Albums Reviewed by Alex Bieler and Ben Speggen

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

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. 6, No. 17
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

A quick Q-and-A with one of the festival's mainstay favorites: Aqueous

A quick Q-and-A with one of the festival's amazing performers: Tyler Smilo of Daybreak Radio

A quick Q-and-A with one of the festival's amazing bands: GNOSiS

A quick Q-and-A with one of the festival's chief founders, organizers, and musicians: Scott Molloy

Forging ahead with Velocity Network and Behrend’s AMIC. 

IN THIS ISSUE

Forging ahead with Velocity Network and Behrend’s AMIC. 

Reasons to raise a glass.

In Trump’s America, the rubes win. Not literally, of course, but they’ll believe they have won, and that is much, much worse.

The only decision is whether to build or spectate.

Unite and Celebrate at the 24th Annual Erie Pride Parade and Festival 

Two Steps are a trio from Melbourne, Australia consisting of drums, guitar, and violin.

Gyan Ghising: teacher, musician, entrepreneur

Get lost. (And found.) 

Goodell Gardens & Homestead’s Summer Music Series continues on Aug. 26 with Tiger Maple String Band.

Holy Trinity Parish of Erie will celebrate Polish heritage with a three-day festival held from Aug. 26 to 28.