By Jeremy Hallock
By James Khubiar
By Observer Staff
By Kelly Dearmore
By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
With MTV's Sway decreeing that Dallas is the "next city to blow [up]," B-Hamp may be exactly where he wants. And B Dash may just be that type of moment-in-time snapshot of a culture and a city that far outlasts its perceived initial impact. —Nic Hernandez
Instrument wrangler Jeff Ryan has a hefty rock résumé, having played with Sarah Jaffe, St. Vincent, The New Year, Pleasant Grove, Crushed Stars and plenty of others. Dallasites recognize him most often as the skilled drummer who seems to drift from stage to stage, fervently exorcising demons from his tom or hi-hat.
Ryan's solo, instrumental project, Myopic, born of ideas surrounding a commissioned theatrical score, slays those same beasts...but with more instruments. The seven-song release, Plays in Pieces, feels familiar, warm and plays like a soundtrack to a movie you know you've seen but just can't place—and that's such a good thing. "As Much As You Can III" is Ira Glass' dream transition music with its tinkling bells that morph into something intense and dreamy, sensitive and bombastic at the same time. "Things I Saw" showcases Ryan's restraint—beautifully simple piano contrasts with Rebecca Howard's dramatic violin resulting in a track that feels like it should play over the close of a tear-stained film—perhaps the same film that opened on better times with the driving, poppy "Fixture."
Because it's layered, dramatic and emotive, it might be tempting to just lump the impressive project in with no-vox bands like Explosions in the Sky, but, as Myopic's name implies, that would just be shortsighted. —Merritt Martin
Listening to At Sea is like watching a teen drama on CW. The songs are pretty good, but, man, they're sure filled with a lot of melodrama. As such, pretty much any song off the new album by The Felons would be able to fill any heart-wrenching scene on Gossip Girl or 90210.
It's not that melodrama is a bad thing—it's something to be expected for a band that churns out power-pop of this emotive variety—but, when your album clocks in at just less than 40 minutes, it can get a little monotonous. At first, that's not the case; the first notes of album opener "Cathedral" are easily embraced. But, just like a Jack Johnson album, as it goes on, it's just more of the same thing. The only break from the feeling of the album is the rocker "Sugar and Gas," which sticks out like a sore thumb on an album that tries too hard to create anthems.
At Sea is a decent album, best taken in the right mood. Because frankly, it feels like a mood record—best listened to on a cool night while sitting by a fire. Or with your girlfriend. —Lance Lester
It seems telling that the first sound you hear from This Knowledge is a loop of crazed noise so distorted that you can scarcely tell what instruments are making it.
Maybe it's not an intentional way for former Mount Righteous guitarist Justin Spike to distance from the all-acoustic indie-pop marching band, but it certainly does the job nonetheless. The track, "Of Time and Space," quickly settles down into a melancholy Beatles-esque waltz, with Spike's vocals and acoustic strumming front and center and subtly backed by electric lead guitar and hushed drums that build into a full-out rock song, complete with a guitar solo. By the end of the song, though, it's clear why he left the band: Not only does Spike boast a definite melancholy streak that wouldn't jibe with the relentlessly cheerful Mount Righteous, but his songs shine on their own, without the bells and slide whistles. Other highlights include "Jaywalker" (another waltz) and the seven-minute, multipart "What We Need Is Now."
If the opening track selection was unintentional, though, the album closer certainly wasn't: On the slow, contemplative folk rendition of "Living to Succeed," a song Mount Righteous performs and he penned, Spike claims, "I'm not living to succeed/I'm here to understand." Seems Har Herrar has already managed the latter, as far as understanding how to record good lo-fi folk-rock songs. Here's hoping these songs help him out with the former. —Jesse Hughey
Iris Leu plays a style of piano-based soft rock that neither bores nor strongly grabs. She has a nice, clear voice, hitting in the vocal range that Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole hit, and she plays the piano quite well too—assured, tastefully, and never too busy or too simple.
At 10 songs long, Hushaboo is pleasant on the ears, like the kind of music you'd hear at a coffee shop. And like many of the music you hear in one, her music can either inspire or be passed over as musical wallpaper; instrumentally, save for a couple of tracks, nothing takes center stage over the basic groundwork of piano, bass and drums. Thing is, that's perfectly fine, especially with the closing track, "After All Is Done," which features a guest appearance by a bowed xylophone. "Ipso Factor" and "The Red Bird," meanwhile, feature straightforward, upbeat grooves, and "Manifesto" features a stilted feel along with electronic programming.