Every week, I’ll share an album or two I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below.
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This week, we feature two albums that are completely different from each other in almost every conceivable way, with the exception being that they’re both pretty good. Nataly Dawn is a girl every guy has already fallen in love with without even knowing her name. Her new record is called “How I Knew Her.”On the flip side, we have an album called “Honeys”from an Allentown, Pa., band called Pissed Jeans. It sounds exactly the way you would expect it to.
In brief: Nataly Dawn is an American songwriter and one half of the duo Pomplamoose with her partner, Jack Conte. The duo is known for their success on YouTube and MySpace and for being featured in car commercials for Toyota and Hyundai. This album was funded via a Kickstarter campaign. Dawn needed $20,000 but received almost $105,000 from pledgers.
What the critics think: You wouldn’t expect music critics to like Nataly Dawn-primarily because of the seeming overcommercialization of her early work with Pomplamoose. However, many of the reviews are positive. All Music Guide compares Dawn’s music to that of female powerhouses like Regina Spektor, Leslie Feist and Joni Mitchell. They say the album is held together with her “gift for gab, unique phrasing and sophisticated musicality.” UK’s Independent gives the album 4 stars and says, “For the most part it works well, provided you can live with Dawn’s butter-wouldn’t-melt ingénuephrasing and tone.” The Boston Globe says Dawn’s voice is “girlishly mature, if that’s possible: wide-eyed with a cute affect and an implicit understanding that maybe both of those are untenable in the long run.” Music OMH gives the album 3.5 stars, saying the new record “is a collection of fairly straightforward folk-tinged pop tunes.” However, they also say the album “has eccentricities and curve balls that some will find difficult to love. Arguably, this is an LP that badly needs those qualities, as they provide a much-needed injection of character and personality to songs that come across as filler and possibly enough to make you reach for the skip button.” Q Magazine had the most biting commentary of the release, saying, “Despite the skill, it’s delivered like a well-to-do busker rather than with the requisite polish.”
What I think: I’m a complete sucker for female folk singers. To be honest, I didn’t make the Pomplamoose connection until after I’d heard the album. Initially, the phrasing reminded me less of Regina Spektor and Leslie Feist (as mentioned above) and more like Devon Sproule. Coincidentally, Sproule is also creating an album backed by Kickstarter donors. Back to “How I Knew Her”: This is the exact type of music that most people love to hate but also can’t help enjoying when they hear it in a coffee shop. Think Corinne Bailey Rae. But with Dawn’s record, there’s a little more depth to the songs than can be dismissed. The opening track is “Araceli,”which features an addictive folk beat and clever phrasing. “Leslie,”the second track, features much of the same phrasing … we’ll call it “pomplamoosing.”“Back to the Barracks”is almost like a sea shanty. The album falls off for me about halfway through. Unfortunately, what makes her music so digestible is that we’re so used to hearing it in 30-second increments-or one song at a time. An entire album of this stuff can get tiring. Kudos are in order for Dawn’s ability to find a marketable audience and for being the object of many men’s affections.
In brief: Pissed Jeans is a Pennsylvania-based hardcore band. “Honeys” is their third album and second for Sub Pop, their label since 2009. The album clocks in at 37 minutes and is loud, in-your-face obnoxious-exactly the kind of music some of us need in our lives.
What the critics think: We have generally favorable reviews from critics for the new album. Consequence of Sound points out that the Sub Pop label is fairly reliable when tapping into the trends of music. They brought Nirvana to the world, for example, and more recently, Fleet Foxes and Beach House. They know what they’re doing. Pitchfork says, “The cartoonish brutality of the music is fun as hell and doesn’t come off as hectoring.” Spin says with a name like Pissed Jeans, “You know what galloping murk lays ahead.” They also say, “The riffs surge and explode without ever devolving into free-noise abstraction … Against all odds, this is a lyrics record, deliberate where you expect it to be insane (or inane), a smart listen in the tradition of Largely Incomprehensible Lyrics That Nonetheless Sound as If They Had Actual Time and Multiple Drafts Put Into Them.” Drowned in Sound says, “‘Honeys’ is a savvy, all-inclusive slab of disenchanted rage that doesn’t hold back at any juncture.” BBC Music says, “This is the stuff of vicious hangovers, unkempt hair being head-banged back and forth furiously, and eyebrow-raising debacles on public transport.” The only questionable review I could find was from UK’S The Fly,saying, “Too often inaudible, the band’s uncathartic noise can still test patience as well as nerves.” But isn’t that the point?
What I think: My girlfriend said, “What the hell is this?” when I cranked up “Honeys” on my Nissan Versa’s factory audio system. “Pissed Jeans,” I said defiantly. (Note to reader: She much preferred Nataly Dawn’s album.) It’s hard to be objective with a band like Pissed Jeans because they don’t really care what you think. The new album is a quick, often hilarious, romp of a good time with people who don’t give a damn. They are pissing in their own jeans, for God’s sake. The opening track is “Bathroom Laughter,”the video of which helps you understand what Pissed Jeans is all about. In it, we watch an infomercial go terribly wrong. The lyrics are as follows: “You’re in the kitchen crying. Don’t make me say I told you so. You’re in the kitchen crying. Trust me now, I’ve seen ’em all … People try to get by, but you’re screaming aaaahhhh, aaaaahhhh.” How fun is that? “Romanticize Me”is another stand-out track, as is the growling “You’re Different (in Person).”There’s not much else that I can say about Pissed Jeans. It’s something you’ll have to experience on your own. I will say that you shouldn’t take it as seriously as it sounds. It’s about having fun … and maybe a little destruction along the way.
You can contact Sean Phipps via email and Twitter with comments and questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.