Browsing all 53 posts in Album Reviews.

Avi Buffalo – (self titled) out today!

Avi Buffalo – self titled

Readers of this blog probably know about Avi Buffalo. “The kid is just 19,” heard now on KCRW, opening for Modest Mouse on tour soon, blah blah blah.

This post is a kindly reminder that their full-length record is available today. It is one of the best of the year, one of those rare times where the debut album of a hyped band turns-out to be exactly what you’d expected and hoped for.

ALBUM REVIEW: Ted Leo and The Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks

In the early 2000’s, appreciation of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists was a golden seal of good taste. The band released three pretty terrific records and toured extensively, bringing indie rock back to the clubs while The White Stripes and The Strokes were bringing a major label version to the masses.

2007’s Living With the Living was a very competent record, but also a step backward. At its best it was unmemorable, at its worst it was self-parody. (“Bomb.Repeat.Bomb.” anyone?) As a huge fan of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, I am proud to say that The Brutalist Bricks (iTunes), out today on Matador Records, is a full-frontal assault and total return to form. Eat your hearts of oak out.

Leo’s standard array influences (sprinklings of power pop, reggae, new wave, and anthemic rock) are again all there, only this time they are most artfully wielded. More importantly, Leo’s punk rock streak has rediscovered its teeth; it seems Leo has again found some things really worth writing thirteen songs about. His passionate anger is balanced by introspection on other tracks, and while Leo’s trademarked tempo shifts are employed less on The Brutalist Bricks, the sonic palette he uses is so diverse that its hard to believe all thirteen songs are part of the same album.

Standout tracks include the opener “The Mighty Sparrow,” “Gimme the Wire,” and the infectious pop-hooked “Bottle in Cork”. On “The Stick,” Ted Leo and the Pharmacists come awfully close to channeling Minutemen.

Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are an experienced act, something all too rare in today’s music world. Says I: The Next Hip Band has been over-valued, and by releasing The Brutalist Bricks, Ted Leo and The Pharmacists have offered a rebuttal with the kind of maturity and rock intelligence that can only be earned with age. If you like music by people who know what they’re doing, then The Brutalist Bricks is for you.

Buy The Brutalist Bricks on iTunes.

ALBUM REVIEW: Tenlons Fort – Shelters (and record release show)

What say you?
Tenlons Fort – “Shelters”

Tomorrow (Wednesday) marks the release of the new Tenlons Fort album Shelters.

Shelters is an instant “Best of 2010” entry. The ten artfully composed songs are gorgeous in their economy. Tastefully produced, Jack Gibson’s music comes from a place of knowledge and experience. You can’t place a value on a life well-lived, and Gibson’s perspective dwarfs that of most other songwriters, certainly all coffee shop wannabees. It makes listening to his music intensely personal and rewarding.

(I’d like to direct you also to LA-Underground’s post on the record. They are, for my money, the nation’s foremost Tenlons Fort historians. Also, see Web In Front’s review of the record.)

No less heartbreaking than the album’s lyrics is the fact that most of America will hear the next John Mayer before they hear the new Tenlons Fort.

But it doesn’t have to be you.

This Wednesday, March 3rd Tenlons Fort will play their last LA show for the foreseeable future at Synchronicity Space and release the album. It’s a very limited release (each one includes ten paintings) and fifty percent of the proceeds go to The Tenlons Fort Shelters Fund, which helps the homeless in LA, Austin, and beyond.

Wendesday, March 3rd
Tenlons Fort “Shelters” record release party
Tenlons Fort
Manhattan Murder Mystery
Downtown / Union
Will Courtney

Synchronicity Space
4306 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90029

End of Year 2009: LA Local Recordings

What say you?

Usual disclaimers… again, I did not seek out local music as well as I used to. I feel guilty for not spending more time panning through the mud at The Smell, Echo Curio, and Pehrspace.

I want to invite all readers to mention their favorite local releases in the comments section. Get the word out for the music you think demanded attention this year.

Favorite EPs from LA-Based Bands in 2009

  • Amateurs If We Dare Win (Listen on Lala)This record makes me tworny. Twang with horns. It is eight songs too short.
  • Blue JungleDemos – I have a collection of Blue Jungle demos I got from a show at The Smell. I don’t know if there is a better collection of Blue Jungle demos or a more official release, but these six tracks are better than any fuzzzy-buzzy girl group music I heard this year. Of course, Blue Jungle has more in common with The Misfits than Black Tambourine.
  • The Henry Clay People – Hear Ya live session (Download Here) Not technically an official release, but this collection of studio live tracks may as well be a live EP. It is, in my opinion, a better set of recordings than any official HCP album. These tracks sound like a show. It’s free for download, too.

