Initial Reactions (2011): The Civil Wars, Foster The People, Office Of Future Plans

Foster The People – Torches – (–): This all sounds ready made for either an Apple commercial or a Grey’s Anatomy promo, and it sports as much originality as you would expect from a band that is essentially re-writing "Young Folks" multiple times. After all, the clown behind this madness used to write jingles, and while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, it’s extremely telling this case. I detect cynical devils masked as beings of lite. I detect self-aware, formulaic, soulless songwriting. I thought maybe – just maybe – I would find something like Steely Dan: The Next Generation. Instead, I got Justin Beiber: The Old Dudes.

Office Of Future Plans – Office Of Future Plans – (ind): This is J. Robbins’ third post-Jawbox outfit, and not much has changed. Sure, a cello figures prominently, but for the most part, these sound exactly like the signature angular riffs that you’d expect. I don’t know exactly what I was hoping for, but I guess it all just seems a bit ho-hum. Short on inspiration and concept, ya know? Hey, where’s Barbot when you need him? ("Salamander")

The Civil Wars – Barton Hollow – (++): I’ve heard so many rave reviews of this band and how they are God’s gift to music that at this point I am pre-disposed to vehemently hating them. (Actually, I’m not that much of an a-hole, but you know what I’m saying). That being said, I think it’s good stuff. I’m not convinced of their greatness, but I will say that "I’ve Got This Friend" (for example) sports a nice mix of playful and melodic elements in a Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac sort of way. One thing: they over-sing, which makes it a teeny bit burdensome for frequent listens. Basically, think of The Swell Season via Nashville. Fair enough. We’ll see where the next album goes. ("I’ve Got A Friend", "C’est La Mort")


[!!!!!]: Enthusiastic. Frequent rotation. A buyer. Contender for year’s best.
[++]: Positive. Good stuff. Possible grower?
[ind]: Indifferent.. Underwhelmed. I don’t expect to come back to this one.
[—]: Negative. A real screw-up. Don’t even bother.