Who's Your New Professor?
Every summer needs a soundtrack, and Sam Prekop's Who's Your New Professor? might be just the thing for 2005. It has that cinematic feel, fitting for a road trip or a muse in the grass. Not content merely to yammer out an acoustic album, Prekop (on vocals, guitar and piano) and his band of melodymakers blend just enough plugged-in power to soup up the masses. "Something" is simply sunshine, leading into a Latin jazz/jam-band fusion in "Magic Step." And since you're already laying in the grass, soaking in the warmth, sleepy songs like "Two Dedications," which feature Prekop's lazy, husky voice, will lull you gratefully to sleep.
Dignity and Shame
Promises, promises. The artwork on Crooked Fingers' Dignity and Shame is chock-full of bullfighters and images from Spain. Indeed, the introductory song, "Islero," doesn't disappoint as an addictive, castanet-snapping ditty. Then the Crooked Fingers ship changes course and heads straight for Dullsville. To look into Crooked Fingers' past is to acknowledge that they're sort of an Americana band, anyway, but nothing excuses songs like "Weary Arms," which sounds like an even-crappier Soul Asylum. And the lyrics could be straight from a teenager's diary: "Those fancy things your new boy bought you," the singer moans, "won't save a jaded girl like you." Please. Merge usually churns out great music, but there's not so much dignity in Dignity and Shame.
Death in Vegas
Death in Vegas' latest foray, Satan's Circus, might be for those who love rave culture but don't necessarily want to leave home. Hot on the heels of their bestselling Scorpio Rising, Death in Vegas infuses Satan's Circus with much of the same electronic dance-til-dawn tendencies, but with almost none of the standout vocals. "Ein Fr Die Damen" (that's "One For the Ladies," for those who didn't take high school German) starts things off on a repetitive, if surprisingly cheery, note. Death in Vegas borrows heavily from Kraftwerk throughout the album, especially on "Zugaga," but offers little besides programming loops and more bloody synthesizers than you can shake a glo-stick at. One perk is that the album does come with a separate disc containing live performances, so you can couch-potato party.