Sound Advice 

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Jonas Brothers

Lines, Vines and Trying Times


Buy if you like: Cheap Trick, Fall Out Boy

Those who thought the Jonas Brothers would be one of those typical teen pop flash-in-the-pan groups, the kind that start fading from the spotlight about the time they can grow whiskers, better start rethinking that notion. With each release — this is their fourth studio album — Nick, Kevin and Joe Jonas provide more evidence that they have the talent to last, and Lines, Vines and Trying Times furthers the case. The brothers may not be reinventing any music forms, but they continue to demonstrate a knack for writing breezy pop with stick-and-stay hooks on songs like "Poison Ivy," "World War III" and "Hey Baby." They're also stretching a bit stylistically, with some stirring horns on "Much Better" and a little country via "What Did I Do to Your Heart." There's nothing very deep or challenging here, but it's hard to argue with a release as consistently hooky and fun as this one. — Alan SculleyCharlie Robison

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Charlie Robison

Beautiful Day


Buy if you like: Butch Hancock, Robert Earl Keen, Bruce Springsteen

Sure, Charlie Robison sounds a little bitter. Who doesn't during a divorce? It just so happens his was fairly public; his ex is Dixie Chick Emily Robison. But on Beautiful Day, even the self-pity doesn't get cloying. (The exes say they're great friends now. Go figure.) As it turns out, three of the most personal songs — "Down Again," "Nothin' Better to Do" and "Reconsider" — are actually covers. There's enough upbeat attitude to offset the downers, and Charlie Sexton's soulful guitar work helps elevate these arrangements far beyond the average country tunes they could sound like. His ringing, tremoloed tones on the closer, a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Racing in the Street," give it an ethereal tone, echoed by Bukka Allen's mournful accordion and Robison's slow, deliberate delivery. This version may sound sadder than the original — and, if possible, even more beautiful. — Lynne Margolis

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The Mars Volta


Warner Bros.

Buy if you like: Tool, Rush, Coheed & Cambria

In view of the crazy, esoteric history of progressive metal act the Mars Volta, the last thing anyone expected was a linear effort (read: radio-friendly and mainstream-accessible). Then again, unpredictability has been the band's rallying cry since it first emerged out of the At the Drive-In camp. Octahedron feels like a quiet album, mainly due to singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala's lack of ear-piercing vocals. Also, Omar Rodríguez-López keeps the vibe mellow with bluesy guitar displays ("Since We've Been Wrong" and "Luciforms") not too far removed from softer Led Zeppelin. The song most likely to confuse diehard fans is the Evanescence-esque "With Twilight as My Guide," in which some of Bixler-Zavala's vocals sound feminine. Although fans may fear having to share their once uniquely discriminating band with the masses, Octahedron succeeds in expanding the Mars Volta's sound without sacrificing integrity. — John Benson


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