CD Reviews


Magic Kids Memphis (True Panther)

Magic Kids - Memphis

Lots of yesteryear-sounding pop being produced these days, from the Paul Simon-homage of Vampire Weekend to the Jesus & Mary Chain-style surf-rock of Best Coast. Now we have Memphis’ Magic Kids, who seek to bottle the old lightning generated by Southern soul-pop geniuses such as Van Dyke Parks and the late Alex Chilton. Magic Kids almost succeed, and not for lack of trying. The naïve, skip-in-the-Sesame Street-sidewalk piano/synth chords of “Phone Call” are pure pleasure, as singer Bennett Foster pledges to wait as long as it takes for his girl to ring him. The Brill Building construction of “Candy” is another sugary knockout, with Foster artlessly boasting of a certain girl’s sweet kisses. By the third diabetes-inducing song (“Superball”), however, the innocence becomes exhausting, to the point that the listener may even long for the complex nuances of, say, a Carole King tune. Nothing wrong with looking backward for inspiration, but silly lyrics can’t be forgiven. ★★★☆☆


Dylan LeBlanc Pauper’s Field (Rough Trade)

Dylan LeBlanc - Pauper’s Field

How in hell does a 20-year-old singer/songwriter—a mere baby—from Shreveport, La., manage to create such gritty, mature music? Genes help apparently, as LeBlanc’s dad was a sideman for the legendary Muscle Shoals studio in Alabama. Plus, the young buck gets a little help from the Queen of Country herself, Emmylou Harris, on the stark, haunting “If the Creek Don’t Rise,” a metaphor about love, in which if you’re not careful, can wash everything away. Any country star—Merle Haggard, Ryan Adams, Taylor Swift—could benefit from covering a literate, lovesick song penned by LeBlanc. He even brings back the antihero folk-ballad with “Death of Outlaw Billy John,” a dark and powerful narrative to stoke the fire of envy in the Boss. And when a penitent murderer ponders his fate in “No Kind of Forgiveness,” you’d better be prepared to have your soul shaken and stirred. Damn these kids today! ★★★★☆


Constants If Tomorrow the War (Science of Silence)

Constants - If Tomorrow the War

Is the world ready for a diabolical blend of eardrum-stomping shoe-gazing and melodic emo-metalcore? It’s here in the form of Constants, a Boston trio whose full-length sophomore effort, 2009’s epic The Foundation, The Machine, The Ascension earned raves. This time, Constants convinced Godflesh/Jesu mastermind Justin K. Broadrick to produce, his artsy yet visceral touch pushing what could’ve easily become a pale Isis imitation into something more fractured and ambient-inclined. The shimmering, synth-smeared, fever-dream instrumental “Halloween in New Orleans” could fit on an M83 record, while the majestic “Maya Ruin” is hook-laden enough for the Hot Topic crowd without discouraging those of us (people over 30) who loathe the sight of kids who stretch their ears. The indie-metal brigade, meanwhile, will suffer plenty of headbanged-up injuries courtesy of the walloping “Spiders in White.” Something different for those loitering on the heavier end of the musical spectrum. ★★★★☆

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Enjoying a little Shakedown on Fremont Street


Enjoying a little Shakedown on Fremont Street

By Jarret Keene

Fremont Street is about to get all shook up by Las Vegas Shakedown, a supercharged, three-day (Aug. 13-15, $75, “rock ’n’ roll weekend” involving more than 50 punk, rockabilly and roots music acts performing at Beauty Bar and Las Vegas Country Saloon, plus burlesque performances and an art show.