  • Manhattan Murder MysterySkull EP ***Los Angeles EP of the Year*** – The Skull EP is Manhattan Murder Mystery’s first legitimate release. It is no less than a textbook “first EP,” detailing exactly who Manhattan Murder Mystery are and why you should care. The post-punk label gets tossed around a lot these days, but this collection of six songs is truly deserving of the designation. This EP is judiciously not overproduced with added effects or background instrumentation; Skull is haunting in the spaces in between sounds. It’s also a faithful reproduction of Manhattan Murder Mystery’s sound. Good lyrics. “Your Mother’s Neck” is a candidate for song of the year.
  • The MonolatorsRuby I’m Changing My Number – Elvis Costello would be proud. Maybe my favorite collection of Monolators recordings.
  • The Parson RedheadsOrangufang – I’m not supposed to like bands like The Parson Redheads, but they are so infectious as to make this tech-obsessed digital kid throw-open the window and sip some tea. This EP is outstanding.
  • Nightmare Air – EP#1 – (Listen on Lala) An end of year gift from 2/5 of Film School + 1. It’s a sick and twisted carnival ride of heavier dream rock, the Mr. Hyde to SSPU’s Dr. Jekyll, maybe?

Favorite Full-Length Records from LA-Based Bands in 2009

  • Avi BuffaloDr. Cornejo – Technically a Long Beach band. Avi Buffalo made several variations of demos available at their shows and through their friends. The version I have is called Dr. Cornejo. I think this version was quickly jettisoned for a different one, but I’m not sure. I just know that I would have paid ten dollars for this outstanding collection of authentic bedroom pop. I suspect many of these songs will be rerecorded for the Sub Pop full length due this year. I suspect they’ll be even better then.
  • CorreatownSpark. Burn. Fade. (Listen on Lala) For the most part I don’t have much use for sultry singing girl records because I already have some great Over the Rhine. But Angela Correa is different. Loved this one.
  • The Happy HollowsSpells ***Los Angeles Album of the Year*** (Listen on Lala) – Energetic, toothy, original, catchy, impossible to put down… Spells is everything a great indie rock record should be. It was almost my overall Album of the Year, too, but I think it’s two songs too long. But everyone I’ve talked to who agrees would drop two different tracks. Read my review, it says it all. (review)
  • Letting Up Despite Great Faults – self titled – Letting Up Despite Great Faults makes The Postal Service sound like Owl City. I know, that’s a terrible way to pitch a record. What I’m trying to say is that electronic, dreamy indie rock can be for grown-ups, too. This record was proof positive.

  • Leslie and the Badgers Roomful of Smoke (Listen on Lala) – Country that isn’t too hip country or too rock radio country. Mostly though, the songwriting is just good.
  • Light FMLet There Be Light FM – Probably a record for engineers and sound nerds more than anything, but I don’t think a meatier album was released all year. My ears are always exhausted by the end of it. The synthrock on this album is dense, too dense and sugar sweet for many. But it suits my tastes and I think Let There Be Light FM is one of the most complete local albums of the year. Light FMier than Light FM.
  • The Littlest VikingLabor and Lust – It’s like a jazz album with noodly indie rock guitars instead of a horn. This record also has some of the best song titles of the year. (“I’m Queer for James Iha” and “Dr. Patch Adams, You Saved My Life!” are favorites.)
  • One Trick PonyFull of Life (Listen on Lala) – Absolutely gorgeous. Beautiful voice, beutiful lyrics, beutiful instrumentation. If I put it on it instantly changes my mood.

  • Silversun PickupsSwoon (Listen on Lala) – This was my first Album of the Year candidate. The ‘Pickups sound has clearly been shifted a little towards mainstream consumption, but it’s a good shift. This record earned the band a Best New Artist Grammy nomination, which says more about the Grammy’s expanded reach than it does about who SSPU have become. It’s still a Top 5 2009 album for me. (review)
  • The SpiresA Way of Seeing (Listen on Lala) – The Spires are a shifty band whose influence changes song to song, though Velvet Underground comparisons are most apt. A Way of Seeing displays The Spires’ music history scholarship, but the album is still strikingly cohesive. This one sneaks-up on you with how good it is; it wasn’t until halfway my first listen I thought “Huh, there’s not going to be a bad track on this thing.” A Way of Seeing is a sexy, romantic listen; a hipper substitute for situations where your friends made fun of you for playing Is This It? again.

