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February 19, 2002 - Image 8

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-02-19

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8 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, February 19, 2002

By Matthew C. Borushko
Daily Arts Writer
There's an oddly special place in my
musical heart for the glockenspiel. In no
way do I claim that the glockenspiel -
the percussion instrument with a series
of metal bars tuned to the chromatic
scale and played with two light ham-
mers - is underused in today's pop and
folk music. Rather, the properly used
glock is a tasteful addition to the mix of
any singer-songwriter in search of a
moody, melancholic sound such as Neil
Halstead on his first solo effort, Sleep-
ing On Roads.
Halstead, frontman of the British
band Mojave 3, plays the glock himself
on the new album. In addition to the
glock, Halstead also enlists an eclectic
variety of instrumentation to comple-
ment his acoustic guitar and throaty
vocals. The production is deft and surei
throughout Sleeping On Roads, and
Halstead is able to locate a necessarily
delicate balance between the trumpet,
banjo, wah-dobro, cello, hammond,
piano and computer.
The nine-song album clocks in at1
By Luke Smith
Daily Arts Editor

almost 50 minutes, meaning that the
tracks average over five minutes each.
Most songs take root in Halstead's soft,
finger-style guitar and halcyon vocals.
And the plethora of instrumentation,
instead of sounding like pretentious
ornamentation, melds effortlessly into
Halstead's melodies that strike me as,
well, right on.
If anything, one might accuse Hal-
stead's songs of sounding a bit too simi-
lar. Maybe. But I've always been of the
mind that, if the same is good, then
more of the same is even better. For that
matter, though, it is difficult to single
out any track as a winner because the
album, as a whole, is a winner: A fine
attempt at quasi-folk that steers clear of
cliche and the hackneyed.
"See You On Rooftops" is the album's
most rocking number - though "rock-
ing" is a relative term. Halstead makes
fine use of the caesura to quell the
song's emotion just as it reaches a
zenith. It then floats away on a majestic
coda that reaches past the six-minute
mark. Halstead seems to use an inter-
com to sing "Martha's Mantra (For The
Pain)." It sounds like an elegy: Simply
Halstead's guitar and the haunting
refrain of the song's subtitle woven
through the lyrics that explore the
biggest of subjects - God and sex. The

album's title track is a tasteful confec-
tion of banjo, dobro and hammond. But
everything remains subdued, including
Halstead's try at a country twang - the
only piece of Americana on this thor-
oughly British-sounding album.
Clearly focused on the "sound" of the
album, Halstead ventures away from
traditional song structures to evoke an
atmosphere and ambience that is truly
original. It's almost scary how good
these compositions might sound without
any lyrics. Halstead's strength, however,
is his pen - he writes intelligent lyrics
that stunningly intimate a fragile and
lovelorn soul. It's no wonder that he gets
Nick Drake comparisons.
RATING:** **'


A successful side project is a conundrum in and of
itself. Matt Sharp left Weezer to push out a pair of
Rentals records. Subsequently Sharp was sucked into
pop's Bermuda Triangle and vanished from the face of
the earth taking his moog-flavored synth-project with
him. The creative urge must be causation for musical
side-projects. Artistic need to create pulls musicians
away from groups where they are not be the central song-
writer (i.e. the Weezer/Sharp paradigm) driving them to
their own, often fruitless pursuits.
Even worse than starting a side-project though, is a
musician starting a side project while staying in his main
band. Venturing from a band completely, as Matt Sharp
did, is somewhat respectable. It says Sharp had some
confidence in what he would create with the Rentals.
However, when an artist doesn't leave his central band
of operation and starts a side-project it's an admission of
said project's mediocrity. Surely, if the side project was
going to be worth listening to, the artist would leave the
band that had, in all likelihood, brought about their suc-

cess and ability to have
a side-project in the
first place. Frankly,
without a previous
recording contract,
and/or name notoriety,
a side project is simply
a person or group of
people recording into ar!
four-track for no real
reason other than to a
have something to give
their respective better halves for an anniversary.
With Para Toda Vida, Matthew Pryor has the perfect
unthought-out gift to give to his better half. The album
(the second from The Get Up Kids; co-frontman and
songwriter) rehashes sonic themes of sadcore visited on
The New Amsterdams' debut Never You Mind. Fans of
The Get Up Kids less-propulsive tunes ("Action and
Action") will appreciate much of the thin acoustic droll
that permeates throughout the record. Instead of poten-
tially propelling acoustic-pop, the New Amsterdams driz-
zle too-slow tunes dragging in front of a band that sounds
completely empty. Fortunately for Pryor, he still has The
Get Up Kids to fall back on.


....< :.:..:..:.::.:..:.::...


