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Sound Advice

Ween, Avenged Sevenfold, Nellie McKay

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Nellie McKay  - Obligatory Villagers  - Hungry Mouse   - Sounds like: A Broadway mash-up mix - Short take: A schizophrenic wunderkind takes the stage - On Nellie McKay's precocious debut Get Away from Me (a cheeky reference to Norah Jones' Come Away with Me), she was a jazz savant, mixing an education of Mom's bossa nova records with the sass of Eminem (yes, she raps) and the wits of French feminists (yes, she reads). On Obligatory Villagers, her interest in having fingers in all pies is taken to an insane degree. It's full of Broadway influence, with songs fit for plays and musicals. "Oversure," which changes pace twice a minute, sounds like a '20s stroll through New York; "Gin Rummy" is AM radio lounge; "Livin," a 20-second Irish drinking song. That's not all: "Galleon" is '80s hair-rock; "Testify" is a vaudeville chorale, one strident hook and horns honking and hooting. Quite the impressive range.  Matt Martin
  • Nellie McKay

    Obligatory Villagers

    Hungry Mouse

    Sounds like: A Broadway mash-up mix

    Short take: A schizophrenic wunderkind takes the stage

    On Nellie McKay's precocious debut Get Away from Me (a cheeky reference to Norah Jones' Come Away with Me), she was a jazz savant, mixing an education of Mom's bossa nova records with the sass of Eminem (yes, she raps) and the wits of French feminists (yes, she reads). On Obligatory Villagers, her interest in having fingers in all pies is taken to an insane degree. It's full of Broadway influence, with songs fit for plays and musicals. "Oversure," which changes pace twice a minute, sounds like a '20s stroll through New York; "Gin Rummy" is AM radio lounge; "Livin," a 20-second Irish drinking song. That's not all: "Galleon" is '80s hair-rock; "Testify" is a vaudeville chorale, one strident hook and horns honking and hooting. Quite the impressive range. Matt Martin

Avenged Sevenfold  - Avenged Sevenfold  - Warner Bros.    - Sounds like: More radio rock, less metal - Short take: Sellout softens the vengeance - Billed a few years ago as the new millennium down-and-dirty metal version of Guns N' Roses, Avenged Sevenfold sparked the alt-metal world's attention with 2005's City of Evil. The biggest question surrounding the SoCal act was whether it would parlay (read: soften) its notoriety into more accessible material or stick to its heavy metal sounds. On Avenged Sevenfold's recently released self-titled affair, the answer is, apparently, both. While the 10-track album begins with a loud and abrasive front ("Critical Acclaim" and "Almost Easy"), the second half features more radio-friendly material ("A Little Piece of Heaven" and "Dear God"), which will invariably  and for good reason  stick in the craw of diehard fans. The writing is on the wall; a self-titled major label album means commerciality over artistic integrity.  John Benson
  • Avenged Sevenfold

    Avenged Sevenfold

    Warner Bros.

    Sounds like: More radio rock, less metal

    Short take: Sellout softens the vengeance

    Billed a few years ago as the new millennium down-and-dirty metal version of Guns N' Roses, Avenged Sevenfold sparked the alt-metal world's attention with 2005's City of Evil. The biggest question surrounding the SoCal act was whether it would parlay (read: soften) its notoriety into more accessible material or stick to its heavy metal sounds. On Avenged Sevenfold's recently released self-titled affair, the answer is, apparently, both. While the 10-track album begins with a loud and abrasive front ("Critical Acclaim" and "Almost Easy"), the second half features more radio-friendly material ("A Little Piece of Heaven" and "Dear God"), which will invariably and for good reason stick in the craw of diehard fans. The writing is on the wall; a self-titled major label album means commerciality over artistic integrity. John Benson

Ween  - La Cucaracha  - Schnitzel/Rounder   - Sounds like: Absurdist night at The Gong Show - Short take: Ween tries new age, but doesn't age one bit - Oddball as it is, La Cucaracha, Dean and Gene Ween's 11th album, is more even than most of the band's output. But the duo is still as immature as ever. The album opens with the mariachi-IDM of "Fiesta," then follows with the Raffi-esque "Blue Balloon," complete with Whoopee-cushion synths and bongos. After that is the Pet Shop Boys-mocking Europop of "Friends," and the male chauvinist punfest "Object." La Cucaracha is filled with a bit of everything: bar-room hootenanny, cock rock, pop rock, reggae dub, club jazz and big proggy jams. Most notable are the "new age" songs, like the hilarious "Spirit Walker," which is not only spot on but earnestly funny and enjoyable. Still, La Cucaracha scales back the silliness enough to keep the band from becoming a juvenile novelty.   Matt Martin
  • Ween

    La Cucaracha

    Schnitzel/Rounder

    Sounds like: Absurdist night at The Gong Show

    Short take: Ween tries new age, but doesn't age one bit

    Oddball as it is, La Cucaracha, Dean and Gene Ween's 11th album, is more even than most of the band's output. But the duo is still as immature as ever. The album opens with the mariachi-IDM of "Fiesta," then follows with the Raffi-esque "Blue Balloon," complete with Whoopee-cushion synths and bongos. After that is the Pet Shop Boys-mocking Europop of "Friends," and the male chauvinist punfest "Object." La Cucaracha is filled with a bit of everything: bar-room hootenanny, cock rock, pop rock, reggae dub, club jazz and big proggy jams. Most notable are the "new age" songs, like the hilarious "Spirit Walker," which is not only spot on but earnestly funny and enjoyable. Still, La Cucaracha scales back the silliness enough to keep the band from becoming a juvenile novelty. Matt Martin

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