CD Reviews

Cherish the Light Years, Alela Diane & Wild Divine and Apocalypse

SYNTH-POP

Cold Cave Cherish the Light Years (Matador)

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The dark, driving, delicious electro-rock that ex-hardcore punk underdog Wesley Eisold has now perfected with his second album for Matador is earning comparisons to New Order and Nitzer Ebb. But his penchant for vocal hooks is more aligned with the existential candy of Reach the Beach-era The Fixx. Despite being designed to project an urgent anger, Cherish the Light Years remains a complex love letter to New York City, where Eisold now lives. “You look so good on the outside,” Eisold croons on hypnotic “Confetti.” “I feel so good on the outside.” Sure, there’s some retro-pastiche, particularly on The Cure clone “Catacombs,” though, not even Robert Smith (or Morrissey) could at this point compose a line as joyously gloomy as “You said that one day you’d come back for me/That’s the only reason I’m still a part of this dreadful scenery.” Danceable, dense, yet moody enough for apocalyptic raves, Light Years puts Cold Cave light years ahead of its electro peers. ★★★★☆

AMERICANA

Alela Diane Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Rough Trade)

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Nevada City native Alela Diane, 27, is a natural-born songwriter. Proof is in the pudding of her fiercely imaginative folk tunes, full of rowdy poetry and tinged with rock ’n’ roll fire. For instance, the bluesy shuffle and pedal-steel pulse of “Heartless Highway,” which captures the lonely feeling of driving down a desert highway at night, and “White Horse,” which starts out with sinister lyrics about a hangman before opening up with a huge, if still pessimistic chorus: “We are hopeful, we are scattered/We are dust.” Credit should go to ex-R.E.M. producer Scott Litt who, after a long hiatus, returns to give Diane and her Wild Divine band (which includes her guitarist father and bass-playing husband Tom Bevitori, who co-wrote some of the material here) a shimmering, expansive sound. Fans of everyone from Gillian Welch to Bright Eyes will find much to admire about this artist on the rise. ★★★☆☆

LO-FI ROCK

Bill Callahan Apocalypse (Drag City)

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“My girl and I rushed atop the altar,” sings Bill Callahan in the song “Baby’s Breath.” “The sacrifice was made./It was not easy undertaking./The root’s grip sucked like a living grave.” The Smog frontman’s fractured lyrics detailing deeply personal desolation are all that hearken back to his since-reformed enigmatic, obscurantist tendencies, back when his experimental tunings on half-broken pawnshop guitars once threatened to seal his fate as a grunge-era Jandek. Sure, on this, his 15th album, deranged sounds still emanate from higher quality amplifiers—for instance, the distorted throb-stomp of “America!,” a song that pays homage to Beat poet Allen Ginsberg’s own similarly titled poem. But there’s more polish and spit and sweat applied to the arrangements this time, while Callahan’s deadpan, droll delivery now resembles Lee Hazlewood’s cowboy psychedelia-style tone. Indeed, the album’s title may suggest a miserable undertaking, but this collection of seven very long (yet alluring) songs is anything but. Apocalypse sounds more like a New Big Bang. ★★★☆☆

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Irony Withstanding

Music

Irony Withstanding

By Jason Harris

Sometimes the music is not the story at a concert. On March 24, at Beauty Bar this was the case. The audience was large and packed in tight along the indoor stage, eagerly anticipating Thee Oh Sees, a San Francisco-based band, fresh off a successful stop at South By Southwest. The crowd dug these noise-rockers, but I did not. There were no levels; every song was like the last one. But perhaps I was soured by the horrific sight I saw. Here are three words I hoped I’d never have to put together: hipster mosh pit.

DTLV

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