Five-Minute Record Reviews: Silversun Pickups, Glenn Frey, Barenaked Ladies and MORE!

OK, here's the premise.  We not only listen to each album in five minutes, we review it too.  I mean, seriously, in today's world, five minutes should be more than enough time to decide if an album is crap or not.  Man, could this introduction be any longer?  On with the reviews!

Glenn Frey / After Hours With his first new studio album in twenty years, Frey foregoes rock & roll for this collection of jazz/lounge standards. Granted, he covers Brian Wilson (“Caroline, No”) and Randy Newman (“Same Girl”), but both are performed in a fashion that does not break from the spirit of this record. While Frey’s voice would never qualify him as a crooner, or a Michael Buble type, that’s actually a good thing on this record, which seeks to create a peaceful, easy feeling, if you will. I wasn’t expecting to like this as much as I did. This is a must for the wine and cheese crowd.  

Off! / Off!
This seminal punk rock super-group led by ex-Circle Jerks singer Keith Morris (and also featuring Redd Kross’ Steven MacDonald on bass) seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere on their first collection of EP’s, as if faster and louder were the only ingredients that mattered. The result was a collection of brief blasts of testosterone-filled rage that started to blur into each other after about the third or fourth track. Quite frankly, I was expecting more of the same, but was pleasantly surprised by the variance from track to track. No song even comes close to the two-minute mark so if you don’t dig a particular tune, just wait a few seconds and it’ll be over.

Damon Albarn / Dr. Dee Hot on the heels of announcing the dissolution of both of his main bands Blur and Gorillaz, Albarn unleashes his first full-fledged solo effort and, in doing so, sheds his proverbial skin in order to slip into this hazy, electro-traditionalist hodge-podge. Don’t be fooled by the album’s slow start, the whole freakin’ album is like a lazy walk in Hyde Park circa 1954. Those expecting the beats to kick in at any moment are gonna be supremely disappointed. If you’ve got the patience for music that shuns all current fads and expectations, and are willing to give an album a few spins to sink in, you might be surprised by just how much you like this album. At the very least, the enjoyment of seeing the odd looks on the faces of friends and co-workers when you play this record is worth the price of admission.

Barenaked Ladies / Stop Us If You’ve heard This One Before As indicated by the title, this is a collection of familiar tunes by the BNL gang, along with a few nice surprises thrown is, such as their tasy (and timely) cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Shake Your Rump”. You also get the original demo of “The Old Apartment”, a studio version of longtime live staple “I Don’t Get It Anymore”, and an earlier superior version of “Half A Heart”. This is an absolute must for longtime fans, as it offers many familiar tracks in new settings. It’s also a good enough record to win over a few fence-sitters…like me.

Sleep / Dopesmoker This one comes to us from the fine folks at Southern Lord.  When you look up the word “uncompromising” in the dictionary, you SHOULD see a picture of these metal mavens. Their new album, for example, has only two songs on it. The title cut is 63-minutes long. The second cut, “Holy Mountain”, clocks in at only a little over eleven minutes. Of course, it’s a live recording that sounds as if it was captured by a boombox. All things considered, this is a band for metal heads who consider Iron Maiden to be a little too “pop” for their tastes.

Marina And The Diamonds / Electra Heart The sophomore effort from singer Marina Diamandis shows her to be taking magnificent leaps and bounds from the promise she showed on her 2010 debut. She has the slyly playful and seductively confident vocals to connect with both the hipster set and the mainstream pop audience that has made superstars of Ke$ha and Katy Perry. In a perfect world, this album would actually be available Stateside and Marina would be at least as big as Lana Del Rey, although she deserves to be as big as the far less talented Ke$sha. Something tells me that by this time next year, everybody will know this gal. Did we mention that Dr. Luke (Katy Perry, Britney Spears, et al) is among the grab-bag of A-list producers who helped make this album such a guilty pleasure?

Silversun Pickups / Neck of The Woods Whereas 2009's Swoon was a hypnotic swell of shoegaze that seemed wonderfully rooted in late 80's England, Neck Of The Woods boasts the best songs of the band's career and doesn't seem intent on being the great lost My Bloody Valentine record.  If anything, the album sounds more like a Death Cab record, which is a great thing, if you ask me.  It shows that the Pickups are maturing, confident enough to turn down the distortion and allow the songs to choose their own direction.  If they were REM, this would be their Out Of Time.

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