By Bryan Menegus, Staff Writer
James Apolo: "‘Til Your Feet Bleed"
While James Apollo's music manages to capture the slumberous atmosphere of a closing bar much as Nick Cave and Tom Waits did before him, Apollo misses the vocal mark. With singer/songwriters, one assumes that, at worst, the voice and lyrics will take the wheel and carry otherwise bland, skeletal music. But Apollo's crooning, which is decidedly similar to Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas, tends to get either buried or forgotten. To compound matters, there's very little variety in the tone of the record: "‘Til Your Feet Bleed" slogs through at an inebriated 80bpm, neither attempting nor succeeding in demanding your attention.
RIYL: Nick Drake, Smog
Helmet: "Seeing Eye Dog"
After a four-year hiatus, Helmet is back with their seventh studio album, "Seeing Eye Dog." Thankfully, Page Hamilton's larynx has softened over the years, and this record isn't marred by the odd barks and grunts that dotted earlier releases. Helmet still cranks out tough riffs, especially on the eponymous title track; though the b-side of the record sees them wading interesting waters. While still recognizable as none other than Helmet, they let their songs breathe more, shying away from their trademark militaristic staccato. While not exactly a return to form, old fans will be able to jump right into this record.
RIYL: Deftones, Melvins, Quicksand
No Age: "Everything in Between"
No Age have some hope. Buzz was abound for their previous record, "Nouns," an uneven and immature collage of genres pasted together with feedback, but they seem to have weathered the storm well enough to produce their latest LP, "Everything In Between." While the burnout haze of feedback hasn't changed, it's used more effective here, each instrument bleeding into a wall of shoegazer fuzz to match monotone vocals. They've also learned how to better match loud against quiet and harsh against soft, as the mechanical pounding of "Life Prowler" will attest. College hipsters, this is your hangover record.
RIYL: Jay Reatard, Wavves, My Bloody Valentine
Arcade Fire: "The Suburbs"
Why indie darlings The Arcade Fire are being showered with praise for their newest release, "The Suburbs," is incomprehensible. The formula is pretty simple: take a basic rock song structure, beat any lingering menace from its carcass, then fatten it up again with reverb and countless auxiliary instruments which usually serve no harmonic purpose. "The Suburbs" is a dull, bloated and unremarkable concept record, slathered across eighteen tracks and over an hour of music. While much of this record is about, and addressed to, "the kids," its pretty clear The Arcade Fire hasn't a clue about what those kids actually want to hear.
RIYL: Broken Social Scene, The Walkmen, Disappointment