Reviews, June 2013

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0004
Published  June 2013

Books

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0004BILL LOEHFELM
THE DEVIL IN HER WAY  
(FSG/SARAH  CRICHTON)
It has taken Bill Loehfelm three novels and some short fiction to work most of his native Staten Island out of his system as a setting and finally get to New Orleans. But the specter of the Northeast looms for his heroine Maureen Coughlin, who chooses to recover from the traumas she suffered in Loehfelm’s The Devil She Knows in a city that is itself still slowly recovering from the traumas of August 2005. Maureen’s first day as an NOPD officer begins with a punch and unfolds from there as she grapples with the nuances of her new job, the beguiling strangeness of her new home, and the dimensions of crime on the streets of Central City. Loehfelm expertly toes a fine line between an outsider’s fascination and an insider’s realism in his portrayal of New Orleans, touching on its many facets and revealing incongruities of its role as a nurturer of culture and of violence, as Maureen discovers when she helps investigate a murderous trail that leads to some of her district’s youngest members. Though The Devil In Her Way has some loose ends that are clearly paving a path to more volumes yet to be written on Officer Coughlin and her (possible) redemption in the fight for New Orleans’ streets, this marks a compelling new direction for fans of Loehfelm’s particular voice in the thriller genre. —Leigh Checkman

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0005MARC SPITZ
POSEUR
(DA CAPO PRESS)
It can be difficult to fall fully in love with a punk’s memoir, especially one that breaks one of the unwritten cardinal rules of name-dropping autobiographies: spell the names you’re dropping correctly (It’s Dennis Elsas, Brigitte Bardot, Stewart Copeland—and that’s just the first chapter). Because of the way rock writer, playwright, and novelist Marc Spitz writes of his teens, 20s, and 30s, it’s not entirely clear if the editing mistakes are his or his editor’s, but Spitz makes sure it’s an entertaining prospect for any reader trying to figure it out. Enthralled as a teen by an idealized image of living fast and dying young, exemplified by punk and art denizens of late 70s–early 80s Manhattan, Spitz sets out to live that life, spending the 90s trying to make it as a writer through numerous drug-addled escapades at Bennington College, in the Chelsea Hotel, in Brooklyn before it got trendily expensive, and a stint in Los Angeles trying to sell a co-written screenplay that, for all Spitz knows, may still be in development. A glorious turning point occurs when Spitz finds out that author and writers’ guru Gordon Lish is a relative: Spitz finagles his way into one of Lish’s legendary courses only to find the guru’s way is most definitely not for him, exiting the class in a ceremoniously punk manner and finding his way as a Spin magazine writer through that new-in-1997 back door to publication known as the internet. Spitz’s writing is at its strongest when he gets beyond the famous names he hobnobbed with and lays bare the hold his idealized view of the artist still has on him, though it is slowly loosening  its grip. That tenuous relationship between fantasy and reality makes Poseur; I just wish it had been proofread more thoroughly. —Leigh Checkman


Music

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_28_Image_0002DAFT PUNK
RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
(COLUMBIA)
Here we are, several years after Daft Punk tried to prove that they were human after all with slapped-together riffs and a minimalist approach, and it seems the dynamic French duo are doing it again, but this time the hard way. Random  Access Memories  is a record no one expected—a collection of smooth cuts that draw as much from 1970s soft rock as house music. Composed with actual musicians and recorded to analog tape, RAM is warm and fuzzy, a rare trait in Daft Punk’s music. There is a slower, more seductive current here. You can feel it in Nile Rodgers’ sleek guitar lines shimmying through the breezy “Get Lucky,” or the bass grind of “Lose Yourself to Dance.” The record pays homage to the early days of electro as well; the self indulgent marathon that is “Giorgio by Moroder” lets the synth pioneer tell his own story before his signature modulator kicks into retro-future arpeggios. The track explodes in a cloud of orchestras and drum breaks, cramming as much as it can into its ten minutes. This seemingly light and cool album is secretly Daft Punk’s great progressive dance masterpiece. RAM refutes every trend the group helped popularize and instead applies their incredible songcraft to classic ideas and traditional, more difficult methods. That they chose to make a tribute to jazzy electro and light dance rock is a testament to how much they love this music and that love is in the sound. —Mike Rodgers

