[Photo by Josh Wildman]
By Aaron Richter
As we all know by now, new releases hit record-store shelves and digital-download services each Tuesday. That’s why self-titled presents the following every week: a new release you’d be stupid not to own (Buy It), one worth checking out if you’re the curious type (Burn It) and something you might have heard about but probably should avoid (Skip It). Simple, ain’t it?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs: It’s Blitz (Interscope)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are dead. Long live the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Though without the messy skronk and swarming limbs, what have you? we ask, kneeling to be consumed by Karen O’s unhinged gusto, Nick Zinner’s bolted charge and Brian Chase’s primitive rumble yet greeted, instead, by a kind-faced cherub offering cupcakes, hand-knitted scarves and ten terrific pop songs. If the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ self-titled debut EP was a sour beer-belch in the face the industry that would eventually gobble it up, It’s Blitz is a posh hiccup, bashful yet attention-starved and unequivocally appropriate. “Art Star” this is not, and neither is it the spent awkwardness of Show Your Bones. Perfectly comfortable in its New Wave skin, It’s Blitz adheres to “Maps,” an adorable blueprint for bittersweet sexiness. Lyrically underwritten in simple declarative statements, the record serves Karen spotlight center in a shimmering throne, her voice aching and openly intimate, tracked to sound like she’s singing only a few feet away. Take it in full. Let passed souls lie. And embrace change. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have struck their mark.[audio:http://www.self-titledmag.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/02-heads-will-roll.mp3]
“Heads Will Roll”
Cursive: Mama, I’m Swollen (Saddle Creek)
Rarely, if ever, has Cursive frontman Tim Kasher been accused of making “pretty” music. Bleeding-heart lyrics? Yeah. Themes of Catholic guilt? You bet. All around emo as fuck? Definitely. But pretty? Never. Even Gretta Cohn’s cello on 2003’s impeccable The Ugly Organ gave the Omaha group a morose anchor for its heartbroken, love-gnashing guitars. It was beautiful. But it wasn’t really pretty. Mama, I’m Swollen is pretty, from start to finish. Kasher, still forlorn as a lyricist, indulges an upbeat musical itch, letting a never-before-heard aesthetic cheerfulness envelope his biting tales of human depth and critical wit. The touch of tenderness suits Kasher, far enough removed from the emotional nastiness of 2000’s Domestica and singing more like Robert Smith than his old demented yelp. But maybe it’s best to let Kasher explain the record in his own words.[audio:http://www.saddle-creek.com/sounds/Cursive_FromTheHips.mp3]
Casiotone for the Painfully Alone: Advance Base Battery Life (Tomlab)
If you’re practicing Great Recessionary spending like the rest of the world and can only afford one album by Casiotone for the Painfully Alone this year, hold on to your mattress cash, jar of pennies and sperm-bank savings. Owen Ashworth’s odd-‘n’-sods singles compilation Advance Base Battery Life pales in comparison to his gorgeous fifth proper full-length, Vs. Children, coming in April. Enough of the comp is lovely–”Holly Hobby” with its Stephin Merritt fetish, “Old Panda Days” with its crumply ear-tripping and “Lesley Gore on the T.A.M.I. Show (version)” with its take on lo-fi Postal Service pop. But a string of silly, forgettable covers, including Missy Elliott’s “Hot Boyz,” Bruce Springsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia” and Paul Simon’s “Graceland,” drag the collection into the doldrums of misfired quirkiness.