ALBUM REVIEW: Of Montreal, Seal, The Twilight Sad, Metallica, Ultra Dance 13

Pop falters while rock and folk ascend to strong releases

RICH LOPEZ  | Staff Writer
lopez@dallasvoice.com

Of Montreal
Paralytic Stalks
Polyvinyl Records

Kevin Barnes and company get off to a wobbly start with “Geld Ascent” in OM’s new release. If static and feedback had a child, this would be it. It feels more like a shock move to explode the opening, but they fall back into the more familiar sound with second track “Spiteful Intervention.”
I never know what OM sings about, but they know how to create a song that’s feel good in sound and yet it’s never, ever dumbed down. They don’t write lyrics as much as they create eclectic odes set to music in tracks like “We Will Commit Wolf Murder” or “Authentic Pyrrhic Remission.” I wanna ask what the hell that means, but then I’m entertained to the point of forgetting my complaint and just want to groove along.

The thing is, it’s nothing new. OM delivers the energy, just more of the same. Quirky lyrics, falsetto breaks and confetti like puffs of music are much like what they’ve done in 2010’s False Priest or 2008’s Skeletal Lamping. I don’t want them to change their personality, but they’ve gone so off the chart with obscurity, they sound like they’ve gotten stuck there.

Two and half stars (out of five).

Seal
Soul 2
Reprise Records

The former Mr. Heidi Klum proves his voice is topnotch as he revisits soul classics again.. His voice is complementary to the covering of tracks by predecessors such as Gaye, Green and Pendergrass. The real question is why?

Seal’s voice is like comfort food. It’s easy to relish in and this sound works for him, but for a set of soul classics, the album is on automatic pilot. There’s nothing quite wrong with his rendition of “Love T.K.O.,” but he never sounded present in it.
There was also an immediate safeness to the album. The track selections are obvious like “Let’s Stay Together” or “What’s Going On” that plays uninspired.

He’s basically following the Rod Stewart reinvention strategy, but I’d rather hear Seal get back to his original stuff that was always an edgy alternative to contemporary pop.

Two and half stars.

The Twilight Sad
No One Can Ever Know
Fatcat Records

In their third full-release (six overall), these Scottish indie rockers deliver a grand episode of shoegazing. Singer James Graham’s thick accent is a character in itself, but strangely inviting. They head into darker territory, but opener “Alphabet” sets an inviting tone off the bat.

The move to a slightly harder sound is a wise one. They thrive with pumped up energy but don’t neglect their folkish sensibilities. Instead, it’s smartly elevated with these additional layers of sound.

Titles like “Sick,” “Dead City” and “Kill it in the Morning” sound depressing, but there is a wealth of strongly structured tunes that are engaging and cohesive. Even when they veer into Smiths territory with the dreamy “Don’t Look at Me,” they keep a strong sense of self and pull off a killer album.

Three and half stars.

Metallica
Beyond Magnetic EP
Warner Bros. Records

Released as an accompaniment to their 30thh anniversary concerts, this EP is a set of four songs recorded during their 2008 album sessions for Death Magnetic and is intentionally released in a more session style rather than high production value.
With signature guitar and drum rampages, Metallica doesn’t falter with first track, “Hate Train,” and its force is like a fist to the face. That’s a good thing. Skip over the annoying repetition of “Just a Bullet Away” (or listen to it below), but soak in and worship the muscularity of their chord action in “Hell and Back.” If this song were on Scruff, he’d be a haggard-faced muscle daddy still worthy of a “woof.”

Final track “Rebel Babylon” closes out this small chapter with Herculean strength and Hetfield just pushes his gritty vocals to the max and the band lays down the rock that requires either a head banging or a fist pumping — or maybe both at the same time.

Three stars.

Various Artists
Ultra Dance 13
Ultra

The grooves are in overdrive in this 13th volume of the popular dance compilation. Big names like Gaga, Britney Spears and Pitbull are placed next to budding dance DJ/producer tracks by Avicii and Calvin Harris. However, it left me asking, “Where’s the party?”

