Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen

Categories:  Music    Music Reviews
Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012 at 1:17 PM
Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen by Bieler-Speggen

Norah Jones  
Little Broken Hearts
Blue Note Records


It’s been 10 years since Norah Jones exploded on the scene with 2002’s “Come Away With Me.” With her smoky voice and sweet, coffeehouse songs, Jones endeared herself to millions of people with her pleasant piano-driven fusion of pop and jazz. What a difference a decade makes. The voice hasn’t changed a bit, but the content has gotten, well, let’s just say darker. After a rough breakup with an unnamed boyfriend, Jones packs “Little Broken Hearts” with enough vitriol to make the Starbucks crowd that fell in love with her years ago spill their tall half-skinny half-1 percent extra hot split quad shot latte with whip in surprise. From the bouncy “Happy Pills” to the murderous “Miriam,” Jones manages to make her ire still sound sweet. While the album moves slowly at times, “Little Broken Hearts” has an edge that keeps it interesting throughout.
4/5 - Alex Bieler

Silversun Pickups
Neck of the Woods
Dangerbird


With their first two albums, the Silversun Pickups experienced a successful debut (“Carnavas”) and a middling sophomore effort (“Swoon”). “Neck of the Woods” picks up (my apologies) right where they left off with more Smashing Pumpkins-esque guitar rock, but they seem more polished on this record, imbuing the album with a darker, more morose feeling than before. Brian Aubert’s androgynous vocals remain but there’s a roughness that wasn’t seen in the past. “Neck of the Woods” grabs your attention from the start, with opener “Skin Graphs” ominously building up to meaty guitar hooks. The band alternates between spacey effects and clean guitars, keeping songs like “Make Believe” and “Busy Bees” refreshing, providing each song with enough dynamics without creating an overload of pedal stomping. There isn’t a single standout track that will blow you away like 2006’s “Lazy Eye,” but “Neck of the Woods” works as a whole.
4/5 - Alex Bieler

PS I Love You
Death Dreams
Paper Bag

For some musicians, their instruments do the speaking. On “Death Dreams,” Canadian noise-rock duo PS I Love You’s sophomore full-length, Paul Saulnier is suffering from multiple personalities. Written about a series of mortality-themed dreams Saulnier had while touring in support of the band’s debut, the album is mired in a nervous energy over unfulfilled wishes, sudden bouts of fear, and the inevitability of death. Despite the dark lyrics and ominous title track, when Saulnier starts shredding on his guitar, he’s a changed man. Despite what his anxious yelps might say, Saulnier’s nimble fingers show that even in the darkest of times, a beacon of hope can shine through. And boy, does the guitar shine. Tracks like “Red Quarter” and “First Contact” show off Saulnier’s furied fretwork, while the stunning shimmer of “Don’t Go” shows the vulnerability rooted in the music. “Death Dreams” really is a killer album.
5/5 - Alex Bieler

Neon Trees
Picture Show
Island


Neon Trees burst onto the scene after the release of their debut album “Habits,” and their infectious single “Animal” lit up the Billboard charts, cementing them in the collective conscious in indie-pop fans looking for catchy hooks fit for both clubs and rock concerts. The Utah-based foursome returns with “Picture Show,” a highly anticipated follow-up. The first half of the album flows inline with “Habits,” with Tyler Glenn’s powerful vocals leading a mash of teenage-angst-fueled splashy organ work and catchy guitar riffs. Lead single “Everybody Talks” stands out but could have easily been written for “Habits.” The second half of “Picture Show” begins to tugs back the veil of youth, hinting at maturity, as track length increases and the music ventures off the already beaten path, leading fans to wonder if Neon Trees are simply mellowing with age or branching out as more mature artists.
3.5 - Ben Speggen   

Erie Reader: Vol. 4, No. 17
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

Finding beauty on a billboard.

A Labor Day reflection beyond the booze and schmooze. 

Conservatives met in Dallas. What does this mean for the PA-3?

The Onion's story of Brad Meredith Blevins continues into a second season of fantasy goodness.

A brief address of the continued need for all-ages venues in our community as a means of fostering creative growth

IN THIS ISSUE

The Art of Patricia Kearney: Selected Work 1975-2013

Erie Man Returns to Troubled Homeland to Document Crisis

No Second Guessing The New Depression starts with circus-like fanfare, but there's no funny business after that – only serious rhymes layered upon thick, jazzy samples that don't neglect the booming bottom-end we all appreciate.

If you are an inveterate fan of New Jersey pop-punk quartet The Gaslight Anthem, you will likely be disappointed or at least befuddled by their latest release.

After releasing their debut album back in 2011, Buffalo-quartet The Albrights return with their self-titled sophomore release, and the results are as catchy as ever.

The sole founding members of Spoon have mastered the art of piecing together separate sonic parts to create a memorable whole, carefully constructing songs with basic elements before adding special touches through audio engineering tricks to dazzle all of the headphone listeners out there.

German Heritage Festival, Zabawa Polish Festival, and the Erie County Fair -- all happening in two weeks!

Unicorns and vampires? FILM's got you covered, Erie.

Two nights, two killer shows: Chrome Moses w/ Daybreak Radio, and The Burning River Ramblers at King’s Rook Club.

Seventy years ago, three Erie brothers gave the ultimate sacrifice.