By Bryan Menegus, Columnist
The Beach Boys- The SMiLE sessions
SMiLE began in the early 60's as the Beach Boys' most ambitious and obtuse project to date—until it was terminated due to spiraling morale within the band, and Brian Wilson's now-famous descent into paranoia and crippling depression. This box set is as close as anyone will come to hearing Wilson's original intentions. Like the record's conception, this release is nothing short of sprawling: a massive 5-cd set with full songs, excerpts, and a track-by-track analysis of certain song. For less dedicated fans, the first disc will suffice. SMiLE rich with both the layered beauty and clandestine insanity of Wilson's compositions, and possesses (due to it's debt to so many styles of music) a timelessness which makes it fresh in comparison to today's pop music, but also ancient-sounding when juxtaposed with other projects from its era. This is a truly stellar achievement.
RIYL: gorgeous nervous breakdowns
Owen- Ghost Town
Mike Kinsella, formerly of Owls, Cap'n Jazz, American Football, and Joan of Arc, has been releasing solo material under the banner of Owen for over a decade now. It's all very pretty—watery arpeggios, plaintive vocals, and layered recordings with incidental drums—but almost all of his material sounds like, well, all the rest of his material. Ghost Town falls prey to this same monotony, with ‘No Place Like Home' being the only track to show a bit of uniqueness. Newcomers would do well to pick up At Home With… or New Leaves, and gloss over this rather bland release.
RIYL: other Owen records, Red House Painters
Four Year Strong- In Some Way, Shape, or Form
There was never a time when Four Year Strong weren't kind of lame. However, on previous records Rise or Die Trying and Enemy of the World, there was so much exuberance (and a surprising amount of talent) that even for serious cynics, their stylings were difficult to hate. On their latest record, something in the formula has been altered, and the results are nothing short of radio buttrock. Avoid at all costs