Morning Kills the Dark
(Pop Up Records)
While the sound of privileged, young Los Angeles might not be exactly the kind of cultural perspective I'd necessarily choose to seek out, the sugar-pop of Biirdie's Morning Kills the Dark was almost enough to let me look past the band's sun-bleached frame of reference. Almost. Sounding something like a stomach-able version of Rilo Kiley (whose Jenny Lewis plays the titular role in Biirdie's "Open Letter to Jenny," one of the record's most successful moments), Morning Kills the Dark is pure indie pop cotton candy--light, edgeless fare that, though relatively hollow, tastes remarkably good going down. So good, in fact, that I was moved to rummage the record's press release from my recycling bin for a clearer picture of whom I was dealing with here--the answer to which was both amusing and a little annoying. Amusing, because the bass player turns out to be actress Kala Savage, of the Savage dynasty (sister to Fred and Ben); a little annoying because of the innumerable refs to the band's social status (the band met while one of its members was house sitting for Daniel Lanois, first jammed over Dylan's Time Out of Mind piano, etc.). And while I know all that shit shouldn't turn me off as much as it does, it's impossible to completely look past--tainting the sugar-pop experience ever so slightly. Still, in a world that so blindly celebrates the most mediocre of Southern California's gloss-drenched sounds, Biirdie certainly stand out. ZAC PENNINGTON
REEKS AND THE WRECKS
Nearly two years after the tragic death of guiding force Orion Satushek, San Francisco's Tumult label has finally released Knife Hits, the full-length album by Reeks and the Wrecks (Orion and friend Angela Leazenby were run down and killed by a drunk driver on Belmont in July of 2003). Members of Reeks and the Wrecks played together for nearly 10 years, and became known for their incredible live shows--complete with weird instrumentation, homemade amps, beat up horns, and electronic buzzes.
The band's sound is an amalgamation of styles blues, rock, punk, funeral march swelling together. At their best, Reeks and the Wrecks are the history of rock and roll blowing out the speakers of an antique radio. On Knife Hits, the sound can be ferocious, rocking out right from the start with "Blue Ballroom," a blues-infused classic rock bass line, with bright, echo-y guitars exploding over it, while an old trombone blasts out like an electronic mosquito. Knife Hits' most appealing attribute is in the fiery energy and sheer joy that each song holds. It's obviously music made by people who love music and consume it in all forms. Knife Hits stands as a beautiful legacy for Reeks and the Wrecks and Satushek alike. M. WILLIAM HELFRICH
From their mind-blitzing 1998 debut EP, Negro, Necro, Nekros, Dälek have exhibited a rare ability to harness finely wrought noise, redwood-heavy beats, and expansive Eastern instrumentation to an underground-hiphop framework. Listening to their powerful oeuvre, you intuit that Dälek are the only hiphoppers who could hold their own with Kraut-rock icons Faust, as they proved on the rugged soundclash Derbe Respect, Alder. Now with their third album, Absence, the New Jersey trio hit another peak. Opener "Distorted Prose" plunges you into the hardest, deepest hiphop extant, as MC Dälek spits unaccompanied bitter verbals before lumbering funk beats and a scrupulously modulated air-raid siren storm in. Never have heady metal and industrial been so well hitched to hiphop's chassis. Throughout Absence, Dälek rails against injustice and laments historical wrongdoing with withering accuracy. His band mates swathe his scathing words in swarming storm clouds of guitar feedback that locates the bittersweet spot between My Bloody Valentine and Glenn Branca. Dälek bring the noise Public Enemy wanted to with a force that would make Flav somber. Absence is KRS-One's edutainment preached from the new school of hard knocks. DAVE SEGAL
MATES OF STATE
(Polyvinyl Record Co.)
As spring slowly makes its way through the frigid air, the winter's dreary soundtrack is growing stale. It's time to switch the channel to something upbeat, something as bright as the midday sunshine. The band that's the clearest epitome of a glowing pop explosion is, of course, Mates of State. Everything about the husband and wife duo is adorable, a fact supported once again by their latest four-song EP All Day.
The album's opening track, "Goods (All in Your Head)" starts with a simple snappy synth riff and plenty of "da da das" leading the way into the brightest sonic blast recorded here, complete with excited "whoa ohs!" and staccato chimes. With all that energy, "Goods" is the best song on the EP--and quite possibly the best Mates of State song written to date. It's followed by two more originals, "Along for the Ride," and "Drop and Anchor," as well as a cover of David Bowie's "Starman." While "Goods" is steady in first place, "Drop and Anchor" is a charming, unassuming piano ballad that will hold onto your heart if only because of the huggable, harmonized lyric "And I could be an anchor/Drop me in the bay and watch me hold you steady." MEGAN SELING