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Overlooked Alternatives: new releases for May 31, 2005

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I’ve always had this sneaking suspicion that Tuesday releases following a major Monday US holiday tend to be the things the labels were thinking wouldn’t cause much of a ruckus if they didn’t reach shelves that day, perhaps due to shipping delays, lazy music-store staff, etc. It seems like these days are when a bunch of smaller things get released that might be so overshadowed by a normal week’s release that they’re given a much better chance of attracting attention on weeks like this. Maybe in Britain that new Oasis album is a big deal, but here in the US it seems to register as a pretty minor release this week – but it is, by far, the biggest name on the roster. However, there’s a few really choice, but much more minor ones as well:

New Releases:

Better Than Ezra: Before the Robots – I guess it’s not cool to enjoy BTE, but they’ve been putting out consistently solid albums of N’awlins-tinged pop-rock for the better part of a decade now, and they put on one heck of a good live show. I know pretty much nothing of this new release – my wife is the big Ezra fan in the house – but they make mention of robots, and robots automatically score you a few extra points in my book. I do know that they’ve rerecorded “A Lifetime” from their previous album, Closer, apparently because they thought it deserved the exposure it wasn’t afforded when their previous label folded.

Four Tet: Everything Ecstatic – On the past Four Tet albums, Keiran Hebden explored folktronica, which is an intriguing genre based around using samples of live instruments to create electronic music. The techniques Hebden employs result in a highly organic sound – something much more emotional than typical electronic music. The hip-hop beats and cut-up acoustic guitars, pianos, and percussion, among other distinctive traits, identified his sound but these hallmarks of the style have become more commonplace lately as aural backdrops for commercials and movies. This time around, however, Hebden forgoes the emphasis on organic sources and instead relies on his formidable talent and hopes his natural sound comes to the surface, as Everything Ecstatic is awash more with sounds and styles that Aphex Twin fans may already be too familiar with. For someone with such an innovative style and sound, it seems a step backwards to embrace something that had already been done before – and so well. But perhaps that’s the brilliance behind his effort this time around – by treading well-worn ground, Hebden may just find fertile ground somewhere between the tracks to start something new.

Meshuggah: Catch Thirty-Three – And you thought Meshuggah pulled off a long song with last year’s 22 minute long I . . . Catch Thirty-Three is one 47 minute long song! Divided up into 13 parts, the longest being the 13-plus minute “In Death – Is Death,” Catch winds and twists like any normal Meshuggah song ever has – it just does so on a much grander scale, allowing the band to really explore the textures of their deep, complex riffing. The sheer length lends the album a punishing quality, as riffs are extended and repeated and often pop back up later in the piece. Everything Meshuggah is known for is here – the dense, claustrophic intensity of the band’s music doesn’t lose its punch in this format, but it does require a some time to reveal its secrets when it’s presented this way. It grows quite mesmerizing, in fact, as those deep, low-tuned riffs slowly morph into other pieces of the song, then tie themselves all back together later in the song. I’m seeing calls for this to be metal album of the year, and it’s a very strong contender, along with Corrosion of Conformity’s In the Arms of God. But it’s still relatively early in the year. Who knows what is yet to be unleashed upon us in the next six months?

Reissues/etc:

Bjork: Army of Me: Remixes and Covers – Created as a benefit for Unicef, this is a bit of a unique remix album. Bjork allowed fans, or, well, anybody, to submit their own take on her song, “Army of Me” on her official website. The best results wound up on this album. You might need a mighty strong dose of patience to listen to twenty versions of the same song, but at least your money is going to a good cause.

Check back next week for more – because there’s always something to tempt you from separating cash from your wallet.


Stop on by the beautiful lull for more media-related stuff, or my personal site, unproductivity.


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About Tom Johnson

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    Maybe in Britain that new Oasis album is a big deal, but here in the US it seems to register as a pretty minor release this week

    yessiree. i’ve never been able to figure out why folks are so gaga about Oasis. i’ve given ‘em several listens and, for me, there’s nothing there.

    i’ve gotta check out that Meshuggah. your description reminds me of DopeSmoker by the band Sleep.

  • http://www.thebeautifullull.com Tom Johnson

    Yep, I think you’d dig Meshuggah, Mark. And that reminds me – I must put Sleep on the list to check out soon. I liked what I heard when you rec’d ‘em before.

    And, yeah, Oasis is a “move along, folks, nothing to see here” type band for me, too.

  • http://www.markiscranky.org Mark Saleski

    i have to admit that i might have been more interested in Oasis if i hadn’t heard all of that ‘greatest band ever’ stuff….but i heard (and read) so much of it that by the time i actually heard the music i was pretty much underwhelmed.