By Jeremy Kressmann
Daily Arts Writer
Vikter Duplaix wants you to
believe he's a cool dude. Swathed
in a giant white fur coat, oversized
Bono-esque sunglasses, 5 p.m
shadow, and a multi-colored ban-
dana, Duplaix oozes a certain not-
so-subtle persona that seems
out-of-place with his music. As the
newest member of K7's epic DJ
Kicks series, Duplaix is looking to
establish his niche in the jazz-
house/downtempo electronica
scene. Unfortunately for him, the
chill-out music scene has become
one of the biggest areas of growth
over the past few years. With this
glut of new releases, it's tough to
be an up-and coming "jazz-house"
DJ these days. Yet Duplaix's DJ
style is as eclectic as his white fur
coat and quirky bandana, touching

on a variety of bases over the
course of his 73-minute release.
Vikter Duplaix's style is reminis-
cent of gorging yourself at a buffet.
You want to try a lot of food but
know you'd have to loosen your
belt a few notches to fit everything
in. Vikter's track selection is a lot
like that - unappetizing at times,
delicious at others. Spanning
everything from R&B, hip-hop, and
vocal house over the course of 20
tracks takes not only confidence,
but also a solid knowledge of the
different styles of music to make

them fit together. Nevertheless,
Duplaix's style is not so much
aimed at the seamless blend of each
track into one giant composition.
Instead, the album has different
sections that are stylistically dis-
tinct. A particular high point is near
the end, when Duplaix's hip-hop
sensibilities are on display with
tracks like De La Soul's "Copa
(Cabanga)" and Bahamadia's
"Philadelphia," a good chill out
Philly-soul-hop groove.
This latest DJ Kicks installment
carries the torch of quality DJ
Kicks predecessors. The series is
like a trusted brand name, that one
product you go back to buy again
and again - but something that
can get stale after awhile. Vikter
Duplaix is adding his name to .that
reputation - but does it live up to
the DJ Kicks standard? Aside from
the shameless self-promotion sam-
ples every few tracks, the mix is
technically thorough and full of
Duplaix's musical sensibilities.
RATING: * * *

By Scott Serilla
Daily Arts Writer
Times have been rough for The Promise Ring.
The emo stalwarts have lagged commercially behind their
increasingly successful peers, The Get-Up Kids, Saves The Day
and Jimmy Eat World, falling short of the crossover triumph that
seemed within their reach with the release of 1999's Very Emer-
gency. There has been no heavy rotation on MTV2 and no arena
tour with Weezer. While younger bands were getting attention
for milking his band's formula of melodic, confessional punk
with a poppy, suburban twist, frontman Davey Von Bohlen
found himself in the hospital with one hell of a headache.
Diagnosed with a fist-sized benign brain tumor, the
singer/guitarist and his band were forced to cancel a string of
dates through the US and Europe. Everything became tentative
and fans worried it might all be over.
But Von Bohlen is on the mend and Calling Albany, his new
record with acoustic side project Vermont, proves that the prog-
nosis is very good. Along with Promise Ring drummer Dan
Didler and guitarist Chris Rosenau, of fellow Milwaukee indie-
rockers, Pel, Albany finds Von Bolhen easing back into music,
putting off the usual roar of TPR for a quieter sound less likely
pain to his still tender head.
The record picks up pretty much where the trio left off with
their last outing, Living Together. Both albums are stripped-
down, melancholy affairs with simple but usually beautiful
melodies complementary to Von Bohlen's introspective lyrics
and sweetly straining tenor. Like Bob Mould or Paul Wester-
berg, Von Bohlen and company's songs sound just as satisfying
or better when you temper the blast and let the hidden melody
take over.
While still pretty loose, Albany's tunes are a bit more crafted,
a bit fuller than Vermont's first time around. The change is sub-
tle, though: A country-twang here, a little more guitar interplay
or percussion there. It's not a departure from Living Together by
any means, but maybe it is a refinement.
Von Bolhen's brush with death is also on the record, but only
peripherally. Questions about morality, heaven and hell hang
about the edges of the record. It is a sad little album about lone-
liness and longing, "but I never got much relieve from sharing

my grief," as Von Bolhen sings. But the bittersweetness lightens
up now and then for some earnest hope or deadpan humor.
That humor usually comes from referencing the adolescent
world these 20-something youths or parents' record collections.
Standouts "Ballad Of Larry Bird" and "Arrest Harrison Ford!"
remind us of whom every little boy in the '80s idolized, while
"Hello-Goodbye Sex" quotes the chorus from "Long and Wind-
ing Road" and "Commodores 64" has less to do with the piece-
o-crap computer from your elementary school than it does with
Lionel Richie and "Three Times a Lady." Perhaps that's what
Vermont is about - three guys getting back to a world that
existed for them before they found Minor Threat and Husker Du
and formed bands to complain about girls and teenage angst.
But for fans, the real test will come April 23 when the
Promise Ring drop their fourth album, Woodwater - the band's
first since leaving long time label Jade Tree. With British Pro-
ducer Stephen Street (Blur and the Smiths) helping out, many
are speculating that Von Bohlen and the boys are going to con-
tinue the trends of Vermont by moving further away from
emo and onto more loose, atmospheric rock. We'll have to
wait a few months to find out. Until then, enjoy this mellow
little record.
RATING:* **7i

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