Laced With Romance
In The Red
Many reviewers get lost in the idea that The Ponys' male vocalist sounds a lot like Richard Hell, and on the one hand I think he sounds more like Dave Thomas (Pere Ubu's Dave Thomas, not Wendy's Dave Thomas) and on the other hand the record's such a joy that I don't care. It's a rare day that art-rock is so bouncy, that psychedelia gets out of Pillow Corner and moves, and that pop really rocks; The Ponys doing all three at the same time is spectacular juggling.
-- Chris Selvig
Jolie Holland, founder of the neo-traditionalist folk outfit Be Good Tanyas, takes her first solo studio effort to new and very different heights in Escondida. The result is an album that is reminiscent of many styles, and yet like nothing you've heard before. She does not set out to re-create Americana, instead taking it apart to use for her own indie devices, making an intriguing collage of the past.
The album opens with the sweet "Sascha," a ukulele-centered tune that makes you feel like taking a lazy midnight canoe ride. "Old Fashioned Morphine" is a steamy New Orleans jazz number that reasons, "It was good enough for Billy Burroughs." The traditional Irish folk song "Mad Tom of Bedlam" is an addictively simple ditty, with be-bop jazz influences.
While Holland certainly knows her music history, the real appeal is her unique voice -- she has a syrupy quality that lightens songs that lesser vocalists would sludge through. At times it is reminiscent of Patsy Cline, at others, Billie Holliday, but in the end it's always absolutely her own.
-- Kara Luger
Besides and Other Rarities
Think Velocity Girl and Sonic Youth. Think fuzz box distortion and heavy guitars, with female vocals winding up every now and again. OK, think 1994 and nearly everything the label Sub Pop put out at the time, but mix in a dose of Pretty Girls Make Graves. While unconsciously making nostalgia work for them, Luster's second album, Besides and Other Rarities, stretches beyond mere reminiscing, creating music that sounds fun and current.
Song topics range from Pixies-like Mexican dreaminess to sociopolitical banter. "Two Jokes" manages to rock while telling what amounts to one-and a-half jokes (I checked. Have you heard about the electric carrot?). "R. Crumb and Bukowski" is a frivolous punk sing-a-long about art-approved misogyny, taunting "They hate women but it's OK/ 'Cause they do it in an indie way."
The downside is that Luster's music may be hard to find. I suggest going to their Web site at www.lustermusic.com, where you can listen to MP3 samples and order directly.
-- Kara Luger