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Tsar - Songs From the Upcoming Album Band-Girls-Money

With their sophomore effort still unreleased after several years in the making, Tsar has been kind enough to give its fans a taste of what's to come on Band-Girls-Money once it comes out. This promo CD features four of the songs that they've been featuring in their live shows over the last few years. Tsar's slightly harder edge than was shown on their debut album is apparent from the get go with the opening track Band-Girls-Money, a screaming tale about the president. Wanna Get Dead, a live favorite, is amazingly catchy with hooks aplenty throughout the song. Wrong is simply Tsar at their best, showcasing both their power and their finesse in a display of songwriting genius that needs to be shared with the masses. Straight, the closing track, was reviewed when it was released on 7" but it hasn't lost any of its appeal over numerous listenings. Get ahold of this CD if you can while you wait for the album to come out.

Belle and Sebastian - I'm A Cuckoo CD (Rough Trade)

The fun and poppy a-side of this single is from the Scottish band's Dear Catastrophe Waitress album. It's a great song featuring Stuart Murdoch's more outgoing vocal style. The fist b-side, Stop Look And Listen, sounds like a Simon and Garfunkel song played at the wrong speed. It's a lyrically rich folk song played at almost breakneck speed and while not too different from their normal sound, it once again highlights the band's willingness to explore new musical territory on their b-sides. Next comes another version of I'm A Cuckoo. This one is a remix by the Avalanches. It's not as good as the original version as far as I'm concerned but at least they made it their own with it's radically different sound. The last song on the CD, (I Believe In) Travellin' Light, is a very pretty, if not exceptional, smooth and mellow folky song. (Belle and Sebastian at Coachella on May 2, 2004).

Tsar - Straight 7" (Birdman)

The first ever 7" from LA's Tsar and it rocks hard. This record really captures the energy of Tsar's amazing live shows better than their first album did. The A-side is the anthemic Straight featuring Daniel Kern's fantastic guitar work and enough energy to make you hit the ceiling in excitement. The b-side is one of the most hard-rocking Tsar songs to date, The Creature in Disguise. It took a few times seeing them play it live before I really got into this song but now I love it, espcially singer Jeff Whalen's extended screaming part near the end. I don't know what he's saying but I can't wait for that part every time I hear the song.

The Vacation - They Were the Sons EP (Fierce Panda)

A promising debut EP from this foursome. I like each song on the CD better than the next, except for the closing song Liquid Lunch which is not up to par with the others. It starts out with White Noise, a pretty straight ahead rock song with an explosive chorus. The second song, Make Up Your Mind, is much more frenetic and fast paced, sort of reminding me of a Peechees/Pattern song without the snotty vocals. My favorite song by far though is No Hard Feelings, a much more mellow but melodic and boppy song whose chorus has started to get stuck in my head. I am anxious to see them live at their upcoming LA shows (Every Monday in February 2004 at Spaceland).

The Frumpies - Frumpies Forever 7" (Kill Rock Stars)

This four song single is quite a leap forward for The Frumpies, who consist of Bikini Kill and Bratmobile members. The songwriting potential of The Frumpies is much better utilized on this single than on the Frumpie One-Piece CD, which collected all their early songs. That collection did have some great moments, but many of the noisy songs sounded too much alike. That's been remedied here, beginning with the bubbly, infectious first song, Frumpies Forever, where they recall past times in London with girlish glee. A more somber tone is taken on We Don't Wanna Go Home, which laments the current geographical distance between the members. The B-side includes a cover of The Rolling Stones' Tell Me. With this great single, my view of The Frumpies has changed intriguing side project to a darn good band with much potential for the future.

Pedro The Lion - Progress CD (Suicide Squeeze)

I've begun to realize that David Bazan's voice is one of my favorite new voices of the last few years. I came to that conclusion while listening to this EP which contains two new songs and radio sessions of two previously released songs. The two new songs here, titled June 18, 1976 and April 6, 2039, sound no different than most Pedro The Lion songs. Slow, melodic, lyrically rich. All this is good. But Bazan's achingly emotional voice makes every Pedro The Lion song seem like a new and wonderful experience, including these ones here.

Jen Wood - This Uncontainable Light CD (Tree)

Jen Wood's latest effort, this four song EP, is probably her best solo material to date. Shorter, more straightforward songs than on No More Wading and Getting Past The Static make this enjoyable from start to finish. The opener, Ride, really spotlights Wood's voice throughout the quiet early parts and then nicely picks up the pace with a beautiful melody thanks to her backing band of Katrina Thomson and Jayson Tolzdorf. See-through has Wood trying to convince the object of her affection that she's harmless and not a threat to inflict more pain. An entire album of this quality is something to hope for from Wood in the future.

Belle and Sebastian - Legal Man/Judy is a Dick Slap/ Winter Wooskie CD (Matador)

Legal Man has started to grow on me a bit. While not a Belle and Seabastian classic, I do like the middle-eastern tone of the music and the "get out of the office" and enjoy life message. A bit different sounding than anything they've done which does keep it interesting. Judy is a Dick Slap is a ho-hum instrumental so we'll move to the most worthwhile song on the single. A lilting, 60's sounding tale of a boy who supposes that he may be in love, Winter Wooskie ranks up there with the best Belle and Sebastian songs, making this single essential to your Belle and Sebastian collection.

Death Cab For Cutie - Underwater/The Army Corps of Architects 7" (Sub Pop)

Death Cab For Cutie often gets lumped into the emo section of the music world, which I am not a big fan of. However, like Pedro The Lion, Death Cab For Cutie does without the excessive emotion and gyrations of that "genre" and have simply come up with two quiet, melodic, beautiful songs on this release. Throw in the heavy metal artwork and you've got a brilliant 7". This one is only available on Sub Pop's single club so find it if you can.

The No-No's - The Damage Done/I Deserve Someone Nice/ It Ain't Easy 7" (Chromosome)

The No-No's will never be mistaken for being the most profound band of our time, but they are fun. Here they give us a sugary sweet song about a ray of hope in the computer age and (what else?) a sugary sweet song about a friendly stalker. Not to mention their go at It Ain't Easy (of David Bowie fame). Quite a nice single that only gets docked a half a point because the wonderful Heather Dunn doesn't appear to be in the band anymore.

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