Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen

Categories:  Music    Music Reviews
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012 at 12:29 PM
Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen by Bieler-Speggen

Sufjan Stevens

Silver & Gold

Asthmatic Kitty

Six years after releasing the 42-track “Songs for Christmas,” Sufjan Stevens decided that the Christmas season needed another massive box set. Now, when I say that the new five-disc collection “Silver & Gold” is huge, I mean it. With a runtime slightly longer than “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Silver & Gold” certainly doesn’t skimp on quantity. However, the 59 tracks, comprised of retooling of classic Christmas tunes and original compositions, have quite a few chunks of coal among the occasional pieces of gold. The first disc is the most traditional of the five, but the second disc, entitled “I Am Santa’s Helper,” is a musical mess, notably the unfortunate “Ding-a-ling-a-ring-a-ling.” There are some bright spots among “Silver & Gold,” such as “X-mas Spirit Catcher” and “Alphabet St.,” where Stevens employs his usual oddities to great success, but there aren’t quite enough highs to outweigh the lows.    Alex Bieler 2.5 Stars

Soundgarden

King Animal

Universal Republic

More rock than Nirvana, more methodical than Alice in Chains, and more metal than Pearl Jam, Soundgarden - one of the four pillars of the ‘90s grunge movement – seemed, well, less grunge than the rest but fit the movement with lyrical stylings and content. The band saw success – the first grunge act to sign with a major record label – peaking with 1994’s “Superunknown” before breaking up in ’97. After a string of solo gigs and work with other projects, the band reunited in 2010 to release 2012’s “King Animal.” Aside from lead single, “Been Away Too Long,” finding another standout track is difficult, as most sound like fodder for any of their previous work – although there are splashes of contemporary influence with “A Thousand Days Before” baring resemblance to Awolnation’s “Kill Your Heroes.” A solid grunge effort, “Animal” satisfies but fails to stir up much of anything you haven’t already heard.  - Ben Speggen 3 Stars

Memory Tapes

Grace/Confusion

Carpark

While not intentional, the name “Grace/Confusion,” Memory Tapes’s latest album, almost describes the reception to Dayve Hawk’s first two albums under his current recording alias. While debut album “Seek Magic” won over critics, Hawk’s follow-up effort “Player Piano” left reviewers shaking their heads. On “Grace/Confusion,” Hawk falls somewhere in between. While only six tracks long, the album still spans just under 40 minutes. Each track shifts in both mood and tempo, although some tracks, like the first halves of “Neighborhood Watch” and “Let Me Be,” meander to the point of disinterest before hitting their peaks. When they do evolve, the songs make an impact, although Hawk’s propensity to add in sprinkles of chintzy sound effects detracts from the otherwise impressive portions of the album. “Grace/Confusion” has its moments, but it doesn’t have nearly enough magic to forgive all of the flaws.  - Alex Bieler 3 Stars

Punch Brothers

Ahoy!

Nonesuch

The members of Punch Brothers sure do love their covers. Fans of the progressive bluegrass quintet are quite aware of the numerous tunes the band will whip out on tour, with songs ranging from Radiohead’s “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushd Tin Box” to “Lovefool” by The Cardigans. On “Ahoy!,” the group’s latest EP, the band adds three more covers in a five-song bundle of goodness. The EP kicks off with a faithful rendering of Josh Ritter’s “Another New World,” with the band’s five virtuosos building the songs into a bone-chilling climax. After that, the Punch Brothers speed up Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’s “Down Along the Dixie Line” before tackling the traditional folk piece “Moonshiner.” Where “Ahoy!” truly shines is on closer “Icarus Smicarus,” keeping the intensity of the bitter Mclusky tune. All in all, a fun EP that Punch Brothers fans will love.  - Alex Bieler 4 Stars

Erie Reader: Vol. 5, No. 15
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CURRENT

United Way and the Bayfront East Side Taskforce team up for movies and books at Nate Levy Park.

In an era of 140 characterisms, two local students are acknowledged for their essay skills. 

"New Americans" filmmaker finds new subjects, new stories from outpost in Botswana. 

Aaron Cox has his mentor Mike Trout to thank and some strikes to throw now that he has a chance at making it in the big leagues.

With 40 years of interviewing experience, James LeCorchick goes back and recalls the good ones, the bad ones, and the just plain ugly ones.

IN THIS ISSUE

Aaron Cox has his mentor Mike Trout to thank and some strikes to throw now that he has a chance at making it in the big leagues.

With 40 years of interviewing experience, James LeCorchick goes back and recalls the good ones, the bad ones, and the just plain ugly ones.

The CEO of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, passed away a week and a half ago. With his time in the gaming industry, he left a lasting legacy.

It's not every day you get to see musicians wear wrestling masks while performing. Catch Los Straighjackets at 8 Great Tuesdays.

While Tyler Smilo isn't from the Erie area, he sure has made a name here for himself, and that is what brought him to perform at WQLN Sounds Around Town.

Geek Army performs at Sherlock's/ Park Place for another awesome show for a great cause.

Surprise! Wilco has a new album called Star Wars, and it packs a punch.

The Pittsburgh trio's EP shows off their old-school rock sound.

Jason Isbell uses the quiet spaces on the album to his advantage, which channels a quiet devastion.

Kevin Parker, the musician behind Tame Impala, adds more synth and leaves behind some guitar on Currents.