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Music Reviews

Citizens’ Utilities

Citizens’ Utilities

Sunbreak

My Own Planet

On Sunbreak , Citizens’ Utilities gives it the old college try at pop under a Big Star, albeit with more quirkiness and a couple ounces more rock power. Twangy, bittersweet, but low profile all the while, Citizens’ Utilities strive for the perfect pop and halfway succeed; considering the magnitude of such a task, it’s no small feat the band pulls off what it does. Basically, Citizens’ Utilities pays homage to the past but keeps its feet firmly entrenched in the present, thus making Sunbreak that much better, however pleasant and good-natured it may be.

My Own Planet Recordings, P.O Box 95921, Seattle, WA 95921

Categories
Music Reviews

Marc Olsen

Marc Olsen

didn’t ever… hasn’t since

My Own Planet

Replete with a haunting, small-universe, personalness, the songs of Marc Olsen ring with an easy authenticity. A muted mural in earthtones made bold by the artisan’s deft brushstrokes, didn’t ever… hasn’t since… is a Sistine Chapel ceiling of the soundsmith’s art, and as such, the artifices underpinning the creation are masterfully concealed.

On this, his second CD since shedding the skin of the lumbering prog-rock kimodo, Sage, which he fronted in the mid-Nineties, Olsen employs a rock stripped bare, a subtle homogeny of textures with just enough backing instrumentation and soundcraft niceties to provide gripping movement within his heartbeat-paced songs. “San Antone” uses the mournful wail and contraction of some understated lap steel and the barest suggestion of backing vocals by Anne-Marie Raljancich to create and punctuate, respectively, the tune’s communication of overwhelming longing. The more uptempo “No Surprise” crafts a bona fide rock riff out of some intensely warbled, arpeggiated guitar runs. On “To Sleep,” it is Olsen’s soulful vocals alone which create the ethereal hook under which runs, in stark contrast, a crisp and straight-ahead, dark pop backing.

didn’t ever… hasn’t since… is that rarest of songwriter discs: it is self-referential without stooping to self-pity, it strides at low volume without plodding at low energy, and it is undeniably American (with Jim Roth of the Delusions on pedal steel as a credential thereto) without becoming irreparably cornpone.

My Own Planet Recordings, P.O Box 95921, Seattle, WA 95921

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Adjective City

The Delusions

The Delusions

I Hope It Dies on a Sunny Day

My Own Planet

A snappy set of pop tunes, showing a wide variety of influences and styles. Perhaps the Delusions’ guitar craft dates them a little, but if anything the band will make you wonder why solid songwriting and guitars became “retro.” Stellar production from Phil Ek brings out the best in the band, especially in tracks like “Unexplain,” where an ungainly rhythm breaks into a smooth as silk chorus, or “Wrong Channel,” which uses dense riffs and a fast chorus to make its two and a half minutes fly by.

My Own Planet Recordings, P.O Box 95921, Seattle, WA 95921

Categories
Music Reviews

The Giraffes

The Giraffes

13 Other Dimensions

My Own Planet

When I first heard the Presidents of the United States of America’s first album, months before radio would pounce upon it and burn it to a crisp, I was struck by how much fun the band was having. The songs were goofy, the music unusual and catchy (to say the least), and the whole thing was an energetic blast. Their follow-up album, though still good, somehow sounded tired in comparison; their coda (Pure Frosting, a collection of live tracks, B-sides and oddities) made it clear that the term “flash in the pan” might apply to the band’s success, but not their talent.

To let the cat out of the bag, The Giraffes, though purportedly a band composed of stuffed animals, is actually the work of Chris Ballew, ex-President. 13 Other Dimensions easily recaptures the jolt I felt when I first heard PUSA, and I am mighty relieved. Thirteen tracks of pure smiling satisfaction, catchy melodies, oddly-shaped songs and inexplicable lyrics — an album that’s right up my alley and that’s sure to satisfy all who already miss the departed Presidents. Tracks like “Lonely Chicken” and “Nuthin’ To Looz” continue Ballew’s songwriting tradition, while “Little Champion” and “Ghost of a Bad Friend” display an emerging and evolving style, introspective without being overtly self-involved or sappy. Everyone should buy this album and start the cycle over again… My Own Planet Recordings, P.O Box 95921, Seattle, WA 95921; michelev@earthlink.net