Bryan Ferry

When word got out that Bryan Ferry was working with Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay and, most importantly, Brian Eno, in the studio, speculation was that it would be the start of the first proper Roxy Music reunion. But while Ferry admits that he toyed with the idea of doing a new Roxy Music album, the songs were ultimately too pop for that outlet. Ferry's solo career has always run concurrently with Roxy Music, but it’s been decades since Eno has been part of the fold, though he did he contribute to one track on Ferry’s last album of new material, 2002’s Frantic, which Manzanera and Mackay worked on as well.

As it turns out, there is only one song on Olympia that features all four former Roxy members, “Song to the Siren.” Though the title hints at Roxy Music’s fifth album from 1975 (several years after Eno’s departure from the band), there’s relatively little that recalls that work. It’s actually one of the record’s few weak moments. As it is, Eno’s contributions make very little impact, and he doesn’t even appear on the album’s best moments. Those are the leadoff “You Can Dance” a mix of urbane soul and sculpted rock, and “Heartache By Numbers,” where Ferry’s distinctive warble is set against a backdrop flickering guitars and Mackay’s distinctive oboe. Olympia may not be the Roxy Music record so many of us wanted, but as far as a Ferry solo album, it doesn’t get much better.
Stephen Slaybaugh

Masters of Reality
Pine/Cross Dover
Cool Green

Chris Goss is impossibly undervalued for his accomplishments as a producer of bands like the Cult, Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age and virtually unknown as the leader of Masters of Reality. Goss’ first two records as Masters of Reality are criminally overlooked, but serve as the germ of all stoner metal to follow. For the better part of two decades, Goss has continued with this project intermittently, and by never achieving a level of success deserved, has been free to warp his desert psychedelia into any configuration he desires. Though his apprentices were maintaining their cache on the circuit, Goss was making big, bold, monolithic rock records completely under the radar. Luckily, those who hold out for any nosh Goss provides are rewarded for their patience, as Pine/Cross Dover is his most ambitious outing since 1992’s Sunrise on the Sufferbus.

The album should, given the current droll doled out by his peers and understudies, be preferable to anything remotely considered stoner, desert, or particularly “hard” these days. Josh Homme owes everything—from his cadence as a vocalist to his snaky guitar playing—to Goss. “Up In It” is quintessentially the same dank, sinewy, stomp the Queens try to replicate in bad-boy veneers. Goss doesn’t need glamour or excess, as his songs are filled with meticulously layered sonics that prove he’s always been the one with the imagination in that camp. Of course, Goss’ more traditional use of harmonies and grand, scaling choruses was always the turn-off for “true” heads. A song as beautifully spotless as “Always” could potentially land on the charts were it a part of the Foo Fighters’ vernacular. As quirky and off-putting as Goss bellows in Masters of Reality, the vision is still impeccable. Pine/Cross Dover, despite receiving minimal play (even among desert disciples), is a thinking man’s hard rock, with enough of that patented heavy riffage and decadence to still be considered thinking man’s metal.
Kevin J. Elliott

Lyrics Born
As U Were

Ever since Outkast’s “Hey Ya” came out in 2003, the accessible, danceable pop song has infected the hip-hop scene. Seems like every other single to come out has crossover appeal—be it for Top 40, alternative, or R&B radio. It’s to the point where “urban alternative” is now almost it’s own genre. It’s sort of like how disco grew out of soul and glam, then everybody had to jump on the bandwagon and put out their disco single. Atmosphere has that almost indie-pop song “You” about respecting yourself. Cee Lo, who grew out of Outkast’s shadow, pretty much owns the genre right now after the success of Gnarles Barkley and his solo stuff, especially “Fuck You.”

