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Emerging Artists

The Arcade Fire

Grade: A+

It’s not just the Arcade Fire’s ability to successfully cross reggae and goth on “Haiti” that makes Funeral the best album of the year. Nor is it the band’s portrayal of the accordion as the sexiest instrument since the guitar on “Neighborhood #2 (Laika);” that would just be gimmicky. Also, forget about the fact that Funeral is everything indie entities such as Conor Oberst want to be.

What makes Funeral better than good is the fact that the Arcade Fire can do all these things without coming across as maudlin or calculating. With lyrics on “Neighboorhood #2 (Laika)” including “When daddy comes home you always start a fight so the neighbors can dance in the police disco lights,” the tone is desperate and existential. The middle-class alienation of today’s suburbs resounds satirically only as an aftertaste.

It wouldn’t be preposterous to call Funeral the precocious cousin of the Smashing Pumpkins’ Melancholy and the Infinite Sadness. The main difference being that Funeral has a better success rate of good songs — all 10 of them are wonderful dreamtime epics realized in waking life.

— Harold Valentine

Action Action
Don’t Cut Your Fabric to This Year’s Fashion

Grade: D

Action Action’s freshman album looks like an attractive candidate to take home from the record store as it includes a hip, Andy Warhol inspired cover and a sticker proudly proclaiming the band’s similarity to Depeche Mode, The Killers and The Faint. After the first and second songs, which are pure dark-pop bliss, one is inclined to agree with the sticker.

Unfortunately, the rest of the album is next, starting with “Photograph,” which sounds more influenced by the Def Leopard song of the same name. In general, Don’t Cut Your Fabric to This Year’s Fashion is a thinly veiled conventional rock-pop album parading as something new and different. The absolute worst aspect of the album is lead singer Mark Kleupfel’s faux-emotive singing. The poor guy decided to go all out on his unfortunate lyrics in “Bleed,” an over-dramatized argument with his girlfriend and possibly his boyfriend too.

— HV

Future Perfect

Grade: A

Autolux is a psychedelic shoe-gaze band with heavy chunks of dark-wave flavor provided by VOX microphones. This is one of those bands that makes you want to be cooler, and the more you listen to the band’s inaugural Future Perfect, the more you realize the old maxim that being cool is a state of mind.

For Autolux, that state of mind means bucking traditional pop formula in favor of the band’s oscillating melodies. This takes a little getting used to.

The band’s computing style is its own reward as well as a good match for primary vocalist Eugene Goreshter’s lyric-by-note singing style. Broad atmospheric strokes of feedback compliment sounds ranging from sharp to fuzzy, whereby the band seems to be pioneering some new aesthetic. Song titles are also curious, including “Angry Candy,” “Robots in the Garden” and “Capital Kind of Strain.”

— HV

She’s In Control

Grade: B

Chromeo’s debut, She’s In Control, was released in February. The band consists of best friends Pee Thug and Dave 1, and is one more in a list of extraordinary bands coming out of Montreal, including The Unicorns and the Arcade Fire, among others.

Every song on this debut is disgustingly danceable in its early ’80s soul-funk. Midway through “You’re So Gangsta,” amid the saxophone solo, those familiar with French bands Daft Punk and Phoenix get a pang of conscience and question the originality of this particular brand of retro. It doesn’t seem to matter much though as your feet keep time to slick hip-hop beats while kitch hooks constantly snag your mind. In short, Chromeo is just too fun to over think.

— HV

Joan of Arc
Joan of Arc, Dick Cheney, Mark Twain …

Grade: A

This new album by Joan of Arc is very pleasing. The band has returned to its experimental roots, after being more toned down and traditional on their last two albums. Joan of Arc’s intelligent use of electronics and effects have resurfaced, digging their way through each track, scrambling bits and pieces in the process.

Most of the songs seem a little on the dark side, much like their last album In Rape Fantasy and Terror Sex We Trust, in which they subliminally (or not so subliminally) incorporate political overtones into the songs.

— Lance Craig


Grade: B+

After almost a decade, four albums and more than a dozen Top 10 UK hits, Travis unleashes its own hits collection. With the release of Good Feeling in 1997, Travis was immediately grouped with bands such as Radiohead and Coldplay in the Brit-pop genre. The band’s three subsequent albums showcased a pattern of evolving development, which added to the band’s already distinct musical niche. For fans not familiar with the lads Singles encompasses the band’s career so far from the guitar-driven “U16 Girls” to the dreamy melody of “Flowers in the Sun” to the pop-perfection of “Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” This is definitely a compilation worth checking out.

— Pablo Saldana

Sun Q
Sonic Boom

Grade: C+

IQU’s latest album offers a cohesion of pop sensibilities that include electro-clash, electro-punk and even the less bling-bling side of hip-hop. Sun Q is not some three-headed monster trying to pander to the big markets, but rather a giddier form of electronica. “Under the Cherry Blossom” is somewhere between epic and cerebral elevator music crossbreed with club ambiance. “Dirty Boy” is simply fun in a similar way to Air’s “Sexy Boy.” Other songs in Sun Q are captivating, including “Dr. Caligari.”

In general, however, the second half is too neutral, if not naval-gazing. Cerebral electro-clash music doesn’t have to follow the same bratty formula as Prodigy, for example, but the energy from the first half of Sun Q leaves us wanting more than we get.

— HV