Remixes of Jason Derulo’s “It Girl” and Lady Gaga’s “You and I” never find their right footing and Danny Verde’s Gaga mix of her ballad stuck her vocals in peanut butter while the beat has left it behind.

The label was good to leave Spears’ “Til the World Ends” alone as it has enough weight to be a great party song and that chant alone needs no help. Such restraint is barely held through the rest of the album — and there are 24 tracks. Alexandra Stan’s “Mr. Saxobeat” doesn’t suffer much from its extended mix and is a fine listen that doesn’t beat into your head like a jackhammer.

Steve Aoki’s “Earthquakey People (The Sequel)” is absolute torture without remix, but it’s also representative of the album — soulless and pumped up without reason.

The other barely saving grace for this bit is deadmau5’s entry at the very end. “Raise Your Weapon” doesn’t rape your ears with a sonic force. It calms the energy but still goes into erratic directions that are fascinating. Otherwise, create your own dance mix if you need a party.

One and half stars.

(NOTE:This is a slightly longer version of the mix than on the album.)

—  Rich Lopez

Shabby Shriek of the Week: Liz Primo

Liz Primo’s debut ‘Exposed.’ Shab or fab?

For this week’s entry of Shabby Shriek, we look to Liz Primo. Last week, I received her debut Exposed, which might have been renamed “derivative.” With her Nicki Minaj look on the cover and Katy Perry whimsical and colorful getups on the inside, I wondered if I had heard this already — you know, without having to open it and listen.

But to be fair, I did open and pop it in on the drive home. With only six songs (and one remix), I figured this would be easy to get through. By track four, I pulled out Primo and put in the infinitely better Femme Fatale by Britney Spears. Now, how often do you hear that?

So here we go:

—  Rich Lopez

What’s Brewing: Anti-gay lawmaker resigns amid Grindr scandal; Santorum accuses gays of ‘jihad’

Sen. Roberto Arango on Grindr

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. An anti-gay Puerto Rico lawmaker has resigned after he was caught posting nude pics on Grindr. In what has to be one of the worst defenses ever, Republican Sen. Roberto Arango initially tried to claim that he took the photos — which included one taken from behind with him on all fours — to document his recent weight loss. Not surprisingly, Arango has opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions in Puerto Rico, and he once mocked a political opponent with an anti-gay epithet.

2. Not to be outdone by Texas Gov. Rick Perry — who signed an anti-gay marriage pledge on Friday and has raised eyebrows for comparing homosexuality to alcoholism in one of his books — GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is accusing the gays of conducting a “jihad” against him.

3. Lady Gaga performed as drag persona/male alter ego Jo Calderone to open MTV’s Video Music Awards on Sunday night. Gaga also took home the Best Video With A Message Award for “Born This Way.” Gaga even tried to kiss Britney Spears, who wasn’t having it. Watch Gaga perform “You and I” as Calderone below.

 

Get More: 2011 VMA, Music, Lady Gaga

—  John Wright

Music Monday: Free song download (and Britney cover) from lesbian-fronted Finding Jupiter


Finding Jupiter is set to drop their debut EP Io on Tuesday, but you can get a preview of that with a free download of “Stars” on their Facebook page. The band is led by out singer Sarah Masimore, described in a press release as “an active and proud member of the LGBT community, Masimore’s lyrical storytelling draws from her own experiences capturing love, life, and heartache from a viewpoint outside of the Alt-Rock norm.” You can find that out by giving the rockers more of a listen here.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: In the wake of Britney’s show, soldiers get ‘Drop Dead (Beautiful)’

This video just popped up on my Twitter feed and it might be more entertaining than Tuesday’s Britney Spears concert.