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_28_Image_0003DEADSTRING BROTHERS
CANNERY ROW
(BLOODSHOT)
Cannery Row is a marvel of a record in that it sounds at once familiar and fresh. Frontman Kurt Marschke has assembled a truly impressive ensemble here, featuring veterans from Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams, and Hank Williams, Jr.’s bands. The result is a breathtaking alt-country opus that marries vintage Rolling Stones, classic honky-tonk, and the urgency that throttles so much of Detroit’s music. Cannery Row is more polished and definitely more straight-ahead country than The Grateful Dead’s masterpiece Workingman’s Dead, but the two records sound Platonically American in much the same way. Slide guitars, pedal steel and organs create huge orchestral dreamscapes for Marschke’s lyrics about love, liquor and loneliness. The songs here swagger around in blue jeans and bandanas, sipping on longnecks and watching sunsets—or sunrises, as is the case in “It’s Morning Irene:” “On sunday night at the jamboree / At the station inn, she’ll dance with me / Up til dawn so we can see / The sun rising through the trees.” “Long Lonely Ride” embodies the abandon that seeps through the entire record, “I think that it’s been said / By somebody up ahead / You can take the best and leave the rest behind.” This album leaves the rest of contemporary country music in the weeds. Welcome to your summer road trip, kids. —The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_28_Image_0004DEERHUNTER
MONOMANIA
(4AD)
Over the course of an extensive career, Deerhunter has garnered much respect for their ability to survive multiple lineup changes and still manage to stay ahead of the curve. Strangers to changing the game they are not, and on their sixth studio album, Monomania, frontman Bradford Cox and crew have scored big again. The self-described ‘nocturnal garage’ sound of this album is immediately evident on openers “Neon Junkyard” and “Leather Jacket II,” which start out as 70s style psych-punk jams and all but degrade into fuzzy oblivion. But rest assured, there’s no shortage of clever melody buried beneath those scratchy surfaces. “Dream Captain” is one of the first tracks to prove the band hasn’t lost its poppier sensibilities and is a perfect example of why Josh McKay’s waddling bass melodies are the breathable (and danceable) moments among an otherwise, noisy songwriting style. The title track to Monomania is a not-so-subtle summary of the album’s spaced out sound that practically bursts out of the garage. Even with production as raw as a skinned knee, Cox still can’t help but pick at the open wound with cryptic vocals to parallel his eccentric stage persona. At the end of the day, this album is an asset to a catalogue as deep as it is diverse. —Kevin Comarda

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_28_Image_0005FLOW TRIBE
PAINKILLER
(MP3  DOWNLOAD)
The local funk group Flow Tribe gets Painkiller going with fairly characteristic local flavor in “Fire On Esplanade” and “Hungry For You,” both of which kick out enough bass, brass, and backbeat to propel more than a few dance parties. But then the sextet serves up “Gossando,” which seems to take a great deal of inspiration from local boogaloo purveyors Los Po-Boy-Citos, and tumbles right into some straight-up rock sounds with “Early In The Morning.” The rock gets even harder in “Can’t Break It,” with K.C. O’Rourke delivering the lyrics with a fierceness found in some later Beastie Boys or Faith No More songs. The multiple musical genres explored on Painkiller aren’t the only changeups Flow Tribe has in store; the very lyrics of the bookending songs depict some of their usual local fun in a different, edgier light. “Esplanade” turns neighborhood watches (of which we need more these days) into a party in flames, and “Can’t Break It” somehow manages to bring the city’s recovery into a man-on-the-scene scenario. Painkiller may not be a cure-all for the happier image the Tribe has had for most of its years, but it’s got some daring forays into new territory that are still great listening. —Leigh Checkman

