Thursday, February 22, 2007
CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH | Some Loud Thunder | Self-Released
Some bands never learn. After being nearly universally criticized for the wheezy opening track (“Clap Your Hands”) from its eponymous debut, you would think Clap Your Hands Say Yeah would avoid a repeat. Nope. “Some Loud Thunder,” the titular opener this time around, is a glorious pop song drowned in fuzzy distortion and heavy bass. A bold move, yes, but it works for CYHSY; the group has wedded its DIY approach with a good ear for offbeat melody.
Despite the initial similarities, Some Loud Thunder is a surprising change of pace from the group’s ebullient debut. Working with producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Sleater-Kinney), the band borrows liberally from Fridmann’s bag o’ tricks (e.g., melding psychedelica with spaced-out rock). Rather than serving as a crutch, this makes the group’s music richer if more demanding.
Overall, CYHSY exhibit an astounding maturity in its songwriting abilities, with songs like the buoyant “Emily Jean Stock” and the twinkling “Mama, Won’t You Keep Those Castles in the Air and Burning?” organically evolving into moments of blissful pop. Save an instrumental and the barely-there ditty “Arm and Hammer,” Some Loud Thunder may be a stronger outing than the group’s infectious debut. —Michael Petitti
KEAK DA SNEAK, P.S.D.THA DRIVAH AND MESSY MARV | Da Bidness | SMC
After a guest spot on E-40’s rap hit “Tell Me When to Go,” Oakland’s Keak Da Sneak was touted as the Bay Area’s next MC to blow nationally for his original wordplay and gruff voice. Though labels are eager to sign him, he continues to bide his time on the independent circuit with offerings such as this collaboration with San Francisco’s Messy Marv and P.S.D. tha Drivah (from E-40’s hometown, Vallejo).
It’s a snapshot of current Bay Area talent worth noting. In one funny lowbrow highlight, they advance an alternative to camel toe under a Kraftwerkian beat on “Deerfoot.” But top honors go to Keak for the solo cut “That Go!” which shows respect to the Atlanta scene by referencing Dem Franchize Boyz and Lil Jon’s energy concoction, CRUNK!!! Keak proves capable of stealing the show, and continues to hone in on an interregional appeal that could poise him for future stardom. —Tamara Palmer
JOSHUA RADIN | We Were Here | Columbia/Sony
Ably distinguishing himself from the proliferation of Joshuas and Joshes afflicting today’s music, Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Joshua Radin uses his huskily-whispered vocals, alluring melodies and accents of cello and piano to convincingly replicate sensitive ‘70s folk-rock à la Paul Simon, Tumbleweed Connection-era Elton John and the ubiquitously influential Nick Drake.
Apparently, the road to this CD, Radin’s major-label debut, has been paved with the inclusion of his songs on TV shows such as “Scrubs” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and the film The Last Kiss, giving his music easy access into the demographic of hip-thinking, pop-culture-savvy young adults with considerable disposable income.
As prepackaged as Radin might seem, his gentle songs are the real deal and capable of nursing melancholy moods with artful ease. Lyrics such as “I don’t know what to do/ My heart is blistering” are devastating when he delivers them.
The stripped-down chamber-pop arrangements are gorgeous, too, not unlike those of Duncan Sheik. Radin, in fact, sounds as if he could be Sheik’s less-jaded younger brother, especially on his poetry-smitten “These Photographs,” during which he earnestly compares images of his lover with Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Nina Simone and Mary Cassatt. And when Priscilla Hartranft plays Garfunkel to Radin’s Simon, creating elegant two-part harmonies, it’s pretty dreamy. —Gene Armstrong