CD Reviews


Brian Eno Small Craft on a Milk Sea (Warp)

For all the superlatives attached to the name Brian Eno, the synthesizer pioneer and famed U2 producer’s solo work has never struck this critic as being particularly huge in sound and size. If anything, Eno’s ambientscapes are fiercely intimate and unique, like a series of dusty battery-operated music boxes from the future, or from across the galaxy. Opening each one is always a sonic treat, and the anticipation of hearing the uncanny is usually rewarded. His first album for the Warp label, Small Craft on a Milk Sea, offers a gorgeous journey to the new outer reaches of electronic music, starting with placid crystalline miniature “Emerald and Lime,” and progressing to the razor-scraping-a-coke-mirror dance interlude of “Flint March,” and culminating in the gauzy spiritual drift of “Late Anthropocene.” With each track, Eno achieves a brand-new texture, a palate-expanding flavor, in the electronic music genre. Quietly brilliant and definitely among the year’s best. ★★★★☆


Taylor Swift Speak Now (Big Machine)

Twenty-year-old Taylor Swift can’t catch a break. Famously dissed by Kanye West, infamously dumped by John Mayer, and sued by an ex-manager, Swift is poked and prodded like a caged bear by lesser-talented men. Heck, even the skinny Black Crowes guy said she was “horrible,” though that’s likely because she physically resembles his ex-wife. Much as I despise fake country, it’s difficult to dismiss Swift’s surefire songcraft, which doesn’t get enough credit. She’s no Leonard Cohen, but every song she delivers has a point and purpose; there’s never vague angst or bad poetry—just matter-of-fact narratives about hearts being broken, mended or fused. Speak Now is rough on the male species; for instance, the kiss-off ballad “Dear John” (“All the girls that you’ve run dry / have tired, lifeless eyes / ’cause you burned them out”). But they’ve had it coming. Besides, when she says she’s sorry in the mandolin-touched “Back to December,” you hear genuine remorse plaguing her voice. Too bad she doesn’t have a dick; she’d be hailed as the new Ryan Adams. ★★★☆☆


Die Laughing 9-10 Demonstration (Vomitcore)

Local punk-rock trio Die Laughing writes and records music as if “the aughts” never happened, as if hardcore and metal were still peanut butter and chocolate with no chance at sweet, mouthwatering unification. Which is a long way of saying that the band’s 11-song debut, 9-10 Demonstration, delivers sloppy, sticky-fingers-stuck-in-the-PB-jar punk. Guitarist L. Bro doesn’t mince riffs, unleashing skewed, angular lines of distorted power chords with zero fanfare and even less technical polish. The gruesome drums of “El Sludge O” courtesy of Bob Dawson don’t help the situation, neither does the rubbery bass guitar of “Be Yourself.” Still, I know better than to chalk it up to amateurism, because Die Laughing is a lethal live act that plays Vegas dive bars regularly, which explains how this CD got in my car. Besides, any band whose untitled final album track contains the chorus “I miss my mom” definitely knows what it’s doing. ★★★☆☆

Suggested Next Read

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

Theater Review

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead

By Rosalie Miletich

Tom Stoppard’s plays are notoriously verbose, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead is no exception. “The play is definitely about words, words, words,” director Michael Kimm says. “But under the words are three really interesting and complex characters. I just wish I’d had more time to shape that part of the actors’ work.”