I’m not quite sure how the trend of masculine, butch soldier boys doing pop princess tunes on YouTube started (this is still my favorite), but it continues with these four men taking on Spears’ “Drop Dead (Beautiful)” from Femme Fatale. With all the abs, pecs and guns (the real kind) present, Spears should hire these boys stat. That is if Abercrombie & Fitch doesn’t.

The 1:29 mark was especially grabbing. If not, at the very least, jaw-dropping — in so many ways.

 

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Britney Spears and Nicki Minaj at the American Airlines Center on Tuesday

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MORE PHOTOS FROM THE SHOW

I came to an epiphany on Tuesday night at Britney Spears’ Femme Fatale show at the AAC. She may not be the most artistic or profound artist out there, but she does serve a purpose. Much in the same way Transformers movies serve a purpose at the theater. You can’t expect a deeper meaning behind them. Spears’ music isn’t trying to change the world; it’s pop music that has fun and flirts and dances its way through the ears and body. If anything, and without knowing it, Spears might actually encourage people to live in the moment.

The cohesion of her show may have been applied with a Band-Aid as her costume and set changes were the femme fatale in various disguises, but her and her cadre of dancers churned out the energy like DJs at a gay bar in full swing. Nary a break was to be found in the high energy set list that thumped its way into the adulating fans as they roared with each song. The true fans knew all the words to even her non-hits from Fatale, while the rest fanatically pumped their fists and danced to the beat.

Each costume and set was threaded with a film narrative of a man tracking the “sexy assassin” down but to try to tell a story here didn’t add much to any theme or tone.

Gone are the strong line dances as she’s reduced her moves to patty-cake hand movements, cheap stripper-esque poses and a whole lot of hair whipping, but instead, this is who Britney Spears is and even if it lacked a certain panache, it still reduced fans to tears and screams. Unfortunately, lip-synching rumors were evident as her vocal tracks were crystal clear from the beginning with “Hold It Against Me” to almost the end. I could say I heard a breathier, realistic tone to her singing in the encore “Toxic” and it wasn’t bad.

—  Rich Lopez

Britney Spears at the American Airlines Center on July 12

Photos by Chuck Dube/Dallas Voice (MarceloMedia)

 

—  John Wright

Britney Spears & Nicki Minaj at AAC

Pop to the core

If you don’t get pop overload by the end of tomorrow evening, than you are a superstar. Although Gaga may already claim the top concert event of the year for most people, Britney Spears is likely a close second. Well, we are thinking gay boy audiences of course. But with the added support of Jessie and the Toy Boys and Nicki Minaj, well, that’s just above and beyond. DJ duo Nervo gets the night going which is icing on the cake.

DEETS: Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, Jessie & the Toy Boys, Nervo. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. 7 p.m. $29–$350. Ticketmaster.com.

—  Rich Lopez

Rihanna’s your only girl tonight at AAC

Please don’t stop the music

Rihanna is all over the place lately. She got all dark with 2009′s Rated R but her tour stop in Dallas was canceled. She appeared on pretty much everyone else’s album between then and her 2010 release Loud. Her latest collab was with Britney Spears (who comes in Tuesday) on “S&M.” But tonight’s all about her and we hear she turns out an awesome live show. She better since she stood us up the last time around.

DEETS: With J. Cole. American Airlines Center, 2500 Victory Ave. 7:30 p.m. $22–$102. Ticketmaster.com.

—  Rich Lopez

What’s Brewing: New York marriage vote could come tonight or early Thursday

Jon Huntsman

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. The New York State Senate’s vote on a marriage equality bill is now likely to come late today or early Thursday, as talks continue over protections for religious groups, the Associated Press reports. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he remains “cautiously optimistic” the bill will pass.

2. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman entered the Republican presidential primary on Tuesday, and his campaign is making a pitch to gay donors based on his support for civil unions. But Huntsman took a step back this morning when he called marriage equality “impossible.”

3. Britney Spears new video for “I Wanna Go” premiered Tuesday night. Watch it below. Spears’ Femme Fatale tour comes to Dallas on July 12.

—  John Wright