New Release Roundup

In which we finally catch up with a few new and soon-to-be-new titles. This round: The Hands, Peasant, Chris Walla, Baby Dee, Darla Farmer, Dengue Fever.

  1. The Hands The Hands (Selector Sound; out 2/19/08)
    Hailing from Seattle, The Hands epitomize what may have been created had Seth Brundle thrown Jet, 1972 Jagger and Grand Funk Railroad into pod #1, waited ten seconds, and opened pod #2. After that comparison, throw aside all references to molecular physics. Make no bones: The Hands are out to rock – loudly – and in this attempt they succeed triumphantly. Lyrically they pose no threat, but who cares when it’s this loud? Note to The Hands: Given all the cheese graters and bloody digits on the album art, consider changing name to The Bloodied Hands – it does have a ring, yes?
  2. PeasantOn The Ground (Paper Garden; out 2/26/08)
    Of the lot on this page, this may be the one to watch. Peasant (aka Damien DeRose) hails from Doylestown, PA – if you haven’t been, you’re missing out. (Maybe. I’ve been. But then maybe you’ve been, too, and you hate Doylestown. There is just no pleasing you, is there.) No new lyrical ground broken (see: mellowed-out Hands lyrics) but a surprisingly solid listen, and one that you CAN (and will) comfortably put on repeat. (It helps that the album’s refreshingly south of 40 minutes.) Think in an Iron & Wine vein; this is Sunday-afternoon-introspective coffee-slurping music, bigtime.
  3. Chris WallaField Manual (Barsuk; released 1/29/08)
    The producer and multi-instrumentalist from Death Cab For Cutie cuts his “official” solo record teeth. Album starts off swimmingly with a serious (and gorgeous) acapella nod to Andy Sturmer’s Jellyfish intro circa 1993. We’re in great shape so far. Second track “The Score” is where things take off, noisily, aggressively (albeit Death-Cabbily-so), power-pop-tastically. Disappointingly, things get considerably dull following this track and stay there for the duration. While Ben Gibbard’s forays with Postal Service [et al] are a pointed departure from that textbook “Death Cab” sound, this album is, unfortunately, Death Cab Lite. A solid record, but one you might not be compelled to throw on repeat (or even finish, frankly) unless you live in the suburbs and loyally throw money to your local NPR station. That said, bonus for the Death Cab crowd: Gibbard’s vocal absence goes largely unnoticed due to the fact that Walla’s voice sounds uncannily similar to Gibbard’s. In summary, cherry-pick on iTunes unless you’re a completist; a few tracks are more than worth the price of admission. They get in your head, and stay there.
  4. Baby DeeSafe Inside The Day (Drag City; released 1/22/08)
    Soothing piano with a vocal delivery that borders on parody. This one has Antony written all over it; he she’s got transgender vox with impressive range and ample vibrato. Mood music for the coffee (and transgender) crowd; the smart bet says this is a live show that delivers. (at the Echo this weekend)
  5. Darla FarmerRewiring The Electric Forest (Paper Garden; out 3/04)
    I really cannot tell what is going on here, but I cannot for the life of me call it a train wreck. Sporadically sensible riffs last all of ten seconds at a time; the end result smacks of an attention-deficit disorder project peppered with gravelly vox, tons of instruments (horns, percussion, violins) and an inordinate number of tempo changes throughout the proceedings in a presumed attempt to channel the Dresden Dolls by way of Oingo Boingo. Cacophony of noises throughout. Fans of dissonant progression with a lack of straight-ahead melody will be right at home here. Be advised: vox are an acquired taste. Let’s call it…gravel-art-house-orchestral? Grating? Frenzied? Call it tons of tritones and then just call it a day. Judge for yourself; you may find something here yet.
  6. Dengue FeverVenus on Earth (M80; released 1/22/08)
    Cambodia-by-way-of-Echo-Park-and-Long-Beach local faves DF (apologies; not that DF) continue a streak of goodness with their follow-up to Escape from Dragon House. Chhom now throws in the occasional English lyric, but we still love that curious Cambodian funk the best. Long beard fans and creepy old former expats with yellow fever take note: They’ll be at the Viper on the 18th. (interview) (photoset)