Five-Minute Record Reviews: New Jams From Autumn Defense, David Crosby, Dum Dum Girls and The Lawrence Arms!

Autumn Defense - Fifth

Better known as a "Wilco side project", John Stirratt and Pat Sansone's Autumn Defense deserve so much more recognition for the superbly understated songcraft on display on this, their fifth album together. Whereas past efforts have merely hinted at greatness, on Fifth, the duo achieves baroque pop perfection with a set of songs that recall the chilling genius of The Posies' Dear 23.

"None Of This Will Matter" and "Calling Your Name" absolutely soar while understated beauty abounds in tracks like "I Want You Back"and "Under The Wheel".

Don't let the lack of volume fool you, this is a heavy record that once your ears adjust to the lack of Autotune and digital compression, you will not be able to let it go.

David Crozby - Croz

Let's face it, for as legendary as David Crosby may have been in the 60's and 70's as a member of The Byrds and Crosby, Stills and Nash, this is a man best known in recent years for his battles with addiction and being the sperm donor for Julie Cypher and then-partner Melissa Etheridge's two children together.

The blame for this falls squarely on our insatiable need for celebrity dirt and Crosby's glacial pace in releasing new material.  After all, his last recorded effort was ten years ago (Crosby and Nash).

Having said that, does the world really need another David Crosby solo album?  Truth be told, you could simply repackage his last one and most folks - including the nineteen people who bought it - probably wouldn't know the difference.  It's a shame because the guy still has a charming musical persona and the first half of this album ends up being a whole lot better than it has any right to be.  "What's Broken" and "Time I Have" are truly great soft-rock gems that deserve a better fate than being part of this soon-to-be-forgotten independently released effort.

Of course, then there are songs like "If She Called", a song inspired by Crosby watching prostitutes in Belgium, that attempt to shed light on a tragic subject, but end up missing the mark altogether.  In the end, it's the bad taste from the songs that fail that overshadows the subtle ease of the songs that work.

Dum Dum Girls - Too True

On their second platter for Sub Pop, the Girls have put all the pieces together to create one of the breakout albums of 2014.  Produced by living legend Richard Gottehrer and Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner, the album sounds exactly what you'd hope it would based on their inclusion.  Gottehrer, of course, is one of the most song-oriented producers to ever walk the earth so seeing his name in the credits for any album ensures that, at the very least, the material is up-to-par.

Having said that, I'm still left scratching my head as to why "Lost Boys And Girls Club" was chosen as the first single when "Rimbaud Eyes" seems the obvious choice.  Regardless, this is an album that joyously recalls those halcyon days when bands like Darling Buds and The Primitives roamed the earth.

While many critics have called their sound shoegaze, the songs are too good here to be lumped into such a genre.  Sure, they may sound like early Jesus & Mary Chain at times, too, but in the end, this is an album that defies being jammed into one category.  Unless, of course, "catchy as hell" is a category.

The Lawrence Arms - Metropole

Chicago's Lawrence Arms delighted local punk rock fans last year with the news that they'd begun work on their first album since 2006's masterful Oh Calcutta with producer Matt Allison.  With eight long years of downtime, naturally, die-hard fans immediately began wondering whether the band could truly pick up where they left off, but, if anything, this album benefits from doing the exact opposite.

Sure, the players are the same and ever-dependable producer Matt Allison is again at the helm, but this is not an album trying to relive past glories.  For starters, first single "Seventeener" sounds like every first single should sound, full of caffeinated chugging guitars and the earworm harmonies of Chris McCaughan and Brendan Kelly.

Sonically speaking, the album is tightly executed with a minimum of studio gloss and full emphasis placed upon capturing the band's live ferocity.  The real star of this album, however, is the clever vocal interplay between McCaughan and Kelly, which makes tracks like "Never Fade Away" and "These Pigs Seem To Be Getting The Best Of Me" jump out of the speakers.

Welcome to the new, improved Lawrence Arms!

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