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Reviews- Anathallo, Parts & Labor, Electric Owls

December 11th, 2008

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» Anathallo, “Canopy Glow”

Chicago-based rock ensemble Anathallo still hasn’t figured out how to translate the passion and energy of their live performances to their albums. “Canopy Glow,” their second full-length, is still a solid effort. They’ve stripped away the okatu-posing that made “Floating World” a bit too pretentious and precocious, even for a band known for sweeping soundscapes of strings, handclaps and other assorted marching band instruments. “Canopy Glow” has its moments—the climax of “The River,” the xylo-phone intro on (the aptly titled) “Bells” and especially the harmonies between vocalists Matt Joynt and Erica Froman. “Canopy Glow” is a step in the right direction, but with a band like Anathallo, sometimes the journey is just as interesting as the destination.

» Parts & Labor, “Receivers”

Beneath the distortion, feedback and squall, there’s an excellent pop album trying to get out. Remember when Ben Lee stripped Against Me!’s politically charged punk epic “New Wave” down to acoustic pop? “Receivers” begs for similar treatment for those with short attention spans, unwilling to wade through the dense layers of sound (including fan-submitted samples). First single “Nowheres Nigh” is the only instantly accessible track, recalling R.E.M. lead singer Michael Stipe’s best work. But, if you’re willing to give it a few spins, “Receivers” pays off as a surprisingly fun noise rock album—eight epic tracks, multiple movements, tons of sound and, yes, songs.

» Electric Owls, “Magic Show EP”

Pencil in the Electric Owls’ full length as a “must hear” in 2009, based on the strength of this excellent, if uneven, EP. Title track “Magic Show” plays like a pop-punk update of Peter Gabriel’s classic “Solsbury Hill.” That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a breath of fresh air as an influence and it’s the best track on the EP. The others are good but betray no hint of Gabriel—or any distortion. “Cannibal Superstar” may as well be written by The New Amsterdams; “Darken Me” sounds like it was cut from the “Napoleon Dynamite” soundtrack. It’s a wonderful tease, sure, but hopefully these songs will make more sense in the context of a full album.

 

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