My Top 15 Songs From Los Angeles-Based Bands in 2009

  1. Silversun Pickups – “The Royal We”
  2. The Broken Remotes – “Boxer’s Arm”
  3. Avi Buffalo – “What’s In It For Me?”
  4. Parson Redheads – “You Can Leave It”
  5. Nightmare Air – “Shock of the New”
  6. The Henry Clay People – “Randy Where’s the Rest of Me?” (live)
  7. Manhattan Murder “Mystery – “Your Mother’s Neck”
  8. The Happy Hollows – “Faces”
  9. Downtown / Union – “Wake Up Call From The Nexus of Me and You”
  10. One Trick Pony – “Phonebook”
  11. Warpaint – “Billie Holiday”
  12. The Spires – Lowercase
  13. Castledoor – “Shouting at the Mountains”
  14. Correatown – “Green Cotton Dress”
  15. The Monolators – “French TV”

End of Year 2009: Non-LA Recordings

What say you?

The same disclaimer applies: I just didn’t listen to everything I was “supposed” to and much of what everyone else liked, I just didn’t care for. (Grizzly Bear, I’m snoring in your direction.)

Favorite EPs by Non-Los Angeles Bands

  • The Pains of Being Pure at HeartHigher than the Stars (Listen on LaLa) – You know what I like about this record? The Pains of Being Pure at Heart flaunt their pop credentials in very intelligent ways. This nifty EP really expanded my expectations for the band. The near-disco beat on “Falling Over” had me sold. It’s kind of like when The Replacements covered Paul Stanley.

  • SuperchunkLeaves in the Gutter (Listen on LaLa) – Everyone ignored this. Pearls before swine.
  • Victorian HallsVictorian Halls EP – A truly, truly awful sounding record. I credit Victorian Halls for discovering everything there is to hate about sound and packaging it in a ruthlessly efficient way. For those who feel compelled to respect the insane. It’s so bad it’s good.

Favorite Full-Length Albums by Non-Los Angeles Bands

  • Double DaggerMore – This Baltimore-based post-hardcore band put out a record worthy of Fugazi fans and people who lament the rock radio screamo route that DC hardcore eventually took.
  • GirlsAlbum (Listen on LaLa) At first I derided this record. It eventually grew to be a serious contender for my Album of the Year, but it’s just too self-centered, too decadent, to warrant the honor. But the story behind the album is great. The songs are terrific. And the expression is sincere, which is more than what can be said for 99% of all blogpop. This is one album the Pitchfork crowd got right.
  • Micachu and the ShapesJewellery (Listen on LaLa) – Yes, minimalism is over rated. Yes, scrappy little DIY kids are over rated. Yes, Stump was better and more interesting twenty five years ago. But as far as all that goes, Jewellery is as good as it gets. A mine full of mixtape gold.
  • MuseThe Resistance (Listen on LaLa) – It’s a guilty pleasure. Queen gone cyberpunk. They better try something new on the next one, though.
  • Pains of Being Pure at Heart – self titled ***Album of the Year*** (Listen on LaLa) – Believe me, I’d rather proclaim an indie rock record the best album released in 2009, but this is the only release I heard that was perfect from start to finish. Not a song too long, not a song too short. It’s infectious and, while poppy, multiple listens leave plenty to be discovered. Time will tell if this record will “matter” (I don’t think it will) but for 2009, in 2009, it was the best I heard.
  • Sonic YouthThe Eternal (Listen on LaLa) – All Sonic Youth did in 2009 was release a perfectly great album that was absolutely worthy of their legacy. Is it a seminal record? Nah. But none of Sonic Youth’s peers have released anything so good so late in their career.
  • The ThermalsNow We Can See – This was an Album of the Year also-ran for me. Every single sunny morning I have to make the decision “Do I want to listen to Now We Can Seeagain?” The Thermals are exactly what indie rock should strive to be. We should be pushing pop down and raising this stuff up.

Top 5 Songs By Non-Los Angeles Bands

  1. The Thermals – “When I Died”
  2. Girls – “Hellhole Ratrace”
  3. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – “Come Saturday”
  4. Double Dagger – “The Lie / The Truth”
  5. Superchunk – “Learned to Swim”

“Hellhole Ratrace” is the trendy song of the year. “When I Died” is in many ways about the same thing. You know why I picked “When I Died”? Because the singer takes action.

