Review Rundown: the Radio Dept., the Poison Control Center, Sail By the Stars, Marianne Keith, Transmit Now

This Review Rundown features reviews of new releases from the Radio Dept., the Poison Control Center, Sail By the Stars, Marianne Keith, and Transmit Now.

File Under: Dreamy Swedish Pop
Radio Dept. – “Clinging to a Scheme” (Labrador): Those looking to “Clinging for a Scheme” as a return to low-fi fuzz euphoria for the Radio Dept. will probably want to stop reading this review right now (that’s a joke, please don’t stop reading), because this record is a step in the other direction. Well, the fuzz is still there but most of the low-fi shoegaze has since been replaced with deep trance inducing atmospheric synth, and the band couldn’t be better for it. “Clinging to a Scheme” is a dense fog of an album, one shrouded in vocals that manage to sound muted, distorted and altered all at once, an aspect of the record that furthers its mystery. The bands stirring blend of dream, indie and all things alt-pop cuts through the fog at times with upbeat tempos, cheery keys and some perky guitar work, though the heavy dose of reverb pulls you back into the cloud sooner than later. “Clinging to a Scheme” is an engulfing work, a record that’s easy enough to completely lose yourself in. And if you haven’t figured it out by now, yes, this is the bands best work to date. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Heavens on Fire’

File Under: Indie Pop Rock
The Poison Control Center – “Sad Sour Future” (Afternoon Records): ‘You’re feeling old, stay young, stay gold, your eyes are forecasting snow,’- singer the Poison Control Center’s frontman Patrick Tape Flemming on the song ‘Stay Golden,’ just one of the many highlight moments of “Sad Sour Future,” the debut opus from the Iowa based outfit. The record is a literal hodgepodge of sounds, one that deftly weaves in and out of one genre after another, alternating between low-fi fuzz pop (‘Cemetery Glow,’ ‘Minds Align’), peppy 60’s era garage rock (‘Two Mountains,’ ‘Yellow Image’), effects laden indie pop euphoria (‘Walls of City Hall,’ ‘Start the Revolution’) and melancholy shoegaze (‘Stay Golden,’ ‘Eye’). “Sad Sour Future” is far too long at an astounding 17 tracks, and while the first half of the record outshines the latter, there are still enough things to get very excited about throughout the disc in the whole. There is literally something for everyone here on “Sad Sour Future,” an album that is easy to rally around, and one of the best 2010 has seen yet. (
Grade: B
Go Download: ‘Eye’

File Under: Cheery, Bright Eyed Powerpop
Sail By the Stars – “The Night Owl” EP: You may not know it by listening to Sail By the Stars debut EP “the Night Owl,” but this ‘band’ has but one member – young jack-of-all-trades Josh Koterba. Sure, reading that might conjure up comparisons to other acts of this ilk like Never Shout Never and We Should Whisper to name a few, though Sail By the Stars shouldn’t exactly be typecast as such so quickly. Koterba is something of a powerpop virtuoso if you will, and a damn fine musician on top of it. His knack for sugary sweet melodies is uncanny and to say that “the Night Owl” EP is driven by its hooks would be an understatement to say the least. And throughout this all too brief six song clip, Sail By the Stars deliver the sweetness in spades, heaping layer upon layer of rich syrupy catchiness until you either get an ice cream headache or an upset stomach from the indulgent goodness. Sail By the Stars also tosses a ballad into the mix with ‘I’ll Give You the Moon,’ a song that proves Koterba has some quality chops and isn’t just a ‘intro-verse-insert hook here’ type of guy. He’s not all smoke and mirrors in other words – there’s some substance here to hang your hat on. The guitar work on the “the Night Owl” EP is among the best you’ll hear in this genre, the song structures are pretty textbook and actually the production is pretty clean and crisp as well. One thing is for sure, “the Night Owl” EP should put an end to your blues. If you find yourself feeling down, pop in this EP and crank the volume, then turn that frown upside down. No, you don’t have to thank Koterba and Sail By the Stars, he is just doing his job, and doing it well. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘I’ll Give You the Moon’

File Under: Engaging Singer/Songwriter
Marianne Keith – “Cathartic” (Unison Music): Marianne Keith may not exactly be a household name right now, and chances are you’ve probably never heard of her before, but with more releases like her latest, “Cathartic,” that should all change. Keith’s voice is a pop gem, one you’d do well to seek out and enjoy, and although “Cathartic” is a bit of a hike at 15 tracks, it’s a journey that’s well worth undertaking. There’s no shortage of quality music here, songs that would shatter the glass ceiling if given such an opportunity. Among them is ‘Hate,’ which sees Keith break from her usual sweet and charming self to deliver a scathing retort to one unlucky person. Tracks ‘Everyone Leaves,’ ‘Dirty Mouth,’ and ‘Meant to Be An Angel’ all resoundingly resonate as well, doing their best to pull the entire work together. Keith is far from monotone to say the least, and “Cathartic,” while a perfect showcase of her vocal abilities, might just be scratching the surface in terms of her overall talents. (
Grade: B+
Go Download: ‘Hate’

File Under: Powerpop Major With a Rock Minor
Transmit Now – “Downtown Merry Go Round” (Silent Majority Group): “Downtown Merry Go Round” is a track meet of a record that never fails to powerfully emote, and while it does tread some powerpop waters more often than not, it does an excellent job of avoiding the normal everyday scene pitfalls and at times it has legs to stand on as a rock record. Now, don’t get down on Transmit Now because you read the word powerpop, “Downtown Merry Go Round” isn’t a processed record – it’s the result of hard work and perseverance, a certain dedication that comes through in the bands tight musicianship and fluidity. The record sounds more like All-American Rejects and less We the Kings, and you need not look much further than the stellar melodies and deep cutting hooks to confirm that fact. “Downtown Merry Go Round” is a perfect product of the band that wrote it – it’s incredibly catchy. It’s a nonstop thrill ride to say the least. (
Grade: A
Go Download: ‘Wish You Well’