John Weinland, "Your Big Best," from Your Big Best
When John Adam Weinland Shearer sings, "Don't get me wrong/ I still don't care," you almost believe him. But sincere or not, your next post-breakup mix tape will surely feature his angelic voice singing, "If I'm correct, I believe that you're the one who left, in fact," with a sharpened tongue. AMY MCCULLOUGH.
PJ Golden, "The Bar, Pt. 1," from Walk Under and On
Philip Golden's latest album is the work of a man who, at the time of the recording, at least, had given up on making a career out of music. This, the second track on the album, spells out his disillusionment clearly, and with a really cool Belle and Sebastian-esque horn fanfare punching up the track. "I've spent nearly all of my time," sings Golden, "thinkin' about it day and night, all these songs that were born to die." Melodramatic? Yes, but, in the world of the disposable digital pop song, a fitting sentiment. MARK BAUMGARTEN.
The Hunches, "Where Am I," from Hobo Sunrise
Not all of the Hunches' recorded music is indicative of the band's intense live experience. And "Where Am I," both as a question and as a song, comes pretty close. A Jock Jams drum beat gives way to a piercing shop-class guitar, and then the whole mess hits the floor like an ugly porcelain doll. If all of the Strokes had been cut off from their family fortunes, they might well have sounded like the Hunches. CASEY JARMAN.
Robley gets out of his head, transforming from audio auteur to bandleader. [SINGER-SONGWRITER] "We're trying to celebrate my new album that came out five months ago," said Chris Robley Saturday at Acme. Sporting a nine o'clock shadow and bed-head of 'fro proportions-which, along with the local singer-songwriter's diminutive stature, lent him a Billy Joel aesthetic-Robley appeared somewhat disheveled, but his music was anything but. For the next hour, he showed what he had been doing in the five months since he released his album, This Is The. Namely, he has been constructing a backing band called the Fear of Heights, which fills out Robley's songs with trumpet, tenor sax, clarinet and glockenspiel, in addition to the keys, guitar, bass and electronic backing tracks Robley used while constructing his album with producer Adam Selzer at Type Foundry Recording Studio.
That album is impressive, proving that Robley has found his voice, working in the great dissonant pop tradition discovered and delivered by the likes of John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen and Elliott Smith. Live, with his orchestra, though, Robley's songs bloom. The excellent Badly Drawn Boy doppelgänger "Little Miss Masochist" and the smart and rumbling "Stalin Looks Back" turned from catchy songs into massive arrangements with amped-up emotion, courtesy of the orchestra. Bolstered by two horn players, the bridge of the live "Isabelle" achieved the jarring atmospherics that the album version attempts to attain with electronic programming but misses. At Acme Robley sang the line, "I pray to every god I don't believe in to bring you back again," and sounded like an amalgam of his influences. Then the bridge came in and the clatter of horns drove the song into a soupy abyss, before Robley emerged strumming the same song he had just 45 seconds before. But now, with the slate cleaned by his band, the influences were gone and the song stood on its own. And it was good. MARK BAUMGARTEN.