In “Hellhole Ratrace” the singer laments his languishing life and beggs for salvation from another. In “When I Died” the singer explains how he survived just such a life: He didn’t seek refuge in an infatuation, he sought refuge in himself. That’s a singer I want to get behind.

Album Review (kind of): Weezer – “Raditude”

What say you?

I can’t be an objective listener of Raditude. Weezer is my favorite band.

I don’t think you can have an ex-favorite band. One’s relationship with a favorite band isn’t like one’s relationship a boyfriend or girlfriend, it’s akin to one’s relationship with their parents. If it isn’t, they were never really your favorite band.

Your favorite band is related to you forever, for better or for worse. They knew you when you were young, watch you grow-up, they know you when you’re older, and they usually die before you die. As they grow old and withered, you have to care for them and be their advocate, as a good child cares for their aging parent. You know they are a shell of their former selves, but putting them in a home and forgetting about them isn’t an option. You love them.

Well, Weezer is my favorite band and it has been a rough five years.

There’s frustration with Weezer because they haven’t made a lot of good music lately. Every bad Weezer album has about two good songs and two good out-takes / bonus tracks. I attribute most “bad” Weezer to Rivers Cuomo’s newfound love of sing-song half-spoken lyrics. I love Rivers’ voice and I love it when he sings to me. There’s also frustration with Cuomo’s chosen subject matter. When Maladroit came out I often fantasized about the amazing records Weezer would surely make once they finished growing-up. (Sea Change was about the same year) I’m still waiting.

Instead of letting us follow the journey he’s take in life, Rivers Cuomo has instead kept us in a perpetual state of teenage pop songs. In this, Pitchfork’s review of Raditude is correct.

But where I find Weezer’s recent follies frustrating, the way in which they are received by former fans and critics is more frustrating. Quite frankly, the new records aren’t that bad. Pitchfork’s central beef that Cuomo has Peter Pan syndrome is outrageous. As though every single album Pitchfork reviews isn’t contaminated with Peter Pan syndrome? Girls? Panda Bear? Animal Collective? White boy gangster rap fantasies? Health? The Mae Shi? No Age? Need I go on?

That Pitchfork’s complaint against Cuomo is filed without irony is more ironic than hipsters could ever hope to intentionally be.

The truth is that if some teenage nerd in Idaho made Raditude in his uncle’s recording studio while wearing a pink pig pahamas, Pitchfork would adore it. They’d praise the album as both an experiment, send-up, and sincere tribute to pop records. There’s a Lil’ Wayne cameo on the record and a Lady Gaga / MGMT cover in the bonus materials; Pitchfork loves that shit and the fact that they don’t like the reflection of themselves they see in the Weezer mirror says more about them than it does about Weezer.

What would be true Peter Pan syndrome would if Cuomo, at age 39, was still writing angsty grunge-tinged rock tracks, if he tried time and time again to remake Pinkerton. As it is, he’s a professional songwriter on contract with Warner Brothers and songs like “Girl Got Hot” and “In the Mall,” if still inferior, should be seen as no more or less embarrassing than anything Jay-Z has put-out in the last five years.

Anyway, about the record:

It’s a well-intentioned journey through pop music tropes, old and new. Cuomo’s pop sensibility sees that there’s no difference today between modern rock radio and modern club hits; if Pitchfork is going to love Lady Gaga then they might as well love Linkin Park and “Can’t Stop Partying” is a clever admission of this. “The Girl Got Hot” and “Tripping Down the Freeway” are probably my favorite tracks; they sound like they belong between the Green and Maladroit albums. The aforementioned tracks are perfectly fine, fun pop-rock songs and no adult secure in his tastes should feel bad about liking them.

Lyrically and thematically, Raditude seems to display more self-security than Make Believe, whose poppier songs were truly embarrassing to listen to. “Love is the Answer” is the worst mis-step in that regard. It is also a stronger lyrical album than the Red album, which is like being a hot sauce spicier than Taco Bell Mild.

Raditude is fairly unmemorable. Cuomo insists the expressions in these songs are sincere. I believe him as I believe in sincere calculation. What Raditude (and the two albums that precede it) lacks is primal urge. Cuomo doesn’t have to write about angst to write the next Pinkerton, he just needs to write about anything at all with the same urgency. I suspect Rivers Cuomo has lost his inner-beast in a cloud of Vipassana meditation and happy marriage. I wish he’d really “Let it All Hang Out” and allow himself to create more unhinged songs.