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_28_Image_0007GUIDED BY VOICES
ENGLISH LITTLE LEAGUE
(GUIDED BY VOICES INC.)
Maybe this is what “growing old gracefully” really means. Maybe it’s just doing what you love to do, what you’re best at and doing it well for as long as you can. English Little League isn’t a bold new step; it’s a sweetly simple cache of guitar rock directly in the GBV mold. But what’s wrong with that when the band is still capable of writing songs as effortlessly hummable as the shimmering “Island (She Talks in Rainbows)”? There aren’t as many diversions into sketchbook territory here as there were on the last two post- reunion records. With no one-off drum machine pop or goofball distractions, English Little League is fairly straightforward indie rock and it’s almost less memorable at times for that omission. Even so, GBV does indie rock in a million subtle shades: the hard rock crush of “Taciturn Caves,” the phaser-strangled boogie of “Quiet Game,” the oceanic swell of “Biographer Seahorse.” More importantly, they do them all well. English Little League feels like maybe Pollard and Co. are getting justifiably comfortable in this new/old GBV and with each new record I get why more and more. —Mike Rodgers

Iggy-And-The-Stooges-Ready-To-DieIGGY & THE STOOGES
READY TO DIE
(FAT POSSUM)
Street walking cheetahs are extinct, and napalm is in short supply in 2013. Can a handful of seniors rekindle enough old chemistry to revive the power of the classic  Raw Power? Of course not, but I’ll be damned if Ready to Die doesn’t put up a better fight than I expected. The Weirdness coasted on novelty and it’s practically toxic in retrospect, but there’s some life in this one. Iggy’s in a blunt mood here, ditching symbolism for direct hat tips to big boobs, (“DD’s”), bitching about work, (“Job”) and the nation in general, (“Gun”). Sure, the classic records managed to combine streetwise reality with psycho-psychedelic imagery, but cut a sexagenarian some slack. Williamson can still put together a riff with a mean streak and it’s his presence that I suspect helps the record the most. The lines are red hot and even when Iggy sounds like a creepy grandpa, the music sounds like his sleazy, young nephew who’s strung out on Reds and wears leather pants. “The Departed” is a nice touch at the close of the album, but one acoustic track would have been enough. Ready to Die is at least a decent homage to the work these men did at their peak and let’s all be happy with that. —Mike Rodgers

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_29_Image_0002JAMES BLAKE
OVERGROWN
(REPUBLIC)
James Blake is currently riding high atop a new wave of electro-R&B bedroom producers. The title track on Overgrown is a shadowy opener to an album whose fluid production tastes like a shot of molasses with an Absinthe chaser. At times, Blake’s beat and synth-based recipe for songwriting sounds like he’s borrowed a page from Björk’s Debut, while the darker corners of this sophomore full-length sound like the U.K. native is dipping into the same ether drip as Tom Krell (aka How To Dress Well). For your quick fix in electro-soul, “Retrograde” is the standout track. As his looped voice plays to the background of a slow and soulful piano, Blake’s main vocal delivery floats above the mix and somehow manages to sound like he’s led us into a cyborg’s wet dream. During the first listen, “Take a Fall for Me” featuring RZA, feels a little out of place, but repeat rotations prove the veteran MC’s organic lyrical stylings to be a brilliant counterpoint in Blake’s mechanical atmosphere. Highly recommended for the rainy day and home studio enthusiasts. —Kevin Comarda

