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Cage the Elephant, The Turnback, and The Roaring 420s 

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click to enlarge Cage the Elephant
  • Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Tell Me I'm Pretty

RCA

File next to: The Kooks, Portugal the Man, The Black Keys

Cage the Elephant relish their role as the band of young upstarts, not in a sophomoric, early Blink-182 sense, but as contrarians who break all rules of the music industry. Tell Me I'm Pretty follows in that tradition with a release date that was too late to make critics' year-end lists. Members of the Kentucky band can profess not to care, though they are consciously refining their sound here. The band recruited Dan Auerbach as producer, giving the album an ambience similar to The Black Keys' El Camino, with hints of Spoon thrown in. In the best tracks, like "Cold Cold Cold," Cage the Elephant throw off more modern influences and opt for a sound that suggests '60s stalwarts like Zombies, Standells or even Monkees. The raucous elements have largely gone AWOL, but Cage the Elephant had to grow up sooner or later. — Loring Wirbel

click to enlarge The Turnback
  • The Turnback

The Turnback

Are We There Yet?

Self-released

File next to: Greenberry Woods, Foo Fighters, Green Day

Big, roaring guitars are the calling card of this supremely melodic sophomore release from New York City-based trio The Turnback. Are We There Yet? finds the band supporting its highly charged close harmonies with muscular, no-frills backing that manages to be altogether catchy while making no obvious concessions to crass commercialism. With 11 originals plus a soaring remake of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," the tracks are all built around strong hooks designed to ensnare themselves in listeners' minds, as the band deftly balances its heaviness with a broad-grin power-pop aesthetic. Are We There Yet is a welcome reminder of just how much can be accomplished with guitar, bass, drums, vocals, and no keyboards or fancy production trickery. — Bill Kopp

click to enlarge The Roaring 420s
  • The Roaring 420s

The Roaring 420s

You Can't Get Out Alive

It's a Gas! Records

File next to: Elephant Stone, Allah-Las, Fuzztones

For The Roaring 420s, everything old is new again. Across the 12 songs on You Can't Get Out Alive — their second full-length — this Dresden, Germany-based quintet crafts original songs that bear more than a whiff (or a toke, if you like) of late-'60s psychedelia. Go-go combo organ (think of The Doors or Question Mark & The Mysterians) and twangy, reverbed guitars all endeavor in service of groovy tunes. Florian Hohmann betrays not a hint of a German accent; in fact he sounds more like Tom Verlaine, or an uncharacteristically upbeat Lou Reed. "Hey Lou" sounds like a rocked-up rewrite of The Velvet Underground's "After Hours" (or the pop interlude from The Mothers' "Brown Shoes Don't Make It"), but with better vocals and an electric 12-string straight out of "A Hard Day's Night." — Bill Kopp

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