CD Reviews

PIZZICATO Five, Fifth Release from Matador (Matador) Godzilla, Gamera, Pok魯n, karaoke, anime—Japan has offered the United States many items to spice up the pop-cultural melting pot. Some years back, Pizzicato Five began their pattern of bursting out like a super team, getting some club floors to go, go, go, then rushing back to their secret lair to prepare for the next attack on boredom. Just when you wonder how team commander Yasuharu Konishi can get any more punch out of P5's characteristic retro bouncy happiness, a new album sprouts up and there it is: new sounds, same style. One of the happier songs, "Perfect World (album)," introduces itself like a reprise of Wham's "Baby, I'm Your Man." Still paired with shockingly slender songbird Maki Nomiya, Konishi continues to straddle the line between being a musical partner and being founder, chief steward, and CEO of Pizzicato International. Former model Nomiya takes the Konishi-designed "20th Century Girl" and wears it down the runway, chirping explanations of her tastes in fashion and music, the Pizzicato mind-set revealed yet again. This distribution of responsibility allows the individual departments in P5 to do what they do best. Konishi handles the music (and, for the most part, the lyrics), allowing him to take Prince Paul-ish pleasure in grafting any musical influence he wishes onto P5's music. Nomiya provides the silky upholstery that puts the finishing touches on each song. With animated delivery and colorful rhythmic attacks, P5 show that they are friends to all people.—Gregory Parks

WOLF COLONEL, The Castle (K) This Portland duo was everyone's indie find last spring when they released their debut, Vikings of Mint, a 28-minute Superchunk-like romp wrapped in a disorienting package of arena-rock posturing. Much of that approach remains on this follow-up. Singer/ multi-instrumentalist Jason Anderson works from a palette of instantly recognizable colors: the bright green vocals of academically angst-ridden Robert Pollard, the yellow melancholy of Elvis Costello, the burned-out blue of Paul Westerberg. Anderson generates some resonating moments from this formula, such as the nihilistic second track, "Is This What We Asked For?" (a dramatic, gently layered lament), and "Fantasy Soccer" (a Brian Wilson-like mix of a cappella vocals and oceanic organ waves). It's undeniably catchy, but one can't help but feel a little cheap when the head bobbing starts. Too much of Wolf Colonel's tone and delivery is disingenuous. It's almost as if Anderson knows that working from these vintage vantage points gives him all the familiarity he needs to succeed without pushing his own songwriting abilities outward—a disappointing laziness that diminishes The Castle's pleasing pop returns significantly.—Hannah Levin

THE BIRDWATCHER, The Darkest Hour Is Just Before Dawn (Arena Rock) Lately I have been languid, impatient, insanely bored, and anxious for something warm and meditative to feed my hungry heart. Lucky for me, the Birdwatcher, a.k.a. Dan Matz, has been feeling the exact same way. Whereas my options for fulfillment include opening a can of soup, Matz has a home studio in Brooklyn and a bunch of friends from bands like Jets to Brazil and Home to collaborate with. In his first full-length solo stab, Matz—primarily known for the tangential, slow-core records he made with the Austin band Windsor for the Derby— includes trace elements of math rock; Brian Eno-ish abstract art; frayed, frizzed, and folky guitars; and isolated, spooky bass lines. Although a few tracks are mostly instrumental and incredibly atmospheric, the album isn't merely background music. When Matz's vocals come in, as they do halfway through the 10-minute oeuvre "First Bright Light," the words are bare whispers that you'll fight to pay attention to, even if it means shushing your mother or your best friend. Keep listening and you'll discern about three mini-songs within this track, each one segueing gracefully into the next. The more straight- forward songs, such as "Three Weeks" and "The Hunt," are sparse and moody, but also aptly enhanced with trippy electronics and twisted, provoking lyrics. The first installment in a trilogy aimed at eulogizing first the morning, then the afternoon, and the evening, the album concludes with a fairly literal yet lovely translation of the Rolling Stones' "No Expectations," but needless to say, I've got plenty.—Laura Learmonth

PEGLEGASUS, Tired of Adventures (Mad Entropic Carnival) Connecting the dots between classic rock and post-punk . . . wending guitar sprawl wrapped in neat, two-minute nuggets . . . concision that isn't teeth-gritted tension and expansiveness that isn't mind-loosened slack. Say, haven't we been here before? Well, yes. But if you think this territory has been completely exhausted by classic Meat Puppets and country-fried Replacements, the changes that Austin's Peglegasus work on it will make you reconsider. For one thing, the quartet's Tired of Adventures sounds like the efforts of a new band, brimming with confidence, hungry to prove themselves but in no hurry about it. In fact, the band have been together for 10 years, and this is their third full-length album. For another thing, the songwriting is nicely varied— the splashy, sloppy, twisted bar rock of "Superdiver," the mathy groove of "Shark vs. La Foussa," even a snappy Jethro Tull cover ("To Cry You a Song"). The album's structure is similar to the songs': start fast; slow down a bit; do some interesting noodly stuff, thanks to a handful of short instrumentals bunched together; and rev back up at the end. It's the kind of record that seems minor until you find yourself playing it all the time. If there's any justice, their cause will be taken up by disenfranchised fans of Pavement and Phish both. —Michaelangelo Matos

 
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