle of their band’s name had it in them to put together a modern-day approximation of Queen? (Okay, so it’s not a precise translation, but, hey, it’s better than the album that the real Queen put out this year.) “Nine in the Afternoon” was the single to beat this year, and the rest of the album comes surprisingly close to living up to that song’s potential.

6. The Cure: 4:13 Dream
No, it’s not the best Cure album you’ve ever heard, but it borrows a lot of bits from a lot of really good Cure albums. As a result, the feeling of familiarity makes for a very comfortable listen.

7. R.E.M.: Accelerate
No, it’s not the best R.E.M. album you’ve ever heard. But it’s the best R.E.M. album in a hell of a long time.

8. Lindsey Buckingham: Gift of Screws
For whatever reason, I just never cottoned to Lindsey’s last record, Under the Skin, but I’m sure the biggest issue was that I was really looking for another Out of the Cradle. While Gift of Screws might not hit those lofty heights, it certainly came a heck of a lot closer.

9. Jack McManus: Either Side of Midnight
Throw me a comparison to Ben Folds, Billy Joel, and Elton John, and you’ll have my attention every time. As soon as I heard Jack McManus’s single, “Bang on the Piano,” I was hooked, and the rest of the record – including the title cut and “You Think I Don’t Care” – is just as much piano-pumping fun.

10. Asia: Phoenix / Journey: Revelation
Our man Jeff Giles said it best when he first put on “Never Walk Away,” the opening song from Journey’s first album to feature the band’s new lead singer, Arnel Pineda: “I think I can feel my hair trying to feather itself as I listen to this.” Similarly, my own follicles were trying to form a mullet upon my spinning “Never Again,” the first track on the first Asia album to feature all four original members in almost 25 years. Even if neither album was necessarily 100% genius, there was so much good-natured enthusiasm packed into both records to make them some of the most enjoyable listening this year.

Top 5 Albums I picked up via eMusic

Say what you will about how eMusic isn’t the deal it used to be, but I never have any problem finding enough great new music to use on my credits each month. It might not be quite as user-friendly as iTunes, but it’s getting closer all the time.

1. ABC: Traffic
I’m probably more fond of this record than anything else that I downloaded from the site because I listened to it incessantly in the weeks leading up to my attending the Regeneration tour, but it’s still a very solid outing from Martin Fry and company.

2. The Last Shadow Puppets: The Age of Understatement
I didn’t know anything about Martin Kane from the Rascals (UK), but that’s okay, because all I really needed to know about this band is that it also featured Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. This’ll hold me over nicely ‘til the next Monkeys record.

3. The Snoopy Lads: A Ruby in Blue
Not that Marc Almond isn’t still recording (because he is, thank you very much), but if he wasn’t, then the Snoopy Lads would be your next best bet for slinky synth-pop goodness. Shame about the name, though.

4. Ladyhawke Ladyhawke
eMusic sold me on this one by the pull quote on the download page for the album: “Nervy New Zealander offers a dozen-plus rewrites of ‘Bette Davis Eyes.’ And, yes, that’s a good thing.” It sure is. There’s early-‘80s girl-pop goodness galore here.

5. Sparks: Exotic Creatures of the Deep
Okay, I admit it: I got into Sparks because Morrissey likes them. But then when I realized that they also wrote a song that Siouxise and the Banshees had covered (“This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us”), I figured it was the icing on the cake. I don’t know where this album stands in the overall pantheon of Sparks albums. I just know it has a track entitled “I Can’t Believe You Would Fall for All the Crap in This Song,” and that’s good enough for me.

Top 10 songs not on any of the above albums

1. “Goodbye Mr. A,” The Hoosiers
2. “Wow,” Kylie Minogue
3. “What’s Victoria’s Secret?,” Rick Springfield
4. “Pretty Amazing Grace,” Neil Diamond
5. “Spiralling,” Keane
6. “I Keep Faith,” Billy Bragg
7. “Oranges and Apples,” Trash Can Sinatras
8. “Stamp Your Feet,” Donna Summer
9. “Fascination,” Alphabeat
10. “Sensual Seduction,” Snoop Dogg

Biggest Reunion Album Disappointment

Bauhaus: Going Away White
True, they hadn’t recorded together as a band since 1983’s Burning from the Inside, but given that they’d successfully managed to reunite and tour throughout most of 2005 and 2006, hopes were high that they were older, wiser, and able to put together one last classic album. They were not.

Most unexpected success from an ex-Beatle

The Pete Best Band: Haymans Green
When I started hearing reports about what a pleasure Haymans Green was, I had to check it out, and I was not disappointed. You will not be surprised to hear that it’s pointedly Beatle-esque in its sound, and, okay, maybe my expectations were low, but I really enjoyed it. Who would’ve thought that the drummer who got kicked out of the Beatles would produce a better album this year than the one who replaced him?

  

Deep Cuts – The Cure

The Cure is one of those groups that seems to split its own fans right down the middle. Do you like the melancholy and gloomy side of Robert Smith’s creativity, or are you one of the listeners who enjoys his more accessible and pop-friendly work? Sometimes you can certainly like both, but there are definitely those fans who are deeply into albums like Pornography and Bloodflowers, two major works by the band that can often be impenetrable at times. As for this writer, I have to admit I’ve always enjoyed the poppier side of the Cure. Not that this collection of the band’s deep cuts won’t include some of the darker shades Smith has offered to his legions, but overall I’m one of those people that enjoys the Cure more when it isn’t all about the despair. Of course, I’m also 34 and don’t have that young angst to wade through anymore. Still, Robert Smith is older than that, and he can’t seem to give up the ghost at all. Ah well, here are the Cure’s deep cuts for your speculation. Note that I’ve avoided the density of the Join the Dots box set — as that’s one massive Deep Cuts collection in itself — and have just mainly stuck to the original albums, a couple singles and an EP.

“Plastic Passion” – Boys Don’t Cry
We’re working with the US debut album here, because frankly it’s better than Three Imaginary Boys. It was refitted with both A and B single sides and chopped out other stuff that dragged down the UK debut. “Plastic Passion” finds the Cure sounding positively New Wave unlike they ever had before or since. For that reason alone, you should enjoy this song. It also appears on the Join the Dots box set if you want to pay premium for it.

See the rest of the Cure’s Deep Cuts here.

  

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