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_29_Image_0003JASON ISBELL
SOUTHEASTERN
(SOUTHEASTERN RECORDS)
On his first solo album since 2007’s Sirens of  the Ditch, Jason Isbell explores the ideas of transformative love, redemption and living in the shadow of addiction. Being that he put the bottle down and said “I do” quite recently, you might expect this record to be full of depressing, obvious platitudes; but in true Isbell style, while the tales he weaves may have sparks of autobiographical truth in them, they remain enrapturing, but removed from the man himself. Opener “Cover Me Up” is a perfect encapsulation of the oftentimes false, yet ultimately romantic notion that love can save you from yourself. It drips with Isbell’s calling card of bone-deep Southerness in lines like: “So girl leave your boots by the bed, we ain’t leaving this room / ‘Til someone needs medical help or the magnolias bloom.” Tracks like “Travelling Alone” and “Different Days” are ruminations on the lonely road that led him to today, the former (perhaps fittingly) featuring the impressive fiddle work of his new wife Amanda Shires. “Live Oak” is another standout that examines how we move past the person we were despite never being able to completely shake the specter (“There’s a man who walks beside me, he is who I used to be / And I wonder if she sees him and confuses him with me / And I wonder who she’s pining for on nights I’m not around / Could it be the man who did the things I’m living down?”) Lest you think the album is too thematically narrow, there are gems in the lines of “Elephant” and “Yvette.” The former being a different kind of love song—one that wrestles with mortality and watches a friend waste away from cancer (“There’s one thing that’s real clear to me / No one dies with dignity / We just try to ignore the elephant somehow”). The latter is a chilling revenge fantasy carried out by a teenage boy on behalf of his abused classmate (“I may not be a man yet / But your father will never be / So I load up my Weatherby / And I let out my breath / I couple with death / I couple with death”). Out of place in ways, but refreshing and hilarious, is the track “Super 8”: likely pulled from all-too- personal experience, Isbell lays down the story of a post-show evening gone terribly wrong, circling around to the chorus “I don’t wanna die in a Super 8 Motel / Just because somebody’s evening didn’t go so well.” Dark is definitely a word for this record, but it’s the kind of dark you can really get inside and walk around, stretching your legs and breathing it all in, the journey leaving you not empty, but gloriously filled up. —Erin Hall

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_29_Image_0004JJ GREY & MOFRO
THIS RIVER
(ALLIGATOR RECORDS)
JJ Grey has been making records with Mofro for over a decade now, and while the names in the band have changed regularly, their sound has stayed firmly rooted in the swamps where Grey grew up. Rubbery basslines wind through these tracks like the St. Johns River through north Florida, sticking to fiery Steve Cropper-esque guitar licks, fat horn sections, and preaching organ parts like the backs of your legs to a plastic lawn chair. Grey’s voice rings and rasps through a sludge of nicotine tar and humidity, creating a sound as honest as any being recorded today. Here on This River, the band expands their horizon beyond the railing of the front porch a bit, reaching north toward Memphis and a slightly more traditional deep soul sound on tracks like “Tame a Wild One,” “Write a Letter,” and the title track. Overall though, these tunes are looser and lazier than the old Aretha Franklin and Sam & Dave cuts that inspired them. Grey has always stayed true to his own personal origins, writing plainspoken songs about characters he knows personally and the particular piece of America that forged them––and him. From “The Ballad of Larry Webb”:  “His castle a shotgun house an easy chair his throne/ He’d work from day to night and in the evening he’d feel its bite of pain/  But every sunrise he’d greet it with open arms and love––for all that is.” Grey has said that his best songs write themselves, but here on This River, he gives us ten new reasons to be grateful that he’s here to hold the pen. ––The Rev. Dr. Daniel P. Jackson

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_29_Image_0005OWEN
THE SEASIDE E.P.
(POLYVINYL)
Owen is the solo project and moniker of indie math-rock veteran Mike Kinsella (Joan of Arc, American Football, Owls). The Seaside e.p. is a Record Store Day release of “acoustic” b-sides and cover songs with enough noodling ear candy to keep any guitar player dialed in. Light textures and subtle beats bubble up from the backgrounds, creating a sonic depth typically unachieved in singer-songwriter projects. Kinsella’s lyrics are introspective streams of consciousness, but repeated jabs at his aging physical appearance (his overbite) insist that he is not to be taken too seriously. In the same vein, Kinsella manages to slay a somber version of “More Than Words”, originally written and performed by ‘90s hair- metal band, Extreme. The other cover song here, “Stolen Bike,” comes in the form of a reimagined version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Stolen Car.” And while I can’t credit Kinsella with the songwriting,  it’s the beautiful intimacy he brings to the iconic classic that turns it into a real tearjerker. Solid songwriting (and song interpretation) along with the blue and white marbled vinyl makes this a true RSD gem indeed. —Kevin Comarda

