• The Vacation

    By: Jessica Grose The Vacation is Mtley Cre with a conscience. This is disappointing, because the best part about Mtley Cre is that they had no conscience, and best of all, no self-awareness. The glam cock-rock of the '80s was thrilling because it encapsulated hedonism, pure and simple. The Vacation seems to be approaching '80s hair topics with 2005's combination of social awareness and irony -- a combination that occasionally falls hilariously flat. Los Angeles denizens, the Vacation play modern metal a la the Darkness, with loud guitars, insistent drums, and coarse vocals.

  • The National

    On their fourth release, Alligator, the National's lead singer and head lyricist Matt Beringer sounds like he's relating some kind of schizo bedtime story. Beringer's baritone lulls you into a sense of calm, with a conversational delivery reminiscent of Tindersticks' Stuart Staples or the Magnetic Fields' Stephin Merritt. The lyrics are simple and often haunting; Beringer writes songs about looking for astronauts and wearing argyle sweaters that are upon further inspection, quite plaintive and confessional: "Break my arms around the one I love / Be forgiven by the time my lover comes." The music backing Beringer's lush storytelling is rooted in introspective British acts like Joy Division, though they inspire the same sort of eeriness of bands like the Fall.

  • Long Live the Digital Revolution

    For all you college students who live in constant fear that downloading the new Bloc Party will land you in the slammer, for once the man has got your back. According to the Associated Press, a federal judge ruled that two North Carolina Universities do not have to disclose the names of alleged file-swappers on their colleges' computer systems. Back in September 2003, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) subpoenaed the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University to get the real identities of two known file swappers whose internet handles were "Cadillac Man" and "Hulk." While the universities in question do not publicly condone music piracy, they do champion their students' right to privacy.

  • Coldplay Sets Tentative Tour Plans

    Now that baby Apple is more than a year old, Chris Martin and company are ready to leave the UK to tour to support of their new album, X&Y. According to Billboard.com, Coldplay plans to kick off their American tour August 8th at the Tweeter Center. Rilo Kiley and Franz Ferdinand are rumored to be on the list of opening acts. Before the actual tour kicks off, Coldplay is playing a number of North American club dates this spring, including shows in Toronto, Chicago, and a taping of VH1's "Storytellers" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on May 16th. X&Y hits stores June 7th.

  • Return to Guyville

    For those of you embittered by Liz Phair's foray into mainstream pop with her latest self-titled release, there is a glimmer of hope. According to Billboard.com, Phair is prepping a new album with a tentative September 27th release date. Phair-philes will be able to see Miss Liz before the fall: she's in the line-up for this summer's Lollapalooza weekend in Chicago, and is planning an acoustic tour for August. Perhaps this time around, Liz will get through an album without a reference to semen. One can only dream.

  • Benzos

    New York five-piece Benzos probably own a half dozen copies of Radiohead's Kid A between them. From the sound of their debut LP, Morning Stanzas , one can picture the band huddled around a hookah, listening to "Idioteque" and having a generative musical experience. The propulsive layers of synthesizer-based electronics, complex guitar work, and esoteric lyrics such as, "We are glass souls...we are glass houses," scream marijuana-induced paranoia and Thom Yorke worship. That being said, Benzos are no mere Brit-band knock-offs. Morning Stanzas boasts a number of truly touching and accomplished tracks. "Amiable" is a soaring, melodic gem, while the theme of glass and an accompanying emptiness ("You're Forever an Hourglass," "Glass Souls," etc.) crop up repeatedly.

  • The Mountain Goats

    John Darnielle, the man behind the Mountain Goats, might just be the only person on the planet who can make the act of drooling sound almost dreamy. "Spittle bubbling on your lips," Darnielle bleats in his signature nasally tenor, "fine white foam." Darielle took the Mountain Goats name in 1991 while working in a California state hospital, and has produced over ten full-length records since 1995. Darnielle is an incredibly prolific songwriter, releasing over ten full-length records since 1995. The Goats' latest album, The Sunset Tree, is the most personal and polished to date. Back in the '90s, Darnielle was famous for his low budget cassette recordings and intricate song cycles.

  • Lou Reed: Advanced?

    By: Jason Hartley The career of an avant-garde or alternative musician follows an arc: In the beginning, he cultivates a small but dedicated following with innovative music that is celebrated by critics. Then he gets older, his fan base dwindles, and he suddenly finds himself irrelevant because he has "lost it." Everyone knows this. Everyone, that is, but the adherents of the Advanced Theory. They believe that there are certain musicians who were so good, that it is impossible that they could ever be bad. They reason that if an artist is fifteen years ahead of his time in 1965, he will be fifteen years ahead of his time in 2005, so of course fans and critics will be baffled by their current work. These "Advanced" musicians are always one step beyond our comprehension.

  • Tom Waits is T.O.'d at G.M.

    Tom Waits is claiming that his distinctive whiskey-and-cigarettes rasp has been appropriated for a less-then-beneficent cause: he is suing General Motors' European division for using a Waits sound-alike to hawk its Opel car line in Scandinavia. According to yahoo.com, Waits commented, "Commercials are an unnatural use of my work...It's like having a cow's udder sewn to the side of my face. Painful and humiliating." Waits has been down this legal road before. Back in the early '90s, he sued Frito-Lay for ostensibly copying his voice for a Doritos spot. The critical favorite was victorious in that round--Frito-Lay awarded Waits 2.5 million in damages. But ad execs, take heed: Tom Waits recently donated several tracks to a group called War Child Music to raise money for children in post-conflict nations.

  • Sleater-Kinney Fresh from The Woods

    This June Sleater-Kinney will be touring to support their seventh album, The Woods, the band's Sub Pop debut (out May 24th). Former Helium frontwoman Mary Timony will be opening for the west coast dates, while Dead Meadow is opening on the east. The band has also launched a new website complete with a band blog.

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