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ISSUE 120 VOL 19 PUBLISHED 4/27/2007

Under the Radar: Spring Indie Record Reviews

By Peter Farrell
Executive Editor
and April Wright
Variety Editor

Friday, April 27, 2007

Some of you may recognize Laura Veirs for her contributions to the Decemberist's’ The Crane Wife, which was released last fall. But what many don’t realize is that Veirs is actually a Carleton graduate who has been actively making music for the past eight years. Over the past two years, her sweet folk-pop has gained her a loyal following in the new folk crowd.

Saltbreakers, Veirs’ fifth studio album, hit shelves earlier this month. Most of the album is really good. Veirs’ voice and lyrics lend themselves very well to mellow alt-folk. On this album, she embraces the ocean, framing most of her intensely personal lyrics in maritime metaphors. While such metaphors are her strong suit, they also cause her to get written off as just another lit-folk act. For the most part, the high seas treat Veirs very well, but about three-quarters of the way through the album, it’s easy to start feeling seasick.

From time to time on Saltbreakers, Veirs busts out of her folk rock shell and plays watered down electropunk in the vein of Metric. I understand and respect the desire not to be typecast, but invading someone else’s niche – especially one that has been so played out over the past couple of years – really isn't the way to do it. After all, innovation and originality in the face of being written off as a one-trick pony is what gave us Achtung Baby and New Adventures in Hi-Fi. If Veirs was a little more willing to step off both the path that she has beaten and the path beaten by other female-fronted acts, this record could have been a lot more fun.

Saltbreakers is, overall, a pleasant record to sit down and listen to. If you aren’' paying close attention, most of the flaws just fade into the background. But if you give it more time and attention, the lack of originality and ocean overload are enough to cause discerning folk listeners to shelve the record as study music.

!!! (pronounced chk chk chk) put on the best live show I've ever seen. I saw them in the summer of 2004, right after their second album, Louden Up Now, came out. Minneapolis crowds are notoriously immobile, but !!! managed to get every last awkward indie-kid to dance, sweat and move. Of course, Louden Up Now was tailor-made for an indie-rave. The album had these big, sprawling disco-punk jams that were spread out over six, seven or eight minutes. I always thought that was awesome, especially when I had a KSTO radio show. Every time we ran out of stuff to say or talk about, we'd throw on one of that album's epic tracks and go grab a cup of coffee, or take a piss or something.

This new album, Myth Takes, finds !!! focusing their sound. Sure, they cut loose on a few tracks, like the excellent "Bend Over Beethoven," but mostly they stick to writing really smart dance-punk. Short, concise and sexy, the best tracks on Myth Takes prove that !!! are spaz rockers with a purpose.

They even get all soft and sentimental on “"Infinifold,"” which may be the album's best track. Built off a few gentle piano chords, distortion, little electronic pings and swells color the background while Nick Offer laments the fact that “nothing's gonna change nothing.” It's a bonafide ballad, and, suprisingly, !!! pull it off without sounding ironic or cloying.

The better disco-punk numbers that make up the rest of the record are pithy, incisive slabs of evil dance music, like the title track, “"Myth Takes,”" or even the lengthy “"Must Be the Moon.”" With songs like this, it finally seems like !!!'s live prowess is beginning to catch up to them in the studio, and that's a good thing.

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