Random Stabbings & Artless Critique

Random Stabbings & Artless CritiqueRandom Stabbings & Artless CritiqueRandom Stabbings & Artless Critique

Taking Stock Of Current Releases

By Eric W. Saeger

Oceanos Y Lunas

Elizabeth Ayoub

Oceanos Y Lunas

(Four Quarters Ent)

Born of Lebanese parents who fled with her and her six siblings to Venezuela, Ayoub comes from a strange multilingual planet, where one minute Barbra Streisand would be belting on the radio and the next the family would be reciting the Koran. There’s professional acting on her resume to go with this debut album, produced by Grammy winner Javier Limon, who has coaxed many gentle slopes and breezes out of the world-type sounds and vibes captured here. Not to say this is actually a world album, more like an unplugged, ethnically diverse whatzis that might as well have come from Gloria Estefan after a Wah bender, in other words yoga-workout chill. Although her voice is quite like Estefan’s, Ayoub is more charming (certainly more unique-sounding) when warbling lyrics in Semitic tongues (“Habibi”) than Spanish, but that’s just nitpicking on my part – brainy soccer moms could get a lot out of this one.

Grade: A-

Jerry Castle, Don't Even Ask

Jerry Castle

Don’t Even Ask

(My World Records)

Due to natural selection, country music is trending away from the over-processed sounds and predictable emoticons of Big & Rich and leaning toward the “real country” sounds of Gary Allan.  While I admire the fact that Castle (here backed by a respectable squad of Nashville studio guys) has gone similarly au natural, I would have really liked to hear more along the lines of “Charades,” the opener to this, his second album. The tune is a countrified slant on Devendra Banhart and Zeppelin, which obviously has no relation whatsoever to Brooks & Dunn’s forced twanging and beer-gut BS, but also isn’t a direct challenge to Allan, whose inspiration takes over the entire balance of this record (although Castle gets even more little-cabin-in-the-woods-ish when he trots out his toddler daughter for a duet of “You Are My Sunshine” – kindly gag me with a spoon). Like Allan, the hooks are simple and don’t need racks of processors to get their points across… or do they?  It’s one thing to join a rebellion, another to lead the pack the way Allan does, and quite another to play at being a Luddite for its own sake. Castle’s stuff has its charm, but honestly this stuff went in one ear and out the other; perhaps a little NASCAR pride might help in future.

Grade: B-

Toadies

Feeler

(Kirtland Records)

Second album in two years from the Fort Worth post-grunge band who invented the radio hit “Possum Kingdom” with its “do you wanna die” chorus (now an integral cog of Guitar Hero II). The band was broken up for several years when bassist Lisa Umbarger went off to raise dogs and get all Dali Lama, not that one could blame her after they suffered the humiliation of Interscope Records telling them that a lot of the material from the original 2001-era Feeler sessions sucked. That’s probably more than you need to know to enjoy this LP, but it’s helpful background being that there’s very little about this album that would persuade one to think of it as something that wouldn’t have worked back in 2001 as a typical edgily hip Interscope product. There’s a lot of commercial post-punkiness here, plenty that’s ear-grabby but not annoying (a Tool-inspired break on “Suck Magic,” Soundgarden-like roaring on “Joey Let’s Go”).  It’s a different world, though, post-9/11, and because of that one could almost see this as, I dunno, quaint.  Good hard bar-rock (with a quirky enough edge, yadda yadda) is over, but don’t let that stop you from picking
this up.

Grade: B+

The Russians, Crashing The Party

The Russians

Crashing the Party

(Moontower Recordings)

One (and the most common) way to categorize the output of Boston-area jack-of-all-tradesman Scott Janovitz is Beatles meets Flaming Lips. I’m not sure Janovitz is real big into Flaming Lips, though; he and his band (actually a series of 15 different guest spots from locals who’ve played with the likes of The Figgs and Juliana Hatfield) make quasi-pop in a broad but always agreeable palette of pastels, so although their budget is probably markedly smaller, this belongs in the gray area of psychedelic-ambient AOR-bubblegum inhabited by Here We Go Magic and Winston Giles (am I still the only human on earth who knows about Winston Giles?). The bolded bullet on Janovitz’s resume is a stint in Graham Parker’s band, but, just so you know, there’s no shuffley bar-rock here, just pop vibe that can get a little Gang of Four on the hard edge but mainly cloisters in a no-nonsense Brit-pop dream world adorned with ambient-techno.  Opener “The Record’s Over” channels George Harrison, and then you’re in territory pioneered by Norman Greenbaum (“Not So Loud,” which would have been a more apropos title for the album, come to think of it), and then it’s Oasis on Rohypnol for “Talking to Yourself.” The appeal and potential is obvious, but this angle just hasn’t clicked with John Q. Public thus far (perhaps because it speaks so succinctly to genuine artistic freedom, that
old menace).

Grade: B

Reach DCP freelance writer Eric W. Saeger at contactus@daytoncitypaper.com

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