“All Good Dreamers Pass This Way”
Sounds like: An emaciated interpretation of Sufjan Stevens and The Shins.
The L.A.-based quintet Bedroom Walls would like listeners to believe they’ve inadvertently created music so original it could only be defined by a pretentiously invented genre label: romanticore.
Bedroom Wall’s sophomore effort, “All Good Dreamers Pass This Way,” sounds more like finely constructed but sometimes lackadaisical baroque pop than any sort of revelatory listening experience.
Lead singer/songwriter Adam Goldman manages to evoke both the youthful whisper of Sufjan Stevens and the curious bark of The Shins’ James Mercer, though he lacks the sincerity of both. Behind his voice, a soft electric guitar strums, a drum kit beats persistently and brass and strings surge for the chorus.
Only when Goldman experiments with atypical song structures and minimizes his lyrical outbursts does Bedroom Walls sound like a compelling indie-rock band. “Somewhere in Newhall,” for instance, develops through burgeoning violins, which are later augmented by a punching bass drum and Goldman’s exclamation.
Goldman’s voice breaks through the instrumentals, announcing a recollection. The building violins preceding it serve to communicate, better than any other instrument on the disc, the breathless process of remembering and the sweet sensation of nostalgia.
“The Captain & The Kid”
Sounds like: Bad Elton John.
Giving Elton a “D” is hard because, admittedly, Elton John is hard not to like. It could just be the kitsch factor of undeniably addictive poppy songs sung like a middle-aged woman bellowing out gospel music. But somewhere, the poppy songs stop being addictive and are just hideously poppy.
After one or two tracks on “The Captain & The Kid,” it’s hard to pay attention. Maybe Elton’s going to play the piano and sing, or there might be a country-style guitar twang or two, or maybe a bunch of lyrics about learning or wisdom. The chorus will also be repeated throughout.
This album is celebrating Elton’s longtime collaboration with songwriter Bernie Taupin and is supposedly about their arrival in Los Angeles 30 years ago. Nonetheless, it’s pretty much all non-assertive Elton banality. This is no powerful reemergence, no glorious harkening back, just another one for the over-the-hill fans to collect.
Sounds Like: Dreamlike Alt Rock.
With the break up of At The Drive-In in 2001, guitarist/vocalist Jim Ward and drummer Tony Hajjar formed Sparta, along with bassist Paul Hinojos. Five years later, with a brand new line up of players, Sparta has released their third full-length album, “Threes.”
Released on Hollywood Records, this is Sparta’s first LP with a major label. And the results of the big franchise release are apparent. Over-produced tracks, many of which sound the same, plague this album. The songs may be unique and emotional, but their production sounds like many famous alt-rock albums of the past. Airy guitar tracks, generic bass lines and tight drum rhythms all scream mainstream alternative rock. While the influence of At The Drive-In is apparent, tracks like “Erase it Again” and “Weather the Storm” kill any chance of escape from the alt-rock landscape.
Even though the artists are immensely talented, “Threes” ultimately boils down to a generic album with nothing fresh to offer the listener.
Sounds like: A more musically adventurous Ani with more watered-down lyrics.
The latest release from D.I.Y. folkie Ani DiFranco, “Reprieve,” has all the elements of a DiFranco record. There are the spoken word tracks, the quiet finger picking, the personal-is-political lyrical sensibility and the always bone-chilling vocal capability. But most of these elements seem to be watered down, or at least not as dynamic as her previous releases.
The album displays Ani as growing up, compared to the anger and passion of her earlier records. Her voice is quieter, her words are less combative and her acoustic guitar less driving. Less political and more personal, “Reprieve” is a dramatic step away from cult status.
The spoken word title track, buoyed by acoustic bass and subtle guitar plucking, is a sad comparison to DiFranco’s epic 10-minute poem, “Self Evident.” The politics sound forced and the poem lacks the flow of her earlier works.
“Reprieve” has powerful tracks, like the building “Unrequited” and the instrumentally-adventurous “78% H20.” But on the large, both the initiated and diehard Ani fans would be better served by her other record this year, “Live at Carnegie Hall.”