two sentence reviews of new albums i listened to in july

pink flag @ cat’s cradle, originally uploaded by minervacat.

If I’d saved Gold Motel for this month, I could have made this the all-new-albums-by-people-who-used-to-record-on-Fueled-By-Ramen-now-playing-with-other-bands edition. And Steel Train toured with the Hush Sound once. Alas! Instead it’s just albums I listened to in July:

The Young Veins — Take A Vacation!: do you ever feel guilty about not liking an album as much as you should? I loved, without doubt or reservation, Panic at the Disco’s 2008 album Pretty. Odd., and so I feel a super-vague residual fondness toward the members of that band, two of whom are now fronting the Young Veins; unfortunately for Ryan Ross and Jon Walker, Take A Vacation! never grabbed me the way I wanted it to, because this is both boring and not very good. I guess it’s enjoyable summer-sounding Beatles-influenced indie pop, but I’d rather listen to the Beach Boys; they did it first and they do it way, way better.

Travie McCoy — Lazarus: the first solo offering from the frontman of Gym Class Heroes; now this is a strong effort, indie-rock tinged funk with hip hop vocals laid over it — whoever (or whatever, I guess, it could be computers) is backing him sounds fantastic, and Travie is a great rapper no matter what. It’s not deep but it’s happy, eminently danceable, and a really solid summer album for driving with the windows down; if “Billionaire” isn’t a hit, the world is stupid.

Steel Train — self-titled: don’t get me wrong, New Jersey’s Steel Train plays rock and roll for sure, but there’s something in the synthesizers and wurlitzers and shiny guitar lines that makes this album more than just another indie rock album, the same way 2007’s Trampoline was more than that. Between the shimmering sound, Jack Antonoff’s vocals and Jon Shiffman’s drumming, Steel Train’s music sounds space-y, not in the drifty shoegaze way the word sometimes engenders, but rather in that way where the album sounds like it’s almost always about to take off for the moon. Um, I think this review may have gotten away from me. Regardless: it’s good, and they’re great live.

Ruby James — Happy Now: wow, this album was not at all what I expected; James has a smooth and smoky voice, and I probably would have loved the shit out of it in high school. Sonically it’s more complex at second listen than at first, thickly layered keyboards and muted horns, and if you love Norah Jones, you should pick this up because I’m pretty sure you’ll love this, too.

Computer vs. Banjo — Riverboat Swing: the fusion of jangly, buzzing electronica and well-harmonized Americana, this is absolutely mesmerizing in a way that falls in the middle of its two genres; part of me wants to get up and groove like I’m at a club, part of me wants to drive with the windows down, snapping to the hand claps and singing along. Where you expect a bass or drums to kick in during something more traditionally folky or rootsy, instead you get shimmering synthesizers and manufactured beats.

The Constellations — Southern Gothic: a re-release of this Atlanta supergroup’s 2008 album, it’s actually a fantastic companion to Computer vs. Banjo; the melding of Atlanta hip hop, electronica, and indie rock is dark and atmospheric, catchy and neatly voiced by frontman and head Constellation Elijah Jones, who has the perfect shivery voice for the creeping, creepy sound of the band. A keeper for sure.

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