There’s a wealth of bonus materials for iTunes purchasers. “I Hear Bells” and “Get Me Some” are nearly a return to form and may find more sympathy from disgruntled Weezer fans. Weezer’s cover of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” is pretty underwhelming.

Raditude is perfectly harmless. It’s fit for mainstream radio, just like every other Weezer record save for Pinkerton. For my personal tastes, I prefer later-day Weezer to be in the guitar-driven mode of Maladroit. Maybe on the next one?

ALBUM REVIEW: The Happy Hollows – "Spells"

What say you?

No band better represents the underachievement of the Echo Park / Silverlake indie rock scene than The Happy Hollows. They please wherever the play, be it a packed night at Spaceland or an unfamiliar crowd opening for Silversun Pickups at The Wiltern. Frontwoman virtuoso Sarah Negahdari has “It-Girl Personality” tattooed in her veins. Every print publication and blog has validated their talent. And yet, due to various business start-stops and pure circumstances, The Happy Hollows have never escaped the orbit of Los Angeles and lobster fests.

Their debut full-length album Spells, two tortured years in the making, is a closing argument worthy of Clarence Darrow. If the jury won’t side with The ‘Hollows after hearing it, either the system is flawed or LA has been flat-wrong and The Happy Hollows have been guilty of close-but-not-quite all along.

Producer Dave Newton gets a 10.0 for capturing The Happy Hollows’ shifty sound. Spells is a very, very good art rock record but it is an outstanding Happy Hollows record. Negahdari’s sugar-frosted voice sounds startling true to the actual artifact. Her jagged guitar licks enslave the listener with the same narcotic lure that LA music-goers have fallen pray to dozens of times. The rhythm section is just as two-faced, alternating between fun and frightening. I don’t know that The Happy Hollows could be better represented on record.

With disposable music on the rise and a new “must hear” band served online every week, it’s refreshing to digest an album that is a full four-course meal. Spells has many aspects, at times dark and dungeony and at other times pumped with marching band pep. It’s complex, but not confounding. It’s a sexy listen. This is a challenging record to consume; it demands multiple plays. Spells makes the constant barrage of bedroom-recorded garage revival rock seem childish.

Nobody should have to say this, but it bears repeating in 2009: when a band has put a lot of thought into their songwriting, when a professional producer has worked diligently to perfect it, when time is taken, the final product is a more rewarding listen. Spells is probably the most rewarding record you will hear this year.

Spells has its flaws. The album is too long, an imperfection exasperated by the music being so artsy as to distance the listener. It lacks an obvious MP3 single to virallly assault the blogosphere. Spells is a tough record to sing along to.

But this is not a power-pop album nor a collection of lo-fi bloghouse summer jams. Spells is an indie rock record, and great indie rock should aspire to something more than “easily consumed”. With Spells The Happy Hollows have made a concerted effort to create an original work worthy of themselves, and in that goal they have succeeded with with flying colors, colors more vivid than the cover art. Album of the year contender. Bravo.

Spells will be released on October 6th, 2009 but is currently available digitally. You can also purchase it tonight, Friday September 4th 2009, at the record release show at Spaceland.

ALBUM REVIEW – Double Dagger – "More"

What say you?

Who asked for a great hardcore record in 2009?

Well, we’re getting one.

Double Dagger has spent the better part of the decade touring basement clubs nation-wide and invigorating fans in their hometown of Baltimore, MD. Their new record More is genre genocide, not blurring the lines between hardcore, punk, post-punk, and noisepop so much as ignoring them outright. It is both melodic and exhilarating, and fresh, as though loud-quiet-loud has never been done before.

The minimalist trio recorded More in the abandoned upper floors of a condemned office building. Extension chords ran out the windows to power the gear. Holes were punched in the walls and ceiling at the band’s whim, whatever it took to capture Double Dagger’s elusive live sound. Hardcore is DIY by definition and has always leaned towards the intensely personal, but never before has it sounded so intimate.

Lyrically, More is closer to film narration than scrawled diary entries. And Double Dagger doesn’t deploy a guitar player. Bass, drums, vox. That’s it.

More kicks off with “No Allies,” a suckerpunch noisepunk track that hits the Pitchfork paradigm for rock in the heart. After a few detours through ambient noise and pure hardcore, the album hits its stride on the whimsically rhythmed track “Camoflauge,” which showcases both Bruce Willen’s wicked basswork and Nolan Stral’s captivating sing-song vocal delivery. Following that is “The Lie/The Truth,” More‘s centerpiece. It encapsulates the spirit of Double Dagger perfectly, offering thoughtful lyrics, a melodic bassline, crashing cymbals and loud-quite-loud bliss.

