Initial Reactions (2011): The Jayhawks, Blitzen Trapper, VHS or Beta

The Jayhawks – Mockingbird Time – (++): Pleasant enough. Leaves you with that peaceful, easy feeling. I might have been indifferent to this, but I enjoy alt-country, and to that point, humble-pie songwriting. I’m a newbie, but this is notable for long-time Jayhawks fans as Mark Olson has returned to the flock. Also, Gram Parson would have been 65 this year. ("Hide Your Colors", "She Walks In So Many Ways")

Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing – (++): Stadium filling antebellum classic rock, except it’s not 1975. These guys remind me of some high school buddies that used to cover Grand Funk Railroad. What I mean is that this is imitative of a bygone era, but it’s also durn well done. "Fletcher" reaches a prodigious groove. I’m pleasantly impressed, and hoping this will grow on me. ("Fletcher", "Might Find It Cheap")

VHS or Beta – Diamonds and Death – (ind): A reboot for this band. Reminds me a bit of the first Tears for Fears album. While there’s a few groove-tastic and even neato moments, it mostly sounds like a couple of kids discovering synthesizers. High point: "Jellybean" sounds like a Police instrumental from the future, but I guess I just can’t get past the silicon taste on anything else. Cool cover bonus points though. ("Under the Sun", "Jelly Bean")

REACTION KEY

[!!!!!]: 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.

Quick Review (LP): Faith by The Cure

The Cure
Faith
Elektra; 1982

My Rating: B (70/100)

Best Tracks: "Primary", "Other Voices", "The Drowning Man"

There’s a darkly appealling something about this record, and I can see how it represents a sort of proto-Disintegration for sure. It’s a mixed bag to be sure, dense and threatening drudgery, yet oddly challenging and inviting of repeated listens.

NOTES
– "All Cats Are Grey" has a nice ambience to it. Sort of sounds like Tears for Fears.
– This is a conflicting record – it’s so dense that I can’t imagine listening to it on a regular basis, but I do like it as a whole.
– "Faith" is nice enough, but I don’t understand why it is thought of as amazing.
Gotta agree with the Pitchfork guy. The album does have that Twin Peaks thing going on at times, that misty, lost in the woods, nature-goth feel.
– "Primary" and "Other Voices" are each great singles. What is it about the early Cure sound? Not really melodic, not incredible musically, but catchy and so interesting.
– Very cool album cover. At first, it reminds me of half a woman’s face, with one eyelid shut. Turns out it’s a picture of an old church in England.
– In sum, this one’s all about the overcast atmosphere. It’s even creepy at times, and I have to say that I think I’ll be coming back to this one.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (5/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

My review of The Cure’s Three Imaginary Boys
My review of The Cure’s Seventeen Seconds

Quick Review (LP): The Five Ghosts by Stars

stars five ghosts Stars
The Five Ghosts
Soft Revolution; 2010

My Rating: B

Best Tracks: “Wasted Daylight”, “Fixed”, “The Passenger”, “Changes”

Fun. This is like a lost Depeche Mode record, though heavier on the pop and a little less devastated. Thematically, it may seem at first like an awful dark record, but I tend to think the 5 ghosts being referenced are the band members’ lost 80’s childhoods. Haters will hate it, no doubt, but I haven’t heard a record this chock full of deliciously Saturday morning electro-pop since that one mix I made that brought together The Cure, The Smiths, and Tears for Fears. Some truly fine moments here (Millan shines brightest), start with the recommendations above and don’t overthink this one.

Metacritic reviews
Pitchfork review