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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat



    Picking a Lock at the Speed of Light
    These Modern Socks – Dead Electric
    3 Stars (out of 5)

    Despite their cringe-inducingly twee name, Minneapolis-based These Modern Socks are surprisingly unirritating. At their best, they’re even downright likable.

    The band’s latest opus, Picking a Lock at the Speed of Light, has the surface gleam of a spaceship; it’s all elegant synthesizer noise and flat indie-kid yelping, but there’s something extra-serene about it. Every now and then the band busts out with a snarling yet shimmering guitar solo that wouldn’t have been out of place on one of David Bowie’s great glam albums.

    The Socks’ sparkly sound, however, is draped in premature middle-aged angst. From the despondent opener “”No One’s Gonna Miss Me”” to the self-explanatory tracks “”Escape Pod,”” “”To Nasa,”” and “”On the Moon,”” the Socks seem most at home fantasizing about getting away from it all. One tends to wish that today’s bright young indie bands would lighten up once in a while.

    Despite its charms, the album isn’t for everyone. While I was listening, a bystander remarked, “”I think that’s what my computer sounds like when it’s trying to eat a CD.””

    – Justyn Dillingham

    Anywhere I Lay My Head
    Scarlett Johansson – Atco/Rhino Records
    3 Stars (out of 5)

    Scarlett Johansson has been catching a lot of flak for her new cd, Anywhere I Lay My Head, a collection of Tom Waits covers. And to be fair, when was the last time a famous actor turned out to be a decent musician? Keanu Reeves’ band, Dogstar, has been the butt of late-night jokes for years, and Robert Downey Jr.’s 2004 vanity project, a self-absorbed collection of weak jazz tunes, was a gift to only his most loyal fans. Johansson, she of the curvaceous figure and ruby red lips, touted as a classic Hollywood star in the tradition of Ava Gardner or Marilyn Monroe, does far better than these two predecessors.

    Anywhere I Lay My Head is a woozy set of songs drowned in atmospheric feedback, a la Jesus and Mary Chain or 4AD’s This Mortal Coil, showcasing Johansson’s rich alto. To quote the album’s liner notes, “”Tinkerbell on cough syrup.”” And it doesn’t suck. If it were 1986, Ivo Watts-Russell would be wetting himself to sign Johansson, even if she weren’t a Hollywood starlet. The title track and “”Falling Down”” are the album’s golden moments, the latter featuring the one and only David Bowie on backup vocals. Bells chime, an organ soars, and drum machines pound and reverberate. When it works, it’s heavenly.

    Some moments fall flat – “”No One Knows I’m Gone”” is dreadfully dull, and the relatively faster pace of “”I Don’t Want to Grow Up”” strains Johansson’s throaty, five-pack-a-day vocals, which work best on the album’s slower tunes. She may not be able to convince us of her indie cred, but there’s a lot to like here anyway.

    – Davida Larson

    The Vines – Ivy Records

    2.5 Stars (out of 5)

    Through the public eye, The Vines have been on a rollercoaster of fame. After their quick acceptance from their first album, Highly Evolved, in 2002, it’s been two years since the Australian band released their last album, making their fourth album, Melodia, welcomed, if not expected.

    What to expect are fourteen tracks that if you space out while driving or do a load of laundry you’ll miss all of its 30-minute glory. Hardly any songs last longer than two minutes, excluding the six-minute ballad “”True As The Night,”” which combines dirty guitar and drums with Craig Nicholls’ distinct voice.

    “”Get Out,”” the first song to play, sets the mood for what has become the bands distinguished sounds of ’60s rock and ’90s grunge. These tones are duplicated again in “”Manger,”” “”He’s a Rocker,”” and “”Braindead.””

    The Vines mix up their rock ballads for more of a piano based harmony in “”A.S III,”” “”Orange Amber”” and “”She Is Gone.”” Their lyrics are a bit slower and the sound is softer and offers more melody.

    Overall, you can expect a lot from this album, with returning producer Rob Schnapf, who produced the albums Highly Evolved and Winning Days.

    But the downfall is that most of the lyrics take a backseat to the distinct sounds.

    The album may be difficult to find in American stores. Fortunately, their full album is available for enjoyment on their MySpace page. Yippee.

    – Kelsey Ahlmark

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