Lyrics Born has never been one to play it straight hip-hop wise, so we can’t expect him to turn his backpack in and all of a sudden show up in high-waisted, flared-out polka-dot pants and dance around with an umbrella. His stuff never sounded like Nas or Snoop, or even Andre 3000, but he was always on the more “alternative” side of the genre. Honestly, if he’s sounded like anyone it’s been Sir Mix-A-Lot. With As U Were, he’s flown straight past the urban alternative and ended up in stone cold disco territory. I’m not talking Chromeo-style ironic sex-pop disco, but more like turbo Evelyn “Champagne” King disco beats with Lyrics Born’s bookish, organic weed-smoking nerd verses over top. “Pushed Aside/Pulled Apart” sounds like “Jizz In My Pants,” the Lonely Island’s fake rap song. “Oh, Baby,” a “Bombs Over Baghdad” via “Make It Funky” by way of Public Enemy schizo-mash, is really the only standout amongst a confusingly corny crop of nü-disco cuts. Lyrics Born has never been one to follow any sort of trend, which, as a hip-hop artist, could be detrimental to one’s career. But he kind of overshot the crossover pop song trend and ended up way out beyond Andre 3000 weirdness.
Michael P. O’Shaughnessy

The Postelles
The Postelles

Remember when the Strokes were tipped as the band to “save” rock music? But at this point does anyone remember the Strokes? That’s a bit of an exaggeration, but for the past few years, the members have been knocking around on a variety of solo projects with only the slightest hint that they might reconvene. The young bucks of the Postelles remember the Strokes. Not only do they remember them, but they took the next step and became the new look Strokes. Witness as they spread their early millennium New York love all over the 32 minutes of their self-titled debut.

Fandom and emulation is hardly a new phenomena and the very basis of rock is built on the bones of influences. But the Postelles take it that one extra step by having Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. produce four songs on the album. Yet, that’s only part of the story. Sure the record plays like lost tracks from the Is This It sessions, but it also has its own personality. Since the Strokes from that period disappeared when “12:51” dropped from Room On Fire, the Postelles may as well pick up the mantle.

The Postelles is lousy with the Strokes’ DNA, but there are some distinct differences. While both bands are fond of the short pop songs, the Postelles tend to pull a bit more from the ’50s jukebox playbook. Also lead singer Daniel Balk sounds far less detached than Julian Casablancas. While Casablancas famously seems like he can barely summon the energy to get through a song, Balk infuses the songs with chummy back-slapping energy that makes them seem more like personal stories than character sketches. There’s also a bit more pathos on songs like “Boy’s Best Friend,” giving it that extra punch. Sure the story of “boy meets girl who also likes girls” isn’t groundbreaking, but Balk gives it a twinge of regret.

But the best thing that the Postelles took away from the Strokes is their knack for writing really catchy, smart, concise pop songs. And if you can resist bopping your head or tapping your feet, you may possibly be in a coma. Until the Strokes decide to regroup and build that time machine to make it the year 2000 again, the Postelles are the next best thing.
Dorian S. Ham

Badly Drawn Boy
It’s What I’m Thinking (Part One: Photographing Snowflakes)
The End

Damon Gough, a.k.a. Badly Drawn Boy, seems to possibly be one of those people who peak early. His debut, 2000’s The Hour of Bewilderbeast, was a great pop record full of subtle nuances and adept touches and quirks. Since that time, though, Gough has never reached the same summit of songwriterly greatness, and perhaps as a result of some knowledge of this, he has become increasingly idiosyncratic.

Following on last year’s Is There Nothing We Could Do?, a collection of music taken from and inspired by the motion picture The Fattest Man in Britain, Gough returns with what is supposedly a trilogy of records documenting what’s been swimming around in his head. Photographing Snowflakes, as the title indicates, is about capturing those unique cerebral moments. They are manifested with little fanfare, Gough not needing all the bells and whistles to convey his musical sketches. Songs like “Too Many Miracles,” which makes mention of the title, and “I Saw You Walk Away” are miniaturized orchestrations, small touches making all the difference. They are nuanced and full of wonderful turns of phrase. Whether or not he knows it, Gough has come full-circle to making the kind intricately woven pop on which he first made his name.
Stephen Slaybaugh