August 21, 2006

Free Range Music: Broadcast, Ratatat, What Made Milwaukee Famous

Ratatat -- Classics>> We don't typically accentuate the negative in Free Range Music, but we were surprised by how we didn't take to Ratatat at all. We've missed the boat on the five-year-old, New York-based duo heretofore, but its sophomore set Classics is one of quite a few interesting releases in AOL Music's pre-release album stream corral this week, so we gave them a listen. With a few exceptions (the album highlight "Kennedy," "Tacobel Canon," the curiously Beatles-ish "Tropicana"), the record struggles to make a distinct first impression. Rhythmically and texturally there doesn't seem to be a lot of depth to the music. And there are just enough rock elements (guitars, piano) to make you wonder where the vocals are. On the upside Ratatat solidly emphasizes melody, which is typically a pleasing approach in our opinion. Even so, Classics sounds more like B-sides to us. Maybe it is a headphones record? We'll have to give it another shot with the cans on to be sure.

AOL's other streams include new sets from Broadcast, Jennifer O'Connor and What Made Milwaukee Famous. With regards to that latter band, we listened to Trying To Never Catch Up this afternoon and are now believers. We had been reading nice things about them for a while, and the band really delivers. Trying To Never Catch Up is a full plate of nice straight indie rock with some synths that sounds perfectly at home on the Barsuk roster. And finally: before we heard Jennifer O'Connor we thought she was going to be a little too country or folksy for us, but we were wrong. If you're thinking something in the neighborhood of Kathleen Edwards, you are in the right ball park. Definitely hit the stream.

Broadcast -- The Future Crayon (B-Sides And Rarities) -- Warp
Jennifer O'Connor -- Over The Mountain, Across The Valley, And Back To The Stars -- Merge
Ratatat -- Classics -- XL
What Made Milwaukee Famous -- Trying To Never Catch Up -- Barsuk

>> Are you hip to Spencer Dickinson? It's a new project with Jon Spencer in it, and the song you can stream here rocks pretty hard.

>> One last thing. Next week EMI will issue a special 40th Anniversary expanded edition of the Beach Boys magum opus Pet Sounds. To promote the record there will be a series of podcasts posted here. Most of the podcasts will deal with specific songs, but the first installment, which goes online tomorrow, is more of an overview.

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