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_29_Image_0006STRANGE ROUX
BOOGIE MAN
(TOTAL RIOT)
A relatively recent addition to New Orleans’ live music scene, the quintet that makes up Strange Roux had been making do with male singers until Michelle Cunningham came along and put the group into a new place: one that gained them their first recording with local label Total Riot Records. Though this Roux bills itself as being Southern roots rock, the music of Boogie Man  goes  beyond those storied roots with the help of Cunningham’s vocals—a seductive blend of Amy Winehouse and Meschiya Lake— and some powerful guitar work from the double-barreled duo of John Thompson and Jason Kareores. Digging in with the slow rock of the title track, the EP is propelled even further with the speedier, yet hardly throwaway thrash of “Gator Bite,” then brought to a more languid pace with “Cold, Cold World,” which features Cunningham’s vocal virtuosity more than any other track. The true gem of the EP, however, is the pocket epic “Midnight Dancer,” one that pours all the Roux’s strengths into one song. This is a band raring to go farther and higher with its songwriting power and its performance mojo, and Boogie Man  is a delectable tasty treat. —Leigh Checkman

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0008TYLER KEITH AND  THE APOSTLES
BLACK HIGHWAY
(KILL THE EGO)
Tyler Keith has been releasing really great garage music in Oxford, Mississippi for over 20 years with the Neckbones, the Preacher’s Kids and now his current band, the Apostles. Really catchy lyrics about life and love (“Desperate Measures,” “Shadow of a Cross”). I really like the sound progression from New York Dolls/Johnny Thunders, Gun Club, (early) Rolling Stones to even King Louie influences on this record. Plus, his unmistakable vocals always catch my attention. I’m not sure who is selling this LP, but you can get it through bandcamp. com or from The End of All Music record store in Oxford (they ship!). Now if they would just drive down here to play a show! —Carl Elvers

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0001

VAMPIRE WEEKEND
MODERN  VAMPIRES OF THE CITY
(XL)
It seems everyone’s getting older. Vampire Weekend, they of the pastel cardigans and Graceland homages, once synonymous with Ivy League, prep-school indie rock have, over the course of two records, graduated from freshman novelties to a serious band with serious goals. Modern Vampires of  the City is their best record yet—a churning, byzantine pastiche of sunny melody, melancholy atmosphere and a full deck of left turns. The wavering piano breakdown of the sweetly brooding “Hannah Hunt” lives on a different plane than then stuttered electro buzz of “Finger Back.” Vampires presents these kind of personality shifts throughout, but the group never loses control of the chaos. The familiar jangle of “Unbelievers” shares the same harmonic DNA with the pitch-shifting martial gallop of “Worship You.” The record may be bold enough to win over people who’ve written the band off as twee hipsters. Vampire Weekend have simply gotten better. Better at crafting their unique sound and better at doing that with unfamiliar elements. According to the band, Vampires is the end of a thematic trilogy; looking at how far they’ve come in such a short time, I can’t wait to find out what happens after all constraints are lost. —Mike Rodgers

antigravity_vol10_issue8_Page_30_Image_0006THE CONS AND PROSE
CRYIN’ OUT LOUD B/W STARVIN’
(SELF-RELEASE)
These two songs could easily be lost soundtrack choices from a really cool 80s movie. Not quite punk-sounding enough for Repo Man or Suburbia but more Fast Times at Ridgemont High or any part of the suburban malaise movies that weren’t completely white-washed for the Reagan era. Tight, dry production gives it part of that early new-wave vibe. Like fellow longtime NOLA rockers King Louie and R. Scully, frontman Rik Slave seems to want to go into a more straight-ahead, bar rock direction, cutting away at some of the eccentricities of past projects and stripping down to essentials. Works for me. —Dan Fox

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