The final five tracks are gravy on the taters. More is a complete, satisfying meal that still begs for… well, more. The energy on this record is palatable, and not just during the noisy parts. You’ll be playing this one again and again.

[DOWNLOAD MP3] – Double Dagger – “The Lie/The Truth”

“More” is released today on Thrill Jockey Records and is available on iTunes. Double Dagger will play Pehrspace in Los Angeles on June 29th.

ALBUM REVIEW: Downtown Union – "Aurora Ahora"

What say you?

I once referred to LA indie duo Downtown / Union as the underdog superheroes of the Los Angeles rock world. With their full-length record Aurora Ahora, LA’ own Power Man and Iron Fist, Bo Bory and Jeff Electric, do nothing to dispel the notion, unleashing thirty-three minutes of rolled-up sleeves, but still catchy, rock music. Think Guided by Voices produced by Adam Schlesinger.

By enlisting Joey and Andy Siara (of The Henry Clay People) to play bass and second guitar, Downtown / Union has beefed-up their sound to considerable effect. As a duo, Downtown / Union is a bit of an oddity, if an admirable one. As a foursome, Bory and Electric are able to flex their understanding of music a bit more; the added instrumentation helps get their musical ideas across. The Siara Brothers bring a little more free-wheeling spirit to Downtown / Union, loosening Electric and Bory’s belts a bit. (The added background vocals alone accomplish this.)

Aurora Ahora begins with a bar-buster, “Wake Up Call from the Nexus of Me to You” and from there the rest of the album alternates between hooky rock jam and empty mug-swinging indie ballad, occasionally breaking formula for flourish. “Widowmaker and the Commandant” is a relentless rock track, “Blood and Wine” is Bory’s finest moment, tugging at the heart strings like a thoroughbred in a horsepull.

Aurora Ahora is nothing if not a fun record to listen to. It’s not for trend chasers and it probably won’t change your life or your perspective on music. For my own tastes, I could have used a couple more rock-out tracks. But the good guys win in this one.

Downtown / Union celebrates the release of the album tonight, Thursday, April 30th, at the Echo. (Xu Xu Fang also celebrates the release of a new EP.)

Radio Free Silverlake presents…

Thursday, April 30th
Xu Xu Fang
Downtown Union
The Voyeurs
Voices Voices

The Echo
1822 Sunset Blvd
Echo Park, CA 90026

ALBUM REVIEW: Castledoor – "Shouting at the Mountains"

What say you?

Castledoor isn’t an indiepop band in the C86 sense, but they make indie pop. What the Silverlake sextet has done with their full-length record, Shouting at the Mountains, is take the pop single and pop ballad forms, considered them, and then reproduced them with the instrumentation of orchestral indie folk and subtle nods to rock and R&B traditions. The overall effect is a tapestry of childlike tones, seeming pulled from a knapsack, and deployed in adult musical endeavors.

With the same structure and melody, but with different words and electronic samples, “Hidden Treasure” could be a crooner on R&B stations. “Accross the Border” is a faster tempo and distorted guitar away from being a rock single. But these things aren’t references or imitations so much as sly musical flourishes, and they betray a deep understanding of musical forms and genres by the members of Castledoor.

Singer Nate Cole’s strong, boyish voice is immensely satisfying to listen to and stands-out in the mix. Beyond that, the other member’s roles are blurred beyond recognition. This feels like a collaborative record and no particular instrument stands out; every note seems to have its time and place irrespective of who is playing it and on what instrument.

Castledoor is at their best, on stand-out tracks “Fifth Tambourine” and “Shouting at the Mountains,” when they build emotional climaxes into their songs. Cole is a fairly dynamic singer and when he’s properly framed and given some elbow room in a song is when Castledoor’s unique sound really comes through.

Shouting at the Mountains is not the strongest album lyrically (a bit too self-referential; a few too many “I’s”) and the album peters out a bit in the last few songs. But this is a very strong record, one of the better albums this writer has heard in 2009. A must-have for pop fans and those with a predilection toward ensemble indie bands.

Shouting at the Mountains is available on iTunes and CDBaby. Castledoor celebrates the release of the record tonight at The Echoplex.

KROQ Locals Only and ASCAP present…
Castledoor Record Release Show
Tuesday, April 29th 2009

The Parson Redheads

The Echoplex
1154 Glendale Blvd
Echo Park, CA 90026