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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    CD Reviews

    Let me just begin by saying The Black Keys rock. And I don’t mean the typical compliment enticing you to get their album or see them live, I mean they will fill a void in your life you may not know you had. They will do this – I guarantee – with the dirty, raunchy, lo-fi, bluesy rock of their greatest album, the appropriately named Thickfreakness. When I first heard that album, I thought it too good to have been made after 1975; “”Have Love, Will Travel”” was the greatest driving song I had ever heard.

    Thickfreakness aside, this band has produced a lot of great albums and successfully rocked my face off at two different concerts. They somehow manage to sound like the biggest, baddest and, dare I say, best rock band in recent years with only the significant talents of their two members: Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney. Compared to past albums, however, Attack and Release is a strange amalgamation of artists and production that dares to change but ultimately falls short.

    Attack and Release
    The Black Keys – Nonesuch
    3 1/2 stars

    Produced by DJ Danger Mouse (Gorillaz, Gnarls Barkley, etc.), I had to expect utter gold out of this album. He’s definitely added some ghostly noises, a larger produced sound and some weird instrumental additions I can appreciate, but overall the departures are minor and overshadowed by the less-than-spectacular songwriting.

    The album is good; if this is your first impression of the throwback blues-inspired rock of The Black Keys, you will probably be impressed. But to the seasoned listener, Attack and Release will seem like a departure not worth taking.

    The album sways me at times with slower tracks reminiscent of “”You’re the One”” from Magic Potion; finale “”Things Ain’t Like They Used to Be”” even artfully integrates accompanying female vocals. Admittedly, the newfound production rarely feels forced, but on the haphazardly written track “”Psychotic Girl,”” it doesn’t make much difference.

    Overall I appreciate The Black Keys experimentation and I can’t emphasize enough that this album really isn’t bad; it’s even damn good at times. But ultimately the mediocre writing casts Attack and Release to eternal damnation under the shadow of the epic rock legacy laid down by Thickfreakness and other truly bad-ass albums produced in lowly basements by this truly bad-ass band.

    – Mitch Levine

    Lately, it seems like mainstream music has slacked off in producing high-caliber music, and has instead created a bevy of superficial fluff that listeners have just come to accept over time. Spirit is bound to remind everyone what good, solid mainstream music is actually supposed to sound like.

    Leona Lewis might as well be the next Whitney Houston and is reminiscent of early Mariah Carey with her wide vocal range and the stripped-down essence of vulnerability in her vocal style and lyrics.

    Spirit gets right to the point and kicks off with “”Bleeding Love,”” Lewis’s single. The track slides from a fluttering beat into an intricate beat combined with a constant organ playing in the background. The song is addictively catchy and manages to show off Lewis’s stellar vocals without overwhelming the vibe of the backbeat.

    Leona Lewis – J-Records
    4 stars

    The immediate encounter with a deep ballad fades quickly with “”Whatever It Takes,”” which almost surprisingly showcases Lewis’s full vocal capabilities. The track is equally catchy and upbeat in a light and airy sense.

    “”Homeless”” heartbreakingly explains how a lost relationship can feel like being lost and literally lacking shelter or a home.

    Spirit picks up once again from a ballad into more upbeat songs like “”Better in Time”” and “”Take a Bow,”” which has a unique synthesizer beat and a driving chorus.

    The remaining tracks on Lewis’s U.S. debut, which garnered Brit Award nominations in the U.K., are beautifully composed and vocalized. There isn’t a track on the album that is of bad quality or not worth listening to.

    With Lewis as an example, one can see it is clear that mainstream music needs to change and re-evaluate its standards toward impeccable artists and bands. With such a large listening audience, there is no reason not to produce mainstream music that is perfect through every second.

    – Kelli Hart

    I don’t listen to a great deal of music recorded since the outbreak of the Second World War, but Shantel’s infectious gypsy pop has earned itself a permanent spot on my playlist.

    Shantel is the stage name of Frankfurt-born DJ and producer Stefan Hantel, who dubs his unique brand of bouncy Balkan dance music “”Bucovina Club”” in honor of the region of Romania and Ukraine from which his ancestors hail. (Think Gogol Bordello for a clubbier crowd.) His latest album, Disko Partizani – Romanian for “”disco partisans,”” a phrase which evokes both the partying and the political unrest for which much of Eastern Europe is known – continues and refines Shantel’s addictive infusion of folk music with funky beats.

    Disko Partizani
    Shantel – Crammed Discus
    4 1/2 stars

    The album opens with a brief, mournful sort of fanfare, as if to remind listeners that what follows is more than just trendy lip-service to Slavic sounds. The title track follows, kicking things immediately into party mode with its tug-of-war between a fluttery accordion over a groovy beat and a more traditional-sounding horn section. “”Disko Boy”” is cut from the same cloth, pairing a catchy disco backdrop with an accordion and lyrics about vodka. Just see if you don’t find yourself muttering “”Ya bi da bi dai/Bo bi bo bi boi/I wanna be your disko boy”” to yourself later in the day after hearing this one.

    Other good dancing tunes include “”Andante Levante,”” “”Immigrant Child”” and “”Dubstar Bugarskji,”” though they lack the more radio-friendly polish of “”Disko Partizani”” and “”Disko Boy.”” On the other hand, even the slow songs on this album will get you moving if you’re a fan of the genre.

    The remainder of Disko Partizani has a less celebratory sound and features a stronger folk influence, which for some audiences may be a bit dull. Nevertheless, these tracks are still fairly interesting to listen to at worst as long as you enjoy Shantel’s sound.

    Disko Partizani’s freewheeling Balkan sound is a perfect fit for the hip, multicultural environment of a university. If Shantel’s booty-shakin’ Bucovina beats can’t get your hips wiggling, I’m afraid you have no soul.

    – Alyson Hill

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