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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    CD Reviews

    Hit or miss – a catchphrase Seattle indie-rock favorites Minus the Bear know all too well.

    The sometimes-prog-rock, sometimes-dance-pop band’s anthology of albums and EPs, along with a consistent touring schedule, have kept them on the map since 2002 when its debut LP, Highly Refined Pirates, became a staple at scenester dance parties.

    Minus the Bear
    Planet of Ice
    3 1/2 stars

    Known for hilarious and random song titles like “”Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!”” and “”I’m Totally Not Down with Rob’s Alien,”” the band’s third full-length album, Planet of Ice, is a step in a more mature direction – both musically and lyrically.

    The album opens with the volatile “”Burying Luck,”” showcasing signature guitar rhythms and new member Alex Rose’s electronics and synthesizer.

    But it is the following track “”Ice Monster”” that draws in listeners, perhaps with its initial crescendo-like lack of drum beats intermixed with chimes. The chorus is catchy and is quasi-reminiscent of one of the few decent tracks, “”The Pig War,”” on the group’s 2005 release Menos el Oso.

    Yet, lead singer and guitarist Jake Snider’s usual perkiness in storytelling lyrics has taken a rather dark turn when he sings, “”You’ve come to this/Sigh alone now.”” It must have been time to abandon songs about sex in pools and “”waking up so fucking early.””

    The album jumps to “”Dr. L’Ling,”” a track that, while edgy, falters with scattered guitars and a blasǸ, repetitive chorus.

    On “”Part 2,”” Minus the Bear took a risk and stepped out of its comfort zone; relying on acoustic guitar, linked with sparse and dream-like sampling. This track is unlike any other the band has produced thus far – and proves that experimentation is musically beneficial.

    Snider’s remarkably honest romantic side seeps through on “”Throwin’ Shapes”” and “”When We Escape,”” and both tracks remind fans of Minus the Bear’s youthful musicality. These are perhaps the album’s shining moments.

    Minus the Bear has come a long way since its previous projects and albums. Planet of Ice is not a perfect album, but it is solid in its sound and actually flows quite beautifully.

    -Laura Hassett


    Never mind the fact that M.I.A.’s sound was a revolution in indie music: the first to synthesize Sri Lankan affectations with electronics, English rapping, indie rock, dissonant beats and political protest.

    The catchy thing about it was that it was danceable. It had strong melodies and it got your feet moving, but in an original way. M.I.A.’s new album has all of the former elements, but the dance material is sparse.

    M.I.A
    Kala
    3 1/2 stars

    It’s a sin to simplify music of this caliber, but the truth is, Kala lacks something vital that made the previous effort, Arular, a big hit. There’s nothing like “”Bucky Done Gun”” and there’s no “”Pull Up the People.””

    What there is instead is an amalgamation of music from around the world, with a broader scope than the first time around. The album has nods to Jamaican dance-hall faire, Australian hip-hop, music from India and Trinidad, and a mildly offensive borrowing of “”Where is My Mind”” by the Pixies, and even features a British-Nigerian rapper.

    Allthough the album may be missing something; it still deserves props. Only M.I.A. could bring together sounds from all over the world and still make something undeniably personal. Although, she could benefit from a litle more Diplo.

    -Andi Berlin


    Rilo Kiley has once again recorded an album that is completely aurally addicting.

    After their 2004 release More Adventurous, the members of Rilo Kiley dispersed to work on side projects, such as The Elected and Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins.

    Rilo Kiley
    Under the Blacklight
    4 stars

    The band’s fourth release, Under the Blacklight, not only flaunts Lewis’s enchanting vocals but also expresses a general preoccupation with prostitutes (listen to tracks “”Close Call”” and “”The Moneymaker””). Rilo Kiley’s smooth mix of folk, indie and just enough pop to make you love them fanatically makes the album both mesmerizing and easy to listen to.

    Feel free to forget your other albums, because Under the Blacklight is listenable enough to be permanently attached to your CD player. The album feels like a CD that you’ve had for years but just popped into your player for refreshment. The songs seem gently familiar and fantastic, and get better every time you listen to them.

    Like the soundtrack to an optimistically sunny and breezy day, Under the Blacklight kicks off with an ethereal song called “”Silver Lining,”” in which Lewis sings, “”I never felt so wicked as when I willed our love to die.””

    The album gains momentum with its catchiest song, “”The Moneymaker”” (which may prove to be the moneymaker for Rilo Kiley), and doesn’t stop for breath, continuing with tracks about the freedom of breaking up, underage love affairs and smoking.

    – Alexandria Kassman


    Compilations are difficult to critique. When it comes down to it, a compilation isn’t really an album to begin with: It jumps from artist to artist, and often from genre to genre.

    Vice Records and MTV2 are trying to promote the accessibility of independent artists with this first volume. As the Now series of the indie world, it unfortunately introduces artists who are not really considered underground, albeit still very talented musicians.

    Various Artists
    This Is Next: Indie’s Biggest Hits
    2 stars

    The compilation shines when featuring the dance rock of Bloc Party and the horn-heavy Spoon, but falters as songs by Sonic Youth and The Shins bore.

    Some song choices may be current yet sound out of place when attempting to highlight a musician’s talents: Bright Eyes’s “”Four Winds”” still initially sounds like “”Santa Claus is Coming to Town”” and was one of the downsides to Conor Oberst’s Cassadaga. On a similar note, Cat Power comes across as a subdued Amy Winehouse in “”Lived in Bars.””

    Although the compilation is packed with musicians who deserve recognition for striving to edge away from the mainstream, the album fails in selecting songs that really showcase each singer or group for the truly wonderful performers that they might be.

    – Jamie Ross

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